Irish Republican News · January 14, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

A battle over political credibility has continued in the wake of the bank robbery in Belfast last month, an incident which Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams warned is being “used to kill the peace process”.

The PSNI Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, has said he believes the 36 million Euro robbery was carried out by the Provisional IRA. No evidence has yet been advanced linking the IRA to the raid.

Orde’s statement launched an intense political campaign against Sinn Féin on both sides of the border.

Dublin’s Minister for Justice, Michael McDowel accused the Sinn Féin leadership of being involved in a conspiracy to rob the bank. The 26-County Prime Minister Bertie Ahern made similar allegations

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has complained that his telephone calls to Mr Ahern have since gone unanswered.

The political stakes are high, as Sinn Féin tonight launched a huge recruitment drive in tandem with the centenary of the founding of the original Sinn Féin movement. The party is attempting to build its support to seize the balance of power in the Dublin parliament in the next general election in the 26 Counties.

Mr Adams said he had phoned the Taoiseach every day since Monday, first “more in disappointment than anger” last Friday.

“If the Taoiseach wanted to meet me he would meet me. If the Taoiseach wanted to make a call to me, he would make a call to me,” he said.

Mr Adams said he wanted to repudiate the Taoiseach’s expressed belief that the Sinn Féin leadership knew during the recent political negotiations of the plan to rob the Northern Bank.

The Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, has also launched a fierce broadside against Sinn Féin and the IRA. He said the Provisional leadership “betrayed the Tricolour and the reconciliation that it symbolises. They have hijacked history. They have put a gun to the head of hope.” He also compared the west Belfast-based Andersonstown News group with Nazi propogandists.

Mr Adams has warned his party’s supoporters that they must resist any campaign of discrimination by the two governments against its electorate.

In a substantive news conference, Mr Adams said he believed statements by the IRA that it was not involved.

“In my opinion the IRA is telling the truth. Hugh Orde said “in my opinion”(the IRA did it).

“He has his opinion. I have my opinion. He may be putting forward his opinion based on intelligence, maybe based on whatever information he has.

Is this the same intelligence which started the war in Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction? Is this the same intelligence that put the Guildford Four or the Birmingham Six [ in prison] or refused to co-operate with the Barron Commission?

“He may in good faith be saying that. But he may be wrong. I believe what the IRA is saying.”

Mr Adams suggested a sinister agenda was in play.

“This incident is being used to kill this peace process,” he said. “This incident is being used to have a gang-up on Sinn Féin. This incident is being used to try and impinge upon the integrity of the Sinn Féin leadership.

“So all we can do is give our opinion.

“But there are other questions. What happens if and when it emerges the IRA weren’t involved? Do you all apologise to me? Does Hugh Orde come out and say, ‘I am sorry, I got it wrong?’ I have as much right to be believed as Hugh Orde.

“You remember that. I have as much right for people to give me the benefit of the doubt as for any other . . . I have as much right to be believed in stating honestly my opinion on this issue.”

Mr Adams said claims that the Provisional IRA were the only group capable of the high-profile bank raid were wrong.

“There are lots of disgruntled former RUC officers who could have done it. You have for people of my generation the memory of the Littlejohns.”

Self-proclaimed British agents Kenneth and Keith Littlejohn, were convicted in 1973 of the biggest bank robbery until then in Irish history. They said the purpose of the robbery was to have the IRA blamed.

Mr Adams also pointed to other operations which were blamed on the IRA, but were later found out to be by loyalists or MI5.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News