Police blame IRA for $50 million Belfast bank robbery - U2 Feedback

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Old 01-07-2005, 03:48 PM   #1
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Police blame IRA for $50 million Belfast bank robbery

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - The Irish Republican Army stole $50 million from a Belfast bank, the Northern Ireland police chief bluntly declared Friday — an announcement that rocked the foundations of the peace process.

The British and Irish governments accepted Chief Constable Hugh Orde's verdict and said the development had gravely undermined years of effort to revive a Catholic-Protestant administration involving Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party.

Power-sharing was the central goal of the Good Friday peace accord of 1998. A previous coalition involving Sinn Fein collapsed in 2002 because of arguments over IRA activities, and since then, negotiators have been striving in vain to secure the outlawed group's disarmament and disbandment.

The Dec. 20 raid on the Northern Bank, when a gang held the families of two employees hostage until the bank's main vault was cleared out, was the biggest cash robbery in history. It came a week after months of negotiations narrowly failed to reach a new power-sharing deal between Sinn Fein, which represents most of the province's Irish Catholics, and the Democratic Unionists, the party backed by most British Protestants.

Paul Bew, politics professor at Queen's University of Belfast, said growing optimism that the opposing forces could form a coalition suddenly seems "a very dreamy, utopian concept."

"The politics have grown very dark here. We are in a genuinely unexpected situation," he said.

A 45-member detective team trying to catch the thieves has searched more than a dozen properties in IRA strongholds of Belfast but made no arrests.

Orde — who previously refused to comment on the case — said he couldn't reveal any evidence that the IRA was responsible because it could jeopardize the investigation or potential intelligence sources close to the IRA, which has a policy of killing informers.

The Northern Bank, meanwhile, announced an unprecedented plan to make most of the robbers' bounty useless.

Chief Executive Don Price said the bank would withdraw from circulation all Northern Bank-produced currency, a process that could take weeks and cost the bank up to $9.5 million. Crucially, about three-fourths of the stolen British pounds bore Northern's own name and design.

Withdrawing the currency, Orde said, would transform the robbery into "the largest theft of waste paper in the living history of Northern Ireland. The money will not be worth anything as soon as that takes place."

Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness, a veteran IRA commander, insisted he had been told by "a very senior person in the IRA that the IRA were not involved."

He accused British security officials of mounting a conspiracy against Sinn Fein — but he also emphasized that Sinn Fein's growing electoral strength meant it shouldn't matter what the IRA does.

"We represent the majority of (Irish) nationalists in the north," McGuinness said, adding that British officials and the Democratic Unionists "need to come to terms with this political reality."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern accused Sinn Fein of negotiating in bad faith during last year's talks, when the IRA offered to disarm fully but refused to pledge to halt criminal activities. An emerging deal broke down over the IRA's refusal to permit photos of disarmament.

Ahern, using the group's full name of Provisional IRA, said the robbery was "obviously being planned when I was in negotiations with those who would know the leadership of the Provisional movement. And that raises questions. That does concern me."

Britain's governor for Northern Ireland, Paul Murphy, said the IRA must end all activities; otherwise Protestant leaders would never trust Sinn Fein.

"This event does cause us enormous difficulties," Murphy said. "We were hoping before Christmas for a real breakthrough. We were nearly there, and this has obviously affected the possibility of that very seriously indeed."

Protestant leaders called on the British and Irish governments to bar Sinn Fein from any Northern Ireland administration in favor of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party.

Mark Durkan said his party, which used to represent most Catholics, still wanted Sinn Fein kept inside the process. But he described the IRA as Ireland's most prominent bank robbers and experienced liars.

"For our part, the SDLP cannot see who else but the IRA would have the capacity to carry out such a huge and organized robbery," Durkan said. "IRA sources may have denied involvement, but so many of their denials have turned out to be false in the past ... it is almost impossible to take their denials at face value now."

Analysts said Orde — a former deputy commander of the London police appointed two years ago to reform Northern Ireland's mostly Protestant police force — enjoys widespread respect, particularly among moderate Catholics. They noted that Sinn Fein did not criticize Orde directly.

