Adams rejects WikiLeaks claims

 

Fianna Fáil hostility toward Sinn Féin’s electoral ambitions led Bertie Ahern to accuse the party's leaders of knowing about plans to rob the Northern Bank in December 2004, Gerry Adams claimed today.

According to the latest WikiLeaks disclosures of secret US cables, both Sinn Féin president and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were fully aware of the IRA’s plans to carry out the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004.

The leaks reveal that then taoiseach Bertie Ahern was convinced Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness – whom he also believed to be IRA leaders – held critical peace process negotiations with him when they knew the IRA was planning the £26.5 million robbery.

In a joint statement this morning, Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness rejected accusations that they knew the robbery was going to take place.

“We both absolutely rejected these unfounded allegations at the time and do so again today. We publicly and privately challenged Bertie Ahern to produce evidence to support his allegations. He didn’t. We told him they were groundless and untrue," it said. "It was and is our view that this had more to do with the electoral rivalries between Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil".

Asked on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme whether or not he convinced Mr Ahern that he knew nothing about the robbery, Mr Adams said that was a matter for him to answer. “You’ll have to ask him. Bertie has a very peculiar relationship with the banks which is now a matter of public history, but this was part of an ongoing smear".

Both the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern and the Minister for Health Mary Harney confirmed today that it was “the belief” of the Government at the time that Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness had prior knowledge of the raid.

Speaking in Dundalk today, Mr Ahern said discussions with Sinn Féin were dramatically restricted as a result of “information that we had that people were aware and had prior knowledge of these events”.

Ms Harney said the raid had a "huge effect" on the development of the peace process.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen refused to answer questions on the allegations today. “I am not commenting on any of these Wikileaks issues. Those matters were dealt with at the time I see no reason why I should add to any of
that,” he told The Irish Times in the Isle of Man.

The disclosure on the bank robbery also revealed the Government believed British intelligence agencies had a senior informant at a high level within the republican movement.

Then US ambassador to Dublin James Kenny reported in February 2005 that a Department of Justice official told the embassy of Mr Ahern’s concerns about Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness.

The official, according to the cable, told the ambassador “that the GOI [Government of Ireland] does have ‘rock solid evidence’ that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are members of the IRA military command and for that reason, the taoiseach is certain they would have known in advance of the robbery”.

Mr Adams and the IRA insisted at the time that the IRA did not carry out the robbery.

Mr Adams, set to run in Louth in the forthcoming general election, insists he was never an IRA member. Mr McGuinness has admitted IRA involvement, but long in the past.

The robbery was raised in another cable in June 2005. Mr Kenny reported the taoiseach had expressed his concerns to then special US envoy to Ireland Mitchell Reiss. “The Taoiseach . . . believes Sinn Féin leaders were aware of plans to rob the Northern Bank even as they negotiated with him last fall,” it said. “Publicly, he has been unprecedentedly critical of Sinn Féin and, until recently, [there were] greatly reduced private contacts as well.”

A Sinn Féin spokesman last night said there was “not a shred of evidence” that ever linked the IRA to the robbery. “It is no surprise that political opponents of Sinn Féin at the time such as Bertie Ahern should have been trying to smear Sinn Féin . . . and they are still doing it.”

The context of the cables was that in late 2004 there was real hope of a powersharing deal between the DUP and Sinn Féin, which later collapsed.

A separate WikiLeaks disclosure on fallout from the murder of Northern Ireland solicitor Pat Finucane revealed that MI5, Britain’s internal security service, offered to hand over sensitive files on the case to inquiries into his death. The disclosure was described last night by supporters and relatives of Mr Finucane as “highly significant”.