IRA statement on bank raid
The following brief statement was released by the Provisional
IRA last night:
"The IRA has been accused of involvement in the recent Northern
Bank robbery. We were not involved."
The statement, signed "P O'Neill", followed a denial before
Christmas that the IRA had any role in the December 20 bank
raid, the largest in Irish history.
The statement appears to have been issued in response to calls
in some quarters for a formal statement by the IRA to restore
stability to peace efforts.
There had been suggestions in some quarters that the previous
denial to the media was not in the format of a formal IRA
statement, and was somehow suspect.
Sinn Fein has said it believes the IRA. On Sunday, Mid-Ulster MP
Martin McGuinness said that if the IRA had carried out the raid
it would have been "unacceptable".
He again said he believed IRA assertions that its Volunteers
were not involved in the robbery.
The Mid Ulster MP said: "If the IRA had been involved...there
would have been a defining moment in Sinn Fein's leadership's
work with the IRA. It would have been totally and absolutely
unacceptable to me."
However, the statement was greeted with hostility and suspicion
by hardline unionists.
"P O'Neill obviously stands for Pinocchio O'Neill," said the
DUP's Ian Paisley Jr.
"Just because you deny something does not mean to say you did
not do it. It is up to the IRA to prove they did not do it."
Meanwhile, one of the Northern Bank staff forced to help an
armed gang raid the bank's vaults has spoken publicly about his
In interviews, Chris Ward said the raiders had considerable
intelligence on his family and that of the other bank official
involved, Kevin McMullan. In particular, they had used his
involvement in a soccer supporters club as a ruse to gain entry
to his home.
Mr Ward revealed the raiders had left over ten million pounds
sterling behind as they made their getaway, minutes before a
police foot patrol approached. The patrol, alerted to the
suspicious behaviour at the bank of a number of men wearing
wigs, saw nothing amiss and chose not to speak to the bank's
Asked if he had any opinion on who may have carried out the
heist, Mr Ward said he had no idea. He added that the robbers
referred to a similar raid last year on an Ulster Bank in
Strabane, a theft of a smaller sum which was linked to the
republican INLA (Irish National Liberation Army).