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February 18, 2005

02/18/05 – Adams Calls On People to Be Measured in Comments

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

SF 02/18/05 Adams Calls On People To Be Measured In Comments -A(2)
IT 02/19/05 Fuller Sinn Fein Response Awaited Tomorrow -A(2)
GU 02/19/05 Sinn Féin In Crisis Following Laundering Arrests
IT 02/19/05 Conroy Says Trail Is Pointing To Bank Accounts -A(3)
IT 02/19/05 Flynn's Link To Inquiry Costs Him Key Posts -A
TO 02/18/05 Company Director Has Close Links To Irish Establishment
IT 02/19/05 Flynn Went To Bulgaria With Businessman
IT 02/19/05 Resignations By Flynn Follow CAB Questioning
IT 02/19/05 Phil Flynn: A Chequered Career
IT 02/19/05 Suspect Detained After Cash Fire Tip-Off
IT 02/19/05 Cork Chef Charged With IRA Link
IT 02/19/05 Government View Is Backed Up - Taoiseach -A
IT 02/19/05 Party's Credibility Is 'In Tatters', Says Rabbitte
IT 02/19/05 PSNI Search A Case Of 'Mistaken Identity' In Derry
IT 02/19/05 INLA Link To Abduction Of Man In Louth
IT 02/19/05 Mayor Backs Council Move To Save Bewleys

RT 02/18/05 Sinn Féin Politician Questioned In Garda Probe –V(7)
NW 02/18/05 Growing Problem Of Obesity In Ireland -V
RT 02/18/05 Death Of Irish Actor Dan O'Herlihy At 85 -V

Paschal Sheehy, Southern Editor, reports on the continuing investigation into money laundering operations

Paul Reynolds, Crime Correspondent, reports on the garda press conference held this afternoon

Paschal Sheehy and Paul Reynolds discuss the implications of the garda probe for the Northern Ireland peace process

Charlie Bird, Chief News Correspondent, reports as Phil Flynn resigns from the Government's decentralisation committee

Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports on comments made by Sinn Féin's Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness

David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports on Government reaction to the ongoing investigation

David Davin-Power speaks about the political repercussions of this week's events

Growing Problem Of Obesity In Ireland - Helen McInerney reports on the over-dependence on processed food in Irish society and the health problems that this has caused

Death Of Irish Actor Dan O'Herlihy At 85


Speaking to RTÉ from Spain, the Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, gives his reaction to the developments in the garda investigation into money laundering

7 still in custody in Garda money laundering probe - Speaking earlier on RTÉ Radio, The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, described the IRA as a colossal crime machine

Gerry Adams Calls On People To Be Measured In Their Comments –A(2)

Published: 18 February, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking to RTE this afternoon described unfolding events as very serious. He called on people to be measured in their comments and not to make any knee-jerk judgements. Mr. Adams said:

"I only became aware of these developments very late last night. This is a serious situation and. I'm flying back to Ireland to get a handle on all of this and I've asked for a report on my return. I would ask people to be measured and not to make any knee-jerk judgements about all of this.

"Sinn Féin is opposed to crime. There are members of other parties who have been imprisoned because of their involvement in corruption and other activities. But unlike Michael McDowell I don't tar every member of those parties. I don't try to tar their entire electorate with the awful smear and slur of criminality.

"I don't want to be tainted with criminality. I don't want anybody near me who is involved in criminality. I will face up to all of these issues if and when they emerge. I have to reflect on all of this and I'm not making any judgments and I'm certainly not going to be taking advice from Michael McDowell. Michael McDowell was saying the same things in the 1990s as he is saying now. Michael McDowell attacked John Hume for even daring to talk to me. So, this is all regurgitated invective and insults.

"I'm the Sinn Féin President and Sinn Féin has been subject to public accusations. So, of course I have to take that seriously. Not only do I have to uphold the integrity of the party and my own integrity, I have to be very open in looking at what may or may not be happening at this time.

"Malign elements in the British system are sitting back and watching all of this with glee. Ian Paisley, who scuppered the efforts to bring about a closure on every issue in the peace process, is sitting back silently watching as Irish nationalism beats up on itself and others as some parties seek to destroy Sinn Féin.

"I'm not in politics for the good of my health. I'm not in politics for ministerial office. I‚m not in politics for the big salary. I know that there are a lot of people in politics, in all the parties, who are motivated to give public service. I think that I still have a role to play in terms of the peace process and in terms of the equality agenda and in terms of the changes that I believe are required in the island of Ireland and I want to see a united Ireland.

"Sinn Féin will weather this storm. I will not walk away from any challenge, which presents itself in the time ahead. If Sinn Féin has issues to deal with, we will deal with those issues. We didn‚t play the leadership role we played in this process, or make the progress that has been made, by walking away or being engaged in pretend games or putting our heads in the sand. We live in the real world. We know how much people depend on us to make this peace process work and we will not fail the people whatever that means in the time ahead."ENDS


On RTÉ Prime Time a fortnight ago, Martin McGuinness said he believed the IRA when they said they had nothing to do with the Northern Bank raid

Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, discusses the implications of this criminal investigation for the Northern Ireland peace process

Fuller Sinn Fein Response Awaited Tomorrow –A(2)

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

North reaction: A considered Sinn Féin response to the arrests may come from the party president, Mr Gerry Adams, tomorrow.

