25 January 2006

Solicitors' body 'bewildred over IRA link claim'


25/01/2006 - 18:18:20

A body representing solicitors in the North was tonight bewildered by claims from Ian Paisley that many lawyers in the North are involved in money laundering for the IRA.

Law Society president Rory McShane said he would be seeking meetings with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Assets Recovery Agency after the Democratic Unionist leader made the allegation following a meeting with British prime minister Tony Blair.

Mr Paisley said after meeting Mr Blair last night he had seen a secret security briefing document which detailed the extent of IRA criminality.

The North Antrim MP alleged: “The list measures up the thoughts of the police and all the other branches gathering intelligence in Northern Ireland, that number one, there’s many lawyers engaged in money laundering which is a scary thing.

“Then there is the fact that they feel that the monies that are being made through smuggling, especially of cigarettes, is another challenge to the whole economy.

“They also say there’s a lot of truth as far as oil and that is concerned as well.

“They also point out that we would need also to be concerned about what happened in the bank robbery and that they are convinced that three of the highest officers of the IRA were involved in that. They go on and on.”

Mr McShane said the Law Society was surprised to hear the claim given the relationship they had with the head of the Assets Recovery Agency and the PSNI.

The Law Society president told the Press Association: “We have no evidence of what he is saying.

“People are really conscious that the bottom line is if solicitors are involved in money laundering, they will not only go to jail but they will also lose their certificate to practice.

“We will have dialogue with the PSNI and ARA on this to satisfy ourselves that there is nothing of substance in what he is saying.

“I suspect something has gone askew between the briefing that was given and how that was relayed to Mr Paisley.

“If there were serious substance to this we would definitely have heard from the ARA and the PSNI, given the relationships we have.”

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said Mr Paisley‘s claims were reminiscent of comments made in the House of Commons in 1989 by Douglas Hogg when he was a junior Home Office minister shortly before the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

The North Belfast MLA said: “Ian Paisley should immediately withdraw his remarks and seek to minimise the undoubted damage and offence which he has already caused.”

Mr Kelly‘s Assembly colleague, Raymond McCartney also called on Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain to state if he had any knowledge of the confidential document Mr Paisley had had given to him and to probe the source of such claims.

“This is just the latest incident when DUP spokespersons have claimed to be in possession of or to have had sight of British security services‘ documents,” the Foyle MLA said.

“It is obvious that securocrats within the PSNI and other British agencies determined to thwart the peace process, have been supplying so-called secret documents to the DUP over the years.

“Their purpose is to enable the DUP to continue with the stance of not engaging with Sinn Fein.

“I am calling on Peter Hain to take action to ensure that this malevolent interference in the political process by faceless securocrats and political police sources in an attempt to prevent necessary change is halted.

“The DUP cannot be allowed to use allegations and manufactured security assessments as an excuse to frustrate the political process.”

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