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Northern Ireland Omagh attacker to face charges – ISN

DERRY — A 34-year-old man from the Irish Republic will appear in court on Wednesday to faces charges that he provided the getaway car used in the August 1998 Omagh bombing that killed 29 people and injured hundreds of others. It was the single greatest loss of life in Northern Ireland’s 30-year conflict. No one has been convicted in connection with the bombing. Last month, the Dublin Supreme Court overturned one of the suspects’ convictions, and he is now awaiting a retrial. Coming four months after the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement, the Omagh bombing was the work of the “Real” IRA, a dissident group that opposed the IRA ceasefire and its commitment to the peace agreement, which was meant to lay the foundations for a normalisation of Northern Ireland politics and society.

Northern Ireland : IRA withdraws offer to disarm – ISN

DERRY — The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced on Thursday that it would withdraw the offer to allow its weapons to be destroyed and to end activities that might endanger the 1998 peace agreement. “We are taking our proposals off the table,” the group in a statement issued through the IRA newspaper, An Phoblacht. The announcement follows weeks of turmoil after a power-sharing deal offered by the British and Irish governments in December fell through due to disagreement over how to verify the destruction of IRA weaponry. The crisis deepened with the December robbery of a Belfast bank, in which the equivalent of €31.3 million was stolen. Both governments, backed by police and intelligence experts, have stated they believe the IRA carried out the raid.

Northern Ireland police chief to quit if wrong about heist – ISN

DERRY – The head of Northern Ireland’s police vowed on Thursday to resign if it turns out that he was wrong in his accusations that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was behind the theft of £26.5 million (€38 million) from a Belfast bank in December. Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI), stated publicly on 7 January that he believed that the IRA had carried out the robbery. On Monday, the IRA proclaimed its innocence, after Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, had described the allegations as a conspiracy aimed at undermining Northern Ireland’s peace process.

Northern Ireland political crisis deepens as IRA denies robbery – ISN

DERRY — In its first official statement since the head of Northern Ireland’s police accused them of stealing £26.5 million (nearly €38 million) from a Belfast bank, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) last night denied that it took the money. The denial comes amid a growing political crisis in Northern Ireland. The failure by Sinn Féin, the party linked to the IRA, and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to forge a deal to restore the devolved government to Belfast has been compounded by the widespread belief that the IRA planned the heist, which is thought to be the largest in European history. Speaking at Westminster today, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy described the robbery as a violation of the 1998 peace agreement. On 7 January, Hugh Orde, the head of Northern Ireland’s police said he believed that the IRA had carried out the robbery. He was backed by the Irish and British governments, as well as the other political parties in Northern Ireland, including the nationalist Social, Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

Northern Ireland bank robbery blamed on IRA, heist could derail talks – ISN

DERRY — Politicians and the public in Ireland and the UK have spent the weekend coming to terms with accusations that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was responsible for a massive Belfast bank robbery on 20 December 2004.

Last Friday afternoon, Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), stated that he thought that “[…] the Provisional IRA were responsible for this crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction.” Orde was speaking after meeting key members of Northern Ireland’s policing board. Martin McGuinness, chief negotiator for Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, reacted to Orde’s comments by telling press that the IRA had told him that the group had not conducted the robbery, and that Orde’s comments were part of a politically-motivated campaign to undermine Sinn Féin and the peace process.

Northern Ireland police probe IRA robbery link – ISN

DERRY – Over £20 million (nearly €29 million) was stolen on Monday from a Belfast bank headquarters, in what was one of the largest robberies ever carried out in Ireland or Britain. Sam Kincaid, Assistant Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said the robbery “was a well-organized crime”, and “could be paramilitary-related”. Former Special Branch police chief in Northern Ireland, Bill Lowry, told the pro-unionist Newsletter newspaper that the Provisional Irish Republican Army was the most likely suspect. Northern Bank headquarters, which holds cash for business clients and for the bank’s network of ATMs, was targeted in what appeared to be a meticulously planned operation.

Northern Ireland trying to picture peace – ISN

DERRY – The latest attempts to forge a breakthrough in Northern Ireland’s peace process appear to have failed this morning, with the verification of IRA disarmament the remaining stumbling block. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, Reverend Ian Paisley, said while “we’ve never been closer to a settlement”, the IRA must “surrender”. However, it appears that the IRA will not consent to giving photographic evidence that their weapons have been destroyed – a key DUP demand. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, whose party is regarded as the IRA’s political wing, said last night the IRA would not “submit to humiliation” by giving photographic evidence of disarmament. Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republicans, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force.

Northern Ireland talks hit fever pitch – ISN

DERRY – It has been two weeks since the Irish and British governments handed Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) its revised terms for the restoration of devolution to Northern Ireland, a key part of the 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of civil conflict in the region. Since then, both parties have consulted their grassroots, come up with responses and requests for clarification for the governments, and engaged in a series of talks with relevant policymakers in Belfast, Dublin, and London. However their respective dealings have not included face-to-face meetings as the DUP refuses to meet with a party it sees as indistinguishable from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). The discussions have so far been mediated by the Irish and British governments. This morning the DUP leader Reverend Ian Paisley was in London to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair, while a Sinn Féin delegation led by Gerry Adams was in Dublin to meet the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

London recognises Northern Irish loyalist ceasefire – ISN

DERRY — On Monday the British government officially recognized the ceasefire declared by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Northern Ireland’s largest “loyalist” (Protestant) paramilitary group. The recognition came despite the publication of an Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report that said that the UDA continued to be involved in crime and internal feuding and exercised gangland-style control over loyalist urban areas in Northern Ireland. However the report noted a reduction in UDA activity since the last report was published six months ago. The IMC is a British-Irish taskforce appointed to assess the activity of Northern Ireland’s paramilitary groups. The move followed consultations between Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy and the Ulster Political Research Group, a think-tank affiliated with the UDA.

London to launch inquiry into murder of Northern Ireland lawyer – ISN

DERRY – Last week saw the first conviction for the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious political assassinations. Now, the British government has promised a judicial inquiry to discover the truth behind the killing, which has been one of a few murders tainted by allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries — regarded by many as terrorists fighting to maintain British control of Northern Ireland — and the British state security forces.  On 16 September, Ken Barrett, a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in the murder of Finucane in February 1989.  Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republicans, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force.