Mowlam faces wrath of Ulster's rank and file

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Mo Mowlam came face to face yesterday with angry Royal Ulster Constabulary officers at a Police Federation conference in Ulster. Many in the RUC are appalled at the prospect of early releases for terrorists promised in the Good Friday peace agreement. The conference chairman, Les Rodgers told Ms Mowlam: "I have to tell you that now the vote is over, we were dismayed and appalled at the decision and its implications.

"Frankly I have to tell you that there are people in the Maze and Maghaberry prisons who should not only not be let out within the next two years, but should never get out."

Meanwhile, amid mounting concern that the Tories might try to block the release of prisoners in the Lords, it has emerged that on Monday night Ms Mowlam met the Shadow Cabinet Northern Ireland sub-committee, chaired by Mr Hague, to secure the cross-party consensus for the legislation to go ahead.

Tory leaders were seeking assurances that there should be no weakening of guarantees given by the Prime Minister about the linkage in the legislation between the release of prisoners and the decommissioning of weapons.

The Shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Andrew Mackay, made clear that if they were not satisfied with the conditions written into the face of the Bill they would seek to amend it or even oppose it.

The Government, which is committed to getting the legislation on to the statute book by the end of the month, could struggle to meet its deadline if it was opposed by the Tories.

Mr Mackay said that at the meeting they had presented Ms Mowlam a number of proposals for tightening up the legislation.

"We will wait the outcome but hope that she and the Prime Minister will feel it right to include them in the legislation which will ensure its speedy passage through the House and satisfy particularly Unionist voters in the run up to the Assembly elections," he said.