The Irish Republic’s top detectives, along with the Irish Defence Forces’ military intelligence unit known as G2, told Ahern that, in the aftermath of the political talks breaking down, a minority in the IRA leadership believed the British should have been taught a lesson. However, instead of bombing Britain, potentially a political disaster in the post-9/11 world, the movement chose instead to execute a plan that was two years in the making – to pull off the biggest cash theft ever.
The operation involved operatives in West Belfast and South Armagh:
Irish government officials have absolutely no doubt that this robbery was sanctioned at the highest levels of the IRA. They point to a meeting in early December at a hotel just over the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic involving top Belfast IRA commanders and their counterparts in South Armagh. They were so paranoid about being under human and electronic surveillance that the gathering broke up the meeting in the hotel bar, walked into the car park and resumed discussions in several vehicles they had travelled in to the venue. Given that it was a combination of Belfast and South Armagh IRA members who robbed the bank, the authorities in Dublin now believe that this meeting gave the green light for the heist to go ahead.
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