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February 17, 2005

02/17/05 – 7 Arrest In Money Laundering Operation

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

IT 02/18/05 7 Held On Money-Laundering Operation – V(2)
IT 02/18/05 Gardai Moved In On Suspects After Weeks Of Surveillance
IT 02/18/05 Gardai Saw Businessman As Link To Bank Raid In Belfast
IT 02/18/05 Opin: Events Vindicate Government Stance
SF 02/17/05 Sinn Féin Comment On Arrests In Cork And Dublin –V(2)
IO 02/17/05 Party Leaders React To Arrests
IT 02/18/05 Other Reactions
WT 02/17/05 Analysis: Condy May Help N. Ireland Peace Process
IT 02/18/05 Victim's Family Welcomes IRA Appeal On Killing –V
IT 02/18/05 SF Faces A Backlash From Within
IO 02/17/05 Garda Interviews Ruled Inadmissible At IRA Trial –V
IT 02/18/05 Sellafield Shortfall Due To Accounting Error – UK –V
PI 02/17/05 Sellafield Is Byword For Negligence & Incompetence – SF
IC 02/17/05 Two Quizzed On Ardoyne Killing
GA 02/17/05 Lord Hutton To Speak In NUIG
CN 02/17/05 Book: The Skyscraper Looming Over The World
IT 02/18/05 RTE Radio Shake-Up Likely As Top Stars Lose Listeners
IT 02/18/05 Irish Dancer's Killer May Face Longer Prison Term


Cash seized and seven held in raids on PIRA activities - Ken O'Shea reports on the cash seizures and arrests in a garda investigation into the activities of the Provisional IRA, and whether it is linked to the Northern Bank robbery

Pat Rabbitte, leader of the Labour Party, Jim Cusack, Security Correspondent with the Sunday Independent, and Ian Paisley Junior of the Democratic Unionist Party gives their reactions to the arrests and cash seizures in Cork and Dublin

Seven Held In Crackdown On Money-Laundering Operation – V(2)

The Provisional republican movement was last night facing its biggest political crisis since the beginning of the peace process, following the apparent exposure of a major money-laundering operation and the arrest of people associated with Sinn Féin. Mark Brennock, Conor Lally and Barry Roche report.

Garda raids were continuing last night in Louth, Meath and Westmeath after euro and sterling notes worth a total of €3.6 million were seized in Dublin and Cork. Seven people were arrested, including a Sinn Féin general election candidate from 2002 and another figure associated with the party. One of these acted in an official capacity for the party in the 2004 European Parliament elections.

As the raids continued, there was speculation that further arrests would be made. Gardaí strongly believe that some or all of the cash seized was part of the haul from the raid on the Northern Bank in Belfast before Christmas.

The home of a close relative of a man working in a key position for the Government was among the premises raided in Co Louth, although he was not arrested. A Cork businessman is also among those arrested.

Last night a man walked into Anglesea Street Garda station in Cork and handed gardaí more than £200,000 in cash. He is believed to have been given the money to hide by one of those arrested.

There was no comment last night from the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice on the dramatic developments. The Minister for Defence, Mr O'Dea, said that the scale of the operation had been "quite staggering" but said he would not comment on the political implications until at least somebody had been charged.

Other ministers were said to be delighted at the turn of events, which they believe vindicates their new tough approach to Sinn Féin on IRA criminal activity.

The Opposition demanded an explanation from Sinn Féin, with the Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, saying the arrests raised "grave questions" for the party.

The Labour Party leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, said the cash seizures and arrests were "an astonishing development", while the Green Party leader, Mr Trevor Sargent, demanded that Sinn Féin "come clean on their involvement with criminal activity".

The Sinn Féin leader, Mr Gerry Adams, would only say "I never comment on speculation" when questioned by reporters in Barcelona where he is promoting his latest book. In Dublin, a Sinn Féin spokesman urged against a "rush to judgment. . . We would urge people to exercise caution on this occasion and allow the truth to come out," he said.

However, the Provisional movement now finds itself in its most difficult position since the peace process began.

Sinn Féin is under intense pressure to cut itself off from IRA activity; it faces pressure from within its own community in the wake of the Robert McCartney murder; and the IRA faces a new Garda onslaught on its criminal activities.

The latest arrests and seizures come after the pre-Christmas conviction and jailing of Niall Binéad, a Sinn Féin activist and associate of Mr Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD; the Northern Bank robbery, widely believed to have been carried out by the IRA; and the murder of Mr McCartney, believed to have been carried out by IRA members who subsequently intimidated witnesses.

There was speculation in political circles last night that further Garda operations against IRA activity may be planned. The legislation used by the Criminal Assets Bureau was strengthened by the signing into law by the President last week of the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil on Tuesday that this would "allow criminality outside the jurisdiction to be taken into account and allow the bureau to work more closely with the Assets Recovery Agency in Northern Ireland. These changes will help the CAB to examine assets with a paramilitary origin."

In this latest money-laundering investigation, two men were arrested in Cork on Wednesday night - one in Douglas and one in Passage West - and around £60,000 in Northern Bank notes was recovered.

The same night in Dublin, three men - one from Cork and two from Northern Ireland - were arrested close to Heuston Station.

More than €94,000 was seized.

Yesterday morning, a man and a woman were arrested in the Farran area close to Cork city and over £2 million in cash was seized.

The four arrested in Co Cork are being held under Section 30 of the Offences against the State Act at Garda stations in Cork city. The three men held in Dublin are being detained under the same Act in various Garda stations.

All seven can be held for 48 hours from their arrest until they have to be charged or released.

Senior investigators from specialist Garda units - including CAB, Crime & Security and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation - will meet their counterparts from the PSNI at a special security summit at Garda Headquarters in Dublin's Phoenix Park today.

They will discuss the sensational developments of yesterday and Wednesday and plan how both forces will work to advance the investigation.

© The Irish Times


Gardai Moved In On Suspects After Weeks Of Surveillance

Cork raids: Garda monitoring of a Provisional IRA group in Cork was central to yesterday's arrests of seven people along with the seizure of over £2.3 million, including £65,000 in Northern Ireland banknotes, and a further €94,000.

Gardaí in Cork, along with gardaí from the Criminal Assets Bureau and the National Bureau of Fraud Investigation, have been targeting republican funding on an ongoing basis over recent weeks.

Detectives in Dublin moved in on Wednesday evening when they arrested a well-known republican activist from Cork just after he was met off a train from Cork by two men from Derry, who were waiting for him in a Northern Ireland-registered jeep at Heuston Station.

Gardaí recovered €94,000 when they arrested the three men in the station car-park and detectives believe that the money was laundered cash which was being delivered by the Cork man to the two Derry men, who are known to be involved in the republican movement.

All three were arrested under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act on suspicion of being members of an unlawful organisation and were taken for questioning to Garda Stations in Dublin.

They can be held for 48 hours, which can be extended up to seven days.

Meanwhile detectives in Cork moved quickly in a follow-up operation and late on Wednesday night arrested a man in the Passage West area of the city and another on Cork's southside.

Detectives recovered some £65,000 in a sports bag in the second raid in the Douglas area when they searched the single- story house and the money was yesterday being preserved for forensic examination and analysis by Garda experts.

The money is believed to be made up of several denominations of Northern Ireland banknotes and gardaí are liaising closely with the PSNI to establish if any of the notes are among those stolen in the Northern Bank raid on December 20th which was is being blamed on the Provisional IRA.

The two men were taken to Togher Garda Station for questioning but one was later transferred to Mayfield Garda Station for questioning about the cash find and suspected money-laundering operations.

The man arrested in the Passage West area is a former Sinn Féin public representative and another arrested man is regarded by Garda sources as a senior member of the Provisional IRA in Cork city.

Meanwhile, Garda sources have confirmed that the 30-year- old Cork man arrested in Dublin on Wednesday - who is from the Togher area of the city - has alternated in his allegiances between the "Real IRA" and the Provisional IRA over the past two years or so.

Yesterday, gardaí carried out another follow-up operation and raided a house in the Farran area - midway between Cork city and Macroom - where they recovered £2.3 million and arrested a 55-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman. Last night Garda experts began a forensic examination of the money.

The two were arrested under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and taken to the Bridewell Garda Station in Cork city for questioning.

© The Irish Times


Gardai Saw Businessman As Crucial Link To Bank Raid In Belfast

Conor Lally

The Garda operation: A businessman being questioned by gardaí was the link which connected gardaí to the £2.4 million seized in the county yesterday and which they strongly believe to be part of the proceeds of the Northern Bank raid in Belfast last December.

In a late development just before 9 p.m. last night, a man walked into Anglesea Street Garda station in Cork and handed gardaí more than £200,000. Gardaí believe this man knew the Cork businessman and was given the money to hide when the businessman realised gardaí were moving in on him.

The businessman was identified as a key person of interest during Garda profiling after the £26.5 million robbery. The man is a director of nine companies based in the Republic, the activities of which centre mostly on the financial sector.

Fourteen residential and commercial premises linked to these companies, and agents acting on their behalf, were searched yesterday in Cork, Dublin, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. A significant amount of documentation was taken from those offices.

The home of a close relative of a man working in a key position for the Government was among the premises raided in Co Louth, although he was not arrested.

Gardaí will today begin the task of sifting through the paperwork collected during yesterday's raids.

They believe much of it will provide them with a useful road map as to how much money from the robbery has been laundered and where and how this was done. It is believed the money may have been moved offshore and repatriated.

Senior Garda sources last night said they had gathered a very significant bank of intelligence that they were compelled to act on following the arrest of three men late on Wednesday at Dublin's Heuston Station.

When these men were arrested, the searches in Cork were immediately begun and continued for much of Wednesday night and into the early hours of yesterday morning.

One man, from a well-known Republican family in Cork, had brought €94,000 in laundered money up from Cork on the train. He was due to pass this to two men from Derry. These were under Garda surveillance and all three were arrested as the money was being passed on. They were being held at Clondalkin Garda station last night under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

The man from Cork has had strong links to Sinn Féin in the past. He has been involved in their fund-raising activities.

Senior investigators from specialist Garda units will meet with their counterparts from the PSNI at a special security summit at Garda headquarters in Dublin's Phoenix Park today.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Events Vindicate Government Stance

Events ae pushing the Provisional movement towards an unavoidable deciosion, writes Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent.

Yesterday's developments in relation to IRA fundraising and money-laundering seem nothing short of sensational. Last night Ministers were delighted at the turn of events, which they believe vindicates their recent pronounced change of approach to the Provisional movement.

It appears that a further part of the organised crime element of the republican movement has been exposed to the public gaze. Four separate seizures in Dublin and Cork are reported to have involved £2.36 million and €170, 000. Several of the people arrested have links to Sinn Féin, with one being a former Sinn Féin councillor who was a candidate in the last general election. It was reported last night that the arrests and seizures came as a result of a Garda operation directed specifically at IRA money-laundering. Last night Garda raids were still going on.

Some £60,000 of the money seized was in Northern Bank notes, prompting immediate speculation that this was a small part of the £26.5 million stolen in the Northern Bank raid. There was also speculation that more arrests were to come, possibly including that of a high-profile figure.

Sinn Féin issued the usual warning against a rush to judgment, saying the truth would emerge over time. Sinn Féin sources pointed out that several party figures had been arrested at the time of the Northern Bank robbery, but none had been charged.

It is not justified to jump to the conclusion that the Northern Bank notes were part of the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery. Such currency notes are commonplace throughout the North, and the discovery of a sum less that 0.25 per cent of the amount stolen from the Northern Bank is not, on its own, convincing evidence.

But even without a proven link to the Northern Bank robbery, the political implications are enormous. After almost two months of Government insistence that their dealings with Sinn Féin cannot continue as before because of ongoing IRA criminal activity, here comes further evidence that, as Mr Adams once said, "they haven't gone away, you know".

This follows the widespread acceptance, outside republican circles, that the IRA carried out the Northern Bank raid and the persistent assertion by the Taoiseach and his Ministers that the Sinn Féin leadership knew about it in advance.

It also follows the serious damage to the Provisional movement in a section of its own community because of its response to the murder of Robert McCartney in a Belfast bar. Individual IRA members are widely believed to have carried out that murder - of a party supporter - and to have intimidated witnesses afterwards.

Now comes the apparent exposure of a major money-laundering operation. No charges have yet been brought, and much of the information that has emerged seems to have come anonymously from Garda sources.

But if the incident is as it seems, it will provide convincing evidence that the Government's analysis of the situation is entirely correct.

The Government has insisted in recent years that IRA criminal activity is continuing, and that it involves enormous sums of money. And here we seem to have found evidence of a cross-Border network, ranging from on-the-ground racketeers and possibly bank robbers to besuited members of the financial services industry. They are dealing with enormous sums of money. What is it for?

The Government has always insisted too that Sinn Féin and the IRA are two sides of the same coin. And here we have people associated with Sinn Féin arrested on suspicion of involvement in handling IRA money.

Peace process optimists always accepted that when the Provisional movement's transition to democracy was complete, there would still be isolated groupings that would refuse to let go of criminal activity. But the core of the illegal paramilitary organisation would have withered away, as Sinn Féin evolved into an unambiguously democratic force. Yesterday's major cash seizures and arrests suggest that this has not happened, and that the IRA remains a sophisticated criminal organisation dealing with large amounts of cash.

Senior Sinn Féin figures must be realising themselves that their usual responses to these revelations are no longer adequate. Securocrat conspiracies involving unionist agents at senior levels will not explain away operations such as that uncovered yesterday.

It has been said for a decade that sooner or later, there will come a moment when the Provisional movement will reach a fork in the road, at which they must choose whether or not to leave all violence and criminality behind.

The end of Government tolerance of ambiguity, combined with the continued exposure of IRA law-breaking, means that that moment must surely be coming close.

© The Irish Times


Sinn Féin urges caution after cash discovery - Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports on the early reaction in Northern Ireland to the garda investigation in Cork

Tommie Gorman assesses the scale of the crisis facing Sinn Féin after today's events

Sinn Féin Comment On Arrests In Cork And Dublin –V(2)

Published: 17 February, 2005

Commenting on reports in the media this evening surrounding arrests in Cork and Dublin a Sinn Féin spokesperson said:

"I am aware of reports in the media this evening regarding arrests in Cork and Dublin and speculation that it is linked to the Northern Bank Robbery. Sinn Féin‚s position on this robbery is clear.

"Over the last four weeks we have seen people rush to judgement time and time again. We would urge people to exercise caution on this occasion and allow the truth to come out.

"Sinn Féin has no further information about these arrests and we will wait to see how events unfold before we comment further." ENDS


Party Leaders React To Arrests
2005-02-17 21:30:04+00

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said that tonight's series of arrests has raised grave questions for Sinn Fein.

"In view of Sinn Fein's repeated denials of Sinn Fein or IRA involvement in any criminal activity, the leadership of Sinn Fein must make an immediate statement on this development and on its relationship with those involved," he said.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte said the Garda seizure of large amounts of money was an "astonishing development".

He said: "Whilst we await more details to emerge, it is of extreme concern that the Garda operation was specifically directed at IRA money laundering.

"However, even at this early stage, it appears that today's events are particularly significant in the context of the Northern bank robbery and subsequent denials by IRA and Sinn Fein."

The Green Party said there was even more cause for concern about the future of the Good Friday agreement and called on Sinn Fein to give a full and frank explanation.

Party leader Trevor Sargent said: "This highlights more than ever the liability which the IRA is to the peace process. It is not possible to maintain an illegal standing army without recourse to criminal fund-raising activity".


Other Reactions

Brief quotes from North and South and from Spain, where Sinn Féin leader Mr Gerry Adams is promoting his book.

Last night, the Minister for Defence, Mr O'Dea, said that the scale of the Garda operation carried out over the last 48 hours in search of the Northern Bank funds was "quite sensational".

Speaking in Maynooth, Co Kildare, Mr O'Dea said that while he had not been briefed on the detail of the garda action, "it was obviously part of a long-standing Garda investigation".

"It would be quite inappropriate to comment on the potential political fall out from this until such time as some-one is charged. The investigation is ongoing. Nobody has been charged."

In Barcelona yesterday where he met Catalonian party politician Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, the Sinn Fein leader, Mr Gerry Adams said: "I never comment on speculation".

