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EDITIONS
Friday, 4 October, 2002, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Mixed reaction to police raids
Unionists have welcomed a police raid on Sinn Fein offices at Stormont which was part of a major investigation into intelligence gathering by republicans.

However, nationalists have urged caution until the full facts about the searches are established.

It is believed a large quantity of documents were seized and three people detained in searches in north and west Belfast on Friday.

Among those detained was a former junior employee of the Northern Ireland Office and Sinn Fein's head of administration Denis Donaldson.

East Belfast MP Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party said the raid at Stormont was "yet another tangible indication of the links between the party and the IRA".

Peter Robinson of the DUP
Peter Robinson: Called for debate

"The fact that such a raid has taken place must drive a coach and horses through protestations that Sinn Fein is committed to exclusively peaceful means and fundamentally questions the government's continued blindness to IRA activity."

Mr Robinson said he would be calling for a debate on the affair on Monday.

Anti-agreement Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he did not believe Stormont should be out of bounds to the police.

"I think it is important that police should have access to the Sinn Fein offices at Stormont if they believe that there is evidence there of some misdemeanour or wrong doing or the involvement of people who are employed in those offices in crime," he said.

"I welcome the initiative that has been taken by the police this morning.

"Let's be clear whether people are involved at a political level or not - if they are engaging in paramilitarism, in organised crime, then they must be made amenable to the law," he said.
Alex Attwood of the SDLP
Alex Attwood: Development "clearly serious"

The SDLP's policing spokesperson, Alex Attwood, said the development was "clearly serious".

But he added: "At this stage no one should rush to judgement and when further information becomes available, further judgement can be made.

"The SDLP is making appropriate representations to determine the fullest possible explanation of what is or is not happening in respect of today's raids."

Sinn Fein said the raids were "politically motivated".

President Gerry Adams said he had complained to the British Government about the searches.

He accused the police service of being "anti-peace process, anti-Sinn Fein and anti-democratic".

'Outrageous'

Sinn Fein Health Minister Bairbre de Brun called on the Northern Ireland Secretary to say whether he had a part in the raid.

"One of the things we are very anxious to learn at this point is whether John Reid had a part in this and if he signed this warrant or authorised it, it is something he needs to explain," she said.

Ms de Brun said the search was a political attack on a political party.

"It is absolutely outrageous and it is clearly part of a political picture of intervention by the police service of Northern Ireland," she said.

"It is stemming from the time in the spring when David Trimble indicated he could foresee the possibility of bringing an end to the political institutions."

Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

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04 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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