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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Sinn Fein accused of political conspiracy
Sinn Fein has been accused of "political conspiracy on a massive scale" by Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble following allegations of IRA intelligence gathering.

He said he wanted Prime Minister Tony Blair to act following a raid on Sinn Fein's Stormont offices last Friday.

The crisis in the Northern Ireland political process is deepening and on Monday the Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith called on the government to suspend the Stormont Assembly.

He said recent events were "horrendous" and he said the govenment had a responsibility and duty to act and unless direct rule was imposed it would be guilty of prevarication.

Allegations of IRA intelligence gathering within the Northern Ireland Office are to be debated by the Stormont Government on Tuesday, following a request by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams:
Gerry Adams: "Attempt to blame republicans"

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams dismissed the crisis as "political theatre" and said it was aimed at discrediting republicans in anticipation of a threatened unionist walkout from the executive.

"In my view this is because an element within the British system, working out that the institutions are likely to come down, are trying to ensure that if and when that happens, it will happen at a time and in a way that republicans get the blame," he said.

Mr Trimble is to meet Mr Blair on Tuesday to discuss the latest crisis in the peace process.

On Monday Mr Trimble said he would delay taking action until he had heard what the prime minister had to say.

Mr Trimble said he did not need to wait for due process to act, as "the smoking gun was now evident" and that "this conspiracy was ten times worse than Watergate".

The Northern Ireland first minister also accused the Northern Ireland Office of "massive incompetence" over the affair.

Mr Trimble also said: "There has been political espionage on a massive scale and as far as one can see that espionage was directed by the republican movement for the purpose of aiding their political projects, their political tactics."

Exclusion move

DUP leader Ian Paisley said: "We are asking for an urgent debate on the motion that this house notes with great concern what has happened in this province over the last number of days so we can have a full blooded debate on this issue."

He said until a debate was held his party would not take part in normal assembly business.

Mr Paisley said he had filed a letter with the Speaker's office containing notice of the DUP ministers' resignation from the Northern Ireland Executive, to come into force immediately if Mr Trimble withdrew his ministers.
DUP leader Ian Paisley: Call for emergency debate
DUP leader Ian Paisley: Call for emergency debate

The move came after a senior member of Sinn Fein, Denis Donaldson, appeared in court on Sunday charged with having information likely to be of use to terrorists.

He was one of four people arrested in north and west Belfast last Friday as part of an ongoing investigation into IRA intelligence gathering within the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr Donaldson, Sinn Fein's head of administration in the assembly, has been charged with possessing documents including the personal details of the senior British army officer in Northern Ireland, Lt Gen Sir Alistair Irwin.

He denies the charge. He was remanded in custody at a special Sunday sitting of Belfast Magistrates Court.

'Breathing space'

Mr Blair's official spokesman called for a "short breathing space" to take stock of the situation.

He said there should be a "pause" while meetings arranged for this week took place.

Mr Blair is to meet the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern on Wednesday.

The prime minister is also expected to meet Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and the SDLP's Mark Durkan.

Northern Ireland deputy first minister and SDLP leader Mark Durkan said his party did not yet have enough information about the circumstances surrounding the raid at Stormont to make any "definitive judgments".

Alliance Assembly member Seamus Close said Secretary of State John Reid had now no option but to place a motion to exclude Sinn Fein from the executive before the assembly.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"There is almost a feeling of inevitability that the Assembly will collapse"
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
"This is ten times worse than Watergate"
Chief Constable Hugh Orde
"I regret the way it was done"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis





See also:

05 Oct 02 | N Ireland
04 Oct 02 | N Ireland
06 Oct 02 | N Ireland
07 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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