Adams seeks answers as public backs talks
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams is to demand an explanation from
the head of the Dublin government, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, over
his recent allegations linking the Sinn Fein leadership to a
major bank robbery in Belfast before Christmas.
Mr Adams' is to hold a meeting with Mr Ahern in Dublin next
Tuesday. He is also expected to meet British Prime Minister
Tony Blair soon.
Speaking in Belfast, he said remarks by the Taoiseach that the
Sinn Fein leadership knew of plans to rob the Northern Bank were
untrue, highly offensive and profoundly damaging.
Mr Adams said: "What the Taoiseach has accused me and Martin
McGuinness of doing is being involved in a conspiracy, to be
involved in the prior knowledge of the largest bank robbery in
the history of these islands.
"That is what he has accused us of being involved in and I find
that highly offensive.
"I believe in straight talking on these issues.
"When such an allegation is made with nothing to back it up and
is totally wrong, we need and we deserve both an explanation and
some sense of where this path takes us."
He said all sides had arrived at a "defining point in the entire
process" and he accused parties in Dublin of bashing Sinn Fein
and discriminating against his party.
The Sinn Fein president said: "I want the Taoiseach to explain
to me, man to man... the basis for him making this totally
unfounded, offensive and wrong allegation."
Mr Adams also firmly predicted that the truth would come out
about the Northern Bank raid.
"When the truth does come out there will be red faces. The red
faces will not be red Sinn Fein faces," he said.
He was also asked if there was any chance of the North slipping
back into conflict following the latest and deepest crisis in
the peace process.
He replied: "Not in my view should it be contemplated. But who
could have foreseen Omagh [the dissident bombing in 1998]."
In a statement earlier this week the Provisional IRA said they
were not involved in the Northern Bank robbery. Mr Adams
welcomed the IRA statement, which he said was quite clear.
The PSNI police chief Hugh Orde, however, has said he will
resign if it is shown that the IRA were not responsible. He was
speaking in a meeting with the Policing Board, during which he
outlined suspicions that prominent republicans were behind the
heist. However, no evidence has yet emerged connecting any
group to the raid.
Unionist hardliner Ian Paisley has insisted that a fresh attempt
to broker a power-sharing agreement with Sinn Fein was off until
cast-iron guarantees are given that all IRA activities were
"There's no chance of a deal until the IRA are brought to heel
and made amenable to the law," he said.
Yesterday, Mr Blair declared that he could no wait forever for
all sides to "make up their minds" about the peace process.
Mr Blair said it was no longer possible to have a situation
where political parties were linked with paramilitary groups.
Mr Blair called on all sides to abandon "terrorist offences and
"Unless or until it is absolutely clear that things have
changed, fundamentally, then it's difficult to see the way
forward on that inclusive basis."
Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Gerry Kelly will be in Washington
next week as US officials consider their approach. However,
they are believed to have rejected unionist demands for visas to
be denied to Sinn Fein leaders.
Meanwhile, a poll published today shows a large majority of
voters believes that the Dublin and London governments should
continue to negotiate with Sinn Fein for a deal in the North.
Some 62 per cent believe the governments should continue, while
just over a quarter believed negotiations should be suspended
over the recent allegations.
A majority of voters also said they did not believe that the IRA
was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery, or said they
didn't know or had no opinion.
Those polled by MRBI were equally divided about Sinn Fein's
participation in a coalition government in the South, with 39%
in favour and 39% opposed.