Mr Adams is due in Strabane, Co Tyrone, in the afternoon for a commemoration for three IRA men in the town, at which he is to deliver an address.

Yesterday the party's chief negotiator, Mr Martin McGuinness, took a cautious approach to the arrests and the break-up of an apparent massive money-laundering operation.

Mr McGuinness said: "I haven't heard anything that would make me change my assessment, but that doesn't mean we won't reflect on events as they unfold.

"I don't know what the implications are. I certainly am not going to rush to judgment. I want to hear the full facts of what we're dealing with at the moment."

The SDLP, which is standing by its policy of seeking the inclusion of all parties in the political process, accused republicans of lying and deceit.

Speaking from the US, the party leader, Mr Mark Durkan, said: "The picture emerging vindicates our stated view that the Provisional movement is running a very structured criminal enterprise.

"They are filling their coffers from racketeering, smuggling and money-laundering.

"These money crimes have been perpetrated using the resource of a private army. They have used everything from threats to kidnapping families and even murder in the course of robberies."

Accusing the movement of using democratic support as cover for criminality, Mr Durkan continued: "Some have suggested that Sinn Féin should sever its links with the IRA. But, for example, Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty already denies that there is a relationship between them, so we have already had that line. Few would believe that such a split would be anything more than a divorce of convenience.

"All of us have been asked to make a huge leap of faith for Sinn Féin in recent years. Don't now ask us to make a huge leap of fiction."

Unionists are increasing pressure on the Northern Secretary to levy severe sanctions on Sinn Féin elected representatives and to exclude them from the political process.

They are calling for a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday by the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, to mark a distinct toughening of the British stance against Sinn Féin and the IRA.

A senior UUP member and close Trimble aide, Mr Michael McGimpsey, said: "It appears that it is business as usual for the IRA. This whole affair has shown what little respect the republican movement has for democracy."

The DUP commended the Garda for its success and said the capture of so much cash illustrated the scale and the "vast nature of the Provos' criminal empire".

Mr Jeffrey Donaldson, the Lagan Valley MP, said: "Murder and robbery are the trademarks of the Sinn Féin-IRA machine. Yet, despite the fact that the IRA have such a track record, the prevaricating and deceit continue."

Directing remarks at the British Prime Minister and the Northern Secretary, he added: "It is crunch time for the Government.

" They must begin to take steps to put the Provos out of business. The IRA are an impediment to peace."

© The Irish Times


Sinn Féin In Crisis Following Laundering Arrests

Shaken Adams flies back to tackle 'serious situation'

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Saturday February 19, 2005
The Guardian

Sinn Féin was in crisis last night as another prominent member in the Irish republic was dragged into the multi-million pound IRA money-laundering investigation police say could connect republicans to the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery.

As the first of the seven people arrested in raids across Cork and Dublin this week appeared in court charged with IRA membership, a former Sinn Féin vice-president and one of the most well-connected bankers in the country was helping the police with their inquiries.

Phil Flynn, the chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Ireland, came forward to say he was the co-director of a company run by the Cork financier Ted Cunningham, at whose home police found £2.3m in mixed sterling notes.

Mr Cunningham, 57, and his partner were still being questioned last night after they were arrested in the village of Farran near Cork. The notes are being forensically examined in Dublin.

It also emerged that a man handed over £175,000 to Cork police on Thursday, telling them Mr Cunningham had been asked to look after it.

Mr Cunningham, a registered moneylender, is the director of several companies, including Chesterton Finance, in which Mr Flynn holds a 10% stake. Mr Flynn, 61, who has at times acted as an adviser to the Irish government, said he had been questioned by the Criminal Assets Bureau and had handed over documents to the Irish police. He told reporters Chesterton Finance was "clean". His brother's house in Dundalk was searched, but neither of the men has been arrested.

Last night, Irish police arrested another man in his 40s in Cork in connection with the discovery of a number of assault rifle rounds. The arrest in the town of Passage West followed a tip-off that a man was burning sterling bank notes in his backyard.

A former Sinn Féin parliamentary candidate, Tom Hanlon, 37, who was arrested in a separate raid in Cork, was still being held last night.

The man charged in Dublin with IRA membership, Don Bullman, 30, is alleged to have had more than €90,000 (£62,000) in a box of Daz washing powder. Two other men from Derry who were arrested with him were released without charge.

More than £2m in cash was seized during a series of raids this week, including £60,000 in Northern Bank notes which police were examining last night to establish whether they could be traced to the December robbery in Belfast - the biggest of its kind in British or Irish history.

The two governments have blamed the raid on the IRA, but Sinn Féin has continued to deny republican involvement.

Computers and financial documents were also seized in raids in Dundalk and Offaly in the Irish republic and Derry in Northern Ireland yesterday.

Even in the long and troubled history of Sinn Féin, this has been a calamitous week.

The party was already facing an unprecedented rebellion from within the ranks of its most loyal supporters after a Sinn Féin voter and father of two, Robert McCartney, was allegedly murdered by the IRA in a bar brawl.

The killing and the alleged cover-up by republicans had forced a bout of soul-searching and released long suppressed anger at the IRA's grip on nationalist areas.

The money-laundering arrests and the investigation into links to the bank robbery now threaten to damage Sinn Féin's global image, and will inevitably delay even further the day when unionists will agree to sit down in a Stormont government with them.

