26 February 2004 Edition
IRA did not authorise any action
A source speaking on behalf of the leadership of the IRA has told An Phoblacht that "the IRA did not authorise any action against Bobby Tohill". The response came after days of speculation around an incident involving a number of men travelling in a van rammed by the PSNI on the outskirts of Belfast city centre last Friday evening.
According to media reports, the incident followed a fracas in a city centre bar. At the Millfield junction with the Falls Road, the PSNI rammed and brought to a halt a blue van. Four men were arrested and another man was taken to hospital. The injured man was later named as Bobby Tohill.
Within hours, the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde told the media that the "Provisional IRA" was behind the incident.
"The activity was Provisional IRA activity, I'm clear on that," said Orde.
Bobby Tohill, who discharged himself from hospital after treatment, was reported as saying "it was the Provos" to a Sunday newspaper. Tohill later denied speaking to the tabloid.
Tohill, however, told one local Belfast newspaper that he had made no statement about the alleged incident to the PSNI and that he would not be pressing charges.
A number of people were arrested in what the PSNI described as a follow-up operation but all were released without charge a short time later.
Four men appeared at Laganside Magistrates Court on Monday morning charged with grievous bodily harm and unlawful imprisonment. All four were remanded in custody.
In the political fallout following the PSNI Chief Constable's allegations, unionists called for the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the current political talks. Responding to the exclusion calls, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that "Hugh Orde's speedy allegation follows a pattern going back to the old RUC which was also quick to point the finger at republicans while turning a blind eye to others.
"There had been such claims about the IRA before. They have proven to be without foundation," he said.
Speaking at a weekend commemoration in Dunloy, Adams said that whatever the truth about the Friday night incident, "Sinn Féin will not be made a whipping boy, especially by those who have no interest in making the political process work".
After meeting British Secretary of State Paul Murphy and Dublin Foreign Minister Brian Cowen in Stormont, Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said that he had raised in the strongest possible terms his concerns about a political agenda being pursued by elements within the PSNI and the British system.
"There is an anti-Sinn Féin and anti-Peace Process agenda at work," he said.