DUP: Punish SF for bank robbery

20/02/2005 - 11:14:25

The Government will come under fresh pressure today to give Sinn Féin a heavy financial penalty when Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy announces what sanctions will be imposed for the IRA’s audacious Northern Bank robbery.

Mr Murphy is being pressed to cut off parliamentary allowances to to Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and the other two Sinn Féin MPs.

He will make a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday on how he will respond to the Independent Monitoring Commission report which pinned blame for the pre-Christmas £26.5m (€38m) bank robbery on the IRA and said Sinn Féin leaders knew about and sanctioned the robbery.

If he cut parliamentary allowances it could cost Sinn Féin some £500,000 (€724,000). One of the MPs, Michelle Gildernew who represents Fermanagh and South Tyrone, claimed £140,000 (€202,000) last year and her colleagues were not far behind.

Anger at the provisionals heightened following the discovery of £50,000 (€72,000)from the robbery in the Belfast sports club run for serving and retired police officers and their families.

Examination of the money proved last night that it had come from the bank robbery. Five £10,000 batches of new notes were still in their shrink-wrap wrappers and with serial numbers matching those of stolen notes.

The cash was found hidden in a toilet after a man claiming to be a police officer rang the Police Ombudsman with a tip off.

The Police Service said they believed the money had been planted to distract from the bank robbery investigation and divert attention from the Garda seizure of over £2m (€2.89m) as part of an investigation into IRA money laundering.

As part of the investigation officers were trying to discover how the money was smuggled into the Newforge Country Club in south Belfast in a worrying breach of security.

Because of its clientele there is security around the club including guards on the gate, though not at the same level as it was during the days of IRA killing and bombings.

Ian Paisley Jnr, a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and Democratic Unionist Assembly member, said the find of money in the club indicated “just how hard the republican movement has been stung by events” of recent days.

It was an “act of desperation” by the IRA to deflect attention away from their activities.

Party colleague, Jeffrey Donaldson MP, said Mr Murphy must hit Sinn Féin hard this week.

“Paul Murphy’s announcement on Tuesday will be keenly awaited by all democrats.

“The sanctions he decides on will determine in the minds of fair minded people whether the Government is determined to punish Sinn Féin, or just give Adams and McGuinness a slap across the wrists,” he said.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has urged the British Prime Minister to dump Sinn Féin out of the political process.

He says Mr Murphy should announce the recall of the Stormont Assembly and put a motion before it calling for Sinn Féin’s exclusion. He said under the rules if the Assembly did not act, he could then do so himself.

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