An unhappy anniversary

Well, it’ll be two years on Wednesday since the Northern Bank heist. In the Sunday Tribune, Suzanne Breen gives a very detailed and explicit account of the robbers, the robbery and the divvying up of the dosh. There probably isn’t much new in what she writes, but I was a bit surprised at how confident she feels in alluding to the alleged bank robber.

The Irish Examiner throws a little something new into the mix. They quote Justice Minister Michael McDowell who claimed the IRA were going to buy a bank in Bulgaria to launder the money. Well, I don’t know about that one, and Suzanne Breen seems a lot closer to the mark when she recounts the denominations and the worthiness of the various forms of currency. She is probably right on the money (so to speak) when she calls it the £10million heist.

Irish MEP Eoin Ryan has yet another take on the story in the Irish Times. He is amazed at ‘The idea that it can suddenly disappear… where is it going? Where is that £30 million. Is it going to be put into use in electoral purposes for political parties or where is it gone?

Former detective Jonty Brown, in the Breen article, has some unusual words for the robbers; I salute the robbers. The bank was wide open, they got their information, and carried out the job professionally. But, if I were still a detective, I’d chase them to the ends of the earth. I don’t think they’ve received the robust and aggressive pursuit they deserve.”

So lots of ideas and speculation about the final resting place of a whole lot of money. Throughout all of the articles remembering the robbery, there appears to remain a question as to whether the political will exists to make the arrests that need to be made. Or perhaps someone finally figured out how to complete the perfect crime.

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  • slug

    Isn’t it possible that the government knows fine well who did it but are using it as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. We have had a lot of progress from Sinn Féin since 2 years ago 🙂

  • Rory

    Or perhaps someone finally figured out how to complete the perfect crime.

    My bankers at least, Miss Fitz, seem to have figured that out a long, long time ago and £30m swizzled dosh would be small change to them. Still it’s not all from my account.

  • Cato

    Under parliamentary privilege, David Burnside MP named Bobby Storey as the organiser of the bank robbery and both I and Suzanne Breen can report his comments without fear of legal recrimination.

  • Henry94

    Nothing new. Just the chastisement of the equine departed you would expect from an anniversary piece.

  • Henry94

    Big blute

    I’ll sleep better knowing that someone has finally solved the mystery.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    Ye know, I’m starting to really doubt it was the IRA. Some of the lines in this make me seriously question the information we’re being fed. The PSNI don’t come out of it at all well.

    The couple alert a traffic warden who contacts police. Officers arrive at the scene but, seeing nothing untoward, leave. They don’t bother knocking the door of the bank or even phoning security staff inside.

    Because they’ve just been informed by HQ that it’s only Billy and Sammy inside so they can proceed about their patrol?

    A total of £50,000 in stolen Northern Bank notes was planted in the toilets of a PSNI sports’ club. IRA members cheekily left the money to further embarrass police and to insinuate that ‘securocrats’ were behind the robbery.

    Ph34r the shadowy unstoppable ninja skills of the Republijesuit Stormtroopers!

    Ward, a key-holder to the vault, was ordered to help them rob the bank the following day. His family were made to swear on a holy picture they’d co-operate.

    Errr, wha’? That sounds like a Paisleyite fantasy about the sorts of practices them idolatrous Caflicks get up to.

    After the robbery, police raided the home of prominent Ardoyne republican, Eddie Copeland, taking away presents from under his Christmas tree.

    *rolls eyes*

    Neither have detectives found the bulk of the money, although £2.4m recovered by gardai in Cork is understood to have been part of the heist.

    As I recall, McDowell was jumping up and down crowing at the time that this was “proof” and Garda forensics were furiously spinning that they’d got the smoking gun. Nothing more has been heard about the mysterious Cork money.

    There were other weaknesses. Cost-cutting meant parts of the CCTV system hadn’t been upgraded. It’s my understanding there were no cameras in the vault. The monitors on which security guards watched footage from cameras in the bullion bay area were tiny – only four inches

    Riiiiiiight. Of course. The bank had no cameras in the vault, the monitors were too small to see anything on, and the tapes were so old the footage is worthless. Sure isn’t that normal bank practice. I bet all banks are like that.

