31 May 2006

Dirty tricks claim by Sinn Fein chief


By Tom Peterkin, Ireland Correspondent
(Filed: 31/05/2006)

Martin McGuinness claimed yesterday that his political opponents were behind allegations that he spied for the British and were waging a dirty tricks campaign to sabotage the restoration of the Northern Ireland assembly.

The Sinn Fein chief negotiator said he was "one million per cent" certain that no evidence could be produced to support the allegations printed at the weekend. He described the article in the Sunday World newspaper as "hooey".

At a press conference at Stormont, Mr McGuinness suggested that some people in Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party were determined to hinder political progress at a delicate time. Tony Blair has given republicans and Unionists until November this year to resurrect devolution.

"I am a thousand, I am a million per cent confident no one will ever produce anything against me, he said.

"I have worked all of my adult life as an Irish republican. Many of my comrades have been killed. Many IRA volunteers have been killed and I, of course, knew many of them."

The allegations against Mr McGuinness were made by Martin Ingram, a former Army intelligence handler who exposed Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci as a British agent, codenamed Stakeknife, operating at the heart of the IRA. Mr Scappaticci denied the claims, but has fled Northern Ireland.

Mr McGuinness said questions ought to be asked about the role played by Mr Ingram. "I don't even know the person, but the reality is that we have a person planked in the middle of this process, who has coalesced with the DUP," he said.

The DUP denied being behind the claims. Gregory Campbell, the DUP MP for East Londonderry, said his party had nothing to gain from the allegation: "I do not know whether Martin McGuinness was, or is, an agent. I do not know if this is an accurate claim or not."

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