13 January 2005 Edition
Accusations and agendas - BY MARTIN McGUINNESS
Since the robbery at the Northern Bank on 28 December, the media has been rife with innuendo, speculation and rumour — all of it about what organisation was capable of carrying out such an audacious and meticulously planned robbery. And so, without one scrap of evidence, the finger was pointed at the IRA by irresponsible media elements solely on the basis that, in their opinion, the IRA was the only organisation capable of carrying out such an operation. The agenda was set. I spoke to the IRA and asked them if they were indeed responsible. I was assured that they were not. I believe this to be the case.
Hugh Orde claims that he has had 45 of his top detectives working round the clock since 28 December in an attempt to solve this case. Yet, when he went to the media on Friday to allege that the IRA was responsible, he did so declaring an unwillingness to produce any evidence to back up his allegations. When he first took up the post of RUC Chief Constable, he said that he would not act under political pressure and would not be a political policeman. Since his appointment, he has made at least four interventions at critical points in the Process based on nothing more than briefings from his so-called 'Intelligence' advisors. Nobody could describe these interventions and their timing as anything other than politically motivated.
There are clearly elements within the British system and unionism intent on wrecking the Peace Process and on using the robbery in Belfast as a pretext for this. They must not be allowed to succeed. And if Hugh Orde is not one of them, then he is certainly allowing himself to be manipulated by them.
Hugh Orde's comments on Friday are nothing more than politically biased allegations. He has not produced one scrap of evidence. We are witnessing a renewed attempt to undermine the Peace Process. We need to think long and hard about who is setting this agenda and why.
This is more to do with halting the process of change which Sinn Féin has been driving forward than with anything that happened at the Northern Bank.
There is as much evidence to say that elements of the British Intelligence Agencies, and they would be more than capable of pulling off such a robbery, were responsible as there is to blame the IRA. Sound outlandish? But is it possible? Remember Castlereagh, the most burglar-proof British security base in the North of Ireland?
Hugh Orde's predecessor, Ronnie Flanagan, initially said that it was an inside job, only to change his mind a few days later and blame the IRA, when the full ramifications of it being an inside job dawned on him or when the securocrats realised how it could be used to undermine republicanism's contribution to the Peace Process. To this day, no evidence has been produced to implicate the IRA in the Castlereagh break-in, but the political damage was done.
Sinn Féin has a substantial electoral mandate achieved at the ballot box, something that no British Minister or securocrat has, and we will resist any attempt by them or anyone else to marginalise or criminalise our party or those who vote for us. We have told both the British and Irish governments so.
All previous campaigns to smash Sinn Féin, to criminalise and marginalise the republican struggle, failed, and so too will this one. Sinn Féin represents the majority of nationalists in the north and we will not dishonour their trust. We intend to deliver the change promised to the people. The securocrats and the DUP need to come to terms with this political reality.
I have no doubt that these allegations herald a full frontal assault on the Sinn Féin political project and on the integrity of our mandate in the run up to the Westminster and Local Government elections. And while we will give careful consideration as to how to respond to this as the situation develops, I am disappointed at the Taoiseach and Mark Durkan parroting the politically motivated accusations of the DUP and British securocrats.
There is no doubt that there are those within the NIO who will seek to exploit this situation to bring about the exclusion of Sinn Féin and ensure that a comprehensive deal will not be achieved. But the politics of exclusion failed for 30 years and any attempt to impose them again would not be tolerated.
I believe that we need to look at the facts. The IRA has made it clear that it did not carry out this robbery. Hugh Orde went to the media on Friday, not on the basis of facts or evidence, but on the basis of reports from securocrats who have been working to undermine the Peace Process for years. The objective of all of this is to subvert efforts to build on what has been achieved and to halt the process of change.
Sinn Féin's priority is to advance the Peace Process and to defend the rights of those who vote for us. Hugh Orde's and the British Government's actions over the last number of days has in effect written a 'Wreckers' Charter' for those opposed to the process of change that we all worked so hard to put in place.
But we will not allow them to achieve their aims. We will continue to push the two governments on the need for them to deliver in partnership all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement that are still outstanding. Attempts by the DUP to use the present circumstances to further delay the programme for change cannot be allowed to succeed.
We remain in contact with both governments and remain determined to continue to advance the Process. The governments know how much was achieved before Christmas and that the priority now must be to get the comprehensive deal across the line.