IMC says Sinn Fein leaders 'backed raids'

More than £26m was stolen from the Northern Bank

Senior Sinn Fein members were involved in sanctioning robberies including the Northern Bank raid, the Independent Monitoring Commission has said.

The four strong commission's report said the party should bear its share of the blame for a series of robberies.

Although it seemed "paltry", it said the government should consider imposing financial sanctions on Sinn Fein.

The IMC backs the police assertion the IRA was behind the £26m raid in Belfast in December - a claim the IRA denies.

Its findings, released on Thursday, are based on intelligence information.

It also blames the paramilitary group for robberies in Belfast and County Tyrone in which several people were abducted.

Although we note Sinn Fein has said it is opposed to criminality of any kind, it appears at times to have its own definition of what constitutes a crime
IMC report

"In our view, Sinn Fein must bear its share of responsibility for the incidents," said the commission.

"Some of its senior members, who are also members of PIRA (Provisional IRA), were involved in sanctioning the series of robberies."

It added: "Although we note Sinn Fein has said it is opposed to criminality of any kind, it appears at times to have its own definition of what constitutes a crime."

The commission said it would have recommended the party's exclusion from office if the assembly was still sitting.

In the absence of devolution, Secretary of State Paul Murphy should consider imposing financial penalties, it said.

It does not specify exactly what those measures should be - Mr Murphy is expected to take some time before announcing his response, probably in a Commons statement later this month.

The IMC said the IRA carried out a robbery at the Makro store in Dunmurry in May last year, the abduction of people and robbery from an Iceland store in Strabane last September and a £2m cigarette robbery and abduction of people in Belfast last October.

"We believe that the Northern Bank robbery and abductions, and the other robberies and abductions... were carried out with the prior knowledge and authorisation of the leadership of PIRA," said the commission.

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde's belief the IRA was behind the raid was also backed by the Garda Siochana in the Republic of Ireland.

However, the IRA denies the claims and, last week, it withdrew its offer of complete decommissioning.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he accepted the chief constable's view that the IRA was behind the raid.

Mr Murphy, speaking after the report's publication, said: "I shall now consider carefully the commission's recommendations. I plan to make a further statement to the House in the week of 21 February."

An Irish government spokesman said the IMC's conclusions concurred with the intelligence available to both governments in relation to the Northern Bank robbery and other incidents in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said: "I call on the government to publicly state that if the assembly was sitting and if the assembly failed to pass a motion of exclusion, they would, if necessary use the new statutory powers that they have... to exclude Sinn Fein."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said: "The SDLP believes the best way forward is not through silly sanctions. It is by showing Sinn Fein - and the DUP - that they don't have a veto on change. We need a process of equals instead."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?