Republicans ‘harassed’ in police probe
31 December 2004

By Gary Kelly
REPUBLICANS have accused the police investigating the £22 million Northern Bank raid of a campaign of harassment against their community.
The claims were made as police carried out a number of searches of premises in the Dairy Farm business complex on the Stewartstown Road area of the city yesterday. This followed searches on Wednesday at the Blackstaff complex on the Springfield Road.

Sinn Féin Assembly member for west Belfast Michael Ferguson said keyholders at the Dairy Farm centre had been ordered by police to turn up at their premises.

“This morning the PSNI once again have launched a series of planned attacks on properties throughout west Belfast. These have included searches on business premises and on community projects. This behaviour is completely unacceptable.”

Mr Ferguson claimed police were acting at the behest of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist, who had pointed the finger of suspicion at republicans.

“It has become very obvious in recent days that the securocrats still are holding the upper hand within the PSNI. Given the selective media briefing in advance of these operations and the failure to uncover any evidence it is clear that the purpose of this operation is not to find bank robbers but to attempt to derail republican efforts to see the peace process put back on track,” he added.

It was confirmed that nothing was recovered in connection with the robbery during yesterday’s searches of the Blackstaff centre.

A number of dvds were seized during the police operation, but they had no relation to the bank heist.

The spokeswoman added: “Police will continue to pursue every possible line of inquiry in this investigation.”

Meanwhile, the families taken hostage by the gang behind the raid were able to return to their homes yesterday, following a police forensic examination.

Houses belonging to 24-year-old Chris Ward, in the Poleglass area of west Belfast, and Kevin McMullan, in Loughinisland, Co Down, had been preserved as crime scenes since last Monday when details of the raid first emerged.

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