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March 15, 2005

Lord Saville Blasts Finucane Probe Rules

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 03/15/05 Lord Saville Blasts Finucane Probe Rules
ND 03/15/05 Peter King Set To Meet With Gerry Adams
BT 03/15/05 We're Under Pressure: Adams
US 03/15/05 U.S. State Department Briefing On Sinn Fein
SF 03/15/05 McGuinness Challenges Orde Over McCartney Investigation
IO 03/15/05 SF Man Not Contacted For Statement On McCartney Murder
NL 03/15/05 Police To Quiz McCartney Suspect At A Later Date
BT 03/15/05 McCartneys Fly To US As Sinn Fein Ups Ante
BB 03/15/05 McCartneys Reject Sinn Fein Claim
BT 03/15/05 Knife Attacks Now Three Every Day In Ulster
DJ 03/15/05 Republicans Have Damaged Irish Influence In US - Durkan
BT 03/15/05 Sinn Fein Trying To Dodge Flak, Says DUP
SM 03/15/05 Angry US Piles More Blame On Sinn Fein
NP 03/15/05 Opin: The Irrelevance Of The IRA
IS 03/15/05 Irish PM Connects Dublin Heist To Paramilitaries
TA 03/16/05 Dublin Kidnap Robbery 'Has IRA Stamp'
BT 03/15/05 IRA Smugglers Among World's Best, Claims Minister
DJ 03/15/05 Foyle Bridge Accident: Proper Procedures Were Followed
BT 03/15/05 Preview Of New Derry Museum


Saville Blasts Probe Rules

Bill will make it hard to get at full truth of Pat Finucane death

By Brian Walker
15 March 2005

A blistering attack from Lord Saville of Newdigate on the UK's proposed new rules for holding inquiries has cast severe doubts on the Government's controversial plans for holding a restricted inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

In one of two long letters to the Constitutional Affairs Minister Baroness Ashton, Lord Saville, who has yet to deliver his report on the Bloody Sunday inquiry, passes the damning verdict: "I am convinced that the new Bill will make it difficult to get at the whole truth about the death of Pat Finucane".

He adds that he would "not be prepared to be a member of an inquiry, if at my back was a minister with power to exclude the public or to decide that evidence or documents should not be disclosed to the public."

Lord Saville insists that the Finucane inquiry terms "give too much power to individual ministers ... and could fall foul of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, requiring independent and speedy inquiry into death. This is missing from the provisions of the Bill".

In a second letter rejecting the minister's assurances, Lord Saville "holds to his view" and states that "it is for the inquiry panel ... to determine restrictions".

He warns the Government that a minister's ability to intervene during the Finucane inquiry "would damage public confidence."

The Inquiries Bill coming before the Commons today, having passed through the Lords last month, will pass into law without encountering much opposition from MPs.

But the sweeping condemnation of a Law Lord with unique experience of public inquiries and Northern Ireland is bound to make it difficult for any other judge to accept the post of Finucane inquiry chairman.

Lord Saville's criticisms - already uniquely direct for an exchange of letters between a top judge and a minister - acquire additional force from the decision to place them in the House of Lord's library, a move amounting to publication.

His attack is a powerful addition to the litany of criticism of the Finucane inquiry's proposed scope and will boost the family's attempts to win a fully open, public inquiry.

The retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, who recommended public inquires into all four NI collusion cases, said an independent probe into the Finucane case was " impossible".


Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams (AP)

Peter King
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) (Newsday File Photo),0,394505.story?coll=ny-nationalnews-headlines

King Set To Meet With Adams

A St. Patrick's Day visit with Sinn Fein leader is still on, as congressman calls for the IRA to disband

By J. Jioni Palmer
Washington Bureau
March 15, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Unlike other American politicians, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) plans to meet with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams this week, but at the same time he will deliver a stern message to his old friend: It's time to disband the Irish Republican Army.

"It is time for the IRA to dissolve," said King, one of the staunchest supporters in Congress of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. "As the political process moves closer to the goal line as I see it, they [the IRA] are not serving any good purpose. Gerry Adams should declare victory and tell the IRA to disband."

King's comments yesterday come at a time of intense criticism of the IRA and Adams, who is in New York and Washington this week for a series of St. Patrick's Day-related events.

