Crown Forces tapped McGuinness's phone
A 48-year-old man, a former member of the RUC police Special
Branch, is being questioned about the leaking to a journalist of
transcripts of telephone conversations between Sinn Fein's Martin
McGuinnness, while he was Minister for Education, and members of
the British government.
The revelations are contained in the paperback version of a
previously published and unauthorised book about the republican
leader's life and come after an anonymous claim that the IRA
still has "spies" within the British government's Northern
Ireland Office who are being allowed to "roam the corridors of
The book prints the transcripts of several leaked telephone calls
alleged to have taken place between McGuinness and then Secretary
of State Mo Mowlam, British chief of staff Jonathan Powell, and
McGuinness says he "doesn't recognise the accuracy" of the
transcripts, but added that the action illustrates that British
Intelligence had continued to spy on republicans even while Sinn
Fein was focused on the peace process.
"The fact that my phone was bugged, and that elements within the
British military establishment were bugging my phone even when I
was in government, is disgraceful," said McGuinness at a Sinn
Fein press conference held on Wednesday 30 April.
"It is obvious this was taking place when people like Gerry Adams
and myself and others within the Sinn Fein leadership were doing
everything in our power to ensure the success of the peace
process. I think it's all the more disgraceful that this was
happening at a time when Bairbre de Brun and myself were involved
in the very serious work of providing a proper health service and
proper education service for the children of the North of
"I don't think that its unreasonable to expect that someone in
the positions that we were holding could have privacy around an
essential telephone conversations that we were having to ensure
the success of that peace process."
One of the transcripts is alleged to have been recorded on 16
July 1991 - just one day after a failed bid to form a
power-sharing executive at Stormont.
The conversation took place between Martin McGuinness and Tony
Blair's spokesman Jonathan Powell as the two discussed the state
of negotiations. McGuinness warns Powell that the mood within
republicanism is "very, very bad".
"I have to say that since the second of July there is a view
within republicanism that the British government have taken a
strategic lurch in the direction of old approaches," McGuinness
tells Powell sternly. "I think that people are of a view that
there was an attempt to shaft Sinn Fein and that what was going
on was totally and absolutely ouside the terms of the Agreement."
And later in the exchange, as Powell and McGuinness discuss
ongoing difficulties in the process, an obviously frustrated
McGuinness says: "They (unionists) are not interested in the
Ireland Ministerial Council and the like... All you have to do is
listen to William Thompson last night on BBC2."
"Agh, he's an ass," says Powell.
"Well it doesn't matter," says McGuinness. "He may be an
there are a lot of other asses around him... like Willie Ross..."
"Quite a lot" agrees Powell, laughing.
"...Jeffrey Donaldson, Roy Beggs, Clifford Forsyth, Rev Martin
"Please don't repeat all the names," says Powell.
Expressing Sinn Fein's concern at the leaked documents on
Wednesday, McGuinness told the press conference that "these
documents are clearly Special Branch documents from someone in
the PSNI and from our perspective - and I think this is a widely
held belief, not just from within the broad nationalist community
but also much wider afield - it is obvious that this system has
been spying on the nationalist community and the political
representatives of the nationalist community for over 30 years.
"They've bugged our cars, they've bugged our homes, they've
bugged our offices, and the information that has been obtained
has been provided to British agents and through them to unionist
death squads, who have killed hundreds of nationalists throughout
And the Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator also revealed that "while John
Reid was the British Secretery of State I remember on one
occasion in his little drawing room at Hillsborough Castle, I
asked him directly - 'Have you authorised the bugging of my
phone?' And he told me directly, 'No'.
"I believe my phone is still being listened to. I believe that
because there are people within 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 our lives for some 25 years - the securocrats at the
NIO, supported by the British intelligence services - they
controlled every aspect of our lives.
"There is very deep resentment within those intelligence services
that republicans have - through the mandate that we've been given
and the support of the people - found themselves at the heart of
government. And they're opposed to that; they're in sympathy with
"So the war is not over for the securocrats, and I believe that
the publication of this material and the anonymous allegations
that were made yesterday, is quite deliberate, quite malicious,
and clearly designed to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and
the peace process."
* Sunday Times Ireland Editor Liam Clarke and his wife Kathryn
Johnston were released on bail today [Friday] from police custody
after being arrested in connection with the leaking of the
transcripts. Downing Street has refused to comment on the matter.