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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 14:49 GMT
Sinn Fein and DUP 'in contact'
Ian Paisley
DUP has denied contact with Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein is engaged in indirect talks with the Democratic Unionist Party despite its policy of no contact with republicans, according to Martin McGuinness.

The allegation - made on a BBC Spotlight programme - has been firmly denied by the DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson.

But Mr McGuinness, the Sinn Fein MP for Mid Ulster, said he stood by his claim that contact was taking place through third parties.

Martin McGuiness
In fact, the approach didn't come from us to them - the approach actually came from them to us

Martin McGuinness
Sinn Fein

"There is no direct contact between Sinn Fein and the DUP," he said.

"We haven't met with Peter Robinson or Nigel Dodds, or anybody acting on their behalf.

"But we are talking to people who are talking to them and they know who those people are.

"In fact, the approach didn't come from us to them - the approach actually came from them to us. But it wasn't a direct approach - it was through third parties."

'Allegations unsubstantiated'

Allegations about secret contacts between Sinn Fein and the DUP first surfaced on Spotlight last year.

The Ulster Unionist claim was unsubstantiated and rejected by the DUP.

Now the claim has resurfaced - and this time it is coming from Sinn Fein.

Mr Robinson said: "There has been no contact - either through intermediaries or in any other fashion with Sinn Fein.

"We are open and above board, people know exactly what we are doing and we will not be telling people we are doing one thing in public and doing something else in private."

While the latest allegations are unsubstantiated, they are likely to open up the DUP to fresh attacks from rivals as an election looms.

Peter Robinson
We are open and above board, people know exactly what we are doing

Peter Robinson
DUP

Last week, the DUP said there should be a new political agreement which would prevent Sinn Fein members taking their places in a devolved executive.

In a speech to his party supporters in North Antrim, party leader Ian Paisley said Ulster Unionists were running scared of elections.

He said the assembly election would provide an opportunity to force new negotiations leading to a democratic deal that unionists could support.

Northern Ireland's devolved institutions were suspended on 14 October 2002 following a row over allegations of IRA activity, including alleged spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

In a separate speech to the Young Ulster Unionists last week, Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said a decommissioning gesture from the IRA carried out on camera would not provide evidence the organisation had ceased to engage in terror.

He said the responsibility lay with the IRA to take the lead on disarming and disbanding, setting an example which should be followed by other paramilitary groups.

Spotlight can be seen on BBC One Northern Ireland at 2235 GMT on Tuesday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's political correspondent Martina Purdy:
"Although unsubstantiated these allegations could leave the DUP open to attack"

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See also:

28 Jan 03 | N Ireland
24 Jan 03 | N Ireland
13 Mar 02 | N Ireland
24 Jan 03 | N Ireland
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