In December, IRA members were suspected of being involved in a bank heist that netted about $50 million. A month later, there was the grisly slaying of a Sinn Fein loyalist outside a Belfast pub, allegedly at the hands of party members and in front of nearly 70 witnesses, but no one has come forward to identify the perpetrators. Both acts and Adams' seemingly tepid denunciations drew fire, here and in Ireland.

The developments came as a potential power-sharing deal between Catholics and Protestants collapsed in December.

For the first time since the Northern Ireland peace process got under way during the mid-1990s, no politicians from Northern Ireland have been invited to official St. Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House or on Capitol Hill. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has met with Adams on every St. Patrick's Day since the Good Friday peace accord in 1998, said Sunday that he would not meet with Adams this year.

King, who plans to meet with Adams several times this week, said Adams is an integral part of the peace process and that, as head of Sinn Fein, he should not be sidelined. "It took a movement that was 99 percent military and made it primarily political," King said.


We're Under Pressure: Adams

By Noel McAdam
15 March 2005

The sisters of Robert McCartney today took their campaign for justice to the United States as Gerry Adams admitted Sinn Fein is on the back foot.

The family and Mr McCartney's partner Bridgeen Hagans were due to fly out from Dublin for Washington where they will effectively replace Northern Ireland's political parties at the White House on St Patrick's Day.

The McCartneys will be in close proximity to republican leaders on Thursday, however, with a Friends of Sinn Fein event being held close to the White House.

Martin McGuinness, meanwhile, today insisted his warning against the family entering the political arena should not be seen as a threat.

The senior Sinn Fein negotiator told the BBC: "It wasn't intended in any way to be a threat. What I am flagging up is the . . . growing feeling that the McCartneys shouldn't allow their campaign, which is for truth and justice, to be undermined by elements around them who have an agenda (against) Sinn Fein."

Amid speculation that the sisters could stand in every Belfast constituency, including against Mr Adams, the Sinn Fein president conceded the party is on "the back foot".

"We at the moment have lost possession, but our intention is to regain possession, is to regain the initiative and to drive the process on," he told the Council on Foreign Relations.

On the defensive during the hearing yesterday, Mr Adams said he hoped the IRA would disband but forcing them to do so in a humiliating fashion would run the risk of creating a more radical replacement.

"No one wants the IRA to go back to war, and in my view people want to see the IRA leaving the stage in a dignified way," he added.


U.S. State Department Briefing On Sinn Fein

March 14, 2005

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press on the following issues: Northern Ireland;

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, March 14, 2005
12:55 p.m. EST

Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman


-- US Policy on Sinn Fein Fundraising
-- US Visit of Gerry Adams

MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2005

12:55 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements. I'd be glad to take your questions. Senior wire correspondent.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Inaudible) regarding preventing Sinn Fein from raising funds in America?

MR. BOUCHER: Our law and policy on that remain the same, have remained the same since 1995. At the same time, I would note that Sinn Fein has earlier stated in public that it would not raise funds during Gerry Adams's current U.S. visit. That was Sinn Fein's decision.

I would point out that individuals who come to this country who do have a history of connections to terrorist activities or other organizations like that are ineligible to receive U.S. visas; they need to get a waiver under certain conditions. This provision can be waived and so we've gone through that process.

I can't talk about a particular visa case but I think it's just worth noting that Mr. -- that Sinn Fein has said that Mr. Adams would not be raising money during this visit.

QUESTION: Was this Sinn Fein's decision?

MR. BOUCHER: That's what they said. They made a public announcement on it, yeah.


Martin McGuinness Challenges Orde Over Handling Of McCartney Investigation

Published: 15 March, 2005

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness, has challenged the PSNI Chief Constable to publicly explain the handling of the McCartney investigation by his detectives. Pointing to growing evidence that the PSNI are holding back on charging suspects in an attempt to damage Sinn Féin, Mr McGuinness said:

"Yesterday the PSNI turned away two key people in the McCartney murder investigation, a key witness and a key suspect. Their explanation that they are making arrangements to interview the suspect is astonishing. They have been raiding homes in Belfast looking for this man yet when he offers himself for interview they turn him away. Such a course of action is unprecedented.

"Add to this the failure of the PSNI to put together an identity parade despite having eyewitnesses willing to testify and despite knowing the identities of all those involved in the killing of Robert McCartney. Normal police practice would see an identity parade organised at the earliest time to ensure the greatest chance of positive identification. In this case, six weeks after the killing, there has been no identity parade.

"It is also clear that eyewitness testimony which identifies by name some of those involved in the attack on Robert McCartney has been ignored and that a decision has been made not to arrest and charge those already identified by the eyewitness as participants in the events surrounding Robert McCartney's murder.

"Yesterday, in comments which were grossly misrepresented, I said that there are elements that are prepared to manipulate the McCartney case for political advantage. The PSNI is clearly involved in such manipulation. The PSNI's approach is not about justice; it is about damaging Sinn Fein. The PSNI are not normally reluctant to charge people. In this case the opposite is happening. I publicly challenge Hugh Orde to explain the handling of this investigation and why charges have not been brought." ENDS


SF Man 'Not Contacted For Statement On McCartney Murder'
2005-03-15 13:50:05+00

A former Sinn Féin councillor who was in the pub where the row that led to Robert McCartney's murder broke out has claimed the police have made no effort to take a statement from him.

Sean Hayes said he gave his name and contact number to police officers on the night of the murder, as did everyone else in the pub.

He said police called to his home the following day and he said he was prepared to make a statement via a solicitor, but he had not been contacted in the six weeks since then.

Mr Hayes also claimed the PSNI had failed to secure the bar as a crime scene and merely asked people to leave after they had finished their drinks.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness accused the PSNI of failing to properly investigate the murder and of tailoring its inquiries to cause maximum damage to Sinn Féin.


Police To Quiz McCartney Suspect At A Later Date

Tuesday 15th March 2005

One of the chief suspects in the Robert McCartney murder inquiry is to be questioned by detectives, it emerged last night.

A solicitor for the man, one of three expelled by the IRA over the Belfast pub brawl killing, contacted police yesterday.

It is believed investigating officers plan to interview him at a later date over allegations that he was heavily involved in the attack in Magennis's Bar.

So far police have questioned 11 people over the horrific stabbing, including another senior Provisional dismissed from the organisation because of his suspected involvement.

With the victim's family claiming witnesses have been intimidated out of testifying, no one has been charged.

But it has also emerged that Brendan Devine, an associate of Mr McCartney who survived the attack, has given a video-taped statement to police.

Sources close to the investigation revealed he has offered to provide a signed account of what happened on the night.

It was felt, however, that this did not advance his earlier assistance.

Meanwhile, statements made by two Sinn Fein election candidates and a former party councillor who were all in the bar on the night have been sent to the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

Cora Groogan, who stood in the last Assembly poll, and Deirdre Hargey, who is due to contest May's local government election, both gave details to their solicitors.


McCartneys Fly To US As Sinn Fein Ups Ante

By Noel McAdam
15 March 2005

The sisters of Robert McCartney flew to the United States today - after a Sinn Fein warning against "stepping over the line" into politics.

Martin McGuinness warned the family that moving into politics could damage support for their campaign for justice for their brother.

The sisters are expected to make an announcement on their plans - which could involve standing in each Westminster constituency in Belfast, including against Gerry Adams - on their return from the Saint Patrick's Week events in the United States.

Mr McGuinness said, however: "The McCartneys need to be very careful.

"To step over that line, which is a very important line, into the world of party political politics, can do a huge disservice to their campaign.

"In fact, it can dismay and disillusion an awful lot of people, tens of thousands of people who support them in their just demands."

Alliance leader David Ford accused Mr McGuinness of "staggering hypocrisy".

He said: "This bleating about the McCartney sisters playing politics shows how concerned republicans are."

Meanwhile, republican sources have said that the solicitor of one of the chief suspects in the McCartney murder had contacted police in a bid to have him questioned about the murder and make a full statement.

It is understood detectives are making arrangements to interview the man, one of three IRA members expelled over the killing.

Brendan Devine, an associate of Mr McCartney's who survived the attack, has also allegedly made a taped statement to investigating officers.

Meanwhile, the two Sinn Fein election candidates and a former party councillor who were in Magennis's bar on the night of the attack have sent statements to the Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.,

Cora Groogan, who stood in the last Assembly poll, and Deirdre Hargey, who is due to contest May's local government election, both gave details to their solicitors.

