Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ireland's Cancer

As Hedges relates, the outcomes unleashed by extreme nationalism and the violence it uses are hellish - it snuffs out human lives and coarsens our culture with crude propaganda, and everwhere cultivates an indifference to humanity. In this way, the IRA, even with a limited level of violence are the greatest threats to Ireland's cultural keys of learning, art, memory and compassion.

A friend sent me the article below this morning. I've never been a fan of the Provos, and neither have I had much time for the often hysterical denunciations of the Sindo.

My brothers were with me on Saturday. They think that the Irish Republic faces a threat of Weimar dimensions. I might not have agreed with them three months ago, but I've come around to believe just that.

From the Sunday Independent 13 March 2005

Laundering operation was a SF/IRA conspiracy to overthrow this State

GARDA COMMISSIONER Noel Conroy does not give press conferences. He eschews publicity. So his decision to go before the television cameras on Friday is an indication of the commissioner's view of the magnitude of the operation the Garda Siochana was undertaking in Cork and across the country starting last Wednesday evening.

Members of the Garda Special Branch, and the Fraud and Criminal Assets bureaux had just launched the biggest ever set of raids on the offices of accountants, solicitors and finance companies across the country looking for documents linked to offshore accounts, property deals, business ownerships and money transactions which are estimated to run into hundreds of millions of euro.

There is said to be a massive amount of financial activity ranging from pubs to trading corporations situated in countries outside the European Union in order to avoid the scrutiny of EU financial regulations. There are believed to be companies in Africa and Eurasia involved.

And they all have one thing in common. They are all linked to the IRA.

What's more, the money was clearly not for personal enrichment alone. The amounts involved were evidently for a purpose far beyond the purchase of holiday homes or new cars. The finance operation uncovered is on a scale to mount a massive campaign to subvert the sovereign state of the Republic of Ireland, to undermine its political parties and maybe even its political institutions and Constitution.

It is, gardai say, the IRA's banking system, to be usedto overthrow the government of Ireland.

A key part of the grandiose plan was the subverting of Sinn Fein's political opposition. The IRA is in the process of building a black propaganda campaign to attack TDs and other elected representatives. Across the country, the IRA have been spying on members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Progressive Democrats. Units of IRA volunteers, under the guise of Sinn Fein "activists" have been building up dossiers on members of constitutional political parties with the intention of either destroying their reputations or blackmailing them.

This information is to be used to destroy the careers of politicians and public figures at key points, mainly in the run-up to the next general election in which Sinn Fein hopes to establish itself as a major presence in the Dail.

One instance, known to the Sunday Independent, involves a plot to reveal details of the extramarital activities of a TD in a constituency where Sinn Fein has hopes of gaining a seat.

This year the party is launching a series of major profile-building events across Ireland - in line with the so-called centenary of the foundation of Sinn Fein.

The party will be spending millions in promotional activities and recruitment drives through this year, followed next year by further rallies and commemorative events leading up to the 2007 general election, when it hopes to more than double its representation in Dail Eireann.

Although republicans and their supporters dismiss such claims as fantasy, gardai and members of Army Intelligence have become increasingly uneasy about the intentions of the IRA and Sinn Fein.

They believe the leadership of the Provisionals has decided that it has completed its strategic project in Northern Ireland, having overthrown the SDLP to become the biggest nationalist party, and has now turned its attention to its grand plan of taking power in the Republic.

Within republican circles this project is commonly referred to as the "re-conquest of the South".

This project is, as the Minister for Justice Mr McDowell commented last week, on a "colossal" scale.

It requires hundreds of millions of euro to pay for the small army of activists of all shades ranging from local "community" workers to high-flying financiers handling the organisation's money, and the spies who are involved in subverting the politicians and institutionsof the State.

The truth has finally dawned on Government that rather than be content with a political agreement that would have seen Sinn Fein in a Stormont Executive, the Provisionals were intent on an altogether bigger prize.

It is believed that this awareness underlies the Taoiseach's reference to the sense of "betrayal" in the duplicity of the Sinn Fein and IRA leadership throughout the years of painstaking negotiations to try and achieve a political settlement in the North.

The Taoiseach is now believed to accept that even if the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party had agreed to a deal with Sinn Fein last December, the IRA would still have carried out the Northern Bank raid.

Mr Ahern has been told that the planning for the raid had been under way for months and was agreed by the IRA Army Council - which includes Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness - at the very same time that he and the British prime minister were desperately trying to get the DUP to agree to share power with Sinn Fein in the North.

If the two prime ministers had succeeded and the raid had gone ahead, the DUP would have been shattered and the North could have been pitched into turmoil.

