Monday, January 24, 2005

IRA bank heist?

Danny Morrison tells of another bank robbery that was originally blamed on the IRA:

It was the biggest bank robbery in the history of the state and everyone presumed the IRA did it. But those responsible for the heist in Dublin in October 1972 were eventually arrested and sentenced. They were two English brothers, Kenneth and Keith Littlejohn, who claimed they were working for British Intelligence. Whilst London later admitted that a senior MoD official had met Kenneth in regard to gathering intelligence on the IRA any illegal activity "had not been authorised". Absolutely.

The Littlejohns told the Dublin court that the robbery was aimed at discrediting the Republican Movement and force the Irish government to introduce tougher measures - which it did.

The robbery and a number of bombings in the south created an atmosphere which saw the enactment of the Offences Against the State Act - allowing for non-jury courts and Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act - the RTE ban on Sinn Fein. The first person to be arrested and sentenced under the new act was the President of Sinn Fein, Ruairi O Bradaigh.

When I first heard of the Northern Bank heist I suspected it might have been the IRA replying to Ian Paisley’s ‘sackcloth and ashes’ demand and his rejection of decommissioning, witnessed by two independent clerics, being completed by Christmas.

But I changed my mind after the Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde’s press conference and the subsequent robust and repeated denials from Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

Even General de Chastelain’s lustreless speech in 2002, regarding the IRA’s significant third act of decommissioning, was more riveting than the performance put in by Hugh. I don’t know who, or what organisation, if any, did the bank. The Chief Constable says it was the IRA. To back that up the PSNI has published a ‘dodgy dossier’, which included the wrong estimate of money taken, the wrong serial numbers of the missing notes and a grainy CCTV film of the mysterious white van used in the robbery.

From various raids I understand that the PSNI have narrowed a suspect down further - to a republican with size 9 feet.

Hugh Orde said he was naming the IRA in order to facilitate the investigation. But surely this news would frighten off potential eye-witnesses, two of whom have balked at coming forward.

The DUP have accepted as definitive the word of Hugh Orde that the IRA robbed the Northern Bank. Ironically the DUP has provided us with a breakthrough in the decommissioning logjam.

Though we might be poorer we could well be all the richer, with the peace process back on track, if Hugh Orde was the witness to confirm that the IRA had put all of its weapons beyond use!


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