Bew, the politics professor, said Sinn Fein "will find it very difficult to trash his remarks."
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What do you think this could do to the peace process that had seemed very hopeful?
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:43 PM   #2
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It looks bleak for Ireland now. I had heard nothing of this robbery. It's terribly unfortunate. Those people have been through enough.
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:45 PM   #3
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great. more turmoil. just what ireland needs
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:47 PM   #4
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I was thinking about Ireland today and how we hadn't heard much bad news coming from there lately.
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:48 PM   #5
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Originally posted by verte76
It looks bleak for Ireland now. I had heard nothing of this robbery. It's terribly unfortunate. Those people have been through enough.
Yeah, considering the amount taken and it happening on the 20th I am surprised I am just hearing about it recently as well...although I am assuming the authorities were reluctant to tag it on the IRA considering what political ramifications it would have and also the nasty little habit of people getting murdered after informing against IRA actions. I just pray that they find a way around this and Ireland can move on from the lines that have been drawn between their countrymen for so long.

"Compromise. It's not a dirty word. Talk to each other." ~Bono
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:51 PM   #6
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I was thinking about Ireland today and how we hadn't heard much bad news coming from there lately.

Sorry to pop the bubble. Yeah, I was feeling kinda confident about it as well....there was a really promising article in The Economist two weeks ago that sounded very pleased with everything that was happening there.
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Old 01-07-2005, 07:42 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by starsgoblue


Yeah, considering the amount taken and it happening on the 20th I am surprised I am just hearing about it recently as well...although I am assuming the authorities were reluctant to tag it on the IRA considering what political ramifications it would have and also the nasty little habit of people getting murdered after informing against IRA actions. I just pray that they find a way around this and Ireland can move on from the lines that have been drawn between their countrymen for so long.

"Compromise. It's not a dirty word. Talk to each other." ~Bono
I couldn't agree more. Speaks volumes about the cynicism of the IRA, if it's true.
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Old 01-07-2005, 08:49 PM   #8
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Financeguy, you're from the area....was it just in the news recently as well or did you know about it earlier?
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Old 01-07-2005, 10:34 PM   #9
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Yes it was publicised at the time, certainly wasn't covered up or anything. May not have got much international attention though. Would have been in the financial papers I assume. The reason it's being highlighted now is that the police chief has expressed a view that there was IRA involvement.
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Old 01-07-2005, 11:17 PM   #10
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Gotcha.
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Old 01-08-2005, 03:54 AM   #11
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there was a thread here about the robbery when it happened. It was big news at the time
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Old 01-08-2005, 03:55 AM   #12
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and this is bound to unravel the peace process. If the IRA are responsible, there's no way that other parties would agree to sit alongside Sinn Fein in the power sharing executive

It was part of the Good Friday agreement that all groups decommision their weapons, and cease all criminal activity.

This could put the peace process back by years.

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Old 01-08-2005, 03:57 AM   #13
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Someone in the bank was involved, it was too easy for them to get in and out. Hey I've walked past that bank nearly every other day in my live and wouldn't have thought it would be a simple thing to do at all, if the RA were involved, after they "decomission " they'll go out and spend the money on a shit load of new guns but for what? Im also a bit disappointed with you all saying Ireland is in turmoil, it's not at all, we aren't just not going anywhere fast, Dublin's a 100 bloody miles from Belfast not exactly in the area really, it's all bullshit politics up in the north here esp in Belfast, so as long you all understand it's not Iraq or nothing
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Old 01-08-2005, 04:00 AM   #14
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ZeroDude, I'm from the UK (Nottinghamshire) and lived in Belfast for a while last year....
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Old 01-08-2005, 04:04 AM   #15
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Yea well ive lived there for 17 years since my birth to now and I hate it when people not from Belfast don't undersatnd the situation at all , ok I'm get pissed off about this sort of thing but it don't mattter. bammo how'd you find the place anyway, just stick to the laganside it's better looking there.............
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