Mr Adams was speaking in the Catalan city where he was promoting the Spanish-language translation of his latest book, "Hope and History". He later departed for Bilbao, the next stage in his book tour.

The DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr said: "I want to congratulate in all sincerity the garda Siochana in what apears to be an excellent job."

"Hats off to the guards", he added.

He said people should now recognise that "Sinn Fein has chosen the path of crime and criminality - major criminality - rather than the path of politics."

© The Irish Times


Analysis: Condy May Help N. Ireland Peace Process

By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Published February 17, 2005

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Will new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice be good for the Northern Irish peace process? There is a sense in Dublin and Belfast that the answer is yes.

Rice sent a signal this week to anxious watchers in Belfast, Dublin and London about how high -- or low -- Northern Ireland would be on her list of priorities when she reappointed Mitchell Reiss as the State Department's envoy on the peace process.

The low-key and serious Reiss is not in the same heavy-hitting league as his predecessor Richard Haass of the Brookings Institution was. And when previous Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed Reiss to succeed Haass, it was widely seen as symptomatic of a downgrading of Northern Ireland in the administration's eyes from a status that was not high to begin with.

However, Rice's decision to keep Reiss in his job is being seen at Iveagh House in Dublin, home of the Irish Foreign Ministry, and Stormont Castle in Belfast, from where Britain's Northern Irish Secretary of State Paul Murphy rules the province, as a positive move. In both centers, it is viewed as a glass being half full rather than half empty.

First, Reiss has won high marks from all sides for his hard work, reliability and selfless commitment to advancing the peace process. Rice's decision to keep him there is being taken as a sign she does not want to stall any diplomatic momentum or cynically play for time.

Second, Reiss is widely expected in Ireland to carry a lot more weight in the second Bush administration than he did in the first one. For his new boss has President George W. Bush's ear where his old one did not. Powell as secretary of state was lucky if he met the president face to face every four to six weeks. Rice as national security adviser often had to brief him every four to six hours. When Rice pushes for anything on Northern Ireland, she will carry much more political clout in the Oval Office than Powell ever did.

Third, backing up British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Northern Ireland and looking constructive there in the eyes of major European Union nations is likely to be a lot more important for Washington in the next couple of years than it has been up to now. That is because Bush and Rice have launched a serious diplomatic offensive to try and repair the old bonds of cooperation and trust in the trans-Atlantic partnership that were badly sundered over Iraq.

Yet with the administration determined to take a tough, confrontational line with Iran and Syria -- despite strong urgings from Blair and his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for a more diplomatic solution -- makes doing whatever Blair wants to revive the politically stalled peace process in the North much more important.

Fourth, Rice likes peace processes. She has made clear her determination to push as hard as possible to revive momentum in the Israeli-Palestinian one and push ahead with Bush's "roadmap" on it. Reviving progress -- and hope -- in Northern Ireland would send a positive message to the Middle East too, as well as winning the Bush administration's trust and gratitude it still sorely lacks in other major EU capitals.

Peace in Northern Ireland was never going to loom as large in the eyes of President Bush as it did for his predecessor, President Bill Clinton. And indeed the years of Bush's first administration were marked by a long, slow -- and while not catastrophic -- depressingly steady decline in peace prospects in the North.

This culminated in 2003 when the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, displaced the more moderate Official Unionists and the Social and Democratic Unionist Party as the largest political groups in their respective 900,000-majority Protestant loyalist and 600,000-minority Catholic nationalist communities.

Still, the Bush administration has remained steadfastly supportive of the peace process and it has consistently thrown its weight loyally behind Blair and Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland. Both men have been among the longest serving leaders of their countries in modern times and it is no secret in Washington that Bush would like to keep it that way. His comfort level and sense of loyalty with them is exceptionally high.

The president showed that commitment last year when he phoned DUP leader the Rev. Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in a serious, although unsuccessful attempt to get them to break their deadlock on reviving the Protestant-Catholic Power-Sharing Executive to run Northern Ireland peacefully between both communities.

Now, Bush looks like he is heeding Ahern's request to avoid inviting any of the leaders of Northern Ireland's squabbling political parties to the White House on St. Patrick's Day on March 17. While that will penalize the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party, it will also send a signal to Paisley and Adams that Washington is not prepared to sit back passively and let them take polarizing actions without suffering political consequences.

No one in Ireland expects Bush to emulate Clinton and pay some high-profile personal visit to spearhead any dramatic new initiative on Northern Ireland. The president is recognized as having enough on his plate in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

But the reappointment of Reiss, coupled with Rice's takeover at State, is being seen as hard evidence that at the very worst, Northern Ireland will not fall further in the administration's list of priorities or disappear from its radar screen completely. Washington remains quietly committed to the peace process, and Blair and Ahern can still count on their old friend in the White House to flex muscle for them whenever they need him to.


McCartney family welcomes IRA statement

Victim's Family Welcomes IRA Appeal On Killing -V

Dan Keenan Northern News Editor, & Deaglán de Bréadún in Barcelona

The family of Robert McCartney has welcomed an IRA statement that has called for all obstacles in the search for his killers to be removed.

In a statement yesterday, the dead man's sisters said: "The statement made by the IRA strongly supports the family's position with regard to justice and truth prevailing.

"We appeal to anyone who can help us as a family to bring an end to this nightmare and in doing so set us free to begin our grieving for Robert." They added: "We as a family would appreciate anyone going to the police. People need to go to the police. That's how we are going to get justice."

Their comments, which are sharply at odds with the Sinn Féin position on policing, were made a short time before the latest police suspect was released after his arrest and questioning on Wednesday evening. Eight people, including a senior IRA figure, have now been questioned by the PSNI.

