The Northern Bank robbery – it hasn't gone away

We’ll have to wait until Thursday to actually see the Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into The Big Heist – as they refer to the Northern Bank robbery – an investigation carried out by journalist and author Kevin Toolis. But several of the Sunday papers carry reports on the allegations contained in the programme – Sunday Times, Sunday Independent, Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Life. Interestingly they each focus on slightly different aspects of the programme.

The Sunday Business Post focuses mainly on the documentary’s interview of Irish Minister of Justice, Michael McDowell –

In a wide-ranging interview, McDowell claims that, as members of the Army Council, the Sinn Féin leaders knew in advance about the record €38 million Northern Bank robbery last December.

He says that he remains confident that gardai will prove that €2.3 million seized from the home of Cork businessman Ted Cunningham last February originated from the bank robbery. Cunningham was questioned but released without charge. The documentary also features an interview with a Bulgarian developer who met members of an Irish business consortium led by Cunningham.

The Sunday Life picks up on the contribution from the SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell –

In a blistering attack on the Government’s handling of one of the world’s biggest bank robberies, South Belfast SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell, accused the Government of allowing the Provos to commit a series of daring robberies, during last year’s troubled peace negotiations.

While the Sunday Times focuses on the allegations against former Sinn Féin vice-president Phil Flynn

The Dispatches programme, which investigated the aftermath of the IRA’s Northern Bank robbery last December, will say that Flynn and Ted Cunningham of Chesterton Finance met with a series of lawyers, accountants and developers in Bulgaria to discuss the investment during a business trip last January.

and quotes Phil Flynn’s denial of involvement in any IRA money laundering –

But in an interview with The Sunday Times yesterday, Flynn denied the main points of the Channel 4 documentary. He said he was not involved in a €20m investment, and that he had not led people to believe he was representing the Bank of Scotland when he handed out business cards.

“Our legal adviser was present in all of the meetings in Bulgaria and they weren’t business meetings; they were people doing presentations for us,” he said.

The Sunday Independent puts the main allegations together in its opening paragraph –

“THE IRA planned to use millions stolen in the Northern Bank heist to buy up a €25m allotment site in Bulgaria and turn it into a luxury hotel and holiday complex to fund its political wing, Sinn Fein.”

Or, as the Dispatches web site puts it –

The bank robbery shook the entire Irish peace process to its foundations as both the British and Irish Governments angrily blamed the Provisional IRA. All negotiations collapsed. The fallout from the Northern Bank robbery still potentially threatens the future of the Irish Government, and the future of the Irish State.

  • Keith M

    Interesting. Is it any wonder that the SDLP are being quoted elsewhere in the ST as saying they don’t see a deal between SF/IRA and the DUP being in the offing, and are preparing for an extended period of direct rule. I believe that we’re going to get the necessary contamination period by stealth.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Still no evidence – just further foot in mouthisms from Michael McDowell – a man who doesn’t seem to worry about prejudicing possible criminal trials in future. Perhaps because he knows that the entire thing is a political fairy tale.

    By the way, Keith, there’s no such thing as ‘direct rule’ – only direct misrule as far as British meddling in irish affairs is concerned.

  • United Irelander

    LOL Oilbhear.

    Must have been those nasty securocrats, eh?

  • Robert Keogh

    “He says that he remains confident that gardai will prove that €2.3 million seized from the home of Cork businessman Ted Cunningham last February originated from the bank robbery. “

    Despite the recent Gardai forensic report stating they could find no link between the money seized and the robbery.

    He should catch up on the reports that were issued when he was on holidays.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    OC,

    I’m always puzzled by this accusation. How does one go about prejudicing a non-jury trial?

  • lib2016

    There’s been far too much ‘black’ propaganda over the years for this to make much of an impact on its target audience.

    Thirty years of ‘exposing’ IRA links with drugs and police forces, North and South, now admit it was lies. The younger generation didn’t fall for the Iraqui WMD’s and they are far too clued up to fall for this.

    Fighting a war with weapons left over from the last one is an familiar blunder. It’s nice to see securocrats still keeping up the old traditions.

