Irish PM connects Dublin heist to IRA – ISN

DUBLIN – 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,” he said.

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 caught the public 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.

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