THE deal to free the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe is now off as a result of IRA involvement in the A£26.5m robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast, a government source told the Sunday Tribune this weekend.
"The deal simply doesn't arise any more. The breach of faith by republicans has put paid to that, " the source said.
Although the Taoiseach maintained on Friday that negotiations on power-sharing would continue despite the revelation about IRA involvement in the robbery, the view of ministers is that there is no prospect of a deal for a long time.
Fine Gael has called on the government to withdraw the offer to release McCabe's killers. "The Taoiseach should immediately reverse his illjudged decision to release the murderers of Jerry McCabe, a concession which he granted to Sinn Fein while their IRA colleagues were putting the finishing touches to the plan for the biggest robbery in the history of Ireland and Britain, " said Senator Brian Hayes.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde's disclosure gave even greater significance to the IRA's refusal to give an unequivocal commitment about an end to criminal activity.
"It's now clear that the most serious issue to have arisen since the publication of the comprehensive agreement is not the issue of photography but the issue of continuing criminality, " he said.
Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, said yesterday that criminality was now the most important issue in the way of a comprehensive agreement.
"I have no doubt that the Provisional movement has been spending the proceeds of crime for a very long time and that some of it has gone to fund political activity, " he said.
He added that he was satisfied that the robbery was not carried out by some freelance unit of the IRA but was an operation that had the sanction of the republican movement.