A dispute over missing funds has erupted between dissident IRA republicans and an Irish American group which helps to raise money for IRA prisoners and their families.
Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF) has accused Carl Reilly, a senior Belfast dissident, of intercepting Christmas cards intended for prisoners and stealing money from them. The organization claimed some of the money had “disappeared.”
Reilly has denied that he stole any Christmas money or that any cash is missing.
Cathleen O’Brien, a republican fundraiser in the U.S., claimed that she had been threatened and harassed in New York by two people associated with dissident paramilitary organization Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH).
O’Brien claims that two individuals, originally from Belfast, attempted to intimidate her in the U.S.
“If I’m threatened again I’ll go to the police,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
ONH is the most active dissident group and was behind a recent attempt to murder police officers with two bomb booby traps in north Belfast.
FOIF mailed Christmas cards which contained cash to the families in Northern Ireland of 19 dissident prisoners.
However, the prisoners’ money ended up with Reilly, chairman of the political group Republican Network for Unity (RNU).
According to O’Brien, “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.”
In January, police officers seized some of the cards and money during a raid on a business premises in west Belfast.
O’Brien added, “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 of campaigning for prisoners I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Jim McAllister, a former Sinn Fein South Armagh representative whose son was convicted of bomb-making offenses in 2010 said, “I’m told a Christmas card containing money was sent from America for my son. He has never received it.”
Responding to the claims, Reilly told the Belfast Telegraph he and two other RNU members had opened “no more than four envelopes” addressed to prisoners.
He said that money for a Real IRA prisoner was mistakenly sent to Dublin but the mix up had been “sorted out.”