Mates stands resolute amid the rubble

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A COMPOSED Michael Mates yesterday chose the setting of a bomb- blasted Co Down hotel to make it clear he had no intention of resigning.

'Why should I resign?' he asked. 'I have done nothing wrong, and I have the confidence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and of the Prime Minister.'

It was a robust performance, though he must hope the shattered hotel does not become a metaphor for his career.

Mr Mates insisted on first talking about the bomb, then said cordially to the local councillors accompanying him: 'I don't think you want to be in this next picture, so you can go now and then I will face the music.' After listening to the music - as provided by a clamour of reporters - he repeatedly said he had the full confidence of the Prime Minister, and would continue his job so long as that was so.

He declared: 'If it came to the position where I couldn't continue to do my job then of course I would go. I have asked senior officials and my Secretary of State and they have told me that is not the case.'

Mr Mates said he was consulting lawyers over an article in the Independent yesterday which said he used a draft drawn up by Nadir as the basis for a letter to the Attorney General when complaining about the investigation into the fugitive tycoon's business affairs.

He called the allegations 'completely untrue', adding: 'I am consulting my laywers on the implications of this article which I regard at the least as thoroughly irresponsible.'

A spokesperson for the Independent said last night: 'The Independent stands behind the article published on the front page this morning detailing Mr Mates's representations to the Attorney General on behalf of Asil Nadir. Our sources are impeccable and we will vigorously defend any action brought by Mr Mates.'