In the wake of the International Monitoring Commission’s damning findings that senior Sinn Féin figures had been involved in sanctioning the robbery, Mr Adams called on Mr Ahern to “put up or shut up” over allegations the party leadership had prior knowledge of the heist.
The IMC “firmly concluded” the robbery was carried out by the Provisional IRA and authorised by its leadership. But more crucially, the report went on to state that senior SF members were also centrally involved.
“Some of (SF’s) members, who are also senior members of PIRA, were involved in sanctioning (the robbery),” it stated. It continued: “We do not believe the party has sufficiently discharged its responsibility to exert all possible influence to prevent illegal activities on the part of PIRA.”
Mr Adams mocked the report as “rubbish” before launching into a furious broadside against Mr Ahern, clearly motivated by his view that the IMC had appropriated Mr Ahern’s allegations into the report.
In marked contrast, the Government yesterday welcomed the report and said its conclusions “concur with the intelligence available to both governments”.
The Taoiseach’s spokesperson said Mr Ahern would continue to seek a way out of the current impasse. The Government also rejected SF claims that the singling out of SF was driven by southern electoral motives and the Government did not respect the party’s mandate.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell said it was time for the Provisional movement to move out of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ territory and for the IRA to go out of business.
Describing the report as independent and objective, he said the findings spoke for themselves. When asked why he refused to name the SF members whom he accuses of being on the army council of the IRA, Mr McDowell said he had reserved the decision.
He had, he said, to weigh the benefit of naming names against the benefit of continuing to conduct negotiations with a party of which those senior people were leading members. He noted that the IMC may deal with that issue in its next full report, due at the end of March.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said that in light of the report, the Criminal Assets Bureau should now be directed to pursue assets gained by IRA criminality. He described the report as a “searing indictment” of SF and the IRA.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said the report would leave no reasonable person in any doubt as to whom was responsible for the raid.
Commission member John Grieve, formerly of the Metropolitan Police, said the material at its disposal was “as strong as anything I have ever seen.”
The commission said it had not just been “marking Hugh Orde’s homework” but had made its own investigations and approached and used its own sources.
Mr Grieve said the Provos had showed “brass neck” in their denial of involvement in the robbery.