McGuinness 'Knew Bank Was Targeted'

The Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was one of two leading republicans who were aware in advance of a huge IRA bank robbery in Belfast that almost scuppered the then fragile 'peace process'.

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Mr McGuinness have this morning rejected accusations that they knew in advance of the huge robbery.

Their rejections comes after leaked correspondence from the USA has highlighted the former Irish Taoiseach Berte Ahern's concerns about Sinn Fein and the IRA.

Secret cables described a challenging period in the peace process as London and Dublin sought to restore the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland.

Unionist suspicions about the intentions of the republican movement were fuelled when the IRA robbed the headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast in December 2004.

This claim has been levelled before as the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) said the IRA was behind the 2004 Northern Bank robbery and that senior members of Sinn Fein had sanctioned the raid.

In its fourth report, specially published as a result of the £26.5 million heist, the IMC said that while Sinn Fein continually said it was opposed to criminality of any kind "it appeared at times to have its own definition of what constitutes a crime".

"We have carefully scrutinised all the material of different kinds that has become available to us since the robbery, which leads us to conclude firmly that it was planned and undertaken by the PIRA," the report said at the time.

Now, it has emerged that a cable on 4 February 2005 from the US ambassador to Dublin, James Kenny, reported that a senior Irish government official told the Embassy of the Taoiseach's concerns about Adams and McGuinness.

The cable claimed the official wrote "the government of Ireland does have 'rock solid evidence' that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are members of the IRA military command and for that reason, the Taoiseach is certain they would have known in advance of the robbery".

In another cable on 1 June 2005, six months after the robbery, Kenny reported that Ahern had raised his concerns with Mitchell Reiss, the US envoy to Ireland.

The cable says: "The Taoiseach … believes Sinn Fein leaders were aware of plans to rob the Northern Bank even as they negotiated with him last fall".

However, this morning, a joint statement has said: "Martin McGuinness and I both absolutely rejected these unfounded allegations at the time and do so again today.

"We publicly and privately challenged the Taoiseach to produce evidence to support his allegations. He didn't," it said. "We told him they were groundless and untrue."

The statement goes on to blame party political purposes for the assertions: "It was and is my view that this had more to do with the electoral rivalries between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.

"Subsequently I met the Taoiseach and he produced no evidence to support his accusations," the republican statement continued.

Also contained in the leaks was the that the Gardaí believed the IRA used the Republic's so-called 'Celtic Tiger' economic boom to diversify into "more sophisticated business enterprises" by buying up properties in London, Dublin and Spanish resorts.

A senior Irish police officer told the American embassy in Dublin that the IRA used the booming Irish economy to move on from 1970s-style racketeering as it turned to "apparently respectable businessmen" to raise funds.

The claims were in secret messages, obtained by the Wikileaks website, date from 2005 and were published in the Guardian today.

See: SF members sanctioned robbery – IMC report


Related Irish News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

30 April 2014
Three Charged Over Cash-In-Transit Robbery
Two more people have been charged in connection with a cash-in-transit van in Dublin on Monday, Gardaí have confirmed. On Monday, three men fled a shopping centre in Raheny Village with a cash box. The cash box was later recovered by Gardaí and the men were arrested.
13 August 2013
Firearm Found Following Cork Robbery
Gardai have discovered a firearm following a robbery at a house in Cork. The shotgun was found in a field near the home of a businessman at Gluntahaune during searches on Monday. Five men have been arrested and are currently being detained in custody. The weapon has been sent for forensic examination.
15 November 2007
Police Held Up During 'IRA' Kildare Hotel Robbery
Former members of the IRA are said to be the chief suspects in a spate of armed robberies on hotels in the midlands, including this morning's raid Co Kildare.
25 August 2017
Former IRA Leader Sean O'Callaghan Dies Aged 62
Former IRA leader turned informer, Sean O'Callaghan, has died aged 62. It is understood the Co Kerry man drowned in a swimming pool while visiting his daughter in Jamaica. Sean O'Callaghan joined the IRA in the mid-1970s, however he later acted as an informer for the Garda Síochána and later the Royal Ulster Constabulary's special branch.
26 June 2014
Drone Crashes In Prison Yard While Delivering Drugs
An investigation has been launched into an incident in which a remote controlled helicopter crashed in the exercise yard of Wheatfield Prison in Dublin. According to reports the drone helicopter crash landed in the yard at about 11am on Wednesday.