Irish Republican News · February 20, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

Attacks on Sinn Féin by its political opponents increased dramatically this week following the discovery of quantities of cash in County Cork and Dublin.

A find estimated at over two million pounds in Euro and Sterling currency was linked by Garda police to a bank raid in Belfast before Christmas.

Details of the raids remain unclear, although excited media coverage in the mainstream media has linked the find to the Provisional IRA.

The only charges brought in connection with the case has been that of a Corkman accused of membership of the breakaway ‘Real IRA’. SIx others who were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday have been released without charge.

Among those mentioned in sensationalised media coverage of the raids were a diverse group of financiers, solicitors, a prominent advisor to Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and even Camilla Parker-Bowles, fiance of Prince Charles.

Garda police claimed they had smashed a money-laundering operation ring operated by “the IRA”. They insisted that unnamed tests on the cash would link it to the Northern Bank raid in Belfast on December 20th.

Meanwhile, virtually ignored in the hype was the revelation that cash stolen from the Northern Bank was uncovered at a PSNI/RUC police club in south Belfast.

But news that a former Sinn Féin councillor was questioned in regard to the cash find in Cork prompted the party’s opponents to mounted their strongest attack on republicans in recent years. Tom Hanlon from Passage West was subsequently released without charge.

However, Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said the arrest was worrying. “This reported arrest highlights the need for Sinn Féin to come clean on their involvement with criminal activity. This highlights the liability which the IRA are to the peace process,” he declared.

Sinn Féin’s credibility was “in tatters”, announced Labour party leader Pat Rabbitte.

“The reality is that whatever little credibility the Sinn Féin leadership had is now in tatters and the goodwill that had been extended by other parties to Sinn Féin, in the hope that it would boost the peace process, has been shamelessly abused by them,” he said.

Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern said the raids justified his decision to lay the blame for the Northern Bank robbery at the door of Sinn Féin.

Mr Ahern said: “I wouldn’t have said [it] if I hadn’t been given the advice.

“When the Commissioner of the Garda Siochana, who I have enormous respect for, and the Garda Siochana tell me their professional opinion, not alone have I a responsibility to do ! that but I have a duty to do so.”

It was not clear if he would back heightened unionist demands for the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the political process.

“We had 30 years of exclusion in Northern Ireland. All we ended up with were thousands of people killed, thousands of people maimed, a few generations of young people from Northern Ireland and many from the Border region living in the United States, Canada and Australia to get away from it,” he said.

But he said there would be a “price” if Sinn Féin wanted to remain in talks: “The price is democratic means, respecting the security forces North and South: the reformed security forces of the North, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and working for a democratic future.”

These comments are the culmination of a wave of attacks by the establishment political parties which has been linked by republicans to Sinn Féin’s efforts to make crucial elections gains in May.

Sinn Féin stands to dominate a large number of local government councils across the Six Counties, as well as increasing its hold in the Westminster parliament. The election could see the party become the largest in the North.

Speaking on his return from Spain, Mr Adams said there was “a consensus among conservative elements that Sinn Féin presents a threat to their vested interests, that Sinn Féin’s growth through democratic and peaceful means and support for this party, the only all-Ireland party on this island, is what is concerning them,” he said.

“If there is a matter to be conducted by the gardai, whoever it affects, that should be allowed its full course,” he added.

“If you want to get to the nub of the current controversy and crisis, it isn’t a crisis within republicanism, it’s a crisis of confidence among the conservative parties and it’s a crisis more importantly of the peace process.”

Mr Adams said a “disgraceful” smear campaign was underway to discredit the party.

Speaking in Strabane this afternoon, Mr Adams said the focus should be on the peace process and not not smashing Sinn Féin.

“In order to distract attention from all other matters they are trying once again to smear republicans with the criminalisation slur,” Mr Adams said.

He said there had been “trial by media” in recent days. And he denounced efforts to associate republicanism with criminality.

“No republican worthy of the name can be involved in criminality of any kind. If any are they should be expelled from our ranks. We are not involved in criminality and we will not tolerate such behaviour,” he added.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News