Friday, February 18, 2005

They might be going away, you know

It's one of those odd coincidences that the ground under two seemingly permanent states of affairs in two different parts of the world suddenly became very shaky this week. It had seemed that most people were happy to turn a blind eye to the never quite resolved status of Syria in Lebanon and the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, constructive ambiguity being the order of the day in both cases. But now it seems that there is a greater demand for clarity.

We had posted about a month ago on the strain on Sinn Fein resulting from the widespread assumption of IRA involvement in the pre-Christmas Belfast bank robbery and as widely noted in today (e.g. Slugger O'Toole and Crooked Timber), Irish police swooped down on an island-wide money laundering operation on Thursday evening that may have laundered cash from the northern job. We have nothing in particular to add to the continually updated news today, just a few minor things to note.

In yet another odd conjunction, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was in Spain to promote his autobiography, and claims to be just watching the news (subs. req'd) like the rest of us:

The Sinn Féin President, Mr Gerry Adams, who will fly back from the Basque country this eveing said he was very concerned but cautioned against rushing to judgment.
"I do think it is a serious situation. Of course I'm concerned I'm actually flying back to try and get a handle on all of this. I've asked for a report," he told RTÉ radio.
"At the moment I would urge people just to be measured . . . not to be judgmental about all of this . . . I can tell you categorically that the Sinn Féin organisation is not involved. I can tell you that without question.

About this time last year, the presence of the Sinn Fein leadership in the Basque country would have initiated all kinds of fevered speculation about a pan European front in the War on Terror; recall that initial period after the 11-M atrocity in Madrid where Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble was joining the mendacious ex-PM Aznar in blaming the Basques, and citing the use of cellphone detonators as a potential IRA connection. But now the Shinners are in enough trouble of their own making without any wild extrapolations needed to stir the pot. Also, Gerry's denial likely hinges on a fine distinction between the culpability of an organisation and its members.

One other thing. Longtime readers of this blog will know of our distaste for the Republic's natural party of government, Fianna Fail. Thus we are frankly hoping that as the police tighten their squeeze, persons from the ruling class get dragged in. So far, the prospects are quite good, via the Irish Independent (reg. req'd):

ONE of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's most trusted troubleshooters is linked to a Cork-based finance company at the centre of the investigation into the money seized yesterday by gardai.

Banker Phil Flynn is a director in Chesterton Finance, the money-lending company whose other two directors are being questioned by detectives about yesterday's seizure of cash in Co Cork.

Mr Flynn, who is a former vice-president of Sinn Fein and a current director of the recently launched Daily Ireland newspaper, said he had been trying to get in touch with [the directors] ... He added: "Chesterton is not a big operation, it does short-term lending to people who can't get a loan elsewhere."

That last sentence description of what this fine company does could cover, shall we say, a range of potential activities. Gombeen men with baseball bats is what we have in mind.

UPDATE: Another potential Fianna Fail angle, via the London Times:

The couple [from whose home money was seized] are the founders of several financial companies, including Finance & Legal Clients Ltd and Chesterton Finance, which provide loans and other financial services and sponsor events such as horse races.

Remember, the world of horse racing in Ireland is very, very small, and at the nexus of Fianna Fail's dodgy connections.

UPDATE 2: Philip Flynn has this evening resigned from public and private positions, now that one explicit link with the laundering operation has become clear:

Earlier, Mr Flynn told RTÉ News that he had travelled to Bulgaria with the Cork businessman who is at the centre of the garda money laundering investigation. Mr Flynn said they had travelled there a few weeks ago to look at possible property investments.

Trips to Eastern Europe, mysterious property investments -- the classic Fianna Fail cocktail. We also encourage our vast readership to check out this excellent anti-Fianna Fail website. Even if you don't get the references, you'll love the pig pictures.

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