So grave was the situation last night that Gerry Adams rushed back from Bilbao, where he was promoting a book and meeting Basque politicians. He sounded uncharacteristically shaken in an interview with Irish state broadcaster RT É. "I do think it is a serious situation," he said. "Of course I am concerned. I am flying back to try and get a handle on this."

He said Sinn Féin was opposed to crime and the organisation was "categorically not involved" in any alleged money laundering operation. But "such a serious situation would take serious reflection by me and others in the leadership of Sinn Féin."

Predictably, the Democratic Unionist party said the political process was now in "free-fall" and Sinn Féin should be excluded from talks to revive a Stormont assembly.

However, there is little appetite for that among nationalists, with the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, saying he was against exclusion.

The options now facing Mr Adams and the Sinn Féin leadership are stark. Ed Moloney, the author of definitive Secret History of the IRA, said they had only two real choices: they could either hunker down and try to withstand the criticism, pushing on for gains at the Westminster elections, or they could "cross the Rubicon" and draw a line on criminality.

The Northern Ireland secretary, Paul Murphy, will make a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday responding to a recent report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, which said the IRA had robbed the Northern Bank with the sanction of senior Sinn Féin members.

Helping with inquiries ...

Tom Hanlon, 37, a painter and decorator, was arrested in the village of Passage West, east Cork, on Wednesday night. He is a former Sinn Féin town councillor who served in Cork until 2004 and a was an unsuccessful Sinn Féin candidate for the Irish parliament in 2002. He was an agent for the party in last June's European elections, which saw Sinn Féin take its first European seat in the Irish republic, and would be known to Gerry Adams. Police said they found no illicit money at his house. Martin McGuinness last night told the BBC that he had never heard of or met Tom Hanlon. Footage was later shown of him laughing and joking with him at a Sinn Féin meeting.

Ted Cunningham, 57, a Cork businessman and registered moneylender, is director of at least 10 companies. Originally from Macroom in Co Cork, he was arrested with his partner at their bungalow in the village of Farran on the outskirts of Cork. A total of £2.3m in mixed sterling notes was found at the house, reportedly in a compost heap. Police last night removed the cash in brown paper sacks and took it to Dublin for forensic examination. The couple are co-directors of several small financial companies. Mr Cunningham set up a private lending agency in 1995. He has company offices in Ballincolig, Co Cork, registered with the companies registration office as Financial and Legal Clients Ltd. Those offices were also searched. Some years ago, Mr Cunningham appeared on Ireland's Late Late Show complaining about overcharging by banks and telling of setting up a company to assist families with financial matters.

Phil Flynn, 61, a leading banker and former vice-president of Sinn Féin, has not been arrested but has come forward to help police with their investigations. Mr Flynn, a trusted associate of the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, has acted as an adviser to the Irish government. He said he was a non-executive director at Chesterton Finance, a financial services firm run by Mr Cunningham. He said the firm was set up last year and he was offered a 10% stake. He also said he had travelled to Bulgaria some weeks ago with Mr Cunningham to look at potential property deals which were legitimate. He told the Irish Independent: "I know Chesterton is clean. I had it checked out before I became a director six months ago." Mr Flynn is chairman of the Bank of Scotland in Ireland. He is a sharp-dressing former trade union chief, who has invested heavily in the new all-Ireland republican newspaper Daily Ireland, run from Belfast by a former Sinn Féin councillor. He had spoken to the criminal assets bureau, involved in this week's operation, and handed over files to the police.

George Hegarty, a fitter and part-time bouncer from Douglas, a suburb of Cork, was also arrested. A Sinn Féin activist in his 50s, he was described by friends as a model neighbour, always on hand to clear guttering or put the bin out. He also prided himself on keeping the lawn at his home in Donnybrook Cottages immaculately trimmed, locals said.


Speaking live at a press conference in Garda headquarters in Dublin, the Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy, gives his report on the investigation into money laundering

Charlie Bird, Chief News Correspondent, reports on the Garda Commissioner's comments on the latest in the investigation

Paschal Sheehy, Southern Editor, reports from Cork on the man who presented himself at a garda station in the city last night and handed in £175,000

Conroy Says Trail Is Pointing To Bank Accounts –A(3)

Conor Lally

Press conference: The Garda Commissioner, Mr Noel Conroy, has said that his officers are facing a long and painstaking investigation which will take thousands of man-hours and will likely bring them to other jurisdictions as they try to unravel the complex web behind the almost €4 million in sterling and euro which has been uncovered in the Republic since last Wednesday evening.

As raids on the offices of accountants and solicitors continued yesterday in Cork, Offaly, Louth and Dublin, Mr Conroy said that the paper trail surrounding the Provisional IRA money-laundering operation was leading investigators to bank accounts in the Republic.

However, he indicated that an unknown amount of money may already have been laundered through Irish banks and said that other funds could have been moved offshore and might also have been unwittingly given to members of the public to hold.

The fact that a member of the public had walked into Cork's Anglesea Garda station on Thursday night and handed over £175,000 led gardaí to believe that large sums had been passed to unsuspecting members of the public. Some of this money might have been passed in "dubious" circumstances.

"We believe people may have received, unwittingly, money that perhaps is sterling, and they should be mindful we are investigating large sums of sterling, and therefore I am appealing to those people to come forward before we actually knock on their door and carry out searches," he said.

Gardaí were now engaged in a "huge operation" involving "vast amounts of [ bank] notes". Hundreds of gardaí, working from local units in Dublin, Cork, Offaly and Louth and from the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, had amassed "huge amounts of documents" and computer hard-drives during the searches.

