10/02/2005

SF members sanctioned robbery – IMC report

The International Monitoring Commission (IMC) has said the IRA was behind last December’s Northern Bank robbery and that senior members of Sinn Fein had sanctioned the raid.

In it’s fourth report, specially published as a result of the £26.5 million heist, the IMC said that while Sinn Féin continually said it was opposed to criminality of any kind “it appeared at times to have its own definition of what constitutes a crime”.

“We have carefully scrutinised all the material of different kinds that has become available to us since the robbery, which leads us to conclude firmly that it was planned and undertaken by the PIRA,” the report said.

The report also said that previous investigations into other robberies that took place in 2004 confirmed the IRA’s involvement. These include:
  • The theft of goods at Makro in Dunmurry on 23 May.
  • The abduction of people and the robbery of goods from the Strabane branch of Iceland on 26 September.
  • The abduction of people and the robbery of cigarettes with a market value of approximately £2 million from a bonded delivery vehicle in Belfast on 2 October.
The report added: “In our view Sinn Féin must bear its share of responsibility for all the incidents. Some of its senior members, who are also senior members of PIRA, were involved in sanctioning the series of robberies.

“Sinn Féin cannot be regarded as committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means so long as its links to PIRA remain as they are and PIRA continues to be engaged in violence or other crime.”

The report warned that the leadership and rank and file of Sinn Féin needed to make the choice between continued association with and support for PIRA criminality and the path of an exclusively democratic political party.

“The real issue is not the expression of condemnation through the imposition of particular penalties. It is that the ending of all illegal activity by PIRA and indeed by all paramilitary groups is fully and permanently addressed,” the report added.

The British and Irish Governments, PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde and Garda Siochana Commissioner Noel Conroy have all said the IRA was responsible for the robbery however Sinn Fein said they believed the IRA when it said it had no involvement in the raid.

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams expressing his outrage at the findings of the report, said that he felt "betrayed" by the Irish Prime Minister in particular.

He challenged Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to have him arrested as the "only logical thing to do".

(MB/SP)

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