The 33-year-old father of two from Short Strand died after being stabbed outside a city-centre pub on January 30th.

The wider McCartney family has been deeply critical of republicans since the murder. They believe witnesses have been intimidated to prevent them coming forward with information. The Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, said yesterday he was not familiar with the IRA statement issued by P. O'Neill.

The statement issued on Wednesday night said:

"The IRA was not involved in the brutal killing of Robert McCartney.

"It has been reported that people are being intimidated or prevented from assisting the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice.

"We wish to make it absolutely clear that no one should hinder or impede the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice. Anyone who can help the family in this should do so.

"Those who were involved must take responsibility for their own actions which run contrary to republican ideals."

Speaking in Spain yesterday, where he is on a book promotion tour, Mr Adams said: "I have already made it clear that people who have information on this killing should give it to reputable bodies."

Asked if "reputable bodies" would include the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Mr Adams replied: "I use that term advisedly. Some people, some citizens, may think that the PSNI is a reputable body, and that's their choice. I happen to be of a different opinion.

"My position on the Robert McCartney killing is to help the family. So if people have reservations about the PSNI - and the majority of nationalists have reservations about the PSNI - then that should not be a block to them helping the McCartney family. If they have information, they should find some way: give it to the family itself, give it to local clergy people, give it to solicitors, and so on."

In Belfast the Sinn Féin policing spokesman, Mr Gerry Kelly, said he wanted justice for the McCartney family. This meant he wanted the murderers to be tried, convicted and jailed.

Asked what the effect on Sinn Féin would be if the murderer or murderers turned out to be IRA members, Mr Kelly said: "I don't care. It was absolutely wrong. It was a brutal slaying, and it should not have happened."

Yesterday Mr Adams also said remarks he made about the IRA and the robbery at the Northern Bank during a radio interview in Madrid this week were subject to "malicious" misrepresentation.

As a press conference in Barcelona he said "for the umpteenth time" that he believed the IRA denial of involvement in the €38 million bank raid.

He had been reported as saying: "An opinion has been given that the IRA was involved and the IRA has said it was not and I believe them, but maybe I'm wrong."

© The Irish Times


SF Faces A Backlash From Within

Sinn Féin has been left in an invidious position, writes Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor.

Last week Sir Reg Empey received a phone-call at his Ulster Unionist office in east Belfast. It was from a nationalist in Short Strand about the murder of Robert McCartney outside a city-centre pub at the end of January.

It was, he says, the first time he has ever received a call from the area about such a serious crime.

That such a caller would make such a call to an Ulster Unionist representative is evidence that Sinn Féin is "on the back foot", he says.

Republicans have no need to listen to Sir Reg's anecdotal evidence to realise the seriousness of the knifing of the popular 33-year-old father of two.

A letter in yesterday's Irish News from the murdered man's aunt was headlined "Murder cover-up may pen Sinn Féin's epitaph".

Mrs Margaret Quinn told the prominent nationalist newspaper: "Defying gangsters and murderers who demand that we keep quiet about the senseless slaughter of Robert by Shankill Butcher-types and psychopathic cowards disguised as our so-called 'protectors' is a very dangerous business."

She wrote in praise of Mr McCartney's sisters, themselves Sinn Féin supporters, who are publicly asserting a popular local belief that their brother was killed by an IRA member, although not one acting under orders.

They are equally convinced that a cover-up has been orchestrated to frustrate the PSNI inquiry and ensure that Sinn Féin is shielded from any political fall-out from the murder.

"Despite their unbearable grief, they tirelessly flag up the fact that, while Robert's murder may not have been 'sanctioned', it was [ her emphasis] committed by scum in the IRA who, by association, disgrace that entire organisation," wrote Mrs Quinn.

She further alleged that the subsequent cover-up and threats to witnesses emanated from the highest level of Sinn Féin and the IRA.

"For me, that makes them accomplices after the fact in my nephew's unjustifiable murder."

Graffiti writers have already daubed "PIRA scum" on the walls, not of the locality around Sir Reg's UUP office, but in Short Strand itself.

Arguably no party in the North street-level credibility or presence as high as Sinn Féin.

Whether such a revolt of sorts by graffiti artists and letter-writers points to a bottom-up revolution among the republican bedrock remains to be seen.

Certainly, senior Sinn Féin figures, and even P. O'Neill himself, are moving quickly to contain the anger at the murder of Robert McCartney after a drink-fuelled row in a pub one Sunday afternoon.

The IRA's statement, issued on Wednesday as a head of steam continued to build over the issue, is being seen as an attempt to facilitate the investigation of the murder without departing from the long-established position of not supporting the PSNI.

Short of calling for witnesses to go to the police, the O'Neill statement insisted: "No one should hinder or impede the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice - anyone who can help the family with this should do so".

For the family, this means going to the PSNI, and people like Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly now seem happy to let them conclude that.

The North Belfast Assembly member also defined justice in this case as the suspects facing a court (that IRA members once refused to recognise), conviction and a jail sentence.

With one May election - for local councils - already declared, and another undeclared election - for Westminster - expected, the controversy is already extremely politically sensitive.

Public sympathy for a large financial institution such as the Northern Bank is, to say the least, limited. The theft of £26.5 million has even provoked a sense of "sneaking regard" for the engineers of such a daring, even breathtaking, plot.

But reaction to the murder of Robert McCartney is on a different and more human level. Sympathy on the streets for the articulate and valiant sisters of Robert McCartney is much more intense, and not just because an innocent life has been lost.

