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February 17, 2005

02/17/05 – Police Seize Northern Bank Notes & Make Arrests

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

BB 02/17/05 Police Seize Northern Bank Notes
IO 02/17/05 Seven Held In Cork And Dublin In NI Bank Raid Probe
BT 02/17/05 Adams: 'I May Be Wrong' On Heist
BT 02/17/05 Scepticism Over IRA Murder Denial
BT 02/17/05 Ulster 'Among Safest Places To Live' In UK
BT 02/17/05 Calls For Republic Bombs Inquiry Growing
BT 02/17/05 Ulsterman Is Jailed For Attacks On Graves
BT 02/17/05 Final Farewell To Hit-And-Run Dad
BT 02/17/05 Cherry Picking Claim Over Centres
BT 02/17/05 Public Confused Over The Role Of Ulster Councils
BT 02/17/05 Publicans: No Need For Total Smoke Ban


Police Seize Northern Bank Notes

Police in the Irish Republic have arrested seven people and recovered a large amount of cash.

Over £2m is said to have been seized during raids in the Cork area, with more than £60,000 reported to be in Northern Bank notes.

Irish police have not confirmed if the raid is connected to the £26m Northern Bank robbery in Belfast in December.

The IRA has been blamed by the British and Irish governments for stealing the money. The IRA has denied this.


The arrests were made as part of an on-going investigation into money-laundering.

Two men were arrested on Wednesday night in the Douglas and Passage West areas of Cork and another three were also detained in Dublin.

A man and a woman were arrested in a follow-up operation in the Farran area on the outskirts of the city on Thursday morning.

An Irish police spokeswoman said the suspects are being detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuiness said he was unaware of the arrests and said he would make no comment on the matter until he had more information.

He said there had been previous reports of Northern Bank notes being found and those reports had been false.

The party's leadership has said they believe IRA denials that it did not carry out the bank robbery.

Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid, who has been in charge of the Northern Bank investigation, was in Dublin on Thursday for meetings with senior Garda officers.

It is understood the raid was high on the agenda for the discussions.

A police spokesman in Northern Ireland said it was too early to say whether or not the arrests are connected to the robbery.

"The PSNI is working closely with An Garda Siochana as we have done since the start of the investigation," he added.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/17 16:09:47 GMT


Seven Held In Cork And Dublin In NI Bank Raid Probe

17/02/2005 - 15:57:14

Seven people have now been arrested today in Cork and Dublin as part of an investigation into the multi-million pound robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast.

Three men and a woman were detained in Co Cork and a large amount of cash was seized in the garda operation.

A Garda spokeswoman said all four were being detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act in various stations in Cork.

“During the course of the arrests, a quantity of cash was seized in the Douglas area, and a substantial amount of cash in the Farran area,” she said.

“As part of the same operation, three men were arrested in Dublin city last night and are currently detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against The State Act in various stations in Dublin.

“This operation is ongoing.”

Earlier gardaí recovered a reported £2m (€2.89m) in the Cork raid. Gardaí said they raided another property in Dublin, where they arrested three men and seized at least £60,000 (€86,000).


Adams: 'I May Be Wrong' On Heist

Robbery remarks provoke fresh row

By Chris Thornton
17 February 2005

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was riding out another political storm today after admitting it was possible the IRA carried out the bank raid that has paralysed the peace process.

Mr Adams, who is in Spain, issued a statement last night saying his remarks to a Madrid radio station were being "misrepresented".

He initially said "maybe I'm wrong" about the IRA not being behind the raid, prompting rival politicians to say he was beginning a climbdown.

The SDLP said he was admitting the possibility that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is right to blame the IRA.

Despite reports that this was the first time he had distanced himself from the IRA's denial of the raid, Mr Adams has previously been less than certain about who carried out the raid.

In Belfast several weeks ago he said it was only his "opinion" that the IRA was not behind the raid, which he said carried as much weight as Chief Constable Hugh Orde's assertion that they were.

The Sinn Fein president took that position after challenges to his credibility in backing previous IRA denials over the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe and postal worker Frank Kerr. Both men were subsequently shown to have been killed in IRA robberies.

In Madrid, Mr Adams said: "No one knows who robbed the bank.

"An opinion has been given that the IRA was involved. The IRA has said it was not involved and I believe it.

"Now maybe I'm wrong, but I believe it. What I can say categorically is that Sinn Fein was not involved."