The investigation was still at a very early stage, Mr Conroy said. However, he added: "Naturally enough, we see subversive involvement in the movement of this money."

He could not rule out the possibility that some of the money might already have been laundered through banks in the Republic. "That being the case, you can be assured we will follow the trail right through from the very moment the money went in the door of a bank until we find out where it actually ended up."

It was "way too early" to say at this stage how much money might have been put through the Irish banking system.

When asked if gardaí had been investigating the Provisional IRA money-laundering operation before the robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast in December, he said: "You can take it that the intelligence service, crime and security branch, are always scanning the airwaves in relation to intelligence, and you can take it that people who are now part of the investigation here would have been in their sights before."

He rejected the suggestion that gardaí might be damning Sinn Féin if the arrested people connected to the party were not charged with any offence.

"It's not my job to damn anybody. It's my job, and our officers' jobs, to investigate criminality, and all we are doing is investigating criminal offences, and whether a person is charged or not, that isn't a matter of concern to me right now. But our investigators are there, they are there to obtain the best evidence possible, and we would put that before the DPP. And we are very hopeful."

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr McDowell, yesterday visited Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park and was briefed by Mr Conroy and other senior officers. Present at the meeting were Deputy Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and Assistant Commissioner Joe Egan, who is head of Crime and Security.

Mr McDowell congratulated Mr Conroy on the Garda investigation to date and said that the force had done a great service to the people of Ireland. When asked if he felt vindicated by the events of the past three days, he replied: "What do you think? Yes."

© The Irish Times


Charlie Bird reports on the connection between the former senior trade union leader, Phil Flynn, and the money laundering probe

Flynn's Link To Inquiry Costs Him Key Posts -A

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

The Garda investigation into alleged money-laundering by republicans claimed its first casualty last night when Mr Phil Flynn resigned his positions as chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), as head of the Government decentralisation implementation committee and as a director of the VHI.

Mr Flynn said he was an "unrepentant republican", but he denied any involvement in money-laundering and said he did not believe that he had been exploited by members of the republican movement.

The former Sinn Féin vice-president and former vice-president of the ICTU came under Government pressure yesterday after it emerged that he had been questioned by the Criminal Assets Bureau about his non-executive directorship of the company at the centre of the Garda investigation. There was no immediate comment on his resignation from the Government last night.

His position as chairman of the decentralisation committee came under threat when the Government said that it was examining his position in the light of the investigation into Chesterton Finance Co Ltd.

His withdrawal from the three positions came only hours after he confirmed that he had a business relationship with the person who was the "principal" in Chesterton, a figure central to the Garda investigation. He told RTÉ that he had made an error of judgment by agreeing to become involved in the company.

Earlier, Mr Flynn told The Irish Times that he had been connected with Chesterton for less than a year. "As far as I'm concerned, the operation is clean."

In a Bank of Scotland (Ireland), statement last night Mr Flynn said: "I am guilty of no wrongdoing, but the bank and I have decided that it is best I step down from my position as non-executive chairman with immediate effect in order to ensure Bank of Scotland (Ireland) is not affected by recent publicity."

© The Irish Times


Company Director Has Close Links To Irish Establishment

By Caroline Merrell

PHIL FLYNN is one of Ireland’s most prominent bankers, having made a 30-year journey from revolutionary to fully-paid-up member of the Irish Establishment.

Mr Flynn, a former Sinn Fein vice-president, who was educated at Ruskin College in Oxford and the London School of Economics, said yesterday that Chesterton Finance — a tiny Cork-based lending company of which he is director — was “clean”.

One of Chesterton Finance’s other directors, Ted Cunningham, is in custody after police allegedly found £2.3 million at his home.

Mr Flynn, who is now chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), said: “I know Chesterton is clean. I had it checked out before I became a director six months ago. Chesterton is not a big operation — it does short-term lending to people who cannot get a loan elsewhere. The company lends against an asset and loans up to half of the asset’s value. It is a small company. At any time it has just £1 million to £2 million out on loan.”

The accounts of Chesterton, which was incorporated five years ago, show that Mr Cunningham and an Irene Johnstone are the company’s only shareholders. Chesterton itself appears to have outstanding loans of only £2 million.

Mr Flynn came to be nonexecutive chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) via a long career as a union activist, and is close to Bertie Ahern. Mr Flynn became general secretary of the Local Government and Public Service Union after working for Sinn Fein during the 1970s. He was acquitted of being a member of the IRA after being held for three days in Liverpool.

By 1996 he had become about as establishment as it was possible to become. In March of that year he became chairman of the ICC Bank, then owned by the Irish Government. Four years later the Irish Government sold off the bank for about £275 million to the Bank of Scotland and it was renamed Bank of Scotland (Ireland). Mr Flynn remained as chairman and continued to work with the Irish Government, helping on a commission that looked at the Post Office as well as working on pay inquiries and on an inquiry into Ryanair. He has also been involved in recent relocation plans for Ireland’s public sector workers.

Police have sealed off the offices of Chesterton, and have also questioned Mr Flynn’s brother.


Flynn Went To Bulgaria With Businessman

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

Phil Flynn: The former head of the Government's decentralisation project and former chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), Mr Phil Flynn, travelled to Bulgaria in recent weeks with the principal figure in the company at the centre of the Garda investigation into money-laundering in the republican movement.

