While Taoiseach Brian Cowen refused to answer any questions on the issue, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Justice Minister, Dermot Ahern and Health Minister Mary Harney have all re-stated the Irish government’s 2005 assessment that the Sinn Féin leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness had prior knowledge of the Northern Bank robbery.
And a report in The Irish News today notes that
Sinn Féin’s view that there is “not a shred of evidence” to link the IRA to the robbery of the Northern Bank is not supported by a series of high-profile court cases.
After the collapse of the proximity talks, British officials pursued a ‘bilateral approach’ wherein Sinn Féin and the British government would move the political process forward without the DUP or the Irish government. This approach, however, came to an abrupt end with the robbery of £26.5million from the Northern Bank in Belfast. For many Irish and British officials, it was apparent from the beginning that the operation was most likely the IRA’s work. According to a senior Irish official, in the three months leading up to the robbery, the gardaí had some of the individuals who are alleged to have been involved in the subsequent money laundering of the Northern Bank notes under surveillance. During this period, the guards are alleged to have witnessed meetings between the robbers, a southern businessman who allegedly laundered the money for the IRA and the republican leadership. As a senior Irish official argues, after the bank robbery the gardaí realised that these meetings related to the Northern Bank. [added emphasis]
An Irish Independent report is more explicit.
And some of those allegations have also turned into criminal convictions.
Pleading leniency, defence counsel Ciaran O’Loughlin SC told the judge his client had been used by the IRA and was far removed from the original offence in Belfast.
And, for the sceptical, here’s an interesting snippet included in the Wikileaked US Embassy cables [dated 01 June 2005]
[Then-Irish Foreign Minister Dermot] Ahern also touched on the balance the GOI tries to strike in talking about and to Sinn Fein. He said PSNI and others told the GOI that its tough line on Sinn Fein since December had been helpful but no longer was, and they should “lighten up.” [added emphasis]