Sean Hayes, a former south Belfast councillor, has also contacted his lawyer about being in the pub.


McCartneys Reject Sinn Fein Claim

Murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney's family have rejected Sinn Fein claims they risk being manipulated, as they take their fight for justice to the US.

They insist the IRA was involved in the murder, with one of them accusing Sinn Fein of being part of a cover-up.

The party's Martin McGuinness cautioned against them being manipulated for ulterior and party political purposes.

But Catherine McCartney said: "We have to be very careful we're not being used by anybody... we're not stupid women."

She said that the influences they would resist "included Sinn Fein and all political parties".

She added: "We get the impression that someone thinks out there that somebody's behind this, pulling our strings. The only person behind this is our Robert and he is the person pulling our strings."

Catherine McCartney said she would be giving President Bush a dossier on the events before and after her brother's murder when the family met him on St Patrick's Day.

Mr McCartney, 33, was stabbed to death after a row in a Belfast bar on 30 January.

Mr McGuinness said those responsible for the murder should "put their hands up and admit what they did".

He told BBC News on Tuesday he was "amazed no-one has been arrested and charged" over the killing.

He said the PSNI was attempting to "drag out the investigation" into the murder and were using the case to "damage Sinn Fein".

A PSNI spokesman said: "This is very much a live police investigation into a particularly brutal murder and it's not appropriate to discuss specific issues regarding witnesses or suspects.

"Police refute the distractions which have been peddled. Our sole interest is to bring to justice the killer of Mr McCartney and give closure to the family."

'Main suspects'

One of the McCartney sisters is threatening to challenge Sinn Fein at the polls, but Mr McGuinness said they could risk popular support.

It has emerged that two Sinn Fein election candidates and a former party councillor were in the Belfast bar on the night Mr McCartney was killed.

All three say they have given statements to their solicitors.

Mr McCartney's family have called for any witnesses to go directly to police.

His sister, Paula, said that the situation "stinks of a cover-up".

Detectives investigating the murder are planning to interview one of the main suspects in the case.

It is understood the suspect is one of the three men expelled by the IRA after the 33-year-old was killed.

His solicitor has contacted police and arrangements will made for the suspect to be interviewed at a later date.

Police investigating the murder arrested and questioned 11 men, all of whom were released.

The IRA expelled three members over the murder and Sinn Fein subsequently suspended seven of its members.

The McCartney sisters are due to meet President Bush on Thursday and will also hold talks with Senators Edward Kennedy and Hillary Clinton during their visit.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/15 09:25:49 GMT


Knife Attacks Now Three Every Day

Weapons used in 857 crimes over 10 months

By Deborah McAleese
15 March 2005

Knife attacks are being carried out on Ulster's streets at a rate of three every day, it has emerged.

Over the space of 10 months knives were used 857 times to commit a crime, shock new statistics have revealed.

Despite a decrease in knife attacks across the province over the past four years the new figures have sparked calls for greater police action to address the problem.

According to the statistics from April 2004 to February 2005, knives were most likely to be used in assaults - 326 times and robberies - 229 times.

They were used 141 times to cause criminal damage, 120 times to carry out offences against the state and 20 times to commit a burglary.

On three occasions they were used to carry out sex offences.

In just under four years there were 3,845 knife attacks in Northern Ireland.

More than 1,000 of these attacks were carried out in 2001-02.

The figures were released in response to a parliamentary question posed by North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds.

Mr Dodds asked Security Minister Ian Pearson to reveal how many crimes in Northern Ireland were committed with knives.

Although the figures have been falling every year since 2001-02 knife culture remains a major concern.

"It is clear that there is a persistently high level of knife attacks in Northern Ireland. Although the figures show a slight decrease from last year it is alarming that there is still such a high level of crime and violence coming from the knife culture within our society," said Mr Dodds.

"These figures show that knives are involved in a wide range of crimes from personal attacks to robbery and criminal damage. They represent a culture where knives are readily available and are often seen as the weapon of choice because of this fact.

"It is imperative that the PSNI are focused in bringing this under control since they are so dangerous and so widely used."