If the Short Strand syndrome shows anything, it is that public tolerance of IRA action, even in republican heartlands, is not limitless.

Sinn Féin's task seems to be to appear loyal to the IRA on the one hand and to the communities which elect it on the other.

With friction between the people and the IRA clearly in evidence, that task has just grown more dangerous and complex.

© The Irish Times


Garda interviews with alleged IRA men ruled inadmissible

Garda Interviews Ruled Inadmissible At IRA Trial -V

17/02/2005 - 12:29:55

The Special Criminal Court ruled today that garda interviews with five Dublin men arrested in Bray and later charged with IRA membership were not admissible in evidence because they were detained in a garda station for 20 hours with little or no sleep.

Mr Justice Diarmuid O' Donovan, presiding, said the court was concerned the five men had been detained for 12 hours under the Criminal Justice Act and had been interviewed and none of them had "very much in the way of sleep".

The men were then rearrested under the Offences Against the State Act on suspicion of membership of an illegal organisation and were then detained for a further period of hours during which they had no sleep before being interviewed.

"In essence, therefore, each of the accused was detained in a garda station which must have been a hostile environment for them, notwithstanding that there is no suggestion that any one of them was ever treated with hostility, for approximately 20 hours with little or no sleep.

"Moreover while perhaps they did not appear to the members of the Garda Siochana whom interviewed them to be excessively tired, they must have been tired and the interviewing members of the gardaí must have suspected that they were tired given that they (the gardaí) must have known than they (the accused) had had little sleep over a long period of time during which they had been subjected to other interviews," the judge said.

"The court is not satisfied to admit in evidence what transpired during each of the interviews to which each of the accused was subjected on the evening of October 11, 2002," the judge added.

The court has heard that each of the accused refused to answer questions relating to membership of an illegal organisation during interviews with gardaí.

Under the Offences Against the State Act (Amendment) Act of 1998 a court is entitled to draw inferences from a failure to answer material questions.

Following the court's ruling Mr George Birmingham SC made a closing submission for the prosecution after defence counsel for each of the accused said they were not going into defence evidence.

The court ruled last week that the accused had been lawfully arrested and detained by gardaí after they were seen acting suspiciously in Bray.

The court has heard gardaí recovered a large quantity of Sinn Féin posters, including election posters for Sinn Féin TD Aengus O' Snodaigh, from a car in which they also found a stun gun and CS gas canister after the men's arrest.

It was the 24th day of the trial of the five men. The trial has heard gardaí recovered a CS gas canister, a stun gun, pick axe handles, balaclavas and a fake garda jacket after five men were seen acting suspiciously around three vehicles by an off duty Special Branch officer.

The court has heard gardai found four of the men seated on the floor of a Transit van and two of them were dressed in fake garda uniforms.

The five Dublin men have pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on October 11, 2002.

They are Thomas Gilson, aged 24, of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght; Patrick Brennan, aged 40, of Lindisfarne Avenue, Clondalkin, Sean O' Donnell, aged 32, of Castle Drive, Sandymount, John Troy, aged 22, of Donard Avenue and Stephen Birney, aged 30, of Conquerhill Road, Clontarf.


Plutonium 'unaccounted for' at Sellafield - Brian O'Connell, London Editor, reports on the revelation that almost 30kgs of plutonium at Sellafield is unaccounted for

Sellafield Shortfall Due To Accounting Error – UK -V

Michael O'Regan

The UK government has assured the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche, that the missing 30 kg of plutonium in Sellafield was "material unaccounted for", the Dáil was told.

The Minister for Education, Ms Hanafin, speaking on behalf of Mr Roche, said the term represented the difference between measured stock and book account.

"It arises as a consequence of the accounting process for these nuclear materials and mainly from measurement uncertainties," she added.

"The Minister received assurances from the UK government that the figures in this case related to a 'book' discrepancy arising from measurement uncertainties and that there is no evidence to suggest that any of the apparent losses reported are real losses of nuclear material."

Ms Hanafin said that, apparently, it was not unusual for the accounting process to indicate material unaccounted for and it could have a positive or negative value.

She said the figures published yesterday related to last year and the previous year and had all long since been reported to EURATOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency under the UK's various nuclear safeguards obligations.

"The Minister for the Environment understands that the figures returned are not the subject of further inquiry by these bodies and that they are all within international standards of expected measurement accuracies for closing a nuclear balance at the type of facility concerned."

The Minister was replying to the Green Party leader, Mr Trevor Sargent, who said they were dealing with material for weapons of mass destruction.

© The Irish Times


Sellafield Is A Byword For Negligence And Incompetence - SF

Thursday, February 17

Sinn Féin MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has today said that the Sellafield nuclear facility is a by-word for negligence, incompetence and has a track record in poor safety, after an annual audit (2004) of nuclear material at the Sellafield plant revealed that 30 kilograms of plutonium remain unaccounted for.

Speaking today Mr McLaughlin said"

"This revelation that 30 kilos of plutonium is unaccounted for at Sellafield will come as no great surprise to the general public. It again highlights incompetence and negligence at the nuclear facility and once more calls safety procedures at Sellafield into question.

"It is not acceptable for the British Department of Trade and Industry to claim that this 'discrepancy' is not unusual. The British Government need to provide full disclosure on the whereabouts of the plutonium and wider safety concerns at the plant.

"In September 2004, the European Commission initiated legal proceedings against the British Government for its failure to comply with EU inspection rules on nuclear waste. When EU inspectors went to survey a pond at the plant they were unable to gain access to it due to high levels of radiation and poor visibility.

