Danny Morrison

The IRA Did It

There, I’ve said it. The IRA did it. And as a result of my assertion I suddenly become the bosom pal of many. I am fulsomely quoted and praised by even the DUP for my honesty and integrity. I am reported favourably in the ‘Daily Telegraph’. Out-of-the-blue, even my books are posthumously declared excellent reads, such is the reward for conforming to the prevailing orthodoxy: that is, bashing Sinn Fein.

But if I say the IRA didn’t do it then I am just a ‘mouthpiece for the Provos’, to be dismissed by those still fighting the war by other means and aiming to curtail the electoral growth of Sinn Fein.

For the purpose of discussion let us respectfully examine the mindset of the PSNI and the Garda Siochana by which they reached the conclusion that the IRA did the Northern Bank raid.

Firstly, it was incredibly well-planned and executed and involved a large number of people who made a clean getaway. To expect to successfully launder such a considerable sum of money requires a huge organisation of sympathisers. Their conclusion: ‘only the IRA could have done it, therefore the IRA must have done it’.

We are told that after the event the PSNI and Garda were able to make sense of things they saw and monitored through surveillance and bugs before the event, with broad hints and leaks about senior members of Sinn Fein being seen in the company of senior members of the IRA. Their conclusion: for days beforehand we saw the barn door open but it never occurred to us that one hell of a horse was planning to bolt. Not very bright intelligence officers, nor does this ‘evidence’ amount to a hill of beans.

The authorities claimed that after the event they received definite intelligence indicating IRA responsibility. Their eyes and ears on the ground – that is, informers – have now confirmed to them that the talk in the bars or among the dogs in the street is that the IRA did it.

This suggests that there is no loose talk in the IRA before an operation, but plenty afterwards. However, the loose talk inexplicably stops when it comes to the location of the white van and the £26.5 million.

Let’s examine the reliability of informers. Certainly, a lot of their information has led to the deaths and imprisonment of many republicans and innocent people. But let’s examine the only ones who were ever stripped of their anonymity and whose credibility was scrutinised in public. I am referring, of course, to those supergrasses that were used to imprison hundreds of people over a five-year period in the early1980s.

Raymond Gilmour is a representative sample who was described by the Lord Chief Justice as being “entirely unworthy of belief”. He was “a selfish and self-regarding man to whose lips a lie invariably comes more naturally than the truth.” The then Chief Constable of the RUC, John Hermon, swore by Gilmour’s credibility, as he swore by the credibility of thirty others, all of whose evidence was eventually rubbished in the appeal courts. Conclusion: if informers are the main source for the PSNI and the Gardai suspecting the IRA then I fully sympathise with Michael McDowell not making a laughing stock of himself by divulging his ‘dodgy dossier’ to Gerry Adams.

For several years now media security pundits (quoting the intelligence services) and dissident republicans have jibed that the ceasefire IRA cannot move because it has been infiltrated from top-to-bottom. That the bank heist was not thwarted disproves that assertion for it indicates that the intelligence services had no prior warning, otherwise they would have captured the raiders or monitored their getaway and arrested even more.

All of the above, of course, merely proves the weakness of the case for the prosecution. It does not prove that the IRA didn’t carry out the heist.

There are republican supporters who have even taken succour from the IRA denial along the lines of “sure, the ’RA would have to say that”. They appreciate that a formal admission would create an even greater crisis but that the operation itself sends a powerful message to Tony Blair that he has been taking republicans and their compromises for granted.

If that were to turn out to be the correct interpretation then we are at a crossroads but not one as bleak as has been made out. The British government factors into its calculations and negotiations that the IRA cannot return to armed struggle without Sinn Fein paying a heavy price electorally. Undoubtedly, because there is a degree of association, Sinn Fein’s vote would suffer. However, the reason why a return to armed struggle would be foolhardy is because it would be a return to a military stalemate.

It is obvious that Sinn Fein does not represent nor can it speak for the IRA. Yet, London and Dublin propagate that assumption and exploit it to punish Sinn Fein. Even though the crisis in the peace process was caused by the DUP, prior to the Northern Bank raid, the governments do not punish it. The majority of nationalists in the North reject and resent this double standard and these attacks on them and their elected representatives. And that is why the SDLP will not be joining a gerrymandered executive led by Ian Paisley - which appears to be one of the crackpot notions being considered by Blair.

If the two governments insist that ‘the IRA did it’ and punish Sinn Fein, then Sinn Fein should refuse to mediate between the IRA and Dublin and London. Let them do a better job. Sinn Fein’s mandate derives from the majority of nationalists in the North, people who are denied their full rights by a combination of British rule, which they bear under sufferance, and DUP intransigence. Attack Sinn Fein and you attack those people.

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