Category: Archive

Irish Echo Editorial: Where’s the evidence?

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The current mood surrounding the Irish peace process is gloomy. At the core of the difficulties is the question of who perpetrated the bank robbery that took place in Belfast in late December. The Northern Bank raid, in which the families of two bank officials were taken hostage, netted those responsible approximately $50 million.
Both the Irish and the British governments have declared in the most emphatic terms that the IRA carried out the robbery, and that the leadership of Sinn Fein must face the political consequences.
That view may — we repeat, may — be correct.
Many observers find it inconceivable that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair would put their credibility on the line without solid proof. Similarly, the question, “who, if not the IRA?” receives no convincing response from the republican movement’s defenders.
But this does not alter the fact that no one has yet produced any evidence whatsoever to link the IRA, much less the Sinn Fein leadership, to the heist.
Further, nationalist skepticism will not have been allayed by last week’s report of the Independent Monitoring Commission. The IMC — originally set up as a sop to Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble — backed up the governments’ claims 100 percent. And it produced just as little evidence — that is to say, none — to support those accusations.
Irish republicans have always argued that the much-vaunted “independence” of the IMC is illusory. Of the IMC’s four members, one is a former high-ranking British policeman, one an appointee of the Irish government, and one an ennobled former leader of a pro-unionist political party.
Political realities within the Republic of Ireland should not be ignored when contemplating the current controversy. Support for Sinn Fein in the south has risen sharply in recent years. If it continues to do so, the establishment parties, particularly Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fail, will suffer. Hanging blame for the Northern Bank raid around the necks of the Sinn Fein leadership has clear political advantages for the taoiseach.
The current febrile atmosphere requires cool heads.
Two things need to be clearly emphasized.
First, if the Sinn Fein leadership is proven to have been complicit in the bank raid, it must face grave penalties.
Second, nothing resembling that has been proven as yet.
Now is not the time for a rush to judgment.

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