The Belfast Telegraph tonight believes that the robbery of Northern Bank signifies rather more than the UK’s largest heist. With it’s high degree of organisation, the paper is suggesting it could be Republican paramilitaries behind it. Even though there is nothing in the public domain from the PSNI, this little Christmas jaunt is going to keep several pots boiling over Christmas, and possibly well into the new year.
The best way of countering the bad news would be early arrests, and here the PSNI faces an enormous challenge. Some form of paramilitary gang – most likely republican – must be the obvious suspects, and the police will need all the help they can get from the public at large, as well as informers.
The most contentious part of the statement is the one at the end:
If it is proved that the IRA, the most experienced operators in the past, pulled off this record heist, it would have profound implications for the peace process and Sinn Fein’s political standing.
Several of the peace process’s critics will argue: “how precisely can it affect Sinn Fein’s standing?”
It’s a tough question to answer. The party is in the democratic position it is because of its electoral mandate – it is clearly the party of choice for the majority of Ulster nationalists. It has reached that position, whilst providing political support for the armed forces of the IRA.
So, if there is a connection proved between this week’s robbery and the IRA for instance, how does any government, British or Irish, apply sanctions to a political party with (certainly in the context of NI history) such a powerful electoral mandate?
It would be foolish at this stage to make serious judgements as to who or what organisation was responsible for what in any jurisdiction is an impressive piece of organised crime. But regardless of whether anyone is found to ‘blame’ on this occasion, it’s unlikely to end the tediously twisting and winding ‘peace process’ in any eventuality!
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty