A rapid and unusually blunt response, No IRA conspiracy theory, from Paul Murphy to a piece by Niall Stanage in yesterday’s Guardian in which the correspondent for the Sunday Business Post wrote that “The British and Irish governments have reason to undermine Sinn Féin”

No IRA conspiracy theory

Saturday February 5, 2005
The Guardian

As someone who has devoted several years to facilitating a political settlement in Northern Ireland, I find Niall Stanage’s argument (Who gains from this breakdown? February 4) that the British and Irish governments are engaged in some conspiracy to blame the IRA, and thereby Sinn Féin, for the Northern Bank robbery bizarre.
Are Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, who have devoted more time and energy to this process than any of their predecessors, really part of this conspiracy? Is it credible that Hugh Orde, the chief constable of the PSNI and the man who investigated the allegations of state collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane, is engaged in a plot to derail the peace process? Or that Garda Commissioner Conroy would lend his integrity to a charade?
In support of his conspiracy theory, Stanage asserts that almost all the charges relating to the alleged IRA “spy ring” in 2002 have been “quietly dropped”. He is wrong. Three men face very serious charges.
I look forward to the time the Northern Bank case can be aired in court, but in the meantime neither we, nor the Irish and US governments, can simply pretend that we have not seen convincing evidence of Provisional IRA responsibility for the bank robbery. The ball is in Sinn Féin’s court. The IRA put it there and until the issue of IRA activity and criminality is addressed we are unlikely to make real progress.
Paul Murphy MP
Secretary of state for Northern Ireland