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:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Honduras Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sandes Must Demand Answers
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Gilbert Mercier
Donald Trump: Caligula of the Lowest Common Denominator Empire?
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Robert Dodge
On President Obama’s Hiroshima Visit
Andrew Moss
Bridge to Wellbeing?
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail