'IRA' robbers put peace talks at risk

An attempted armed robbery yesterday, in which IRA members are alleged to have been involved, cast doubts on talks scheduled for next week between the Government and Sinn Fein.

In a separate development last night, it was announced the talks have been postponed from Wednesday until Friday, apparently because the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, has secured an appointment at the White House on Tuesday.

Security sources said ''a top IRA team'' was involved in an abortive raid at a petrol station in west Belfast yesterday morning. Five arrests were made during and after the incident. The RUC said a replica firearm, masks and money had been recovered.

Last night, republican sources said two of those held were republicans. But they claimed they had no connection with the incident.

The attempted robbery happened only two hours before John Major warned there must be ''no more robberies'' and that republicans must commit themselves to exclusively democratic methods. The incident comes three weeks after a postal worker was killed during an armed raid in Newry, Co Down. The IRA later admitted that its members were responsible for the raid, but blamed it on a problem in its chain of command.

The senior republican Martin McGuinness is now due to lead a Sinn Fein delegation into talks with British government representatives in Belfast on Friday. Before then, the authorities are likely to want full clarification of the west Belfast incident. There was no official British comment last night.

Mr Major said in in London yesterday that the Government was offering a fair place in political life to those who committed themselves exclusively to peaceful methods. He said: ''But by exclusively I do mean exclusively - no more punishment beatings, no more robberies, no more racketeering, no more blackmail.''

After the Newry robbery, the IRA said those involved had been acting on instructions but maintained the leadership had not approved the raid.

This explanation suggested a figure in the organisation senior enough to give instructions had not grasped the fundamental point that the use of firearms had not been sanctioned. Clarification of this by the IRA brought relief to both the British and Irish governments, since it seemed to have been established that the IRA was committed to stopping the use of guns, thus ruling out any further armed robberies.

Yesterday's raid means republicans will again face pressure to say whether this was a rogue operation or one which had been sanctioned. Given the delicacy of the situation, and the importance which Sinn Fein attaches to next week's talks, armed action at this point would suggest that the republican movement is facing a serious shortage of funds.

The Newry killing's importance was shown by the fact that within hours the Irish government said it was halting the early release of republican prisoners from southern jails. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, said at the time that he very much hoped the incident would not affect the timetable for talks.

But while all sides are hopeful of moving the peace process on, the latest raid is too serious to leave unclarified. A main topic in the talks is set to be the IRA's arms. Sir Patrick said yesterday, before news of the west Belfast raid, that the talks would depend on proposals for disarming the IRA.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones