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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Row over 'IRA activity' deepens
The IRA ceasefire is under scrutiny
The IRA ceasefire is under scrutiny
The republican movement has been challenged by Northern Ireland's first minister to "come clean" over IRA intelligence gathering.

David Trimble said he had asked for an urgent meeting with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams following an IRA denial that it is targeting politicians or military bases.

Mr Trimble made the call after meeting senior police officers on Monday, Mr Trimble said it was "absolutely essential" that republicans "come clean" about what is going on.

But later, at a news conference at Stormont, Mr Adams said: "We have come clean."

David Trimble: Under pressure to get answers from Sinn Fein
David Trimble: Under pressure to get answers from Sinn Fein

And he questioned Mr Trimble's sense of urgency because he said his offer of a meeting on Monday evening had been refused.

An IRA leadership source told the BBC at the weekend it did not carry out the break-in at the Castlereagh police complex in which sensitive Special Branch files were stolen and blamed it on "some section of British intelligence".

But the police have said IRA involvement in the breach on 17 March, in which sensitive security documents were stolen and a Special Branch officer assaulted, was one of the main lines of inquiry.

Subsequent police raids in republican areas uncovered IRA intelligence files containing details of senior Conservative politicians and British army bases.

Mr Trimble said a principle line in the police inquiry into the break-in was pointing towards senior republicans being involved.

He said unionist concern over the state of the IRA ceasefire was growing.

Mr Trimble said it was in the interests of Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness "if they want to convince people that their project is a purely political one, for them now to close down paramilitary activity and to ensure that they move rapidly to disband the IRA."

'Hysteria'

Speaking to reporters at Stormont, Mr Adams said he had offered to meet the Ulster Unionist leader at the earliest opportunity.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams: Smear campaign against Sinn Fein

But he said the allegations being made about IRA activity amounted to "hysteria" and were attempts to smear Sinn Fein in the run-up to the Republic of Ireland's general election in May.

Accusing elements of the British establishment of engaging in "conspiracy politics" and trying to create a crisis, Mr Adams challenged Prime Minister Tony Blair to seize control of the situation.

The Sinn Fein president said there was "no evidence of any crisis at a popular level or on the street" and that people needed to be "calm and measured".

Unionist motions

The Ulster Unionist Party has introduced a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly calling on Secretary of State John Reid to report on the current status of the IRA ceasefire.

Mr Trimble said the motion was "capable of gathering broad support" and called on other unionists to back it.

But Dr Reid has already said he believes there is "no imminent threat" to the ceasefire.

He said on Monday he had been advised there that had been no enhanced threat to any Westminster politician.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party is seeking backing for a rival motion calling for Sinn Fein's exclusion from the assembly.

DUP assembly member Ian Paisley junior said the IRA was an organisation of "killers and liars" and its "denial meant nothing".

It is likely to be next week before either motion comes before the assembly.

Downing Street meeting

In London, Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith discussed his party's worries about the list at a private meeting with Tony Blair and the Northern Ireland Secretary in Downing Street.

Afterwards, he said he had been assured that the prime minister considered it a matter of the "utmost seriousness" and a "priority item".

Security sources have told the BBC they believe the IRA intelligence files found in the raids, showed that the organisation had been involved in gathering intelligence on the people named in the past few weeks.

But in the statement to the BBC, the IRA said the arrests and raids in republican areas were "part of a smokescreen".

It is understood none of the Special Branch files stolen from Castlereagh were found in the raids.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith
"This matter needs to be taken further"
BBC NI's political correspondent Martina Purdy
"Mr Trimble tabled a motion calling on the secretary of state to rule on the IRA ceasefire"
See also:

22 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
Potential crisis over ceasefire status
21 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
IRA says ceasefire intact
19 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
IRA files 'list Tory members'
19 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
Analysis: Story behind the break-in
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