If not the IRA, who was it?

Different folks will no doubt pay their money and take their political choice as to whom they choose to believe on this crisis: Hugh Orde’s suspicions; or the IRA’s P O’Neill statement. It would be bad grace at the very least not to put some store by it, since many of Sinn Fein’s detractors have pointed volubly to its previous absence as a sign of that organisation’s guilt. So who was it? Or more specifically perhaps, cui bono?

Sinn Fein’s own favoured theory sees it as the work of British securocrats. Specifically unionist-friendly elements in the NIO, who don’t want to see Sinn Fein take executive power again.

Another idea floated early by republican sources was that this was the work of Loyalists, one that has as yet had little further corroboration. But it may be worth further scrutiny?

Is a freelance criminal operation at the bottom of it all? The kind of cross community operation the Community Relations Council would not welcome. One story from Neil MacKay might hint at something in that direction.

So who else could it have been? Dissident Republicans? A small (or rather not so small) splinter group from the Provisonals, in dispute with the leadership over decommissioning? There were rumours before Christmas of a split in the ranks – could it simply have been about photographs – or something more serious?

Could it have been the British secret services? It’s hard to see what the British get from stalling a process that’s taken nearly eight years to move from ceasefire to the brink of an inclusive deal, but few doubt they have been players in the past.

What about the Republic’s government services? Is this some kind of a double act between Garda Special Branch and military intelligence? Certainly some commentators seem to believe that the Republic is where Sinn Fein’s political credibility has sustained the most damage.

Despite the obvious risk to Hugh Orde in making such a public accusation, it is dangerous to accept the first line of argument simply because it comes from a government source. In fact, could it have been the PSNI or elements within the PSNI anxious to tip the propaganda war away from Sinn Fein’s abstentionist stance on law and order?

Is it possible that the statement is simply a smokescreen arranged between the party and the IRA’s Army Council – to allow for a wider ranging agenda when the leadership gets to meet Ahern next week? Once serious ambiguity over the actual truth is re-introduced, is the party simply hoping to resume where it laid off on December 22, 2004?

It may be none of the above. But, in absence of any public evidence, who, or which organisation, in your opinion could possibly have carried out and benefited from this robbery?

Adds: The Edge Question for 2005: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?” – Great minds can sometimes guess the truth before they have either the evidence or arguments for it (Diderot called it having the “esprit de divination”). What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?

  • Chucky R. Law

    I reckon it was simply a freelance gang. More than likely with some ex-republican or ex-loyalists members.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I’m going for the on-the-run Croatian general. It MUST have been him. Couldn’t have been anyone else.

    Besides, that’s what I want to believe, so that’s all’s about it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Any chance of further posters providing some logic for their choice (real or imaginary)?

  • peteb

    You mean along the lines of pointing out that it’s Hugh Orde’s opinion based on the information available to him (rather than a ‘suspicion’ – there’s a certain difference between the two) AND that BOTH governments have stated that they are 100% certain that the IRA were involved in the kidnapping, threats and eventual raid?

    That against a statement from the fictitious ‘P O’Neill’? Hmmm..

  • Mick Fealty

    That kind of thing.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick.

    Surely a bit of tongue in cheek comment is fine? Are you concerned that I’m playing the Croatian general, not the ball?

    Truth is I have no idea whodunnit. I’m just pointing up the fact that most people will believe what it is convenient for them to believe. On a thread such as this, I think posts should be viewed in that context.

  • Mick Fealty

    I wasn’ criticising you Billy, just trying to draw out some detail from future posters who might have a stronger opinion!

  • Chucky R. Law

    Pete
    “it’s Hugh Orde’s opinion based on the information available to him”

    Might he not actually have much information at all?

    “BOTH governments have stated that they are 100% certain that the IRA were involved”

    Are they not just echoing Ordes opinion? Would they have any better information than Orde? If they are 100% certain would we not have arrests by now?

    Just probing…

    -maca

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Peteb.

    P O’Neill isn’t fictitious. P O’Neill is the IRA, which is all too real and which has killed thousands of people. It’s called a nom de guerre.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Peteb.

    P O’Neill isn’t fictitious. P O’Neill is the IRA, which is all too real and which has killed thousands of people. It’s called a nom de guerre.

  • J Kelly

    The facts of the matter are this a bank has been robbed the PSNI have accused the IRA the IRA have consistently denied involvement. So for the first time in a number of weeks people are begining to look in other directions.

    I have a theory that because Orde has made the statement he made we will never know who dunnit because if the PSNI find out it was someone other than the IRA they will cover it up to save face. Orde and many of his senior officers would have to resign for misleading the public and tampering in the political process. We will never know.

  • slackjaw

    As to the authors of the actual robbery, I’m still a bit stumped. But IF it was people acting under the direction of the IRA, of which so many people appear to be convinced, I don’t think that some element of security forces involvement can be completely ruled out.

    It is plausible that elements within the security forces knew that the robbery was going to take place and either actively assisted, or decided to do nothing to stop it.

    From what is being claimed, a group of 20 individuals were involved in the robbery. How many IRA volunteers are there out there? If it was the IRA, what is the mathematical probability that the security forces were not monitoring ANY of those individuals involved? If you can plant a bugging device in Connolly House, could the actions of 20 volunteers involved in pulling off the robbery really escape your notice?

    For the security industry, part of ‘maintaining stability’ involves an endless process of tilts and shifts. It may be in your strategic interests that something ‘bad’ happens provided that it means that you can reasonably predict the pattern of future events.

    Before Christmas, Sinn Fein and the DUP were apparently close to signing a deal. This may have introduced an element of unpredictability into security experts’ theoretical models of predicted outcomes. At this level, notions of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for negotiations or democratic processes do not apply: it is more important that future events remain within the sphere of predictable outcomes.

    An example: if a deal got signed before the upcoming elections, would there be a chance that the IRA might splinter again, creating even greater instability? In such a scenario, perhaps it would be better to engineer that the IRA remained intact, even if this is as a result of regained pariah status, so as a deal can be signed at a later date under circumstances of greater stability.

    cui bono indeed. One may imagine the above theory fanciful, but it’s a helluva lot less fanciful than believing that this is all part of a SF plot to increase their vote at the next elections by getting shafted by the two governments and the media from all angles.

  • Mick Fealty

    “they will cover it up to save face”

    It’s believed Orde has 40+ men on clearing up this job. Surely with the Police Ombudsman breathing down his neck, he’d have few options as where he might hide such a damning cock-up?

  • peteb

    maca

    It would seem to me that the Irish and British governments BOTH stating that they are 100% certain is going further than simply ‘echoing’ Hugh Orde’s opinion.

    Billy P

    You can call it what you want.. and I’ll say ‘P O’Neill’ is still fictitious.

  • ShayPaul

    Mick

    My money is still on the “Croatian football team”, spotted crossing the “Armagh” border in a white vehicle thinly disguised as a “Pizza” van.

    The truth is in there, just have to dig it out …

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Peteb,

    The Police tell lies and perjurer and the IRA has been shown to tell lies. In this case how do you make a call between the two.
    You make the point that Orde gave his statement based on information in his possession. But we have already seen the police acting on the information in their possession. They issued warrants for searches based on this information and it was proven to be flawed as nothing of note was recovered.
    Given that over a month after the robbery, no money has been recovered and the van used has yet to be recovered Ordes’ information looks to be very weak (if it exists at all).

    It seems that you in fact have blind faith in Orde, something that could prove highly embarrassing in the future. It would be more honest if you just came out and said so.

  • mickhall

    QUESTION; Can anyone on Slugger give an example of a statement issued by the PIRA under-signed by P O’Neill which later turning out to be proven lies? Im not making a point here, simply asking a question

  • The Dog

    There are so many questions about this raid that will never be answered.

    If the people who were kidnapped saw the faces of the people who carried out this raid – why are there no photo fit pictures in the public domain to assist the capture of those responsible and the return of the money?

    I am still unclear as to why the bank are unwilling or unable to claim insurance on the stolen money – Is it because any insurance company would demand a genuine invedstigation before paying out or indeed would use their own investigators or perhaps that there is someother finacial irregularity to do with the bank itself – I understand that there are some issues about laundering money for an African dictator.

    If HUgh Orde has his 45 ‘top’ dectives looking for evidence that the IRA did it – what about the possibility/probability that someone else was responsible – then surely there will not be able to catch them or the money.

    And if this is the case does this reinforce the argument that the reason the PSNI are not good at dealing with the job they are really supposed to be doing – i.e stopoping and solving crime – is that they are still a politically motivated force.

    And this brings me to a wider point – if it wasn’t the IRA then does this then not have very very serious consequences for the peace process because a) the PSNI are a bunch of liars who would rather blame the IRA without any substantive evidence than solve the crime b) there are a lot of political opportunists who will stop at nothing to stop the Sinn Féin ridse and rise and c) the media are a pack of lapdogs.

  • twinkilcooleywithcoxsdemesne

    When viewing the battle for credibility that currently rages between H.Orde and P.O’Neill, the words of Baudrillard spring to mind;

    “With the truth, you need to get rid of it as soon as possible and pass it on to someone else. As with illness, this is the only way to be cured of it. The person who keeps truth in his hands has lost.”

  • Ringo

    If it was a dissendent repoublican organisation:
    a) wouldn’t Bertie and the Gardaí find this out (seeing as how the RIRA is riddled with moles) and be extremely worried about the dissidents getting their hands on £20m +. (They could hire Osama with that sort of cash.) A lot more worried than if the provo’s did? Wouldn’t the authorities north of the border be equally concerned?

    b) wouldn’t the IRA find this out and be extremely eager to prevent them from getting to spend it too? And wouldn’t this filter back to the security forces on both sides of the border very rapidly?

    If it was Loyalists
    see b above

    If it was Securicor-ats trying to pin it on the IRA and collapse the peace process didn’t they leave it a bit late seeing as how the the deal with the DUP was nearly sealed a week or two before hand? Or why didn’t they wait until a deal is done next year and the DUP are in government with Sinn Fein and to cause maximum embarrasment – after all the IRA would be meant to be no more at that stage? This was a poor time to carry it out.

    And the securocrats option also infers that the aim of the robbery was cause maximum embarrassment, not maximise the cash take. While it is clear from the program last night that they could have taken more, robbing a banks cash centre the week before Christmas can only mean that it was designed to give a big return. If it is media speculation you want you can hardly pick a worse time of the year. And especially with the way Christmas fell this year.

  • abucs

    Is the next IMC report due in April, just before the elections ?

    That report could become very political if it airs Mr Orde’s intelligence.

    For transparency and debates sake, as well as distancing the police from politics, better to get the intelligence out in the open sooner rather than later.
    (assuming it’s not prejudicing the current PSNI investigations. If it might then it should be said so by Mr Orde now as the reason it has not been released).

    It will look very suspicious if the IMC releases this intelliegence just before the election.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Peteb: “You can call it what you want.. and I’ll say ‘P O’Neill’ is still fictitious.”

    Earlier I said: “most people will believe what it is convenient for them to believe”.

    Just wanted to point out how clever I am.

  • barney

    It was and inside job!! All it needed was one corrupt executive in a panic over the new owners finding him out in their first audit. He simply ties up with a well local/IRA/Loyalist etc crew and provides all the intelligence and inside assistance they need. The gang then proceed to do exactly what Hugh Orde said, they stole waste paper. Now when the auditors find a £26m hole in the accouints our executive will have a ready explanation. Couldn’t be more obvious IMO. The beauty of this theory is that it also explains why the PSNI can’t find the money, the amount taken is still being debated, why the serial numbers are missing, why there’s a general staff clear out, etc, etc.

  • Millie

    Here’s this gem from Ian Paisley Jr in today’s Irish Times:

    “Just because you deny something does not mean to say you did not do it. It is up to the IRA to prove they did not do it. Everyone knows and believes that they did do it.”

    Actually in the UK (well Britain anyway) the onus is on the cops and courts to prove a person’s guilt. If Hugh Orde’s investigation has turned up nothing by way of forensic evidence or witnessess then on what basis can he make a statement pointing the finger of blame, all very bizarre.

  • davidbrew

    Actually in the UK (well Britain anyway) the onus is on the cops and courts to prove a person’s guilt.

    But no person has been named

  • Dec

    Well, Bertie Ahern claims the SF negotiating team had foreknowledge of a crime that was to be committed. Adsmittedly, he made these remarks in a different legaljurisdiction however they were heavily carried in the UK media.

  • Chucky R. Law

    “But no person has been named”

    The point is (as i’m sure you know) IPJ said it is for the IRA to prove they did not do it. Millie’s point is that is the cops and the courts who must prove their case.

  • Bean Nighe

    Stand in the shoes of Sinn Fein / PIRA
    if you personally were accused of a crime would it be sufficent or acceptable for a police officer to act as judge and jury?
    Would you accept cornerboy politicians then jumping on the bandwagon and saying yes, I agree, even though there is no evidence you are guilty as accused. The bottom line is, this is not justice, merely a a group of politically motivated individuals taking turn to put the boot into Sinn Fein / PIRA. The public know in their hearts that something stinks, and sooner or later the truth shall be placed in the public domain, in much the sane way as the intelligence reports on the so called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, remember now they were used to make false accusations?

  • Bean Nighe

    Stand in the shoes of Sinn Fein / PIRA
    if you personally were accused of a crime would it be sufficent or acceptable for a police officer to act as judge and jury?
    Would you accept cornerboy politicians then jumping on the bandwagon and saying yes, I agree, even though there is no evidence you are guilty as accused. The bottom line is, this is not justice, merely a a group of politically motivated individuals taking turn to put the boot into Sinn Fein / PIRA. The public know in their hearts that something stinks, and sooner or later the truth shall be placed in the public domain, in much the sane way as the intelligence reports on the so called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, remember now they were used to make false accusations?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    How do you prove that you didn’t do something? I mean, an individual can point to an alibi, but how can the IRA prove that it didn’t do it? I mean, how would that work?

    If someone demands something that is transparently impossible, then one must question that person’s motivation.

    (Particularly when that person’s last major public contribution was to compose the sack cloth and ashes speech, without which we would possibly have a devolved executive by now.)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    abucs

    My guess is that the IMC report will be published early, possibly in March.

  • Peter Brown

    But wasn’t the word of the police sufficient to point the finger in breaches of the loyalist ceasefire? It was hard to see the finger of course due to SDLP, SF/IRA politicians and others who post on this and other websites jumping on an already dangerously overloaded bandwagon. That is irrelevant because unionists all accepted the allegations at face value and they were proved to be correct. Now that the boot is on the other foot and inspite of the Adare denials of leading Republicans however the word of PSNI, Garda and two governments is unreliable to Hume and others. No double standards there then…..

  • Tom Griffin

    “Just because you deny something does not mean to say you did not do it. It is up to the IRA to prove they did not do it.”

    Apparently, the technical term for this particular logical fallacy is the appeal to ignorance

  • Fraggle

    Could someone who says that the PIRA did it answer this….

    If they didn’t do it, how can they prove it? What evidence could the PIRA provide that you would accept as proof that they didn’t carry out the robbery?

  • Fraggle

    Could someone who says that the PIRA did it answer this….

    If they didn’t do it, how can they prove it? What evidence could the PIRA provide that you would accept as proof that they didn’t carry out the robbery?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘My guess is that the IMC report will be published early, possibly in March.’

    Would it not be cheaper and more efficient just to do a re run of Hugh Ordes’ press conference, there is unlikely to be anything substantially different.

  • spirit-level

    “In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close, and to take a distanced view of close things.” Miyamoto Musashi
    Picture this scene:
    Late night, raining, smoky back-room bar, Messrs Paisley, Adams, Trimble, Aherne and Blair playing stud poker. Dawn approaches, players decide to cash in their chips…. whoops.. teller comes back declares the casino’s been robbed.
    Oh my god.
    Paisley stands ready to draw
    “Why you low down son of a gun, you been cheating” he says to Adams;
    who gets up saying “Are you calling me a liar”

    All hell’s let loose, Blair steps in, all leave sulking, accusations flying like lead
    ” Youre gonna pay for this” says Trimble to somebody through the smoke, but no-ones listening.

    This is where we’re at.

    Sounds crazy but this is the best thing that can happen in Northern Ireland right now that the talks stalled. Everyone’s furious, the tree is well and truly being shaken. There’s a big scrap to be had between the politicians..gloves off.
    Great stuff.. catharsis

    A big big Stink
    Whose going to come out smelling of roses?

  • Mick Fealty

    Billy,

    “How do you prove that you didn’t do something?”

    In the absence of evidence, you can’t. In the meantime, independents are simply left to ponder the plausiblity of both sides of the argument.

    – There is circumstantial evidence that this robbery happened on the IRA’s patch.

    – The fact that it is a virtual no go area for cops, also does nothing help the defence.

    – Of Orde and Adams, only the former is likely to face an external inquiry and have to walk the plank, if he’s got it wrong.

    Much of the rest of the story appears equivocal. Driving a van across the border? Well that could be a simple set up. As could the hostage dump at Drumkeeragh. The house at Loughinsland is sufficiently isolated for anyone to have committed that end of the operation.

    I’m scratching my head for much more than that.

    As Tom rightly points out, IPJ is making political hay while the sun shines by using the vacuum to his advantage. But then Sinn Fein also has its own set of culprits.

    Who can blame either for seeking political advantage in circumstances?

    But I’m still compelled to ask why staunch supporters of Sinn Fein like Feeney and McGurk who have batted for the party on some extraordinarily difficult wickets, have walked off this particular field of play?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Mick,

    I find it difficult to accept the description of Mc Gurk and Feeney as staunch supporters of Sinn Fein.
    They are staunch supporters of the GFA and all it entails and part of that support is for the recognition of the SF mandate. To logically support democracy no way lends support to any individual participant in that democracy.
    Both men have been advocates of the view that it is wrong to try and circumvent that mandate, that is all.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pat

    Everyone still seemed pretty surprised that Feeney came out so strongly critical. He could easily have taken a more supportive line, and he can hardly be accused of being an NIO mouthpiece. Maybe he made his own inquiries?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Gonzo,

    from reading contributions on Slugger it is quite obvious he is a bit of a bug bear with unionists. What people fail to recognise is that he has been critical of SF and the SDLP on numerous occasions, especially in their inability to hang tough with the British Government in negotiations.

    If he has made his own inquiries I would urge him to pass whatever evidence he has to the PSNI. Just as Kincaid was left holding the baby by Orde poor Andy Sproule is not the public face of the investigation, the poor sap needs all the info he can get.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick.

    “There is circumstantial evidence that this robbery happened on the IRA’s patch.’’

    What, you mean Poleglass? You are assuming that only the Provisional IRA can operate there, get inside information on people and feel secure enough to hold a family hostage there. To be honest, I’d say you’re overestimating the Provos. It’s not like they have sentries on every street corner. Think about this: for all you know there could be a family being held hostage in the house next door to you right now and you wouldn’t know a thing about it. Have you ever been to Poleglass? Crimes happen there every day. It can’t always be the PIRA, but by your rationale it must be, because nothing could happen in Poleglass without their say-so. Right?

    Sorry, but you can’t just say: “Ah, west Belfast. Case closed’’. I am of course aware that in this place we have difficulty in distinguishing between reality and our own morbid and politically-informed reflexes but I’ll still call this whole “IRA’s patch’’ reasoning for what it is – a slur.

    “The fact that it is a virtual no go area for cops, also does nothing help the defence.’’

    The two guys forced to carry out the robbery were: the assistant manager of the bank; and the guy in charge of the loading bay where cash came in. The former happened to live in Loughinisland, the latter happened to live in Poleglass. Jesus, you think that they chose the people they would use in the robbery according to where they lived?

