PEACE PROCESS RAIDED
Highly publicised police raids on alleged IRA properties in
northern England have derailed crucial talks on reviving the
peace process, taking place at the same time in London.
Yesterday, the PSNI announced that it had conducted raids in
Manchester as part of an investigation into the Provisional IRA.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams questioned the integrity of the
PSNI police's Assets Recovery Agency (ARA), saying its assistant
director, Alan McQuillan, was a former member of the RUC Special
Branch, an individual known to be opposed to the peace process.
There was also concern at the apparent smearing of individuals
under investigation. Media reports, apprently tipped off by
McQuillan, quickly added that the raids were part of an
investigation into prominent south Armagh republican Thomas
The Manchester raids took place as Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams
and Martin McGuinness prepared for Downing Street talks with
British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
With decommissioning chief General John de Chastelain declaring
just 10 days ago that all IRA weapons had been destroyed, the
meeting was to focus on a fresh push to revive the power-sharing
administration in Belfast.
But the talks were overshadowed by the fallout over the
publicity accorded to the touted "smashing" of the IRA's
While Mr Adams railed against the evident political agenda
behind the raids, unionists warned the development could further
derail the peace process.
Mr Paisley, who was in Downing Street for separate talks, backed
the move but claimed it should have happened sooner.
"I wish the police every success and I trust that soon these
people will be brought to the courts, have British justice
applied to them and be removed from our society which they have
cursed for far too long," he said.
But Mr Adams challenged the allegations and hit out at ARA's
Belfast chief Alan McQuillan.
He demanded: "Have the Assets Recovery Agency named some person?
"I am not going to respond to what are obviously briefings
headed up by a man, Alan McQuillan, a former Special Branch
"I don`t think it's any accident and I am not surprised that
this is trotted out today. This is obviously a political
Sinn Fein's Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy insisted today that
Mr Murphy, one of his constituents, was being unfairly
implicated in criminal activity.
He said the official media statement by the ARA made no mention
of any republicans, yet the agency appeared to be giving private
briefings "to try and point the finger at different people".