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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail