IRA quits peace talks; Ulster back to brink?
The Irish Republican Army announced Feb. 2 it is withdrawing from the Northern Ireland peace talks and rescinding its disarmament proposal, accusing both London and Dublin of bad faith by blaming the IRA for a $50 million Belfast bank heist in December. "We do not intend to remain quiescent within this unacceptable situation," said a press release signed P. O'Neill, the psuedonym siginifying official IRA positions. "It has tried our patience to the limit." Unionist leader Ian Paisely predictably responded by claiming the IRA never intended to disarm in the first place. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams declined to comment, saying he would let the IRA speak for themselves, but Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the raid blame "scuttles disarmament." The US State Department called the IRA's move "un-welcome." This could be the final crisis for the 1998 Good Friday accord, which established a local legislature to share power between Catholics and Protestants. The legislature has been suspended since 2002 because of allegations of IRA activity. (NYT, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 4; UK Guardian, Feb. 5)
So who was behind the bank heist? Renegade IRA elements that the Provisional IRA can disclaim with "plausible deniability"? Or an MI6 "black propaganda" unit--maybe linked to the Unionist armed underground for similar reasons of deniability? Or was it really just apolitical criminals that London is conveniently exploiting?