Adams hits back at Taoiseach

While bag takes centre stage at cop press conference

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams yesterday called on the Taoiseach to explain why he made claims that senior party members had knowledge of the multi-million pound Northern Bank raid.

The West Belfast MP said that Bertie Ahern's remarks were wrong and were deeply damaging to their working relationship. He has now asked the Taoiseach to back up the remarks with concrete evidence. The Sinn Féin President said that the Taoiseach’s comments had caused grave damage to the political process.

"What the Taoiseach has accused me and Martin McGuinness of doing is being involved in a conspiracy to be involved in the prior knowledge of the largest bank robbery in the history of these islands, that’s what he has accused us of being involved in and I find that highly offensive," said Mr Adams.

"I want the Taoiseach to explain to me, man to man, person to person, the basis for him making this totally unfounded, offensive and wrong allegation.

"I’ve tried to be, most of the time, measured about all of this, so I’m not going to do what I’m accusing the Taoiseach of doing. I’m simply pointing out that there are profound difficulties in this process and that they have been deepened by the Taoiseach’s remarks.”

The West Belfast MP said that his only interest is in tackling problems in the political process.

“I’m not interested in anything other than the welfare of this process,” said Mr Adams. “I think that we’re now at a defining point in the entire process where government ministers in Dublin are signalling a prolonged bout of not just Sinn Féin bashing, but discrimination against our party,” he added.

Meanwhile, yesterday the PSNI said they are now following over 1,000 lines of enquiry in their investigation into the Northern Bank robbery of over £26 million. During their latest appeal for information, the PSNI showed CCTV footage of Poleglass bank employee Christopher Ward carrying an Umbro sports bag containing £1.15 million from the staff exit door facing Wellington Street.

Christopher brought the bag to Upper Queen Street and handed it over to a man, who had his face covered, at a bus shelter. The man then took the bag in the direction of Wellington Place.

“Surely someone must have seen the bag being handed over,” said Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule.

“It is a fairly distinctive bag. It was a busy shopping night, the Monday before Christmas. People are bound to have seen these two individuals sitting at a bus shelter, a man walking off with the Umbro bag.”

He proceeded to outline the directions the investigation was taking.
“We have over 1,000 lines of enquiry and have interviewed hundreds of people.”

He confirmed that so far none of the money has been recovered and the PSNI have not located the whereabouts of the white van they believe was used to remove the money.

Detective Superintendent described the men involved in the taking of hostages as having Belfast accents.

And he described the wife of a second bank official, who was held hostage for at least 23 hours, as “traumatised” by the robbery.

She was released wearing a navy boiler suit near a forest in Castlewellan.
As she stumbled on to the Drumnacoyle Road she was almost hit by a passing car. The PSNI are appealing for the driver or passengers in the car to come forward.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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