Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Thursday, 26 May 2005 16:35 UK

Sinn Fein 'bug' auction reaches $4,500

Bidding on a bugging device allegedly found hidden in the floorboards of Sinn Fein's Belfast office has reached $4,500 in an auction, the party has claimed.

Part of the bugging device which was being sold on eBay
Part of the bugging device which was being sold on eBay
The device was originally put up for sale on online auction site eBay but the company removed it because it said it contravened its rules.

Described on the site as an "MI5 British spy device", it was being sold, accompanied by a framed, handwritten letter from party president Gerry Adams.

The letter said MI5 had admitted bugging the Sinn Fein office.

The party is now selling the bug and letter package on its website. Interested bidders must send an email giving their name, address and phone number along with a bid in US dollars.

On Wednesday, eBay said it had removed the item "because it contravened clauses 6.2 and 9 of the eBay users agreement".

Sinn Fein chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin criticised eBay's decision to remove the item as "a clumsy attempt at censorship".

"There was widespread interest in the auction in Ireland and in many countries across the world, something which obviously made MI5 deeply uncomfortable," he said.

"Last night, without warning, the auction of the bugging device was removed from eBay."

The device was said to have been discovered at Connolly House in Andersonstown in September 2004.

At the time, the party said the device had two microphones - one directed at an office, the other at a meeting room.

A handwritten letter by Gerry Adams is also for sale
A handwritten letter by Gerry Adams is also for sale

However, the device, which no longer works, is being sold as an historical artefact.

The accompanying letter also explains that Mr Adams and party colleague Martin McGuinness gave part of the bugging device to Tony Blair during political talks in Leeds Castle in Kent that same month.

Mr Adams adds: "When we were leaving that meeting I held on to a section of that device.

"Since then I have been in correspondence with various elements of the British system to establish who authorised this electronic surveillance operation.

"In January 2005, Eliza Manningham-Butler, head of MI5, admitted that MI5 bugged Connolly House.

"This note is authentication by me that the section of the bugging device which it accompanies is part of the Connolly House device which was returned to Mr Blair."

Before it was removed, as many as 12 bids were made on eBay for the item, with the highest offer in excess of US $800.

Sinn Fein 'bug' on internet auction
25 May 05 |  Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein displays 'bugging device'
06 Sep 04 |  Northern Ireland

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