  • D’Oracle

    Yes it is interesting that each focuses on slightly different aspects of the programme.

    The Sindo focus on the funding of a certain political party seem does seem vaguely familiar

  • pacart

    I still haven’t heard any plausible explanation as to who, other than the PIRA, could have planned and carried out the robbery.
    Neither has Ted Cunningham explained where his cash stash came from.
    I look forward to the Dispatches programme with interest but don’t expect it to make any difference to SF. They will just deny everything using the usual Bart Simpson defence, “I didn’t do it, you didn’t see me do it, you can’t prove I did it.” People will continue to vote for them, even though they know they are liars and criminals, it’s all very depressing.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I believe the IRA did it, but it’s a matter of concern that neither the British nor the Irish governments have uncovered any kind of evidence to prove this is the case. It’s almost a year on and still no-one has been charged.

    If the evidence does exist and is forthcoming, I’d expect that serious damage would be done to Sinn Fein. On the other hand, the IRA’s winding-up seems likely to offset that.

  • Harry Flashman

    Naw the provies didn’t knock off the Northern, or Makro or the docks and their heavies in the Short Strand didn’t fillet MacCartney, they certainly aren’t involved in money laundering or piracy or smuggling. The UDA aren’t trying to bully the Sunday World and them and the UVF aren’t behind all the rioting nor are they up to their eybrows in drug dealing and prostitution.

    So who’s doin’ all this stuff, that’s easy innit? It’s them limey securocrats that’s who, and MI5, and Prince Philip, and Karl Rove…oh and don’t forget…the Joooz!

  • Henry94

    pacart

    I still haven’t heard any plausible explanation as to who, other than the PIRA, could have planned and carried out the robbery.

    Guilt by a process of elimination is not a sound basis for judgement or justice.

    Neither has Ted Cunningham explained where his cash stash came from.

    He is not obliged to explain anything unless he is charged with something. If you were his solicitor would you be advising him to make public statements?

  • fair_deal

    lib2016

    When Kevin O’Toolis wrote ‘A Rebel Heart’, IMHO an apologia for the Provos, the republican movement didn’t have a problem with him. Many republicans gladly granted him interviews.

    He makes a programme critical of the RM and its all the actions of securocrats. Hmmm.

    Can you provide an explantion or evidence of where, when and why Kevin Toolis became a tool of securocrats?

  • pacart

    Henry94, still no plausible explanation of who else could have done it. You’re right of course, a process of elimination will not make a court case, but at least it points in the right direction for rational people.
    Re Ted Cunningham, actually Henry, if I was a legitimate businessman and was being accused of involvement in laundering the proceeds of crime and of basically “being up to my neck in it” and I had a perfectly innocent explanation for the duffel bags full of loot, I would be rushing to the public with it – to clear my good name. His silence is damning. Basically, Henry you are indeed pleading the Bart Simpson defence. I will take it that you know perfectly well that the PIRA did it and that SF are part of a politico/criminal organisation, but have to keep up the pretence that “there is no evidence” because to acknowledge the truth is just too painful and shaming. To avoid this “appalling vista” you must deny what is clear to everybody.

  • Henry94

    pacart

    it points in the right direction for rational people

    Rational people wait for evidence.

    Re Ted Cunningham, actually Henry, if I was a legitimate businessman and was being accused of involvement in laundering the proceeds of crime and of basically “being up to my neck in it”

    He’s not being accused of anything. He was questioned and released without charge.

  • Henry94

    pacart

    I will take it that you know perfectly well that the PIRA did it

    I only know what I read in the papers and I remain to be convinced that the accusations have substance.

    I remember the initial reports gave the impression that a Sinn Fein member was arrested with the money. This turned out o be false. He was arrested many miles away and later released without charge.

    The only person so far charged with anything has been charged with rira membership.

  • idunnomeself

    ‘He is not obliged to explain anything unless he is charged with something’

    Well if he wants to get it back he does have to explain how he earned it legitimately under Asset Recovery legislation

  • DK

    Henry94

    do you only ever make a judgement on anything based on evidence that would hold up in court?

