FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Belfast Heist

by HARRY BROWNE

Dublin.

In a peaceful corner of Ireland, near a little fishing-and-ferry village called Passage West in county Cork, a man is out behind his house quietly trying to burn stacks of money.

In a train station in Dublin, a man meets his friends, carrying more than £50,000 sterling in cash stuffed in a detergent box — yes, it’s a “money-laundering” operation.

In Bulgaria, one of Ireland’s leading public figures — he’s chairman of the Irish operation of a major Scottish bank, he’s in charge of implementing the government’s plans to decentralise the civil service, he’s a pal of the prime minister — is hunting for properties with a colleague who has a lot of money to invest.

Someone, probably the IRA or members thereof, stole about $50 million from the Northern Bank in Belfast city centre in December, as previously discussed in Counterpunch. In the last few days, across the Republic of Ireland, we’ve begun to see what may prove to be the unhappy ending that is all-too-common in such otherwise-legendary tales: arrests, finger-pointing, excuses, cops courting publicity, politicians hiding from it.

All the events mentioned in the first three paragraphs above happened over the last couple of weeks. All of them are now being linked speculatively to the bank raid, though no one has been officially charged yet with anything more than membership of an illegal organisation — not even the guy who was allegedly burning the traceable money and who reportedly had AK-47 ammunition and cocaine around the house along with singed banknotes. More than £2 million sterling was reportedly found at another house in county Cork.

Unfortunately for the republican movement, one of those arrested this week was a former Sinn Fein councillor, moving the finger of blame closer to the IRA, which has denied involvement in the heist. On the other hand, the man with the money in the detergent box was reportedly associated with the dissident “Real IRA”.

And Phil Flynn, the man who was in Bulgaria with a suspected money-launderer, is uncomfortably close to the government. On Friday evening he resigned from a raft of chairmanships and directorships, but there is no denying that the former trade-union official — whose embrace of “partnership” in industrial relations has taken him all the way to the centres of corporate and political power — is prime-minister Bertie Ahern’s favourite “fixer”, apart from himself.

Flynn denies any wrong-doing and may well be an innocent party. He is certainly getting the benefit of the doubt from most media, which are otherwise going to town on the other people arrested and hugely prejudicing their prospects of a fair trial. The practice of not publicly naming criminal suspects before they are charged has broken down somewhat in the media’s breathless excitement about recent events. Police in the Republic say it may be months before the investigation leads to a clear set of charges. And there is an awful lot of money still unaccounted-for — much of untraceable.

In an appetising twist to the story late on Friday, cash apparently linked to the bank raid was found at a south Belfast sports-club frequented by members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The cops claim it was planted there to embarrass them and distract from the finds elsewhere.

Whatever the truth, this week’s arrests come in the midst of a concerted political and media campaign against Sinn Fein, which has a real prospect of winning the seat in every Irish-nationalist constituency in Northern Ireland when the UK general election takes place in May. Party president Gerry Adams has been getting angrier, challenging his erstwhile talks-partner Bertie Ahern to have Adams arrested if he really believes he had a hand in planning or authorising the heist. (It is widely believed that the IRA and Sinn Fein leaderships overlap in the persons of key figures such as Adams.)

Pundits differ as whether there is significant pressure on the Sinn Fein leader from within the republican movement. But there’s one thing for sure: the pressure is on from outside.

HARRY BROWNE lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology and writes for Village magazine. He can be contacted at harrybrowne@eircom.net.

Harry Browne lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology and is the author of The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power). Email:harry.browne@gmail.com, Twitter @harrybrowne

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail