Dissident denies stealing inmates’ Christmas cash
A huge row over missing money has erupted between a leading dissident republican and an Irish-American group which raises funds for IRA prisoners and their families.
Friends Of Irish Freedom (FOIF) has accused senior Belfast dissident Carl Reilly of opening Christmas cards addressed to prisoners and taking money from them.
It claimed some of the money had now “disappeared”.
Veteran republican fundraiser Cathleen O’Brien also claimed that she’d been threatened and harassed in New York by two people linked to the dissident paramilitary organisation Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH).
Reilly has denied that Christmas money still hasn’t been given to some prisoners’ families, or that any cash is missing.
ONH, the most active dissident group, was behind recent attempts to murder police officers with two bomb traps in north Belfast.
O’Brien said two individuals, originally from Belfast but now living in the US, had attempted to intimidate her.
“If I’m threatened again I’ll go to the police,” she said.
FOIF sent Christmas cards containing cash to the families in Northern Ireland of 19 dissident inmates.
But the prisoners’ money accidentally ended up with Carl Reilly, national chairman of the political group Republican Network for Unity (RNU), which at its recent AGM sent “comradely greetings” to ONH.
Reilly (35) was jailed for five years in June 2000 for his part in a gun attack on the then Woodbourne RUC station in west Belfast in January 1999.
Ms O’Brien said: “Carl Reilly opened envelopes addressed to prisoners and took out money, which he had no right to do. He has admitted doing this.
“The money arrived in Ireland on Christmas Eve and should have been with the prisoners long ago.”
On January 10 police seized some of the cards and money in a raid on business premises in west Belfast, but the items were later returned.
O’Brien said: “Over seven weeks after the money arrived in Ireland, at least five prisoners’ money is still missing.
“RNU won’t answer our questions on where it is. In 40 years campaigning for prisoners I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Former Sinn Fein south Armagh representative Jim McAllister, whose son Turlough was convicted of bomb-making offences last year, said: “I’m told a Christmas card containing money was sent from America for my son. He has never received it.”
Reilly told the Belfast Telegraph he and two other RNU members had opened “no more than four envelopes” addressed to prisoners.
He said money for a Real IRA prisoner was mistakenly sent to Dublin, but had been “sorted out”.