    For example, do you have opinions on:

    the existence of “securocrats” with an agenda to destabilise the “peace process”

    allegations of security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, outside of anything proven in court such as the Brian Nelson affair?

    The malevolent involvement of the UVF in the recent riots? Evidence of their presence cannot obviously be construed as malevolent!

    The involvement of the UVF in recent murders?

    The US and UK involvement in Iraq is to advance the well being of the people there and has nothing to do with stabilising the west’s energy supplies from the middle east?

    The same question to you lib.

  • Henry94

    DK

    I have opinions on lots of things but I wouldn’t want to see anyone locked up on the basis of them.

    I take your question as an acceptence that evidence is lacking in this case.

    Imagine for a second that the Northern Bank was never robbed but Ted Cunningham’s house was riaded anyway and the money was recovered and we were told that it was from alleged IRA fuel smuggling for example.

    I think many posters here would be convinced that was the source of the money. So we are not dealing with opinions formed on any basis other than political outlook.

    So when there is an automatic willingness to believe any allegation then someone has to ask where the evidence is.

  • Antrim Springfarm

    Would you stop voting SF if the IRA did do it Henry94?

    Personally I feel the McCartney crime (which they initially denied also) is much more evil.

  • Henry94

    AS

    Would you stop voting SF if the IRA did do it Henry94?

    I don’t think it would be that kind of an issue.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”So when there is an automatic willingness to believe any allegation then someone has to ask where the evidence is.”

    Henry94 — as an obvious supporter of the RM, would you be prepared to accept ANY evidence put forward either by British securocrats (who presumably shouldn’t be involved in Irish affairs at all) or the pesky guards (who are the puppets of an administration which is not ‘the rightful govt of Ireland’).
    In short, would the RM accept anything other than the evidence of their own internal enquiries?

  • Antrim Springfarm

    Well Henry94 what is the point in debating whether the Ra did or not?? If you have made up your mind you will continue to support SF in the light that SF members colluded (never thought I’d use ‘that’ word against a SF supporter) over the death of Robert and took part in organised criminality in the form of the NB raid.

    You will blindly follow SF much like many will blindly follow the OO up to the gates at Drumcree. But I will agree propaganda is a powerful tool – we must however try to escape our social-conditioning. I hope we all can.

    As you said in one of your previous post “you must learn…you are not objective”. I agree 100%. To get peace on this island catholics must reject SF and Prods must reject loyalism.

  • Henry94

    GLC

    Henry94 — as an obvious supporter of the RM, would you be prepared to accept ANY evidence put forward either by British securocrats (who presumably shouldn’t be involved in Irish affairs at all) or the pesky guards (who are the puppets of an administration which is not ‘the rightful govt of Ireland’).

    It would be for the courts to accept evidence. For example we were assured that forensic tests would link the money to the bank. Should we have accepted that assurance or waited for the tests? Because we are still waiting.

    Antrim Springfarm

    You have either misread or are misreperesenting my previous post.

  • DerryTerry

    You need more than an opinion to prove responsibility.

    With 45 PSNI detectives working 8 hours a day for the past 273 days, a grand total of 98,280 investigative hours, we still have no evidence.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”It would be for the courts to accept evidence.”

    So you would accept evidence presented by the British authorities and the verdict of a British court?
    Regarding the case in general, the British, Irish & US govts, as well as all the NI parties (apart from SF) have been convinced from the outset that PIRA were responsible. Are you saying that they are all wrong?
    Are the denials of an organisation who denied murdering Jean McConville, denied that they had an envoy in Cuba, denied that any of the Colombia 3 were their members and proclaimed ‘not a bullet not an ounce’ good enough for you?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”With 45 PSNI detectives working 8 hours a day for the past 273 days, a grand total of 98,280 investigative hours, we still have no evidence.”

    No publicly presented evidence certainly. A likely scenario is that evidence may mysteriously appear in the run-up to an election.
    If proved conclusively to be the work of SF/IRA, some might make a case that SF cannot enter govt north or south until the money is repaid in full.