    My local pub has a better (and digital) security camera setup than the Northern Bank.

    The alarm was raised only after the families of both employees were released later that night. Both homes had been forensically cleaned. All surfaces were scrubbed and glasses and cups that had been used were removed.

    That’s just bollocks, to be blunt. It would be almost impossible for a few men to be in a house for a day and a half and not leave any forensic evidence – fingerprints, hairs, fibres from clothing….no matter how careful they were some physical evidence would remain. This is a blatant lie by the police, IMO.

    “Why was a reward never offered? The PSNI advised the bank against it. That’s the biggest mystery of the whole robbery. A £2-3m reward would have oiled wheels.

    Because the PSNI know well the levels of “loyalty” that exist between the various agencies of the Crown, and someone would have squealed for that sort of money.

    This article is lurid spin, pure and simple. I’ve always been in two minds about the Northern Bank job, but after reading this I’m definitely leaning towards the “Black Ops” camp.

  • joeCanuck

    I wonder when the movie is coming out.
    There surely has to be one in the works somewhere.

  • Pete Baker


    Leaving aside your comments on the article..

    Point 1. Is a valid criticism of the police called to the scene of a suspicious vehicle which was no longer there.

    Point 2. My recollection of the reported version of events is that an anonymous call was made about a drug stash.. the discovery of pristine notes, immediately identified as being from the raid, was made during the subsequent search.

    Point 3. Is based on the witness statement.

    Point 4. Searches were carried out following the bank raid – to an adverse reaction from SF representatives. That particular report, based as I recall on Copeland’s comments, may or may not accurately reflect the nature of the search.

    Points 5, 6, 7, 8. Cut both ways in terms of which interpretation of the subsequent events you believe.

  • Reader

    Ciaran: Ph34r the shadowy unstoppable ninja skills of the Republijesuit Stormtroopers!
    It’s not that difficult to join:
    Or just to go along – Check out the Function Facilities link, or watch a match 06-07.htm

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, time for another does Adams dye his hair thread. Jesus H Christ, the nadir is not far off.

  • kadenza

    Northern Bank robbery…mmmmm…..longer it goes on without any evidence the more suspicious it gets.

    Also I think I recall that the cork money was reported, liberally, and as fact as being in a wheelie bin, according to breen it was in the basement. Didn’t the garda recently restate that they are still trying to link the Cork money forensicaly to the NBR?

    The whole thing just smells.

  • barcas

    Maybe a few millions were used to swell Labour Party Funds and purchase a seat in The House of Lords for Big Ian’s Missus. The PSNI should be questioning Tony Blair about that possibility.

  • J Kelly

    if the bank was robbed it was some job….and who cares

  • lib2016

    The fact that she links it to the Castlereagh effort is interesting and there are certain similarities – inside information, perpetrators who appeared to have no alarm about being being pictured on security cameras, and disappearing vehicles.

    They don’t seem to lead towards suspicions of republican involvement though. I wonder why she doesn’t mention that.

  • time will tell

    ##### They don’t seem to lead towards suspicions of republican involvement though. I wonder why she doesn’t mention that.
    Posted by lib2016 on Dec 19, 2006 @ 01:14 PM ####

    Did you suffer from learning difficulties at a tender age lib2016, btw you will soon have to change your name to lib2066 because 2016 is a silly joke now isn’t it.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    TWiT: “Did you suffer from learning difficulties at a tender age lib2016, btw you will soon have to change your name to lib2066 because 2016 is a silly joke now isn’t it. ”

    Now, now, play nicely with the other children…

    The NBR was, on some levels, brilliantly professional and, on others, strictly amateur hour. The crime itself ran like a swiss watch. However, the take was far too big and too readily disposable (brand-new bank-issued scrip, in the main, as opposed to “real” currency) for the crime to simply “go away.” Its N.I.’s equivalent to the Lufthansa heist or their Brinks job.