Mr Flynn, a former vice-president of Sinn Féin and a former Irish Congress of Trade Unions president, said he went to the eastern European country in January with the man but did not explain the circumstances of the visit.

However, RTÉ reported that Mr Flynn said he travelled to Bulgaria to look at possible property investments.

He was also reported to have told RTÉ he took a 10 per cent stake in the company in return for helping to revamp it.

Last night, Mr Flynn resigned his chairmanship of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), which is a subsidiary of the Halifax Bank of Scotland Group.

He had been chairman of ICC from 1996 until it was acquired by Bank of Scotland in 2001.

In a statement he said: "I am guilty of no wrong-doing, but the Bank and I have decided that it is best I step down from my position as non-executive Chairman with immediate effect in order to ensure Bank of Scotland (Ireland) is not affected by recent publicity."

Members of the Criminal Assets Bureau have questioned Mr Flynn on his involvement with Chesterton Finance Company Ltd. Based at Cúil Gréine House in Ballincollig, Co Cork, the company's business is described in its official filings as financial intermediation except insurance and pension funding.

While Mr Flynn's name does not appear on the current Companies Office records for Chesterton, he confirmed that he was one of its non-executive directors.

Mr Flynn said gardaí visited his home in Cabra, north Dublin, and his office in Harcourt Street in the city centre on Thursday.

He said they took files and documents dealing with his non-executive directorship of the company.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Flynn's brother, Mr James Flynn, a Dundalk-based broker, has a business relationship with Chesterton.

© The Irish Times


Resignations By Flynn Follow CAB Questioning

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

Resignation sequence: Mr Phil Flynn's resignation from three high-profile positions in the public and private sector came shortly after the news that he had been questioned by the Criminal Assets Bureau as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering by the republican movement.

While the former vice-president of Sinn Féin rose high and speedily in the world of banking and as the trouble-shooter of choice for the Government, his fall last night was swift.

Only hours after the controversy began, Mr Flynn confirmed to The Irish Times that he had stood down as chairman of the Government committee on decentralisation, as chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), and as a director of the VHI.

In a interview on RTÉ television, he insisted that he had "no involvement, good, bad or indifferent" in money-laundering and rejected the suggestion that he may have been exploited by people he knows in the republican movement.

Shell-shocked after the culmination of a day of controversy over his directorship of the financial organisation at the centre of the Garda investigation, he admitted he was guilty of an error of judgment by joining the Chesterton Finance Company.

But by his own account, he believes he is guilty of nothing else and that Chesterton is clean.

"I am absolutely convinced that when this process is worked through that Chesterton will come through.

"I don't believe that money has been laundered through Chesterton," Mr Flynn said.

He acknowledged that he kept his friends in the republican movement and said it was not important to him how that was perceived.

"I'm an unrepentant republican - I always have been and I suppose at this stage in my life, I always will be. I make no apologies for that to anybody," Mr Flynn said.

"As far as my friends and associates are concerned, I have friends right across the spectrum. I have friends in the republican movement. I have friends who left the republican movement to join other organisations.

"Friendship to me is important. I have them and I keep them and it really doesn't matter to me how that's perceived."

Mr Flynn said he accepted it was "a bit strange that someone who is chairman of one of the biggest banks in the country would become involved in a small struggling financial organisation, as Chesterton was".

But besides acknowledging the error of judgement, he was unrepentant in every other respect. He resigned, he said, because he did not want his position to become the centre of the story.

"I have no involvement, good, bad or indifferent, in money laundering, full stop, for the republican or for anybody else. And if I'm proven wrong, I'll run up and down the street naked for you," he said.

There was no response last night from the Government. A spokesman said it had not received formal confirmation of Mr Flynn's resignation from the decentralisation body and, therefore, he could not respond.

© The Irish Times


Phil Flynn: A Chequered Career

Chris Dooley

For sheer variety and colour, few have a CV to match that of Mr Phil Flynn.

From republican activist to leader of the trade union movement, and from there to banker and industrial relations fixer, Mr Flynn's rise in stature has been relentless over several decades.

His recent jobs alone could fill an entire column and serve to emphasise the high standing in which he is held by Government, business and union figures.

He was chairman of the decentralisation implementation committee. Among other consultancy roles, he is helping to facilitate a resolution to industrial disputes at An Post and the Health Service Executive.

He was also non-executive chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland).

There was a time, however, when many people including the government of the day didn't want to know him.

In 1984, he caused problems for the Fine Gael-Labour administration when, while vice-president of Sinn Féin, he was elected general secretary of the Local Government and Public Services Union.

The government had a policy at the time of not meeting Sinn Féin public representatives, but clearly could not avoid talking to the State's biggest public sector union.

Nevertheless, the minister for health at the time, Mr Barry Desmond, said he would regard it as "an act of political hygiene" to have no dealings with Mr Flynn.

Such comments cut no ice with Mr Flynn's trade union supporters. He was subsequently elected to the executive of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, despite a televised attack on him prior to the vote by the then minister for defence, Mr Patrick Cooney.

Mr Flynn responded to his election with a telegram to the minister: "Dear Paddy, Elected on the first count. Thanks for your help and assistance. Hope to meet you soon."

He stepped down as Sinn Féin vice-president later in 1984, telling the party's ardfheis that his experience and support would always be available to the movement.

Born in Dundalk in 1940, he was the eldest of five children of a nationalist mother and Fine Gael father.

