SF protest at release of bugging transcripts

Sinn Fein has protested to Downing Street over transcripts of alleged bugged telephone conversations involving Martin McGuinness and senior figures in British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Government, the Mid-Ulster MP revealed today.

Sinn Fein has protested to Downing Street over transcripts of alleged bugged telephone conversations involving Martin McGuinness and senior figures in British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Government, the Mid-Ulster MP revealed today.

Mr McGuinness described as “disgraceful” the release of discussions he had with Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam in several newspapers.

The leaked transcripts purportedly from MI5 feature in a new paperback edition of a biography of Mr McGuinness.

In one on July 16, 1999, Mr Powell is quoted as calling a former Ulster Unionist MP William Thompson “an ass”.

Ms Mowlam is quoted on July 18 that year saying that she is “fighting” to hold on to her job ahead of a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness, in a transcript of a phone conversation on September 22, 2001, are also shown discussing fears that the Ulster Unionists may try to collapse the Stormont power-sharing Executive.

Mr McGuinness said today: “There are people within the British Intelligence Services who in the course of some 25 years have not been able to accept the implications of the peace process and the change that that peace process brings.

“After all these are the people who controlled their lives for 25 years – the securocrats at the Northern Ireland office supported by the British Intelligence Services in London.

“They controlled every aspect of our lives. So here we have a peace process coming along, we have democratic elections, we have people like Bairbre de Brun, myself and other elected representatives thrown into very important positions dealing with the health and education of people.

“But there is very deep resentment within those intelligence services that republicans have, through the mandate that we have been given and the support of the people, put ourselves at the heart of government.”

Mr McGuinness said that while it was not surprising to him that his phone conversations were tapped, he believed information acquired through such activities had been used to target republicans and nationalists and had been passed on to loyalist paramilitaries.

“This is screaming to the high heavens for answers just as the family of (murdered Belfast solicitor) Pat Finucane and the family of (murdered Co Armagh solicitor) Rosemary Nelson and many others are screaming to the high heavens for the truth about what happened to them.

“So this isn’t going to go away. It is a running story but also whatever our view about this, there are bound to be people at the heart of the political establishment in Downing Street – people like Tony Blair and Jonathan Powell and indeed many others – who will be asking very, very serious questions about how it is possible for someone to put private telephone conversations in the public domain, whatever the accuracy of those conversations.”

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