  • pacart

    Henry94, are you trying to insinuate the RIRA were behind the NB robbery?
    DerryTerry, we know the robbery took place, we know it required intelligence gathering, manpower, logistical backup and the ability to launder huge sums of money. We know that a house in Poleglass was taken over and its residents held for the best part of two days, apparently without fear of discovery. We know that a few weeks later millions of pounds worth of Northern Bank notes were being found in the pocession of SF supporters, with no explanation as to how they were accrued.As you have said, the discipline shown by the robbers has been solid, military is the word. Not a peep from anyone, mind you SF had emasculated Special Branch whilst the heist was being planned so they had those odds in their favour. You KNOW it was the PIRA. You know that we know you know. You cannot admit it because that would be an “appalling vista”. It would mean that the leadership of the RM are criminals and liars. Save your sophistry for the press and the TV, stop treating the rest of us like fools.
    Henry94, your party of choice being involved in kidnapping, robbery and the cover-up of a murder would not affect your voting intentions? Enuff said

  • DerryTerry

    pacart,

    Given past experience I’m always careful about what i know.

    We all KNEW those murdered on Bloody Sunday were gunmen and bombers. We all KNEW the Birminghham 6 and Guilford 4 were guilty.

    We KNEW all of this, and we were all wrong. So we all KNOW who robbed the NB, don’t we?

  • DK

    Henry94

    I am not suggesting that anyone should be locked up other than through due process. I also accept that no due process has occurred in this case.

    However, this site is not a court of law. We are free to offer our opinions. On balance of everthing that I have heard about this crime I would have a clear opinion that the RM are behind it.

    Based on everything that you have heard about the case, you appear to have no opinion or else an opinion that the RM did not have aything to do with it.

    I suspect that your reluctance to offer an opinion on the proposition that the RM are behind it, is that you are a supporter and therefore will position yourself in it’s defence irrespective of the morality.

    The reason that I offered the previous examples where opinion may be voiced, is to test if your strict adherence to legal evidence, prior to voicing opinion, is consistent in all cases.

    I am sure that have read many opinions from you in the past!

  • Henry94

    GLC

    So you would accept evidence presented by the British authorities and the verdict of a British court?

    If the evidence convinced me I would. You seem to think that because I point out there is no presented evidence I have to accept any presented evidence. Not so

    Regarding the case in general, the British, Irish & US govts, as well as all the NI parties (apart from SF) have been convinced from the outset that PIRA were responsible. Are you saying that they are all wrong?

    I don’t know. What’s their evidence?

    The British and US governments have form in relation to believing dodgy intelligence. The Irish government parties and the other northern parties have electoral issues which taint their judgement in my view.

    pacart

    We know that a few weeks later millions of pounds worth of Northern Bank notes were being found in the pocession of SF supporters, with no explanation as to how they were accrued.

    You see we don’t know that at all. There has been no link established between the bank job and the Cork cash

    are you trying to insinuate the RIRA were behind the NB robbery?

    I don’t know. All I said was that an individual has been charged. He has not been convicted.

  • Henry94

    DK

    Based on everything that you have heard about the case, you appear to have no opinion or else an opinion that the RM did not have aything to do with it.

    My opinion on the case is that we should and see. Do you remember the hype about the “Stormont Spy-Ring”? I think it is prudent to be sceptical until evidence emerges.

  • Antrim Springfarm

    Henry94

    My point still stands – if the IRA were proven to have robbed the NB you would still vote for SF so I really don’t see the point in debating this with you.

    I am still not sure though why you would back up the IRA on this one – it’s not as if you are going to get any of the cash.