Republicans Have Damaged Irish Influence In US - Says Durkan

Tuesday 15th March 2005

SDLP leader Mark Durkan told the 'Journal' last night that he is travelling to the United States in a major exercise to limit the damage done by Sinn Fein and the IRA to Irish influence in the US.

Speaking after meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin yesterday, Mr. Durkan said: "The reality is that the McCartney murder, the Northern Bank robbery and other IRA activity has done enormous damage to the peace process and to the Agreement.

"They have caused deep frustration among Americans who have worked so hard to get our peace process working. We are travelling to the United States to try to limit the damage done by Sinn Fein and the IRA. "We want to give the positive message that this crisis can be resolved if everyone sticks by the Good Friday Agreement."

Mr. Durkan - who left for the United States yesterday - insists Sinn Fein has "got away for too long with pretending that questioning them is challenging the peace process."

He added: "It is clear from our meeting with the Irish Government, and from Senator Kennedy's announcement, that leading Irish Americans are saying enough is enough. All this criminal activity has got to end."

He went on: "The SDLP discussed with the Taoiseach our positive ways of moving things forward. Just because others are messing with the Agreement it does not mean that we should all stay stuck with suspension.

"We can move forward by going back to the Agreement and restoring the institutions now. If, however, we cannot form an inclusive executive we should restore the institutions now and test parties on how much of it they are willing to get up and running now. That way parties will be exposed on whether they are really up for the Agreement or not."

Mr. Durkan, who is contesting the Foyle Westminster seat in the forthcoming General Election, said he also pressed the Taoiseach to hold firm on the Finucane case.

"The legislation currently running through parliament is totally unacceptable to the Finucane family and to the SDLP and must be withdrawn immediately.

"We cannot have the same government that has covered up collusion able to muzzle a Finucane inquiry. When I am in the US, I will be urging American opinion to take a strong stance on this and get the legislation stopped," concluded the SDLP leader.


Sinn Fein Trying To Dodge Flak, Says DUP

By Noel McAdam
15 March 2005

The DUP today warned that Sinn Fein will try an escape from the political pressure they face over the McCartney murder.

And Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said hints that the Provisionals might resume the "armed struggle" need not be feared.

As most unionists opted to stay at home from the St Patrick's week events in Washington, the fallout over alleged IRA criminality continued.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said a synthetic re-branding of the IRA would in real terms change nothing.

"It is not a change of tactics but a change of heart and the total winding up of the terrorist and criminal organisation that is required.

"Sinn Fein and the IRA will try every sleight of hand in the book to con the electorate. (But) the world has seen through their lies," the East Belfast MP added.

"What credibility would a claim that Sinn Fein had distanced itself from the IRA have when they are presently claiming to have not to be connected to it?"

Mr Trimble said the IRA had not called its ceasefire initially out of the goodness of its heart and by the time of the Thiepval barracks bombing in 1996 it had been deeply penetrated.

"The ceasefire with its offer to drop terrorism for politics was then an attempt to cash in the campaign for political developments while there was still some life it in.

"It is for this reason that we need not fear the occasional hints that the IRA might resume its so-called armed struggle.

"The IRA exists today to oppress those they once claimed to protect, line the pockets of its leaders and, ironically, frustrate the political goals for which the struggle was abandoned."


Adams in New York
Missed the bus ... Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams addresses a meeting in New York on Monday during his troubled visit. Photo: AFP

Angry US Piles More Blame On Sinn Fein

By Michael Gawenda, Herald Correspondent in Washington
March 16, 2005

The Bush Administration, having told Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams that for the first time in a decade he would not be welcome at the White House on St Patrick's Day, has now made it clear that it believes Sinn Fein is largely responsible for the stalled Northern Ireland peace process.

The immediate reason for the withdrawal of the White House invitation to Mr Adams was the murder of Robert McCartney by IRA members.

While Mr Adams speaks at the Washington National Press Club on Thursday, Robert McCartney's sisters will be meeting President Bush at the White House, a stark illustration of the Administration's displeasure with the way Mr Adams and Sinn Fein have mishandled the aftermath of the McCartney slaying.

But White House spokesman Scott McCllellan has made it clear that the Administration believes Mr Adams and Sinn Fein are largely responsible for the stalling of the peace process.