    One thing that most folks ignore is that there is plenty of middle ground here — the PIRA may not have done the crime, but, seeing as its a small island and a big crime, there were plenty of opportunities for local talent to “dip their beaks,” be they Loyalist or Republican. Money-laudering — a professional team would want to dump the local paper as quickly as possible… Arranging pay-offs before the deed… all sorts of possibilities.

    In the end, its going to be just another NI rorshach blot — the observer will see what they want and expect to see.

  • time will tell

    “Dead” Cthulhu,

    refering to the brain of course, you’re right the PSNI did it lol…. and you expect people to take anything you say seriously, my god what a clownish statment.

    unlike you i know how these things work “get it”
    unlike you i have spent a lot of time in the company of people who have had their names linked with the NBR “am i getting through yet”
    unlike you i have heard the brags about phone tip-offs about drugs in the New Forge Lane rec/centre and the bragging was done in the middle of an Andersonstown social club …OK

  • Dread Cthulhu

    TwiT: “refering to the brain of course, you’re right the PSNI did it lol…. and you expect people to take anything you say seriously, my god what a clownish statment. ”

    Ah, yes — let us ignore what others say and simply make things up as we go along… bravo.

    Is it that hard a concept to grasp that there are others beyond PIRA who had the capacity to commit the crime, including professional robbers and, yes, potentially, even the police? Must everything be the fault of the local sectarian boogey-man? Or is it that anything not utterly black and white is simply too complex for you?

    Historically, the “best” crimes, such as the Lufthansa job and the Brinks heist, evolve not out of a monocultural gang. Monocultures, typically, are weak, lacking creativity, preferring to do the “same old same old.” However, the type of scores like these have some inspiration and creativity that rarely comes out of a monoculture, leading me to suspect that either overly greedy professionals or inspired amateurs pulled this one off. The take was too large and too hard to dispose, given the limited fungibility of brand-new bank scrip. Anyone with much in the way of an understanding of how money-laundering worked should have realized that the local bank scrip, fresh in its wrappers, would be too easy to trace and too hard to launder.

    Talk and brags are worth paper they’re printed on, TWiT. *Anyone* can talk a good game…

    Likewise, I never laid blame on anyone’s doorstep, merely pointed out that the world is far more complex than those who see in black and white would like to peddle, particularly in a place where politics, religion and criminality have become so intertwined.

  • time will tell

    What a pity you didn’t even read the article before jumping into a pool of nonsense

    tut tut ah well it’s not the first time you have done that on this site is it foolish poster

  • miss fitz

    I heard a rumour at the time, unsubstantiated of course, that the PSNI were having their Christmas do in a nearby restaurant, the Apartment on the night of the heist. It’s about 5 doors down from the bank. I heard on the vine that the party broke up when the mobiles of quite a few of the officers went on overdrive and it became apparent that ‘something big’ was happening.

    Now that particular story never seems to have made it out, so perhaps it didnt happen, but it was a good yarn at the time. Imagine!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    TwiT: “What a pity you didn’t even read the article before jumping into a pool of nonsense ”

    Its the same old same old — long on rhetoric and speculation, short of facts and information. Were it truly fact, why the talking in circles, rumors this — money laundering at a bookmakers? Foolishness. Likewise, the story suggests part of what I am saying above, if taken at face value — this was a deal between Republicans and professional thieves, not a “straight” Republican operation.

    Then again, if it so easy a journalist can sort it out, why are the cops such plodders? Such child-like faith in a single news story is heart-touching… As if reporters never-ever get the story wrong in the whole of creation.

    I’ll start believing things when evidence is presented and a trial is held, not colorful yarns replete with nameless sources and petty pirate code-names in the media.

  • lib2016


    Good post and I agree with most of it but linking the bank to the Castlereagh job goes way beyond what might be reasonable. It has been years since northern nationalists of any hue believed that republicans had anything to do with that.

    It sells papers in the South and maybe she’s looking for a job with the Indo – some of their regulars aren’t aging well.

  • JG

    How much of the haul was in real money as distinct from local “accepted currency”? £16 million in notes that could only be used in the six counties, very professional!