    “Of Orde and Adams, only the former is likely to face an external inquiry and have to walk the plank, if he’s got it wrong.’’

    Are you serious or are you just yanking my chain here? Seriously, you think that if, down the line, someone is charged and convicted of the robbery but there is no IRA link – or if no-one is charged – Orde will resign? Or will come under pressure to resign? You can’t be serious.

    A few days before Orde made his statement I made a bet for £50 with a guy in my local pub (I never bet) that he would pin it on the Provos. My friend took the bet. He reckoned there was no way Orde would blame the Provos unless he had an open and shut case – the political implications would be too great if he was wrong. I argued back that Orde would do what every senior figure in Northern Ireland’s exclusively pro-union establishment has always done since the inception of the state – when in doubt, blame the IRA.

    Far from going out on a limb, as you suggest, Orde has played his get out of jail card. From his perspective the heat is off as, as far as anyone who matters is concerned, the crime has been solved. The bogeyman did it. As usual. Orde has ensured that he will never come under pressure again to actually catch the perpetrators, and I’m prepared to make another bet with my £50 winnings (I never bet) – he never will.

  • James

    I don’t think that the Army Council really gives a damn what anybody thinks outside the movement, so there is another angle to this.

    As long as this caper festers people will bring up the McCabe murder scenario when the provos dodged about for quite some time before they came clean and admitted that it was a “sanctioned” (meaning that no one had the juice to wack Walsh, et. al.) hit. This cuts off that line of attack and the clear beneficiary is Sinn Fein.

    Does this mean that Adams has the Army Council back on the leash? I’m going to wait that one out.

    Now, to Mick’s question. The real question is who can operate in IRA territory without paying the piper? If you take P. O’Neil at his word, one train of thought results: No one has turned up barefoot in South Armagh with a bag over their head yet so the chances of it being a rogue operation are scant. No one turned up with a bullet hole in the foot so the Loyalists probably aren’t involved. That leaves only someone who is beyond the reach of the IRA or who scares even them. One would pray that it was a MI5 or spook job because if it wasn’t, you have some very scary new kids on the block.

    If you do not take P. O’Neil’s word then your governments are full of shmucks and run by schnooks. Welcome to my world.

  • Davros

    Every day I visit ATW expecting to see an allegation that “Islamofascists” were involved, but so far ….

  • Tom Griffin

    I agree it is striking that people like Feeney have come out so stongly with the belief that the robbery was carried out by the IRA, but in other respects this crisis seems wearily familiar.
    I know this point has been made before but look at the dates:

    07/08/01 UUP rejects implementation plan
    13/08/01 Colombia Three arrested

    21/09/02 UUP commits to withdrawal from executive by January if republicans do not demonstrate they have left violence behind for good.
    4/10/02 raid on SF offices at Stormont.

    8/12/04 Talks break down over photographs of IRA decommissioning
    20/12/04 Northern Bank robbery

    Not sure how Castlereagh (17/03/02) fits into this except to note a report in the Irish Independent in the preceding week that the British Government was going to have problems delivering on OTRs.

    Are these timings all coincidence, or is somebody determined that Republicans should take the blame for every crisis in the peace process?

  • Jimmy Sands

    Given that the process is perpetually in crisis and the provos are persistent criminals then no, coincidence is not the word I’d use.

  • Chucky R. Law

    “”In strategy ….” Miyamoto Musashi”

    The Water Book!
    You are versed in the ways of Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, Grasshopper? 😉

  • James

    “Islamofascists”

    Saw me one of them critters onest. Took a shot at it too.

    Took damn near an hour to boil.
    Even then it was too damn chewy.
    Damn near broke my new Pearly Whites from Sears.

    Kinda like them Mufti thangs, only needs more salt.

    I’d stick to possum if I was you.

  • mogo

    ShayPaul

    read your post above (belatedly)are you suggesting Mostar Rangers have ordered a new kit?

  • ShayPaul

    mogo

    Many a true word spoken in jest

    :o)