"Continued violence, paramilitary activity and associated criminal acts remain a key obstacle to a lasting and durable peace," he said.

As Mr Adams addressed a Council on Foreign Relations breakfast in New York, traditionally a stronghold of republican sentiment, leading US politicians were distancing themselves from the IRA and, to a certain extent, from Mr Adams.

Senator Ted Kennedy, perhaps the highest profile republican supporter in the Senate, cancelled a meeting with Mr Adams and said Sinn Fein could never be democratic with the IRA 'albatross around its neck".

"The IRA murder of Robert McCartney underscores the need for the IRA violence and criminality to stop and for Sinn Fein to co-operate with the police service of Northern Ireland," he said.

Last week, instead of co-operating with police, the IRA offered to execute its members who allegedly were involved in Mr McCartney's murder.

The head of a key Irish-American group in Congress, James Walsh, who chairs the Friends of Ireland group, said the IRA should "go out of business", arguing that its "misdeeds" were hurting the peace process.

He said he would tell Mr Adams when he meets him this week that while he continues to support Sinn Fein, he does not support the activities of the IRA.

Mr Walsh, perhaps the strongest supporter of Sinn Fein in the Congress, said he was not being critical of Mr Adams, but he would make it clear the IRA was "damaging the credibility of the republican movement".

In his New York speech, Mr Adams said it was a "symbolic disappointment" not to be invited to the White House and blamed "rogue republicans" for the "horrible killing" of Mr McCartney. He did not answer questions about a $65million bank robbery in Belfast in December which is widely believed to have been an IRA operation.

Richard Haas, a former Northern Ireland envoy during the Clinton presidency and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Mr Adams should understand why he is getting the cold shoulder.

"He can take it as a warning that the clock is ticking," he said.

"Patience is running out. I believe the feeling is they must simply become a political movement.

"Gerry Adams does not want to become Yasser Arafat and decide between the olive branch and the gun."


Opin: The Irrelevance Of The IRA

March 15, 2005 -- Irish Republican Army frontman Gerry Adams told the Council on Foreign Re lations yesterday that he doesn't believe that America is any less dedicated to peace in Northern Ireland just because he has lost his standing St. Patrick's Day invitation to the White House.

He's got that much right, anyway.

The Bush administration pulled back the welcome mat because of — among other things — the near certainty that the IRA was behind a recent $53 million bank robbery in Belfast.

And that IRA leaders' coverup of a Jan. 30 bar-fight murder that was depraved even by the horrid standards of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

"Do I interpret [the disinvitation] as a movement by this administration away from the peace process? No, I don't," Adams told the council.

That was big of him. But one thing seems clear: When Irish-American political leaders such as the redoubtable Rep. Peter King (R-Nassau) say that the IRA has outlived its usefulness, as King did Sunday, the IRA has outlived its usefulness.

Even Sen. Edward Kennedy — to be fair, never an IRA apologist — turned his back on Adams; a spokeswoman said the Massachusetts Democrat is concerned about "the IRA's ongoing criminal activity and contempt for the rule of law."

Kennedy notes that the IRA is looking less and less like freedom fighters and more and more like an organized crime mob.

Irish authorities have definitively fingered an IRA gang for that $50 million bank heist last December — just days after a power-sharing agreement between Sinn Fein and the Protestant-backed Democratic Unionist Party broke down over the IRA's continuing reticence to show clear proof of the dismantling of its weapons.

In late January, Robert McCartney, a Catholic family man, and a friend got into a fight at a Belfast bar with an IRA member. McCartney wound up with his eyes gouged out and his throat slit.

The killer's IRA friends came back to the bar later, cleaned up the evidence, removed the bar's security cameras and allegedly told patrons to keep out of "IRA business."

A later offer by IRA leaders to summarily execute those deemed responsible demonstrated, in King's words, how "tone deaf" the IRA has become.

McCartney's five sisters are demanding justice for his murder.

Pointedly, after snubbing Adams, the White House invited the sisters.

Adams and his cohorts must realize they have no choice. The civilized world has no more patience for terrorists — or violent criminals. Whichever label fits the IRA, the group has lost whatever credibility it once had — even among those it called its constituents.

Time to close up shop.