After the comments were widely reported in the British and Irish media, Mr Adams said: "I made it clear that the IRA has said it wasn't involved and that I believe its disclaimer.

"Any other interpretation of my remarks is mischievous and misleading."

SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said: "If Gerry Adams now says he could be wrong then it has to be accepted that the Taoiseach, policing chiefs and countless others could be and are right about IRA involvement in bank raids and crime.

"The comments of the Sinn Fein president indicate that whatever denials and deceit, the truth will out about IRA involvement in stealing and smuggling."

The DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr called on Mr Adams to make the IRA hand back the £26.5m.

He said Mr Adams's statement could be an attempt by the Sinn Fein leadership to sow seeds of doubt about Sinn Fein's involvement.

"No-one with any knowledge of Sinn Fein's grip on the IRA will accept that senior Sinn Fein members are without association to this crime.

"His deliberate attempt to sow these seeds suggests that he is preparing the ground for public acceptance of this crime because he now believes that the IRA has got away with the crime and that convictions are growing less likely.

"That being so, Adams must now insist that the IRA hand back this stolen cash."


Scepticism Over IRA Murder Denial

By Ashleigh Wallace
17 February 2005

An IRA statement claiming the organisation was not involved in the murder of Robert McCartney was today met with scepticism by Sinn Fein's political opponents.

Detectives were continuing to question a man about the murder of the east Belfast man.

The arrest - which was made in Belfast around tea-time yesterday - came shortly after the IRA made a statement denying any involvement in the city centre stabbing.

In an unusual move made after political pressure mounted on Sinn Fein, the IRA said: "Those who were involved must take responsibility for their own actions which run contrary to republican ideals."

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said: "I would like to see the family get justice and the people who were involved in this brutal slaying should be rejected entirely by their community."

Mr McCartney's family was due to give its reaction to the IRA statement today.

However, Sammy Wilson of the DUP said: "I think this is a frantic attempt on the part of Sinn Fein to erect a smokescreen around IRA involvement in the murder. Members of Sinn Fein are encouraging people to come forward with information and it will be interesting to see, when police get closer to finding the culprits, what attitude Sinn Fein takes then."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan: "It (the IRA statement) does not encourage people to come forward with statements to the police and without people going to the police, there will be no prosecutions. IRA intimidation is proved by the fact the people who saw this murder are too afraid to give statements."


Ulster 'Among Safest Places To Live' In UK

Top cop hails drop in number of crimes

By Jonathan McCambridge
17 February 2005

A police chief today claimed Northern Ireland is among the safest parts of the UK in which to live as the PSNI revealed a large drop in the number of recorded crimes.

Violent crimes, burglaries and robberies are all continuing to fall throughout Northern Ireland's urban area. However, sexual offences are on the rise.

However, Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland has admitted there is significant under-reporting of offences so police do not know the true extent of crime and conceded fear of crime had not diminished.

But he said police were confident that the number of crimes were dropping and people were safer living in Belfast than in London or Glasgow.

Updated crime figures for the urban area, which includes Belfast, Lisburn, North Down, Newtownabbey, Castlereagh, Carrickfergus, Antrim, Ards and Larne, have been released for the period April 1, 2004 to February 7, 2005.

They show the total number of recorded crimes has fallen from 61,408 to 54,236 - a drop of almost 12% from the same period in the previous year.

The number of violent crimes has fallen by 5%, burglaries are down by almost 15% and robberies by almost 28%.

However, the number of sexual offences has risen from 720 to 769 on the same period in the previous year.

Duncan McCausland said: "We have achieved almost a 12% reduction in crime, that means 11,500 less victims; at the same time we are clearing almost one in every four crimes.

"There has been a lot of talk about a knife culture in Belfast but our figures show there have been less knife attacks, they are down from 72 to 44.

"There is a public perception that we live in a violent society and it only needs one or two high profile crimes to reinforce that. The fear of crime needs to be tackled.

"All across the UK there is clearly an under-reporting of crime. I do not underestimate that. I am not sitting here saying things are all rosy in the garden. What I am saying is there are less crimes being reported statistically.

"However, we are confident that there is less crime. People are safer here in Northern Ireland than they are in other parts of the UK.

"As a police officer I have been in London and have not felt as safe as I do in Belfast. Just ask the ordinary person do you feel as safe in parts of London or certain parts of Glasgow as you do in parts of Belfast?

"Genuinely people are safer in parts of Northern Ireland than they are in other parts of the UK."

The ACC continued: "All we say to people is compare us like for like with other parts of the UK and you will find we compare very favourably.

"If we can continue this reduction in crime for three or four years then people will start to feel there has been an improvement in their quality of life - this is a long term strategy, not a quick fix."


Calls For Republic Bombs Inquiry Growing

Committee slams lack of UK co-operation

By Shane Hickey
17 February 2005

The Government was facing increased pressure to hold a public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1972 and 1973.

A parliamentary committee in the Republic lambasted authorities in Britain saying they have failed to go along with a key element in the Good Friday Agreement to address the suffering of the victims of atrocities.

The criticism came yesterday at the publication of a report from the Oireachtas sub-committee on the Barron Report on the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973 which killed eight.

Justice for the Forgotten, the representative group for families of those killed, welcomed the report saying that the British Government had "not been let off the hook".

The chairman of the justice sub-committee, Sean Ardagh, from Fianna Fail, slammed the lack of co-operation by the British Government in the probe of the bombings.

"The sub-committee deplores the fact that it has received no co-operation from the Northern Irish or British authorities," states the report.

This was in direct contravention to a section of the Good Friday Agreement which states that the acknowledgement of the suffering of victims of violence was necessary in the reconciliation process, the report said.

"It seems impossible to reconcile the stance of the Northern Irish or British authorities with this element of the Agreement."

And previous assertions by Secretary of State Paul Murphy that the authorities were not able to search through records for relevant material were rubbished by a former senior Irish civil servant, according to the report.

Sean Donlon, the former secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs, told the sub-committee that a number of documents had already been released. The sub-committee said that it intended to return to the issue in future reports.

Mr Ardagh said it was time to persuade the British authorities to participate in the inquiry. He said London had a responsibility, in terms of morality and justice, to co-operate. "We will continue in every way to pursue them and continue to attack their position."


Ulsterman Is Jailed For Attacks On Graves

By Debra Douglas
17 February 2005

Police today linked an Ulsterman jailed for smashing the gravestones of Holocaust survivors in Birmingham to loyalist paramilitaries.

Simon Johnston (20) caused an estimated £100,000 of damage to 62 headstones at Witton Cemetery, Birmingham, between August 19 and 23 last year. Some of the gravestones were smashed and others had racist posters plastered on them.

Johnston also racially abused three black men and a child in the street.

A police spokesperson confirmed that when police searched the address where he was staying in the city, they found "literature relating to extremist Protestant organisations like the UFF".

He said: "We thought the literature suggested he might be a member of some organisation but we could never prove it.

"It did however give a good indication of Johnston's state of mind at the time."

Racist posters and publications were also found at the house and a welcome message on Johnston's mobile phone read: "Made in Ulster - Combat 18".

At the city's crown court this week, Johnston, who moved to Lakes Road, Wyrley Birch, Birmingham, only three weeks before committing the offences, was given a six-year jail sentence after admitting one charge of racially-aggravated criminal damage and two counts of racially-aggravated harassment and causing fear of violence at an earlier hearing.

The court heard some of the graves damaged by Johnston were the "resting place of Holocaust survivors who found themselves in Birmingham in their twilight years".

Johnston's flatmate, Carl Jones, (24), failed to appear for sentencing on racial abuse charges.

Johnston's sentence was welcomed by both local police and Jewish groups.

Detective Inspector Steve Bimson, from West Midlands Police, said: "This was a despicable crime and the court has dealt with it by delivering a substantial sentence.

"We take all crime seriously but crimes that have a racial element to them have a significant impact, not only on the community affected but on the community as a whole.

"This is a sign that such offences will not be tolerated by West Midlands Police."

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the sentence should send out a clear message to perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks.

"We welcome what is quite a substantial sentence for this kind of thing," he said.

"This sends out the right kind of signal that it is something that cannot be tolerated and has to be treated very seriously."


Final Farewell To Hit-And-Run Dad

By Deborah McAleese
17 February 2005

A large crowd was expected in Belfast today for the funeral of hit-and-run victim Stephen Montgomery.

Requiem Mass for the father-of-three was due to be celebrated at mid-day by Fr Miles Kavanagh at Holy Cross Church before interment at Carnmoney Cemetery.

Police last night confirmed to Mr Montgomery's grieving family that he was definitely killed in a hit-and-run accident.

The 34-year-old was found with severe injuries in the early hours of Sunday morning at Jamaica Road in the Ardoyne area.

Hours earlier, Mr Montgomery was grieving for his stepfather who died on Friday after a short illness.

Three men and two women were arrested for questioning over Mr Montgomery's death.

Two of the men have been released pending further inquiries. The two women and a third man were released pending a report to the DPP.

Posters appealing for witnesses to contact the family, either directly or anonymously, were put at the scene of Mr Montgomery's death earlier this week.

Mr Montgomery is survived by his fiancee Julie Hughes and his children Tiarnan (3), Stephen (6), and Amy (15).

Holy Cross priest Father Gary Donegan called on the local community to support the family.

Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan said: "People cannot believe that this family has had to endure the distress of losing a father and now a son. We have to do something to ensure that another family does not go through such a tragedy."


Cherry Picking Claim Over Centres

17 February 2005

A row has erupted in Antrim with a Sinn Fein councillor accusing a DUP representative of "cherry picking" which community centres should avoid the axe in the borough.

Antrim Council has shone the spotlight on the future of the area's community centes and a question mark still hangs over centres at Greystone, Rathenraw and Parkhall - all near each other in Antrim town.

In depth reviews of those centres are being carried out while the council believes centres at Stiles, Crumlin and Neillsbrook in Randalstown require upgrading or expansion.

The council is also considering community provision in Parkgate, Toome and Springfarm.

Councillor Stephen Nicholl (Ulster Unionist), the chairman of Antrim's Development and Leisure Services Committee, said all options will be considered for Greystone, Rathenraw and Parkhall.

DUP councillor John Smyth said he hoped Parkhall or Greystone will not close.

That drew criticism from Martin McManus who said he was concerned that a councillor had "cherry picked" Greystone and Parkhall and left out Rathenraw.

Mr McManus said all councillors should be fighting to ensure that all community centres in the area are kept open.


Public Confused Over The Role Of Ulster Councils

By Noel McAdam
17 February 2005

People in Northern Ireland do not know what local councillors do - yet want improved access to them.

New findings also show widespread support across the province for both fewer councils - and councillors.

The broad results from focus groups set up by the team heading up the review of public administration were outlined at a conference yesterday.

Review team operating officer Greg McConnell also denied there had been leaks in the review - and rejected criticism it has not been open.

He confirmed, however, the preference of the review team for reducing the current 26 councils to just seven - but said Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson had distanced himself from any specific figure.

"We have gone out of our way to be open," he told the annual conference of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association in Limavady.

Mr McConnell said focus groups had shown people aren't sure what councillors are responsible for, but that access to councillors needs to be improved.

There was widespread support for fewer councils and councillors but while the maintenance of local identity is important, people are not prepared to pay more for it.

The all-party gathering criticised aspects of the review, as councillors await the latest proposals from the team set up three years ago.

SDLP MLA Patricia Lewsley said the Minister - who was not present - had been "mischievous" in introducing the future number of councils into the debate.

The Lagan Valley representative said she hoped councils could avoid "power-basing" and competing with each other. Craigavon Ulster Unionist Fred Crowe said one had yet learned how the team had arrived at its figure of seven. His party colleague, Bertie Kerr, from Fermanagh, said the situation was becoming increasingly confusing.


Publicans: No Need For Total Smoke Ban

By Marie Foy
17 February 2005

There is no need for a total smoking ban in pubs and bars in Northern Ireland, a publicans' spokesperson has said.

The Department of Health is currently carrying out a public consultation on whether a ban should be extended to all pubs, to continue with self-regulation to allow no smoking to evolve, or a ban on smoking in pubs where food is served.

Nicola Carruthers, chief executive of the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade, said that there was no need for a total ban.

She claimed it was "astounding" how the research into passive smoking has been "twisted by those who want a complete ban."

The chief executive said that the anti-smoking lobby argued that there was an increased risk of 24% of non-smokers living or working with smokers getting lung cancer than other non-smokers.

However, Ms Carruthers said that the risk of 1.24 quoted in the government's SCOTH (Scientific Committee on Tobabacco and Health) report meant that 12.4 people in 100,000 would be affected rather than 10 people - an increase of 2.4 per 100,000.

"Northern Ireland's pubs want to cater for everyone - providing a smoke free atmosphere for those who want it and for staff - but still allowing smokers to enjoy a pint and a smoke," she said.

Those who wanted to preserve the atmosphere in their local and still allow smokers to smoke somewhere inside should write to the DHSSPS before mid-March expressing their views, she said.

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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