DERRY — The Independent Monitoring Commission set up by the Irish and British governments released a report on Thursday, saying that senior Sinn Féin members had advance knowledge of the theft, allegedly by the IRA, of some €31 million from a Belfast bank in December.
Both governments have endorsed the findings. In Dublin, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said some of the politicians implicated in the report were household names, but the report did not name anyone directly.
Sinn Féin is said to be the political wing of the Irish Republican Army and its president, Gerry Adams, responded to the IMC report by challenging the Irish government to either have him arrested or cease what he termed “unsubstantiated allegations.”
Early on Friday, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern described Adams’ comments as “a little bit childish…a little bit nonsense.”
In an apparent reference to the recent jailing of IRA members for spying on various political figures in Dublin, Ahern said he did not go around gathering information on individuals, but left that to the police and intelligence services. The recriminations on Thursday and Friday are part of an increased marginalisation of Sinn Féin by all parties involved in Northern Ireland’s stalled peace process.
Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed, most of them civilians, as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republican paramilitaries, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalist counterparts who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded into Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force and were regularly targeted by the IRA.
Sinn Féin has five parliamentarians in Dublin, and has grown in popular support in both jurisdictions in Ireland since the 1998 peace deal.
Sinn Féin has accused Ahern of using the Belfast bank robbery to launch a pubic campaign against the party’s growing electoral strength in the Irish Republic.
Sinn Féin has been castigated recently for its links to the IRA, which has continued to operate a criminal network involving smuggling, money laundering, so-called punishment attacks on civilians in areas controlled by the IRA in Northern Ireland, and the December bank heist.Show