Sinn Fein facing fresh sanctions

Paul Murphy addressed the House of Commons on Tuesday

Fresh financial sanctions against Sinn Fein have been announced by Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy.

Mr Murphy told the Commons he would talk to Sinn Fein next week before making his final decision.

The move follows a report which said some senior members were involved in authorising a £26.5m raid, along with other robberies.

Mr Murphy extended for another year existing sanctions which deprive Sinn Fein of £400,000 per year in expenses.

He said the Commons would also debate a government motion to suspend other allowances paid to the party's MPs who declined to take their seats.

Mr Murphy rejected calls to exclude Sinn Fein from the political process. He said that would not deliver long-term stability.

But he said Sinn Fein must commit to non-violence.

The Independent Monitoring Commission's report recommended imposing financial penalties on Sinn Fein.

Allowances stripped

The statement on Tuesday also suggested the party's MPs are stripped of Westminster allowances of about £400,000 a year.

The Independent Monitoring Commission - which monitors paramilitary activity - issued its report earlier this month.

It backed the police assertion the IRA was behind the raid at the Belfast headquarters of the bank on 20 December - a claim the IRA denies.

Nearly £3m found in raids in the Irish Republic last week during an investigation against alleged money laundering, is being tested to see if it is linked to the robbery.

The IMC's findings were based on intelligence information.

The four-strong commission also blamed the paramilitary group for robberies in Belfast and County Tyrone in which several people were abducted.

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

In the absence of devolution, Mr Murphy should "consider imposing financial penalties", it said.

Sinn Fein has rejected the report because it said the IMC was "not independent".

Speaking after rallies in Belfast and Londonderry on Monday night, party chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said Sinn Fein would resist attempts to criminalise them.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said the Northern Ireland Assembly should be recalled to set in motion the system for excluding Sinn Fein from government.

He said the action should be announced when Mr Murphy makes his statement to the Commons.

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