He joined Sinn Féin at the age of 14 and lent support to some of those involved in the IRA Border campaign of the 1950s.

"Yes, I saw the inside of a Garda barracks more than once. They'd be looking for you to account for your movements," he told The Irish Times in an interview in 1998.

He came to public prominence at the age of 25 when, in 1975, he acted as a mediator in the Herrema kidnap siege.

At other times he was refused a US visa; was arrested in Liverpool and held for three days under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and was tried for IRA membership, but acquitted, by the Special Criminal Court.

In 1987, he was reported to have resigned from Sinn Féin and from then on he played an increasingly influential role in the trade union movement, rising to become president of the ICTU.

Since completing his term in that post in 1995, he has been in near-constant demand as an industrial relations consultant, helping to resolve numerous high-profile disputes while working behind the scenes on others.

He is also a highly-respected figure in the world of business, and headed the review commission into the Irish League of Credit Unions which reported in 2002.

He was married twice and is the father of three grown-up children. Asked once what he would like for his epitaph, he said: "He kept his word."

© The Irish Times


Suspect Detained After Cash Fire Tip-Off

Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent, in Cork

Cork arrest: Gardaí investigating a Provisional IRA money-laundering operation yesterday arrested an eighth person for questioning after they were alerted that he was burning Northern Ireland sterling bank notes at his home in Co Cork.

Detectives moved in yesterday afternoon and arrested a man in his early 40s at his home in Passage West after they received a tip-off that half burned Northern Ireland bank notes were seen near the man's home in the Cork Harbour town.

Gardaí believe the man panicked on Thursday night after hearing that detectives were closing in on those connected with the republican money-laundering operation and that he tried to burn a large amount of Northern Ireland sterling notes in the fireplace of his home.

Officers believe the man simply deposited the money in the fireplace and set it alight but some of the notes were blown up the chimney before they were fully burned and gardaí were alerted yesterday morning that half burned notes were to found near his home.

Detectives raided the man's house yesterday afternoon and found some half-burned Northern Ireland bank notes outside the house while they also found one intact Northern Ireland bank note inside the house.

The notes - which had serial numbers - were put in sealed evidence bags and were removed by gardaí for analysis and examination by Garda technical experts to see if any of them match the money stolen in the Northern Bank raid in Belfast on December 20th.

Gardaí were last night unable to say how much money had been burned by the man in the house but they believe it may have been quite substantial.

Detectives also recovered a box of between 150 to 200 heavy calibre bullets believed to be ammunition for an AK47 as well as two cellophane bags of what is believed to be cocaine worth €10,000 to €15,000 which were all seized for analysis and forensic examination.

Meanwhile gardaí in Cork also took statements yesterday from three businessmen who each contacted gardaí independently and handed in over €225,000 which they had received from a financial adviser who had been arrested in Farran on Thursday morning.

© The Irish Times


Cork Chef Charged With IRA Link

Diarmaid MacDermott

Special Criminal Court: A Co Cork chef arrested as part of a Garda investigation into IRA money-laundering was charged with membership of an illegal organisation at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday.

The head of the Garda Special Branch, Det Chief Supt Philip Kelly, told the court gardaí recovered £54,000 (€78,280) in a washing-powder box when Don Bullman was arrested.

He said: "I suspected that the £54,000 was a money-laundering operation on behalf of the IRA."
Mr Bullman (30), of Fernwood Crescent, Leghanamore, Wilton, Co Cork, was charged with membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, on February 16th.

Mr Bullman spoke only once during the hearing, to confirm his identity.

Det Sgt Rory Corcoran, of the Special Detective Unit, told the court he arrested Mr Bullman at 3.20 p.m. on Wednesday at Heuston Station in Dublin. He said he suspected him of having committed a scheduled offence, namely membership of an unlawful organisation.

He cautioned Mr Bullman, who replied: "Nothing to say."

Det Chief Supt Kelly said that at the time of his arrest, Mr Bullman was in a Northern-registered car with two Northern Ireland men. There was a Daz box on the back seat containing £54,000. He said six mobile phones were also found, and there was a powdered substance on the floor of the car that had to be forensically examined.

Cross-examined by Mr Bullman's counsel, Ms Anne Rowland, Det Chief Supt Kelly said he was aware Mr Bullman worked at a nursing home as a chef. Ms Rowland said her client had two jobs and worked 70 hours a week.

The detective chief superintendent said that from his briefing document, he was aware Mr Bullman catered for pubs as well as working at a nursing home.

He said that the two Northern men arrested with Mr Bullman had not been charged.

He said he had known about Mr Bullman's activities before his arrest, adding he was not going to reveal confidential information to which he was privy. He said a number of forensic tests were carried out on the Daz box, including fingerprint tests. "There was no conclusive evidence available from the fingerprints," he added.

He said there were no previous convictions recorded against Mr Bullman. Asked if he had given off-the-record briefings to journalists about Mr Bullman's arrest, he said: "It's not part of my job as Chief Superintendent of the Special Detective Unit to give interviews."

He said he was not aware that one newspaper had identified Mr Bullman as "a known republican", or that a newspaper had said Mr Bullman's brother was convicted of membership of an illegal organisation.

Asked if he was aware the Garda Commissioner had given a radio interview in which he said there was a subversive link to money found in various parts of the country, the chief superintendent said he was not, and added: "I was very busy this morning and did not have the time to read newspapers or listen to the radio."

Ms Rowland said her client had never been before a court before and his family was anxious that he should get bail. She said there had been "prejudicial publicity" about him which could prejudice his trial.

Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan, presiding, warned the media that they could report what was said in court but they were not entitled to speculate in a manner that could prejudice a trial. Mr Bullman was remanded in custody until Monday when a bail application is expected to be made.

© The Irish Times


Teresa Mannion got the reaction of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to the latest developments and his view on their implications for the peace process

Government View Is Backed Up – Taoiseach -A

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Ahern reaction: The Government's allegations that the IRA is involved in major criminality have been backed up by An Garda Síochána's raids this week, the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, has said.

Defending his decision to lay the blame for the Northern Bank robbery at the door of Sinn Féin, Mr Ahern said: "I wouldn't have said [ it] if I hadn't been given the advice.

"When the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, who I have enormous respect for, and the Garda Síochána tell me their professional opinion, not alone have I a responsibility to do that but I have a duty to do so.

"When it comes down to taking whose word, I will always take the Commissioner's. If I didn't do that I would be an odd kind of a Taoiseach," he declared.

Sinn Féin would have to obey democratic rules and respect the security in the Republic and Northern Ireland, Mr Ahern said in Tipperary.

However, he refused to exclude Sinn Féin from direct talks: "The policy of exclusion will not help, but when you are included there is a price.

"The price is democratic means, respecting the security forces North and South: the reformed security forces of the North, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and working for a democratic future.

"That is sometimes painful but everybody has to understand that. That is what we want to achieve. It would be easy to give a knee-jerk reaction today, as it would have been last week.

"I am not going down that road. The prize is a comprehensive settlement," said Mr Ahern, who has faced calls to exclude Sinn Féin by the Democratic Unionist Party.

"We are against exclusion. We had 30 years of exclusion in Northern Ireland. All we ended up with were thousands of people killed, thousands of people maimed, a few generations of young people from Northern Ireland and many from the Border region living in the United States, Canada and Australia to get away from it," he said.

He said he had "endlessly" made the point over the last few months that IRA criminality had to stop and decommissioning had to happen.

The Garda operation is ongoing, he said: "So I don't want to say anything about the detail of that. As I said on Tuesday in the Dáil, the CAB is involved, the special criminal investigation unit is involved, the Garda fraud investigation unit is involved.

"It is a nationwide operation by the Garda. Obviously, I want to congratulate the Garda for the work that they have been doing over the last number of weeks. This is difficult work.

"Obviously, on the face of it, this looks like a major money-laundering operation, and it is major. It is best that we leave this work to the gardaí and support the gardaí as we always would." The Government, he said, was totally committed to the implementation of the Belfast Agreement: "Ultimately, my only interest is getting a comprehensive settlement.

"We came to a stage in the last two years that we could not build enough trust and confidence - not between ourselves and the republican movement, that wasn't the issue - it was to get the parties that need to make the institutions work.

"We could not get them to move any further as long as criminality and the issue of decommissioning were there," he said.

The Government was as ready now as it had ever been. "We haven't changed our minds. We want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. These events are terrible and shocking but we don't have the killings and the mayhem that we had in the past. We just want to get to the end."

© The Irish Times


Party's Credibility Is 'In Tatters', Says Rabbitte

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

Opposition reaction: Sinn Féin's credibility is "in tatters", Labour leader Mr Pat Rabbitte has claimed.

Speaking in Naas yesterday, Mr Rabbitte referred to IRA involvement in the murder of Robert McCartney in the Short Strand area of Belfast, and in the Northern Bank robbery.

"The reality is that whatever little credibility the Sinn Féin leadership had is now in tatters and the goodwill that had been extended by other parties to Sinn Féin, in the hope that it would boost the peace process, has been shamelessly abused by them," he said.

Mr Rabbitte said the public could not accept wild stories about republicans being set up by "securocrats".

Sinn Féin leaders should say what they know of the reported involvement of some of their prominent colleagues in the activities under investigation, he said.

Fine Gael said the onus remained on Sinn Féin to declare a commitment to exclusively democratic politics.

The Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, repeated the view that the time had come for Sinn Féin to make up its mind over its links with the IRA.

"Little more than two weeks ago, Sinn Féin said that they were no longer going to interpret on behalf of the IRA, but today Gerry Adams is stating that he still doesn't think the IRA were involved in the Northern Bank robbery," he said.

"Fine Gael have been recently looking at funds needed to fight the next general election and the work involved in raising that. Any democratic party is entitled to question whether there's a level playing field for all parties."

The Green Party leader, Mr Trevor Sargent, said Republicans would have to confess more fully to the exact nature of their paramilitary activities if they were to win again the trust of democratic society.

"I still believe that there's a lot of posturing going on to try and give the impression that Sinn Féin can ditch undesirable elements from within its ranks and proceed as if nothing had happened," he said.

© The Irish Times


PSNI Search A Case Of 'Mistaken Identity' In Derry

George Jackson

PSNI raids: A woman whose Derry home was searched by the PSNI as part of the police investigation into the Northern Bank robbery said yesterday that the search was a case of "mistaken identity".

Four premises were searched by PSNI officers late on Thursday night and in the early hours of yesterday morning. Two houses and a flat, which is situated above a Sinn Féin office at Strabane Old Road, were searched in the Waterside area and the home of Ms Elaine Anderson at Glendale Park in the Galliagh area of the city was also searched.

