IRA funds worth up to €200m put at risk in United States
Republicans in 'state of panic' as Wall Street woes hit investments
The IRA may have lost a substantial amount of its fortune in the banking collapse in the United States, according to republican sources.
Sources say that in recent years the IRA's financial bosses moved large amounts of money through front companies into a number of Wall Street financial institutions that were offering high dividends, but which have been devastated by the sub-prime market collapse.
One source put the amount invested in the US institutions at €200m. They said most of this was made through the sale of commercial properties mainly in the Republic.
Advisors brought in by the IRA in the aftermath of the 1997 ceasefire directed that IRA money be invested in the then booming property market.
According to the sources, the same people advised to get out at the top of the property market and sink the money into high-dividend deposit accounts in Wall Street in the past few years.
The extent of the losses incurred in the crash over the past few weeks is not known. However, sources in Northern Ireland said that one senior IRA finance figure made four apparently frantic visits to New York as the markets began showing signs of impending disaster and then collapsed. According to the sources, well-known republican figures in Belfast were in a "state of panic".
Mr Adams and senior Sinn Fein figures enjoy an extraordinarily lavish lifestyle in the US, staying in suites in top hotels and dining in top restaurants. During his visit to New York for this year's St Patrick's Day celebrations, Mr Adams had lunch with top Wall Street financiers at Bobby Van's restaurant on 54th Street, a favourite haunt of Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack in the Fifties and Sixties.
According to republican sources, however, large amounts were deposited with the very same high-yield financial institutions in Wall Street which were making extraordinary profits on the back of the sub-prime market in the US. The sources say that recent indications are that the IRA has lost heavily.
Another irony for republicans is that Sinn Fein's four TDs in the Republic voted to support the Irish government's bailout of the banking system 11 days ago, despite the party's stated claims of being "socialist".
There are also indications that despite the amount of money at its disposal for elections north and south in recent years, the party's coffers appear to be drying up. Up to last year Sinn Fein had more constituency offices and full-time staff than most of the political parties north and south put together.
However, since mid-2007 it has been hit by a series of resignations, mainly of full-time workers and councillors. According to one source one of the current sources of disillusionment among the remaining 50 or so councillors in the Republic has been the withdrawal of "political operating expenses" to top up their council salaries and expenses which rarely exceed €30,000 a year.