Hypocrisy over suspected IRA criminal activity…

CHIEF Constable Hugh Orde is likely to blame the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery tomorrow. Today, Prime Minister Blair and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson criticised the IRA for not ending its criminal activity. I’m not sure why – neither Blair nor the DUP were at all concerned about the lack of clarity over criminality in the IRA’s planned statement contained in the ‘comprehensive agreement’, preferring to concentrate on getting a photo of decommissioned arms.

The News Letter reported: The Lagan Valley MP noted that an end to all criminal activity by the IRA was central to any deal and was highlighted in the Comprehensive Agreement which the two governments had drawn up as the proposed compromise deal before Christmas.

“The IRA have to understand that we are not just talking about ending their terrorist activities but also their criminal activity.

“The statement the IRA were due to make in the event of a comprehensive deal was very specific about IRA volunteers being instructed not to engage in any activity that would endanger the agreement.”

* * *

Eh? It was anything BUT specific. How did the robbery (if we assume for a moment it actually WAS the IRA, so indulge me Pat) “endanger the agreement”? How would it be considered a ceasefire breach under the woolly ‘comprehensive agreement’ the DUP helped negotiate.

A cynic might argue that the words in the ‘comprehensive agreement’ are so deliberately ambiguous that they now appear to do the opposite of what they were intended to do. None of this was nailed down, and for Peter Robinson – who was “unperturbed” at the lack of clarity over criminal activity in the IRA’s proposed statement – to complain now is shutting the stable door long after the horse bolted.

Robinson said: “Let no one be in any doubt, the consequences of mainstream republican participation in this colossal crime will be far reaching.”

He’s right. The consequences are that any deal will be put off until after the May elections, so that the DUP can finish off the UUP. Presumably the SDLP will have met its end at the hands of Sinn Fein around then too. How convenient for the DUP and Sinn Fein – you’d almost think they had planned the Northern job between them, it works out so nicely.

Tony Blair today said: “But be under no misunderstanding at all, there can be absolutely no place not merely for terrorist activity, but for criminal activity of any sort by people associated with a political party.

“There is no way that this thing is going to work or that other political parties will accept such a thing, rightly.

“We will have to wait and see what happens, but the ban on terrorist activity includes a complete prohibition on criminal activity as well.”

Like Donaldson, he is wrong or just hasn’t read the ‘comprehensive agreement’ his Government helped write. The IRA actually proposed to say: “…all IRA volunteers have been given specific instructions not to engage in any activity which might thereby endanger the new agreement.”

This means the IRA was prepared not to take part in activity that would have political consequences, such as attacks on British targets. It does not preclude the IRA engaging in criminal activity – like the Northern job – nor does it mean the IRA cannot continue to engage in ‘internal housekeeping’, such as shooting informers from the nationalist community or kneecapping ‘joyriders’ in Twinbrook.

If the IRA says it will move into a “new mode”, and expects this to be seen as some kind of confidence-builder, it is mistaken. The statement is meaningless. The IRA will do exactly what says it will do – more of the same, because there’s nothing in the ‘comprehensive agreement’ to suggest otherwise. Blair’s commitment to achieving an end to the list of paramilitary activities he came up with in Paragraph 13 of the Joint Declaration was always suspect, but his attempt to ensure the IRA ends its criminal activities barely registered.

I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Reg Empey: “If true [that the IRA robbed the Northern], it will also highlight the futility of the DUP’s much vaunted ‘one hour photo’ as any real guarantee or assurance on the true intentions of the Republican movement. This underlines the concern that the Ulster Unionist Party and others had expressed, that the DUP’s deal had not secured an end to Republican criminality.”

One wonders what side deals were made to ensure that the issue of ending IRA criminal activity was not nailed down.

Right, that’s the rant over. Carry on.

  • Belfast Gonzo
  • George

    What I find amazing is that the DUP is now taking its lead from Dublin in its pronouncements about the IRA.

    If it’s going to do a conclusive deal, the IRA will do its deal with the Irish people not with unionism.

    At least the DUP has realised this and is now playing follow the leader, in this case ardent republican Michael McDowell.

  • Keith M

    The DUP gave priority to resolving the issue of decommissioning for once and for all and were right to do so, given that is the issue that killed off the 1998 agreement, and once the arms are out of the equasion, it makes raids like this one all but impossible.

    I believe that the DUP (along with the Irish government) were taken aback by the evasion on criminality on the eventual IRA statement especially as this WAS part of the agreement that Adams had stated that SF/IRA had no problem with.

    Fair play to Robinson for putting the heat on Orde to come out and stop hiding behind others in the RUC/PSNI. If Orde does blame the IRA tomorrow, then the spotlight should fall on the SDLP to say that they are prepared to go into an executive without SF/IRA.

  • Fraggle

    Keith, it’s naive to suggest that raids like the northern jobs couldn’t be carried out without arms.

    Remember that the key factor in securing the compliance on the two NB workers was the holding of their families captive. It is easy to imagine how this could be carried out without firearms.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Keith M

    once the arms are out of the equasion, it makes raids like this one all but impossible

    You’re kidding, right?

    Does it not strike you as slightly strange that a (at least nominally) republican party such as the PDs is being more demanding on the issue of IRA activity than the DUP?

    I believe that the DUP (along with the Irish government) were taken aback by the evasion on criminality on the eventual IRA statement especially as this WAS part of the agreement that Adams had stated that SF/IRA had no problem with.

    Robinson was so taken aback he said he was unperturbed. Still, if you and the DUP are prepared to accept Gerry Adams interpretation of an IRA statement as gospel, that’s up to yourselves.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Well thats it, it’s a fair cop. Believe it or not I know the identity of the people involved.

    The ringleader is a veteran IRA man who had grown disillusioned with the cause. However he was cajolled into one last job for the cause to fend off the attention of his ex O.C. a real hard hardliner who only understands violence and who is so bitter and twisted that he has a tattoo of De Valera on his wobbly bits, although most of the time it’s just DV.

    The ringleader had hoped to find peace of mind livng in relative obscurity with his trans sexual lover but to no avail, he was tracked down for the Northern job. A bonus for his involvement was that he was to get a fistful of fifties to help his lover deal with his/her bits so that eventually they could have a fulfilling relationship.

    So we have it, a tale so heart rendering that I may in fact adapt it for the silver screen. Maybe under the title ‘A Crying Pain’.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Given Ordes’ assessment (when it comes) one can only conclude that it was indeed the IRA.

    I have to admit that I knew all the time. In fact I got the full story from a reliable source.

    My source told me that the IRA ringleader had some time ago been disillusioned by the cause and had tried to find piece of mind in the arms of his lover. Who apparently, had a weapon that needed to be decommissioned.
    Their life of bliss was spoilt when the ringleader was tracked down by his ex O.C. who cajolled him into carrying out one last job for the cause. This O.C. was so bitter and twisted that he had a tattoo of De Valera on his wobbly bits. Although most of the time it was just plain DV.
    As well as being left alone the ringleader was promised that if he carried out the one last job he could have a fistful of fifties which his lover could use to decommission the weapon and at long last they could have a fulfilling relationship.

    That is the heartbreaking story behind the great heist. A story that I may in fact take to the silver screen under the title ‘A Crying Pain.’

  • Nick

    This whole issue seems to have stirred up a lot of ill-feeling on the board, especially in the other strand. In the vitrial, what I think is one of the key questions has got lost. I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on it.

    For a long time now pretty much everyone has understood the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA (although I am sure some people are going to deny it). Sinn Fein’s political strength was derived from the twin source of a legitmate electoral mandate and being the negotiating party that represented the wishes of the IRA. Very probably there were links between the leadership of Sinn Fein and the army council, and the policies of the one / two organisations were a coherent strategic whole.

    However, I am not sure that this is the case anymore. The point I am trying to delve down to is this – how much does anyone know about the way the IRA works? For this to be regarded as an IRA operation, it is not enough to prove that IRA members were involved, or even that it was authorised by a senior figure. Rather it must have gone through the same chain of command as any “military” decision taken by the organisation. In that sense understanding the statement “the IRA was involved” becomes a very complicated intelligence matter.

    I think this breakdown in command structures within paramilitary organisations is inevitable. Firstly, it is a common phenomena in post-conflict environment, for example South Africa or the former Soviet Republics.

    Secondly, it is very easy to see how it could happen. Some senior members will decide that, rather than settling down with their pipe and slippers, they will become involved in organised crime, and carve out their own personal fiefdoms accordingly, outside the knowledge of their colleagues.

    In making these comments, I start from the point of assuming that power sharing is inevitable. It may not happen too soon, but it must eventually occur. Furthermore, it seems all but inevitable that it wil happen with Sinn Fein as the nationalist representatives. Therefore this issue will have to faced at some point.

    The questions related to them are these: When people are posting on this board in support of the belief that the IRA was involved, what do they mean? Do they mean total operational involvement, or do they simply mean rogue members? Does this matter? In the longer term how is this difficulty to be faced, as it surely must be?

    For those who are seeking to question the evidence that seems to be emerging tonight – is there, in your view any justification to the commment made by Tony Blair and Jeffrey Donaldson – has the leadership of the Republican movement (by which I mean either Sinn Fein or the IRA) been neglectful of these issues? Could they be doing more (even if we assume that the bank robberry had nothing to do with the IRA, there are still many organisaed crime issues that could raised in their place)?

  • Davros

    Nick, the two options are equally worrying:

    1)Approved right at the top ? Makes the claims that the IRA wanted to go straight look like insults to our intelligence

    2) Not approved at the top – So if HQ has lost control to this extent, they won’t be able to deliver the things for which they are extracting concessions.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Proving a ‘chain of command’ in an organisation that has a cell structure is virtually impossible.

    I may be wrong, but does the IRA’s GHQ issue general orders, but not specific direct orders? Local cells then interpret these as they see fit, but within the framework laid out by the command staff.

    The IRA’s cell structure was developed as an attempt to keep information on a very ‘need to know’ basis, so that it would be harder to infiltrate. However, as the cells operate almost autonomously, it would be very difficult to ‘prove’ a chain of command existed.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Pat McLarnon outed as Sunday Life columnist shocker..

  • Nick

    Thanks for the comments –

    Davros,

    Option one seems to me unfeasiable – but it would also be my understanding of the phrase the “robbery was carried out by the IRA”.

    Option two is more interesting, as I think it rather adds to the point I was making. Sinn Fein, as I mentioned earlier derives its power from two sources: electoral mandate and links with the IRA. If they lose the power to control elements of the IRA, then they have to rely on mandate alone. Essentially, the Sinn Fein / IRA dicotomy we have all become could be seen to breaking down, as different elements of the Republican movement go in their different directions – politics and crime.

    Belfast Gonzo,
    As I understand it the cell structure was developed in the 70’s and early 80’s, and replaced (strangely enough) a military ranking system based on the British army. That said, it has pre-cursors. It isn’t so different to the organisation that Michael Collins developed (although I believe his cells were larger) and I think some parts of the French resistance were organised that way in WWII.

    As you suggest, it makes proving anything very hard. But by the same token, it also makes disproving anything very hard. Judging by the certainty in some of the media today, we are not operating on normal burden of proof principles.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Nick, in the IRA’s recent history there has been at least one bank robbery. In one of the most controversial, they first denied the robbery strenuously, then subsequently admitted that it was carried out by one of them who had acted outside of the chain of command. They probably had no choice given that a police officer was shot dead and the robbers themselves were caught.

    This suggests to me that the IRA – if they have committed this robbery – aren’t going to admit to it unless they have to.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Nick

    I wasn’t suggesting the IRA came up with the idea! That said, I wouldn’t disagree with what you say.

  • Davros

    Roger – Adare wasn’t a bank robbery if that’s what you mean.

  • Davros

    Nick -there’s the added complication that “politics” and crime aren’t really seperated if, as claimed, the Organisation tithes those who freelance – which has the advantage for Adams and co of adding deniability.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    If as seems likely Orde capitulates to the Unionist pressure and makes a statement on the robbery and meets their demand for confirmed IRA involvement at the Northern then the basis for that call needs to be examined.

    It cannot possibly be on the basis of evidence, as is so painfully obvious to the supporters of the PSNI, no evidence exists.
    No, Orde will state(as he has done previously) that on the basis of intelligence he will be able to make that call. Usually Orde et al can hide behind such a statement, but unfortunately for him he cannot do so on this occasion.

    It was on the basis of intelligence that warrants were issued to search homes on Xmas Eve that led to the capture of shoes and Xmas presents. Unfortunately nothing was recovered relating to the robbery.
    It was on the basis of intelligence that homes were further searched over Xmas, during which a PSNI weapon was stolen. Again, unfortunately nothing was recovered relating to the robbery.
    It was on the basis of intelligence that more warrants were issued to search business premises at Springfield Rd and Stewartstown Rd. Yet again unfortunately nothing was recovered in relation to the robbery.
    So the quality of PSNI intelligence can be held up to public scrutiny and what a sorry spectacle it makes. Lots of warrants, lots of searches, nothing recovered. Deduction that can be made = bad intelligence.

    But that is not the point, the lynch mob wants a hangin and if the sheriff aint a careful it’s gonna be him.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Roger,

    you’ve ruined me.

  • Mario

    Pat

    A bonus for his involvement was that he was to get a fistful of fifties to help his lover deal with his/her bits so that eventually they could have a fulfilling relationship.

    So we have it, a tale so heart rendering that I may in fact adapt it for the silver screen. Maybe under the title ‘A Crying Pain’.

    Sorry Pat, Sidney Lummet beat you to it, Al Pacino and John Cazale ( you broke my heart Fredo) star in it. It is called DOG DAY AFTERNOON. 1973 it takes place in Brooklyn.

    ATTICA, ATTICA, ATTICA…

  • Davros

    So the quality of PSNI intelligence can be held up to public scrutiny and what a sorry spectacle it makes. Lots of warrants, lots of searches, nothing recovered. Deduction that can be made = bad intelligence.

    So Pat, where was this violence SF are complaining of on their website ?

  • cg

    So Orde will blame the IRA but will not produce any evidence only here say and conjecture.

    I have heard of this somewhere before…

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Hold on a sec Mario, if every journo within 100 miles can re hash every rumour and fantasy story under the label of exclusive, then surely i have the right to claim my story as original (well nearly).

  • Keith M

    PMcL ; “A bonus for his involvement was that he was to get a fistful of fifties to help his lover deal with his/her bits so that eventually they could have a fulfilling relationship.”.

    I think there will be little change left from the €30m if they’re trying to turn Barbie DeBrun into an attractive female. (Hey everyone’s entitled to a “man not ball” comment occasionally).

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    KeithM,

    there are some jobs even the most unscrupulous back street surgeons wouldn’t take on.

  • Alan2

    “ardent republican Michael McDowell”

    I have to say that have alot of respect for Michael McDowell and I suggest that alot of Unionists do also, regardless of his political position.