  • pacart

    DerryTerry, “We all KNEW those murdered on Bloody Sunday were gunmen and bombers” Since when? The people who claimed that were doing exactly what you are doing now, denying the obvious because accepting the truth is just too damaging to your position. Ditto, the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4.
    Still no reasonable suggestion as to who else could have organised it. As DK says, we’re not in a court of law, don’t tell me you have no opinion on this. Do you think there is a “ordinary” criminal gang in NI capable of pulling it off, considering the manpower, planning and resources required? Do you think the RIRA were capable of it or are you one of those idiots floating the “British Intelligence” theory?
    I promise, if I find myself on jury service on this I will disregard your opinion, to ensure a fair trial.
    If it wasn’t the PIRA, then they must be livid, given the flak they have so unfairly had to take on this. No doubt they are conducting their own enquiries to get to the bottom of this puzzling crime.

  • DerryTerry

    pacart, I’m often reminded of the phrase opinions are like a*seholes, everyone has one but that doesn’t mean we should listen to them.

    Those who told us about Bloody Sunday, the Birmingham 6 etc were the same people, the intelligence community, who are now telling us who robbed the NB. Having been biten multiple times, all i’m urging is some caution so people don’t end up looking like idiots.

    For my part I don’t know who robbed the NB, but not having spent 98,280 hours investigating it I don’t feel too bad about that. Nor do i feel compelled to come up with a theory until we get to see the evidence.

    However, since you and so many others know who, what, where, when and why about it, 273 days seems a long time to find the proof.

  • pacart

    DerryTerry, the main material facts of the robbery are undisputed, the amount of planning, manpower and resources required are not in dispute. I don’t know a single person who was waiting for British Intelligence to tell them who dunnit, everyday cop-on is all that was required. You say you don’t know who did it, I suggest that ” I can’t acknowledge who did it ” is closer to the mark.
    Go on, be a devil, give us an alternative theory, just for the fun of it.

  • Henry94

    AS

    I am still not sure though why you would back up the IRA on this one – it’s not as if you are going to get any of the cash.

    I certainly don’t back up the IRA. My view, often expressed here, is that the IRA should not exist.

    My point still stands – if the IRA were proven to have robbed the NB you would still vote for SF so I really don’t see the point in debating this with you.

    I vote Sinn Fein on the basis of what Sinn Fein does not what the IRA does or does not do.

  • SlugFest

    Can someone please give me Channel Four’s website adress? I want to see if i can get ahold of a DVD version of it (I’m in the states).

  • peteb

    SlugFest

    There’s a link to the Channel 4 Dispatches site in the original post.. you should be able to navigate to anywhere else you might need to go from there.

  • SlugFest

    Thanks, Pete.

  • Jack Quinn

    Well, begorrah. Yer see. It can’t have been Ra who did the NB because nothing is ever our fault. It’s always those interfering “securocrats” meddling in Irish affairs. When an Irish Catholic murders an Irish Protestant, it’s a…British problem that, to be sure. Across the water Catholics and Protestants have lived together for hundreds of years in peace but when they murder each other on our island, well it has to be someone else’s fault. Aye, it’s that logical. And when we had the famine, well other countries had crop failures and all, but when we had ours it was someone else’s fault again, not ours. Absent Irish landlords had nothing to do with it and the fact that we’re an island surrounded by fish-stocked waters is nothing to do with it – it’s someone else’s fault. And when we stood by and let the Nazis rape Europe well, again, it’s not our fault, it’s someone else’s fault that we shamed ourselves forever in not wanting to join the Allies in doing anything about it. And when Robert was murdered, well, you know, it’s someone else’s fault that too. It’s not our fault that Irish thugs murder supporters of their own political wing. Aye, that’ll be dem der “securocrats” again. So when the Ra pull of the heist, it’s not our fault that Irish people are robbing Irish banks and we still vote for the corrupt political Irish party that lie through their teeth that it was nothing to do with them. Aye, the reason we can look forward to hundreds more years of denial and grief and lies and irresponsibility and sectarianism and lawlessness is our own inability to accept responsibility for our own actions and behaviour until we reach the point when we realise there are no securocrats, we have no oil, gas, natural resources of any interest to anyone to make this island of strategic value to anybody, we’re the only ones who can possibly be meddling in our own affairs and be seen for what we are: a 4th world country who are bittered and twisted with ourselves with no-one else to blame for what we do…but ourselves. What we sow ourselves today, tomorrow we will reap. Begorrah.