JIM CUSACK IRISH TIMES columnist Kevin Myers is said by friends to have been shocked by a decision by the newspaper to spike a column he wrote about the IRA's involvement in the £22m robbery from the Northern Bank in Belfast.
The day that Myers' column failed to appear, the newspaper ran a front-page story headlined: 'IRA denies it carried out £22m Belfast bank raid' and quoted an IRA statement made to the BBC in Belfast that it was "dismissing any suggestion or allegation that we were involved".
Myers' column, correctly predicting that the IRA was responsible, was due for publication on the same day as the IRA denial, but was replaced.
Myers has declined to comment but is understood to be seeking a meeting with Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy when she returns from her Christmas holidays.
Myers' column has remained unused by the newspaper. But Myers rewrote it and sent it to the Sunday Telegraph where it was published in his weekly opinion column.
The article is highly critical of the handling of the IRA by both Governments and says that as the IRA has been let away with so much for so long, it could expect to get away such a major crime without sanction.
Myers refused to comment when contacted by the Sunday Independent but friends of the columnist say he was "quite shocked" when the column was spiked.
They said that when Myers asked why his column was being spiked, he was told the paper was carrying a story saying the IRA had denied involvement and if he had information to the contrary, he could submit a news story.
Asked about the decision to drop the column on the IRA and the bank robbery, Irish Times deputy editor Paul O'Neill said: "We don't feel the need to comment to the Sunday Independent on any article which may or may not be published in the Irish Times."
Sources in the newspaper say there was no question of any fear of libel involved in the decision to spike the column.
Sources also say it is unlikely Myers will comment publicly as he and other journalists are aware of the sacking of another columnist, John Waters, after he spoke out about the spiking of one of his columns. Editor Geraldine Kennedy was forced to reinstate Waters but the action shocked staff.
The column which was not published in the Irish Times included the following: "Last week, the IRA pulled off the biggest cash-robbery in UK history; and why shouldn't it? Is not breaking the law, and in utterly spectacular ways, what the IRA does? And what will the British Government's response to this be? Will it punish Sinn Fein-IRA by letting the next delegation of terrorists at Downing Street have only one biscuit with their tea? Or will the Prime Minister get really stern and refuse to play mother, and, continuing the centuries of British oppression, insist that the Shinners do the pouring?
"It's a joke. A ghastly, demeaning joke. To be sure, this thing called the peace process has brought us peace, but there were many other ways of achieving that. The price has been that the British and Irish governments have humiliatingly assented to a series of lies, and consented to the existence of two sets of rules - one for Sinn Fein-IRA, and an entirely different set for everyone else.
"A moral universe has been created that is wholly hostile to the ethos which enables societies to function, lawfully and decently. The Big Lie has become a way of life. Everyone knows that the Sinn Fein-IRA leadership is a single indivisible group, though everyone then pretends that it is not. Everyone pretends that the IRA is not active, though everyone knows it is extremely active. No doubt they will even pretend to believe the IRA's denials that they were last week's bank robbers."