Irish PM Connects Dublin Heist To Paramilitaries

ISN SECURITY WATCH (15/03/05) - Speculation is growing that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had a part in the theft of over €2 million in Dublin on Monday morning.

In an operation bearing similarities to the theft of some €38 million from Belfast’s Northern Bank last December, an armed gang abducted a family on the north side of Dublin on Sunday night, before stealing what is estimated to be between €2 and €4 million from a security van.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern took the unusual step of commenting on what is ostensibly a criminal act, saying the robbery was the work of a well-organized gang.

“It certainly does have the hallmarks of a well-organized paramilitary group, but as you know, paramilitary groups have moved into criminality and do their own thing as well.

Police have not been as forthcoming as Ahern, stating it was too early to say exactly who was involved. Some leads point to a couple of well-known crime bosses in the west of Dublin city.

Dublin has seen a number of prolific and notorious criminal leaders over the past couple of decades, most notably Martin Cahill - “The General”, who was assassinated by the IRA in 1994 for selling stolen art to Loyalist paramilitaries.

Despite long-standing rivalry between the IRA and Dublin’s crime bosses, security experts believe it is not inconceivable for them to work together. Moreover, recent years have apparently seen a slow takeover of the lucrative Dublin crime scene by paramilitaries, who extract protection money from de facto criminals.

However, for the IRA to carry out another heist of this scale, at this time, would be politically inconceivable. Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, has been under enormous public pressure of late, due to the Belfast bank robbery, the implication of IRA members in the death of Robert McCartney, and money laundering investigations in the Republic of Ireland.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is currently in the US on a speaking tour. For the first time in a decade, he will not be spending St Patrick’s Day at the White House, due to President George Bush’s distaste for the recent developments concerning the IRA.

Compounding Adams’ woes will be the appearance on US soil, later on Tuesday, of the McCartney sisters. Their crusade for justice on behalf of their murdered brother has stolen the imagination in Ireland, and has called into question Sinn Féin’s links to the IRA, which typically prevents witnesses from testifying in court against IRA men accused of crimes.

With a meeting with President Bush set for St Patrick’s Day on Thursday, and a stream of primetime US television appearances lined up, the last thing Adams needs is news that the IRA has been involved in another major criminal act.

(By Simon Roughneen in Derry)


Kidnap Robbery 'Has IRA Stamp'

March 16, 2005

Armed masked men kidnapped the family of an Irish security van driver to force him to steal millions of euros.

Police said the gang seized several million euros, but would not confirm the haul was EUR4 million ($A6.8 million).

The tactics were similar to those used to rob an Australian-owned bank in Northern Ireland in December, a crime blamed on the Catholic paramilitary Irish Republican Army.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Monday's robbery had the "hallmarks" of a paramilitary crime.

The raiders seized an employee of a money transport company and his family at their Dublin home and took them into the foothills of mountains south of the city.

The man's wife and two children were held hostage while the man was forced to go to his job as a security van driver.

Police said the security van was robbed near western Dublin. The gang later freed the man in the Irish midlands. His wife and two children freed themselves and went to a Dublin police station.

Mr Ahern said only a small group of criminal gangs or paramilitary groups were capable of carrying out the heist.

"The thing about paramilitary groups, particularly the dissident ones, is that they are always looking for resources," Mr Ahern said.

"It does seem to have hallmarks of a well-organised paramilitary group but, as we know, former paramilitary groups have moved into criminality."

The crime echoes the Northern Bank heist on December 20, when a record ££26.5 million ($A65 million) was netted.

Authorities on both sides of the Irish border have blamed the IRA, the military wing of the Catholic Sinn Fein party, for the theft.

Mr Ahern has also claimed Sinn Fein leaders had knowledge of the robbery.

In a report last month, the Independent Monitoring Commission, set up to review paramilitary ceasefires in Northern Ireland, also blamed the IRA for two major robberies in Strabane and Belfast in September and October. Both raids involved abductions.



IRA Smugglers Among World's Best, Claims Minister

By Brian Walker
15 March 2005

The IRA was today branded one of the world's most sophisticated smuggling machines.

Northern Ireland Security Minister Ian Pearson told a BBC programme that the Provisionals were now "perhaps the most sophisticated organised criminal grouping to be found anywhere in Europe, possibly anywhere in the world".

Radio 4's File on 4 programme says the IRA is using criminal gangs in Britain to create a smuggling network worth millions of pounds.

It allegedly uses structures put in place to import arms during the Troubles.

Bill Lowry, the former head of Special Branch in Belfast, told File on 4 that alliances between the IRA and criminal gangs were formed in prison.

Mr Lowry told the programme "a very, very good network" was in place for smuggling.

"They have a network within the criminal community in mainland UK, a number of them did a lot of jail time in the high security jails and made good friends, so they have contacts that are out there," he said.

Last month, customs officers at Dublin docks seized lorry trailers which had been converted into fuel tankers, bound for Liverpool.

Irish customs officials linked this with another operation they uncovered last year, and believe that nearly five million litres of laundered fuel has been sent across the Irish Sea by one group alone.

Such rackets are believed to be making millions of pounds in profit.

The latest threat assessment from the Organised Crime Task Force says the IRA are deeply involved in these kinds of activities, as are other paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

The report comes as the IRA is under increasing pressure over its alleged involvement in criminal activity, from the £26m Northern Bank raid in Belfast to money-laundering and the murder of Robert McCartney.


Proper Procedures Were Followed

Tuesday 15th March 2005

The report into the accident on the Foyle Bridge, which resulted in the death of lorry driver Peter McGuinness on January 11 this year, has concluded that the appropriate procedures were in place at the time.

The report was compiled by consultants Hyder and released yesterday and one of those behind it Phil Tindall said that while all the appropriate procedures had been in place there were some changes that could be introduced.

Mr. Tindall said: "After examining reports from the police and examining physical evidence we concluded that the lorry rolled over on to the bridge parapets which were not designed to take that sort of impact.

"These parapets are designed to stop a car running into them side on but not a Heavy goods vehicle rolling on to them."

He added: "There has not been a history of vehicles rolling over on the bridge and the bridge itself has had to be closed only twice due to wind in the last 6 years.

"We have concluded that al the procedures were appropriate and that there was little that could have been done to prevent the tragic accident."

Mr. Tindall said that there were steps that could be taken that would help minimise risk on the bridge such as introducing speed limits during windy periods and possibly closing the bridge to high sided vehicles in certain circumstances.

Geoff Allister, Director of Engineering for the Roads Service said that they accept all the recommendations of the report.

He said: "This was a tragic accident and also one that was difficult to predict.

"The nature of this particular accident was such that it is very difficult to take steps to prevent it happening again."

He continued: "At the minute the bridge is either open or it is closed and we shall look at the possibility of introducing variable message signs introducing a speed limit at certain wind speeds, then closing the bridge to certain types of traffic before actually closing the bridge itself.

"These signs would be erected on the roundabouts at either end of the bridge."

Mr. Allister repeated that the accident in January was unpredictable and pointed out that since the bridge opened in 1984 some 210 million vehicles had used the bridge and this was the first time such an accident had occurred.

He added that apart from the two occasions when the bridge was closed in the last 6 years due to wind there had been an occasion when the wind was blowing traffic cones about and it had been decided to close the bridge for safety reasons.

Mr. Allister added: "We took this report to the McGuinness family last week and they have welcomed the recommendations.

"They were pleased to be taken through this report by ourselves."

Welcoming the report, Dr Malcolm McKibbin, Chief Executive of Roads Service said: "I wish to express my sympathy to the McGuinness family in what has been a tragic event for them. I have had a helpful and constructive meeting with them, where I explained the Report's findings and have assured them that Roads Service fully accepts the Report's recommendations."


Preview Of New Derry Museum

By Clare Weir
15 March 2005

An exhibition showcasing the new and unique museum planned for the Bogside has gone on display in Derry.

The Rath Mor Centre in Creggan is hosting the display as part of the ongoing preparation for the opening of the Museum of Free Derry at Glenfada Park this August.

It will remain at the complex into next month before being moved to another venue in the city in a bid to keep the community up to date about the museum's development.

Adrian Kerr of the Bogside-based Museum of Free Derry said that the showcase gives the public an insight into what is in store, including exhibitions on Bloody Sunday and the civil rights movement.

"The museum is going to be for and about the people of this area, so obviously we want to let them know what we are doing," he said.

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