Irish Justice Minister accuses Sinn Fein leaders of belonging to IRA command

[JURIST] In an unprecedented move, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell has publicly claimed that three of the most prominent figures in the Sinn Fein [party website] political party, including party leader Gerry Adams [BBC profile], are members of the IRA Army Council, the internal group in charge of the terrorist organization. Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's deputy leader and one of the men named by McDowell, said "What [McDowell] has alleged is absolutely false," but stopped short of calling McDowell a liar, so as to comply with Ireland's liberal libel laws. Sinn Fein leaders also released a statement denying the allegations [text]. Monday's Boston Globe has more. In a related development, the Independent Monitoring Commission [official website], a joint British/Irish antiterrorism organization, released a report [PDF text] last week blaming December's record $50 million bank heist [Scotsman report] on the Provisional IRA and accuses Sinn Fein leaders of having sanctioned the plan. The implications for Sinn Fein leaders are potentially severe: political parties agreed to renounce all connection with violence and crime as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement [PDF text, BBC News backgrounder], and sanctions for failing to do so include the reduction or elimination of their salaries and funding cuts for the parties involved. Ulster Unionist Party leader and architect of the Good Friday Agreement David Trimble [BBC News profile] has called for the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the government [BBC News report]. Responding to accusations it was involved in the heist, the IRA withdrew its offer to disarm [BBC News report]. Gerry Adams initially challenged Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern [BBC News report] to "arrest" him in connection with the heist, but the next day suggested that he and Ahern instead meet to discuss the issue and "clear the air." AP has more on recent arrests suggesting the IRA was behind the heist.

 

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