Friday 28 November 2014

Man fears for life after spending £50,000 of 'IRA cash' on booze and women

Published 19/01/2014 | 02:30

The Northern Bank raid sparked investigations around Ireland, including this one in Cork
The Northern Bank raid sparked investigations around Ireland, including this one in Cork

A YOUNG man who discovered up to £50,000 in stolen Northern Bank notes splashed the cash on alcohol and girls in a frenzied Christmas spending spree, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

But now the young man and his family are living in fear of their lives after they were terrorised by senior Provos in South Armagh, who are believed to be behind the IRA's infamous 2004 Northern Bank robbery. It is understood the cash -- said to be £50,000 in mainly Northern Bank sterling notes -- was found hidden on lands belonging to a former prominent IRA man.

Without asking any questions the young man, who also comes from a republican family background, "gave it Dixie", in local parlance. He is said to have spent all the money on high living and presents and drinks for girls in nightclubs in the Border area.

The money is understood to have been hidden on lands belonging to a man who gardai described as a former "top bag man" for the IRA.

When he found out the money was missing, he is said to have driven to the young man's home with associates and smashed up two family cars and issued threats. The family, unable to repay the money, is understood to have made a complaint to the PSNI.

Immediately after the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004, gardai became aware that the bulk of the £26.5 (€31m ) was driven in a van from Belfast to a farm near the Border in south Armagh before being divided up. Gardai raided several homes and premises along the Louth border in the days after the raid, the biggest bank robbery in European history.

Only around £3m in cash was recovered by gardai in raids on two houses in Co Cork. The man who is said to have lost the cache of £50,000 in south Armagh is understood to have worked closely with another senior IRA figure who, at the time, was on the Army Council leadership of the IRA.

The robbery, described by gardai as the IRA's "pension fund" at the end of the Troubles, scuppered political talks at the time between Sinn Fein and the DUP, although they subsequently came to agreement after the IRA said it was disbanding in 2006.

Three men were tried but two were acquitted at trial and one subsequently on appeal.

The South Armagh IRA man who is said to have caused criminal damage to the cars and family home of the young man served a lengthy jail term in the early part of the Troubles and was released in the early 1990s.

Before his imprisonment, he was said to have been a close associate of the local leading figure, Thomas 'Slab' Murphy.

He is in his early sixties. He is still closely associated with several former IRA figures now heavily involved in fuel smuggling and other criminal activity.

In the past year, several disputes have arisen in the South Armagh-north Louth area involving former IRA figures involved in smuggling and upcoming new gangs with no existing or former republican links. Gardai said that the IRA, which once held total control over the area, has seen its grip weaken since it stopped killing people who it deemed to have crossed their criminal activities.

The killings stopped after the controversy surrounding the October 2007 murder of 21-year-old Paul Quinn, who was beaten to death in a barn in north Co Louth because he had had a fight with the son of a local IRA boss. No one has been charged with the murder.

Gardai identified 11 IRA members from South Armagh who had carried out the killing but could persuade no witnesses to come forward because of the prevailing levels of fear in the area.

Irish Independent

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