Britain said Tuesday it will impose new penalties on Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army-linked party, as punishment for the IRA’s alleged robbery of a Belfast bank — the biggest cash theft in history — and other major crimes in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy told the House of Commons that Sinn Fein’s four members would lose their right to claim expenses, a benefit worth more than $750,000 annually.
However, the four Sinn Fein members — including party leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness — do not lose their Parliament offices or their access to other meeting rooms for news conferences, Murphy said.
In January 2002, Britain granted Sinn Fein rights to use the Parliament building and claim expenses even though the four members refuse to participate in Commons work, citing a required oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
Punitive actions against Sinn Fein were recommended last month by the Independent Monitoring Commission, an expert panel that blamed the IRA for stealing British pounds and euro notes worth $50 million from the Northern Bank in Belfast, hijacking two tobacco shipments and ransacking Northern Ireland’s largest wholesale warehouse.
The IRA has denied all the accusations.
The power-sharing administration at the heart of the British province’s 1998 peace accord collapsed in 2002 amid arguments over continuing IRA activities. Efforts to revive power-sharing failed in early December when the IRA refused to permit photos of its required disarmament.
The bank robbery followed a week later.