THE robbery of the stg£26.5m was, however, a completely disastrous miscalculation on the part of the Provisionals.

The IRA may have a highly sophisticated money-laundering operation which funds its huge political machine - with as many paid members as all the other political parties in Ireland put together - but the strain placed on this system by the injection of stg£26.5m was too much.

Over the past weeks the signs of the strain began to emerge as two separate garda intelligence-gathering operations came together, when members of the Special Branch following a dissident republican in Co Cork and anti money-laundering detectives found that they were watching the same people meeting together and exchanging packages of cash.

The Special Branch detectives were on the routine surveillance of a Cork member of the Real IRA, who appeared to have an unusually close relationship with a man who was both a senior IRA figure and a member of Sinn Fein.

The two had been friends since childhood and although they had apparently gone in different directions when the Real IRA split from the Provisionals in 1997, they were still in close contact and obviously working together.

This unusual and baffling relationship between the two Cork men had caused considerable interest and this interest doubled when the Branch men found that in the past month the two had held meetings with a financier at the centre of a completely separate investigation by CAB and the Garda Fraud Bureau into suspected money-laundering.

Some weeks ago it became clear that what the two sections of the Garda Siochana were witnessing was the movement of cash from the North to Cork and the laundering of that money on a very large scale.

High level conferences were held in Garda Headquarters overseen by Commissioner Conroy, Deputy Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and the Force's chief intelligence officer, Assistant Commissioner Joe Egan.

A joint operation was put into place, overseen by the director of Support Services, Assistant Commissioner Tony Hickey, the gardai's most experienced and successful crime investigator and the man who led the hunt for the killers of Veronica Guerin.

The operation swung into action last Wednesday with the first of a series of raids that went on over the following 48 hours, involving eight arrests and the seizure of thousands of files and computer hard drives relating to financial dealings here and abroad.

Of key interest are documents relating to the setting up of trading companies and property deals outside the European Union in places such as Bulgaria, Turkey and Libya.

Last week's operations are merely the start of an investigation which gardai say will run for years. As Commissioner Conroy confirmed at his press conference the operation is aimed at the "subversive" activities of the Provisional IRA.

Garda sources have confirmed that the €2.3m, and other money seized in Cork, is from the Northern Bank raid.

It is believed that this constituted only part of the IRA laundering operation and that most of the other dirty cash was being laundered by other people on both sides of the Border.

The Garda believe the operation uncovered in Cork is only a small part of the overall 'IRA volunteers have been building up dossiers on members of constitutional political parties with the intention of destroying their reputations or blackmailing them'

IRA laundering operation and that separate financial operations are in place in Dublin, the midlands and the Border area. The PSNI are also understood to be looking at financial operations just over the Border in the Newry area and in Derry.

The laundering of the Northern Bank cash has been a difficult and complex issue involving the transaction of the sterling notes for other "clean" sterling, its conversion into euro and its subsequent transfer out of the State.

The fact that this is proving difficult, even for a laundering operation on the scale of the Provisionals', was evidenced in the fact that following the raids in Cork one man gave himself up at Anglesea Garda Station in Cork city and handed over €175,000 in cash which he said he had been asked to keep by one of thefigures at the centre of theinvestigation.

Then, on Friday afternoon, another man was arrested while trying to burn tens of thousands of Northern Bank notes in his back garden in Passage West.

THE garda operation into the IRA's money-laundering is now the biggest and most complex ever undertaken by the force. More than 100 detectives, mainly from the Criminal Assets Bureau and Bureau of Fraud Investigation, are expected to be engaged almost permanently over the next few years in tracking down and revealing the extent of the IRA's illegal fund-raising operation.

The Special Branch will also play a key role and is already understood to have identified a very large number of businesses, licensed premises and hotels that have been acquired on behalf of the IRA. In particular, they have identified a substantial number of pubs which have been acquired by members of SF who previously had no obvious means. It is understood that once the gardai are assured they have exposed the core of the IRA money-laundering operations they will switch their attention to the businesses, pubs and houses, that have been acquired by members of the IRA and Sinn Fein through what is now corrupt or unjust enrichment.

Gardai have pointed out that in the 10 years since the first IRA ceasefire, the IRA has turned itself into the biggest organised crime organisation in the history of this State, comparable to the Mafia in the United States, and has become a threat to the institutions of democracy.

As the police and FBI in the United States embarked on a war against organised crime, so in this country the Garda Siochana is embarking on a dangerous and complex campaign against a highly dangerous and powerful terrorist-criminal organisation.

Jim Cusack