"Sellafield is a discredited plant and it remains the most dangerous and unstable nuclear facility in Western Europe. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for its immediate closure."


Two Quizzed On Ardoyne Killing

The PSNI say two men “presented themselves for interview” yesterday hours after a 32-year-old North Belfast man died in hospital from severe injuries to the head and body. And in a bizarre twist, the dead man’s coat, placed carefully in the driveway of a house just yards from the scene of the killing, was missed by cops investigating the brutal death.

Two men have presented themselves for interview to the PSNI at a city centre station following the death of Ardoyne man Stephen Montgomery in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mr Montgomery, 32, from Mountainview Drive, was found lying in Jamaica Road in North Belfast at approximately 3am on Sunday morning with serious injuries to his head and body. He died later in hospital.

Mr Montgomery’s family say they are in shock following the death and feel that they are being left in the dark by police as the circumstances surrounding Stephen’s death are still unknown.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Mr Montgomery’s brother, Sean Montgomery, revealed that he had discovered his brother’s coat in a gateway in Jamaica Road, just yards from the spot where his brother died, hours after cops had visited the scene.

"I went to knock the doors in Jamaica Road this morning [Sunday] to see if anyone knew anything, if anyone could tell me anything, but no one had heard a thing, and I found a coat lying in a gateway,” said Sean Montgomery.

“It was my brother’s coat, lying just beside where he had been found. It had been rolled up and was stuck in between railings. There wasn't a mark on it. I gave it to the police and they have it now.

“We are being kept completely in the dark over this, the police aren't telling us anything.

“We’ve heard speculation that people have handed themselves in over this, and we're hearing all sorts of things now, but we haven't been told anything definite, we just don't know what happened.”

This is the second blow in a matter of days to the Montgomery family who lost their father, Thomas Milnes, to illness just seven days ago.

Speaking about the death of Mr Montgomery, Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenaghan said, “It’s a terrible shock and more so because the young lad’s father was buried last week. This adds to the grief. I have visited the family several times and they are very distraught. They are a large family and very well respected. The heart of everyone in the community goes out to them.”

Voicing his sympathy for the family, Fr Aidan Troy added: “It has been a very tough time for the family. It’s a tragedy that someone should be taken in such circumstances. We have had too much of it in Belfast in recent times.

“Nothing can be said seriously enough about the sorrow felt by the family. They have my heartfelt prayers and sympathy.

“To bury one member of your family and then have to turn around and go through it all again a week later is terrible,” added Fr Troy.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Lord Hutton To Speak In NUIG


Lord Hutton, who chaired the inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly will address NUI, Galway's Law Society on Thursday February 24 at 8pm in the Cairnes Theatre.

On the night Lord Hutton will speak on Balancing The Rights And Roles Of Judges. He was a junior counsel to the Northern Ireland attorney general in the 1960s. In 1988 he became Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, presiding over the notorious Northern Ireland 'Diplock Courts'.

He played a key role in the Widgery Inquiry which absolved British troops of murder after Bloody Sunday. He represented the British government before the European Court of Human Rights in 1978, defending it against a ruling that asserted that abusive treatment had been delivered to detainees during the conflict.

In 1999 Lord Hutton decided not to extradite the former President of Chile Augusto Pinochet to Spain to face charges of mass murder and genocide and more recently he chaired the inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the man central to BBC reports that the British government had 'sexed up' its dossier on Iraq's weapons.


The Skyscraper Looming Over The World

A novel about the construction of the Empire State Building

By Adam Dunn
Special to CNN
Thursday, February 17, 2005 Posted: 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "The World Trade Center was built to withstand winds of 250 mph. That's basically a Category 5 hurricane," says the author of "Empire Rising" over the phone from Los Angeles, California. "The Empire State Building was built to withstand winds of 1,250 mph. Do the math."

The speaker is Thomas Kelly ("Payback," "The Rackets"), whose epic third novel teems with immigrants, corrupt politicians, and ascendant gangsters all swirling around the rising, stolid colossus of the Empire State Building -- the skyscraper that was the world's tallest for more than 40 years.

But little by little, from seedy workingmen's bars in the South Bronx to houseboats on the Brooklyn waterfront, "Empire Rising" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) encompasses more than a building, and more than its builders.

"Empire Rising" is set in New York City in 1930 against the darkening background of the early Depression. It's a year since the stock market crash and fortunes are going south, yet this skyscraper rises at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.

The book seeks to depict all levels of a mixed nation undergoing a painful (and, at times, bloody) adolescence. Prohibition has led to the rise of American organized crime, and Tammany will yield to the tommy gun in this struggle (indeed, Kelly offers an eerily plausible scenario for the yet-unsolved disappearance of Judge Crater), while the Irish will be supplanted in the underworld hierarchy by the Italians.

It was a time of torch passing, according to the author.

"Around 1920 politicians were telling the gangsters what to do. Prohibition [established in 1919] had created this enormous wealth and power, and put it in the hands of guys who were basically streetcorner thugs. By 1930 it's a whole different story. ... I think by 1930 a lot of the Irish had gone legitimate already, they'd made their money and got out."

Out of an immigrant's story

The novel at first seems like the tale of one Michael Briody, an immigrant Irish ironworker on a gang erecting the building's steel skeleton. Briody also happens to run guns for the Irish Republican Army in his spare time.

As with just about everything else in this ambitious book, Briody is only half fictitious.

Thomas Kelly

"He's based on my great-uncle Michael Briody, whose grave I just visited last week in the Bronx," says the author, a second-generation Irish-American. "He was always the subject of whispers in the family -- no one really knew what happened [to him]. I had one picture of him, and over the years I'd wonder what happened. I'd heard he worked on the Empire State Building, and the rest of the book grew out of that."

Briody is a grunt in all ways, grudgingly serving a beleagured IRA regrouping after civil war in Ireland.

"The losing side of that war was the IRA. A lot of those people (men and women), if they weren't outright forced out of Ireland, were certainly made to feel unwelcome. So you had a huge migration of the so-called 'Republican Irish,' and my family was part of that," Kelly says.

All this story -- the immigrant experience, the political maneuvering (one of the lead figures in the Empire State Building's construction was the former New York governor and presidential candidate Al Smith), the lurking gangsters -- is almost too big to tackle in one book, let alone a novel, and Kelly seems to sense this.

Building the American Experiment

So the erection of the Empire State Building is, in Kelly's book, a sort of prism through which the reader may view the sweeping changes occurring at the time.

From Franklin D. Roosevelt in the governor's mansion to the newly arrived unskilled laborers from Italy walking girders hundreds of feet in the air, the rising superstructure of the Empire State Building becomes a metaphor for the growing size and complexity of the American Experiment, and construction becomes synonymous with corruption.

"You have to understand, a lot of people have misconceptions about corruption," explains Kelly, himself a former construction worker. "It's easier for you, if you're putting guns to people's heads, to put a gun to the head of one contractor, as opposed to 5,000 bricklayers. So if you get the contractors to play ball, there's literally myriad schemes that go on.

"Does it go on to the extent that it did? No," he adds. "Does it still go on? Absolutely."

Kelly's knowledge of chicanery within modern construction firms and unions is readily apparent in "Empire Rising," with its shadowy bars and union meetings where cash is exchanged and fates are decided.

Of course, things have changed, right? With organized crime in decline, and all the bureaucratic hoops builders have to jump through, it has to be a much cleaner industry than it was when the Empire State Building was going up.

Kelly agrees -- to a point.

"To assume it doesn't happen is just silly," he says. "There's a lot of money to be made, and a lot of people angling for their slice of the pie, and some of them are less scrupulous than others."


RTE Radio Shake-Up Likely As Top Stars Lose Listeners

RTÉ management is considering introducing further changes to the line-up on RTÉ Radio 1 following the publication of the latest listenership statistics, writes Emmet Oliver.

Leading broadcasters such as Marian Finucane and Pat Kenny suffered significant erosion of their audience, while younger broadcasters like Gerry Ryan, Ryan Tubridy and Rachel English managed to strengthen their presence. At Today FM, Ray D'Arcy significantly added to his audience.

RTÉ executives have now got to decide whether Tubridy will be allowed to host - on a long-term basis - his own show from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., effectively shaving one hour off Today With Pat Kenny. According to sources yesterday, the latest figures may make this more likely, but nothing has been decided yet, said an official spokeswoman.

Pat Kenny's audience dropped from 332,000 to 301,000, leaving the programme back in sixth position in the top 10 of radio shows. Marian Finucane's was the third most listened to programme, but its audience slipped back from 383,000 to 357,000.

Such significant audience erosion was not uniform at RTÉ, with Ryan Tubridy increasing his audience by 19,000 and Gerry Ryan managing to push his audience from 360,000 to 382,000. Five Seven Live, hosted by Rachel English, also reported strong progress, with a new record audience of 225,000. Liveline with Joe Duffy recorded a rise of 3,000 to finish with a total of 344,000.

The station was also satisfied with its performance outside prime time, with Tonight With Vincent Browne up from 40,000 to 51,000. As is traditional, the number one radio programme was Morning Ireland, with 476,000 listeners, almost unchanged from 2003.

Ms Eithne Hand, deputy managing director of RTÉ Radio, said "we are happy the figures are relatively stable in a more crowded market".

The Joint National Listenership Survey covers the whole of 2004 and shows listenership for RTÉ Radio 1 dropping by 1 per cent to 27 per cent and 2 FM dropping by 1 per cent to 24 per cent. Today FM, also a national service, managed to increase its listenership by 1 per cent to 15 per cent. Lyric FM was unchanged at 3 per cent.

In terms of regional stations Beat FM, based in the south east area, posted its first full-year figure of 19 per cent.

In Dublin the competition between stations continued to be intense. 98 FM was one of the biggest losers, shedding 3 per cent of its listeners, most likely at the expense of traditional rival FM 104. Q102, owned by UTV, reported strong progress. One of the biggest winners was the youth station Spin FM, which managed to increase its listenership in 2004 by 4 per cent.

NewsTalk chief executive Mr Dan Healy said the station continued to make steady progress.

© The Irish Times


Irish Dancer's Killer May Face Longer Prison Term

Sean O'Driscoll in New York

A Pennsylvania man who killed an Irish dancer in a hit-and-run accident may have to serve more time in prison after it emerged this week that he was convicted of drink-driving six months after the accident.

Joseph Livoti was sentenced to three to six years in prison on February 3rd after the family of a 19-year-old Ennis woman, Ms Margaret Brohan, wrote letters to the court on his behalf.

Allegheny County Judge David Cashman said he was so disturbed by the killing that he wanted to set aside a plea agreement Mr Livoti had worked out with prosecutors and make him serve more time in prison.

He said he was persuaded to accept the plea agreement after reading letters from the Brohan family which called for leniency. However, the Brohan family has now revoked their pleas for clemency after prosecutors discovered details of Mr Livoti's second conviction.

In a motion lodged in court this week, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Beemer said the Brohan family were "devastated" when they heard of the second drink-driving offence.

© The Irish Times

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