The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Bad Santa

Anthony McIntyre • 23 December 2004

The intricacy and mastery of detail put into the robbery of the Northern Bank in the heart of Belfast has led to much speculation that the 'perps' responsible for carrying it out belonged to one of the North's local militias. Certainly the most illegally efficient organisational minds on the island were not twiddling their thumbs, or despatching shoals of pickpockets through crowded streets of Christmas shoppers while first time amateurs tripped over a city centre rainbow and landed perchance on this pot of gold. No - outlaws with a strategic mind were responsible for this.

The reports thus far read like accounts from the 1978 Banstead robbery. A group of London gangsters led by Chopper Knight using a bogus policeman and relying on inside information planned and implemented a sensationalist heist with split second timing and military precision. The operation in the Blackwell Tunnel went like clockwork and caused untold embarrassment to the British police.

Given that Northern Irish gangs outside the militia world have rarely displayed such cunning and expertise, the bookies odds on this one narrow considerably the closer the pointer comes to settle on the Provisional IRA. While nobody yet has suggested anything concrete that would lead the finger to definitively point in the direction of Adams' merry men, people's knowledge of the wider world is largely mediated and heavily dependant on inferences. It is the human condition. People watch for patterns, study the form, rule out the ridiculous, consider the plausible, and them make conclusions. It is how we live. Whether the conclusions in this case have caused the film industry to cast around for scriptwriters to pen the potential blockbuster Jesse Adams Rides Again, remains to be seen. But if the Daily Telegraph, based on its briefings from British security sources, is anywhere near the mark, then the film isn't going to be about anybody else.

In the media discourse immediately following the robbery there appeared suggestions that one reason for maintaining caution against assumptions of Provisional IRA culpability was that 'despite the signs pointing in their direction, it is very difficult to believe that the leadership of the Provisionals would sanction a spectacular that would inevitably doom the fragile peace talks to failure for another lengthy period.'

To the contrary, such an action dovetails perfectly with current Provisional strategy. If the Adams outfit was responsible, then the final stages of the operation were being put into effect while the negotiations that collapsed earlier this month were taking place. When Gerry Adams stood with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, renouncing the IRA devil and all of its works, the one image that flickers to mind is of Michael Corleone renouncing Satan at the baptism of his child in the closing stages of the Godfather while his cohorts ruthlessly move through the streets of New York clad with horns, tail and cleft foot.

Provisional involvement in the robbery, if true, adds weight to the view that the Sinn Fein leadership were never serious about reaching the type of deal the DUP thought it was getting. The only way Sinn Fein was signing up for that deal was on the basis that it would sneak the IRA into government. Tom McGurk of the Sunday Business Post, thinking the deal had been all but signed, taunted the DUP that after years of trying to obliterate the IRA the only thing the party had achieved was to place the IRA at the heart of government. The DUP was lucky it didn't reach agreement. Once in government with Sinn Fein, and the robbery had occurred, the DUP would have been under serious external pressure not to buckle the new institutions. London and Dublin would have pulled out all the stops in a bid to persuade Paisley's party that it was the work of former paramilitaries beyond mainstream control. Sinn Fein relying on the IRA denial would claim it was an internal bank room brawl prompted by securocrats for the purpose of wrecking the peace process. There would have been no shortage of bungling media hacks blaming the Martians - anybody just as long as they were not peace process linked. From within the DUP and certainly from the ranks of the UUP, Peter Robinson would have been subjected to a barrage of 'Peter Provo' putdowns. And the bookies would take no bets on who would be looking at their own reflection asking, 'mirror mirror on the wall, who is the smuggest of them all?'

Whether responsible for this week's robbery or not, a functioning IRA is essential to the maintenance of a peace process which from the Sinn Fein point of view has as its objective acquisition of the maximum amount of power North and South. It is a goal aided by the persistent uncertainty that plagues the smooth functioning of the institutional dimension of the Good Friday Agreement, an uncertainty that would most definitely not be as intense in a post-IRA world. Consequently, why not rob and deny it? There will be enough forces in both governments not to mention the police and media that will cover for you, that will insist on such actions as not being deemed a threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

The trick of the peace process is to keep people endlessly participating in a process that somehow never seems to bring peace. And in the meantime the rest of us can just sit around and wait for the next robbery by the Martians. For as certain as the nose on your face it will happen for as long as there is a peace process.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

23 December 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Spectre of Imprisonment
Marian Price

Bad Santa
Anthony McIntyre

Blunkett's Interment Law Struck Down
Eamonn McCann

Trust Us, It's Not What It Looks Like
Brian Mór

ARN & Street Seen: End of the Year Comments from Davy Carlin
Davy Carlin

21 December 2004

3rd Intl. Conference Against Isolation: Speech by IRSP Delegates
Liam O Ruairc and Gerard McGarrigle, IRSP

Spot the Light
Anthony McIntyre

Unionism in the Dáil
Dr John Coulter

Let's Get Penitent!
Brian Mór

Street Seen Sleeping Bag Appeal
Jon Glackin

Life Among the Ruins: The Peru Reader
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Listen to Sharon's Little Helpers
Paul de Rooij



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