One of the houses searched, at Woodside Heights, is the home of Conor McLaughlin, one of the two Derry men arrested by gardaí in Dublin on Wednesday. The other Derry man arrested, Christopher McElhinney, was the man named on the search warrant used by the PSNI to search Ms Anderson's home.

"I don't know him. I've never heard of him. I've nothing to do with any political or any other organisation," said Ms Anderson.

"I live here with my partner and my six-year-old and four-year-old daughters. I've been living here for the last six years and I was the first occupant of the house. No-one else has lived here.

"The police surrounded my house and when they entered they gave the name of a man they were looking for. I told them I knew nothing about this person.

"They had a search warrant and they searched my flat, every room, every drawer and they also searched outside.

"They said they were looking for money that had been laundered and for fraudulent documents. I had to take my children out of bed and to a neighbour's house across the street because I didn't want them to see the police in the house in case it scared them.

"The police also had sniffer dogs. I told them the person named on the search warrant never had any connection with my address and they seemed to accept that it was a case of mistaken identity or of a mistaken address.

"However neighbours saw a man outside my home yesterday afternoon. He was a stranger and none of them knew him and he was with the police last night.

"My partner told me the police were here because it had to do with the Northern Bank robbery and they [ the PSNI] didn't contradict that. They also asked me if I had any large amounts of money in my home. I couldn't believe it", she said.

Meanwhile, no-one was available for comment at the Woodside Heights home of Conor McLaughlin, a taxi-driver, who was arrested with Mr Elhinney. The home, which has panoramic views of the River Foyle and of the Donegal hills, was occupied by a family relative yesterday morning.

During the police search of the flat above a Sinn Féin office in nearby Strabane Old Road, a group of youths threw stones at the police officers, one of whom was struck on the head. He was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital and was discharged after he was treated for concussion.

A PSNI spokesman said that "some documents and other items were seized during the searches and they will be examined by detectives".

© The Irish Times


INLA Link To Abduction Of Man In Louth

Elaine Keogh

The man abducted and shot by a gang of armed and masked men in Co Louth on Thursday night is believed to have been the latest victim of an extortion racket operated by dissident Republicans with links to the INLA.

He suffered gunshot wounds to both legs and was dumped on the side of the road just north of the Border.

It is understood that he had been told to pay €30,000 to the gang four weeks ago and had failed to meet the deadline.

Gardaí suspect that the gang abducted him because he did not pay the money and also as a warning to other people about the consequences of not meeting their demands.

Two years ago at least three suspected drug-dealers in the south Louth area handed over in the region of €50,000 to this gang; a fourth man who did not pay them was abducted and beaten.

It is believed that the gang consists of up to eight men who are from Dundalk or just north of the Border. They are mainly in their thirties and forties and one is a former O.C. (officer commanding) of the INLA in Dundalk who has also been linked to the "Real IRA".

In this incident, the 29-year-old man had got a telephone call to meet a prospective buyer of a car he had advertised for sale.

They met at 10 p.m. in a car-park in Monasterboice just north of Drogheda and took the car for a test drive on a country road. When they got out of the car to supposedly look under the bonnet, a white van pulled up and up to four men, all masked and carrying at least one gun, bundled the man into the van.

He was partly stripped and driven to Jonesboro in south Armagh, a short distance from the Louth border, where he was shot in both legs.

The gang threw him out of the van and left him at the side of the road. He was able to make his way to a nearby house and the occupants took him to Dromad Garda station, a short distance away.

Garda sources said they did not expect a formal statement of complaint to be made to them but they were satisfied the incident had all the hallmarks of the gang involved in the extortion of alleged drug-dealers in Louth in 2003.

Gardaí believe it was their investigation into the gang's activities that led to the extortion racket coming to a halt for some time.

© The Irish Times


Mayor Backs Council Move To Save Bewleys

Joe Humphreys

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr Michael Conaghan, is to seek a variation to the Dublin Development Plan in coming weeks in an attempt to secure the future of the city's landmark Bewleys cafés.

Mr Conaghan is to table a motion at Dublin City Council seeking an amendment to the plan to prevent the historic cafés being turned into retail outlets.

In a separate development, the Campbell Bewley Group has moved closer to reaching an agreement with restaurant and pub owners Mr Jay Bourke and Mr Eoin Foyle about jointly operating a redeveloped café at Grafton Street.

While neither party will comment on the talks, it is understood plans have been drawn up to incorporate the premises into the Café Bar Deli restaurant chain, which was started by Mr Bourke and Mr Foyle at the former Bewleys George's Street café.

Mr Conaghan said Bewleys and any potential business partner "would be well advised to pay attention to what we are planning".

He said he expected the motion to amend the development plan to be passed "very easily" by the council.

The motion, to be tabled once the plan is enacted next month, states that "planning permission shall not be granted for a change of use in respect of a premises the structure of which is listed on the Record of Protected Structures where that existing, previous or recent use is an intrinsic aspect of its special social, cultural and/or artistic interest of those premises".

Mr Conaghan said Bewleys "may well try to rush through a deal" before the amendment comes into force. However, any attempt to change the development plan before it came into force on March 6th would be open to a legal challenge, he said.

The Save Bewleys Cafés Campaign is separately appealing to An Bord Pleanála a decision by the council to grant planning permission to Bewleys to redevelop its Westmoreland Street premises.

© The Irish Times

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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