Northern Bank robbery finished IRA
LIAM CLARKE – 14 December 2010
"YOU can't rob a bank on charm and personality" is a truth spelt out with some patience to the Readers Digest by "Slick" Willie Sutton, one of America's most charming and successful bank robbers, who, unlike the equally charismatic Gerry Adams, could be disarmingly frank in interviews.
Of course Sutton had far less to hide than the republican movement which Adams led. The nattily dressed American's 40 year career as a stick up artist netted him just $2 million. That is £1.27 million at today's exchange rates, a small fraction of th e £26 million taken by the IRA from the Northern Bank in a single day, not to mention the series of high value heists which proceeded it.
Now it has all turned up in Wikileaks, with cables from James Kenny, the US Ambassador in Dublin at the time of the 2005 Northern Bank robbery, reporting that the Irish government had '''rock solid evidence' that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were members of the IRA military command and for that reason, the Taoiseach is certain they would have known in advance of the robbery."
Adams' attempts to talk his way out of the accusations in radio interviews yesterday were as laughable as the Sinn Fein statement claiming that there was "not a shred of evidence" of IRA involvement in the robbery. Tell that to Ted Cunningham, the ageing Cork moneylender left serving a long prison sentence after laundering money, some of which was given to him in brown cartons by Sinn Fein members.
Yet they, and he, have to keep denying it. Sinn Fein are attempting to market themselves in next year's Irish general election as the clean party, the one which had no involvement in the culture of money in brown envelopes which they claim characterized Irish political funding in the last decade.
The idea that, as the Wikileaks cables allege, Sinn Fein was itself funded by the proceeds of outright robbery, has the capacity to blow a hole in all that. Denial may not be plausible, but admission would open up a still more terrible vista about where the money went. It would open up questions of what the party thought of the tiger kidnapping of bank employees in which one terrified mother was dumped in the countryside after being held hostage.
That, together with the links to organized crime and sleazy finance which accompanied the robbery, is considerably worse than anything which emerged about backhanders and political payola during the Celtic Tiger years.
It is a can of worms which Sinn Fein dare not open. Denial may be implausible but stops the questions getting past first base. After the first skirmish, Adams' standard procedure is to remind interviewers that he is hardly going to answer a question differently on the second or third asking. Yesterday on Radio Ulster, he used this tack to change the subject to another Wikileak showing that MI5 had promised to release files on the murder of Pat Finucane to a public enquiry held under the most recent legislation.
Adams introduced the topic at the very end of the interview so that Conor Bradford, the journalist, had no time to explore his inherent inconsistency. If he was arguing that Wikileaks and the Irish government couldn't be believed about the IRA then how could he rely on something which Wikileaks claimed a former head of MI5 said in private to Mitchel Reiss, the US envoy? If Bertie Ahern wasn't to be trusted on Sinn Fein then why was his assertion of collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane credible?
In fact Wikileaks is credible on both counts. Lord Stevens has already found, in inquiries drawing on MI5 files, that there was collusion in the solicitor's murder. He implicated a Military Intelligence agent, Brian Nelson, and secured the conviction of an RUC informer, Ken Barrett for the crime.
Similarly we knew about the IRA and the Northern Bank robbery and the Irish government's belief that Adams and McGuinness were IRA commanders. At the time Bertie Ahern dismissed Sinn Fein's denial with the question "What kind of eejits do people take us for?"
The Northern Bank robbery had at least one positive effect. The fact that it was carried out during negotiations put backbone into both the British and Irish governments to face down Sinn Fein's excuses and demand an end to IRA criminality.
The concerted political pressure on Sinn Fein sounded the death knell of the Provisional IRA in its new guise as a covert fund raising arm for Sinn Fein and pension fund provider for IRA veterans. We can be thankful for that, even if Adams' denials of the obvious undermine the credibility of any statement he makes on any subject.
As Slick Willie said, charm and personality can only go so far.
Whether or not the IRA was responsible for the bank robbery, is of absolutely no interest to me. The only reason that I would have any interest in who the actual perpetrators were would be if I had money on deposit there and I did not. The question here is how long his audience is willing to listen to the very questionable statements of Gerry Adams about the involvement of the IRA in the robbery. As they say in the North, even the dogs in the street know the truth. Also, Adams has been known to tell a “fib” or two on occasion. Will his consistent denials about this and other incidents that were attributed to the IRA have a negative effect on his candidacy for Dail Eireann in the upcoming general election? That remains to be seen, but, as Willie Sutton said, “charm and personality can only go so far”.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America