Attacks on Sinn Fein increased dramatically this week following
the discovery of quantities of cash in County Cork and Dublin.
A find estimated at over two million pounds in Euro and Sterling
currency was linked by Garda police to a bank raid in Belfast
Details of the raids remain unclear, although excited media
coverage in the mainstream media has linked the find to the
The only charges brought in connection with the case has
been that of a Corkman accused of membership of the breakaway
'Real IRA'. SIx others who were arrested on Wednesday and
Thursday have been released without charge.
Among those mentioned in sensationalised media coverage of the
raids were a diverse group of financiers, solicitors, a
prominent advisor to Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and even
Camilla Parker-Bowles, fiance of Prince Charles.
Garda police claimed they had smashed a money-laundering
operation ring operated by "the IRA". They insisted that
unnamed tests on the cash would link it to the Northern Bank
raid in Belfast on December 20th.
Meanwhile, virtually ignored in the hype was the revelation that
cash stolen from the Northern Bank was uncovered at a PSNI/RUC
police club in south Belfast.
But news that a former Sinn Fein councillor was questioned in
regard to the cash find in Cork prompted the party's opponents
to mounted their strongest attack on republicans in recent
years. Tom Hanlon from Passage West was subsequently released
However, Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said the arrest was
worrying. "This reported arrest highlights the need for Sinn
Fein to come clean on their involvement with criminal activity.
This highlights the liability which the IRA are to the peace
process," he declared.
Sinn Fein's credibility was "in tatters", announced Labour party
leader Pat Rabbitte.
"The reality is that whatever little credibility the Sinn Fein
leadership had is now in tatters and the goodwill that had been
extended by other parties to Sinn Fein, in the hope that it
would boost the peace process, has been shamelessly abused by
them," he said.
Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern said the raids justified his
decision to lay the blame for the Northern Bank robbery at the
door of Sinn Fein.
Mr Ahern said: "I wouldn't have said [it] if I hadn't been given
"When the Commissioner of the Garda Siochana, who I have
enormous respect for, and the Garda Siochana tell me their
professional opinion, not alone have I a responsibility to do !
that but I have a duty to do so."
It was not clear if he would back heightened unionist demands
for the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the political process.
"We had 30 years of exclusion in Northern Ireland. All we ended
up with were thousands of people killed, thousands of people
maimed, a few generations of young people from Northern Ireland
and many from the Border region living in the United States,
Canada and Australia to get away from it," he said.
But he said there would be a "price" if Sinn Fein wanted to
remain in talks: "The price is democratic means, respecting the
security forces North and South: the reformed security forces of
the North, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and working
for a democratic future."
These comments are the culmination of a wave of attacks by the
establishment political parties which has been linked by
republicans to Sinn Fein's efforts to make crucial elections
gains in May.
Sinn Fein stands to dominate a large number of local government
councils across the Six Counties, as well as increasing its hold
in the Westminster parliament. The election could see the
party become the largest in the North.
Speaking on his return from Spain, Mr Adams said there was "a
consensus among conservative elements that Sinn Fein presents a
threat to their vested interests, that Sinn Fein's growth
through democratic and peaceful means and support for this
party, the only all-Ireland party on this island, is what is
concerning them," he said.
"If there is a matter to be conducted by the gardai, whoever it
affects, that should be allowed its full course," he added.
"If you want to get to the nub of the current controversy and
crisis, it isn't a crisis within republicanism, it's a crisis of
confidence among the conservative parties and it's a crisis more
importantly of the peace process."
Mr Adams said a "disgraceful" smear campaign was underway to
discredit the party.
Speaking in Strabane this afternoon, Mr Adams said the focus
should be on the peace process and not not smashing Sinn Fein.
"In order to distract attention from all other matters they are
trying once again to smear republicans with the criminalisation
slur," Mr Adams said.
He said there had been "trial by media" in recent days. And
denounced efforts to associate republicanism with criminality.
"No republican worthy of the name can be involved in criminality
of any kind. If any are they should be expelled from our ranks.
We are not involved in criminality and we will not tolerate such
behaviour," he added.