MAJOR COLLUSION THREAT
More than 50 people have been told that their lives are in danger after
it emerged that unionist paramilitaries have been given a top-level British
Army intelligence dossier on leading republicans.
Sinn Fein confirmed last night that the PSNI police visited the homes
people in the Short Strand area of east Belfast whose names and dates
birth were on the document.
The document in question was stolen last year from the joint British
Army/police base in Belfast's Castlereagh complex. The British
government admitted last July that it believed the document had
disappeared some weeks earlier in a "breach of internal security".
The UDA was later reported to be in possession of the file after it
was handed to them by a member of the Royal Irish Regiment. The RIR has
a long history of collusion with unionist paramilitaries.
A British Army officer admitted last night that the document was of a
type used to allow their forces to "monitor terrorism suspects".
South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said the scale of the warnings was
unprecedented in recent years.
"This development is clearly of concern to the people involved directly,
their families and the wider community in the Short Strand," Mr Maskey
"It has been well over a decade since such a large number of republicans
were visited in an operation like this in the city.
"The people visited were told that their date of birth were part
documentation indicating that the source of the information is some
official or statutory body.
"There is now an onus on local unionist political leaders and unionist
community leaders to speak out against these threats and let the small
nationalist and republican community in East Belfast know where they
stand on this issue."
The development has cast new light on a previous 'break-in' at the same
complex in March 2002. After initially blaming Crown force insiders for
taking sensitive documents, the PSNI subsequently blamed the IRA.
The allegations were firmly denied by republicans, but caused upheaval
for the peace process. No-one was ever charged over the affair.
UDA SEEKS TALKS
At the weekend, the UDA has hinted it may end its activities following
the Provisional IRA's decision to end its armed struggle.
In a statement read out to supporters at a Remembrance Day ceremony in
its Rathcoole stronghold in the outskirts of Belfast, the UDA said it
wants to discuss its future with the British government.
The statement, read out by Tommy Kirkham of the UDA-linked Ulster
Political Research Group, was welcomed by the British government but
greeted with scepticism by nationalists.
A spokesman for the UDA later said they intended meeting the British
government in the near future with a "shopping list" of demands.
The man said to be the UDA's north Belfast 'brigadier', Andre 'The
Greek' Shoukri appeared in court last week on a string of charges.
His arrest is said to have complicated reported plans by the UDA to meet
the international arms body to discuss weapons decommissioning.