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Last Updated: Monday, 17 January, 2005, 16:14 GMT
Bank raid was IRA say ministers
Paul Murphy and Dermot Ahern were discussing the raid's impact
The Northern Ireland Secretary and the Irish foreign minister have said they are 100% convinced that the IRA was involved in the Northern Bank robbery.

Paul Murphy and Dermot Ahern met in Dublin on Monday to discuss the impact of the 26.5m raid.

Mr Murphy said the prospect of power-sharing has been dealt "a very serious blow" by last month's raid.

Mr Ahern said evasion and denial by republicans was increasing the gulf of mistrust in the political process.

He said that confidence building in the political process has taken a major hit as a result of the robbery at the bank's head office in Belfast.

'Mutual confidence'

However, Mr Ahern added: "Both governments remain firmly committed to achieving inclusive political arrangement in Northern Ireland.

"But we are very unlikely to achieve that outcome in the very near future."

Mr Murphy said: "The world has changed in terms of how we deal with the process now.

"The impact of this event on the mutual confidence, trust and faith is that they have been damaged very seriously."

Mr Murphy and Mr Ahern said the British and Irish governments would meet the political parties in Northern Ireland in coming days.

The Northern Bank's headquarters in Donegall Square West, Belfast
Millions of pounds were stolen from the bank on 20 December

He said they would consider every option put forward by the parties to move the process forward.

Questioned about financial sanctions against Sinn Fein, or the creation of a Stormont scrutiny committee which would not include republicans, Mr Murphy said he was still considering his options.

He later held talks with Michael McDowell at the Irish Department of Justice.

Last week, Mr McDowell launched a strong attack on Sinn Fein after the Police Service Northern Ireland blamed the IRA for the robbery.

After his talks with Mr Murphy on Monday, Mr McDowell said he had heard nothing from Garda intelligence to make him believe the asessment of PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde was incorrect.

At the weekend, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said if the IRA had carried out the Northern Bank raid it would have been "unacceptable".

The Democratic Unionist Party has called for the removal of allowances and privileges at Westminster from Sinn Fein's four MPs.

It follows an assessment by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde that the IRA was behind the raid on the bank head office in Belfast on 20 December.






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