Extremist 'encounter' admitted by RUC

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The Independent Online
THE Royal Ulster Constabulary admitted last night that a police chief inspector had 'a brief stand-up encounter' with a member of an extreme loyalist organisation after weekend violence in Protestant areas of Belfast.

This contradicted a public assurance given by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, who said on Monday: 'That person did not speak to the RUC.'

An RUC statement went on to say that 'no deal, no agreement, no understanding' had been reached between the force and the illegal Ulster Defence Association, claiming that the chief inspector had not known the UDA man would be present.

The statement said the chief inspector and a superintendent had gone to the home of a local loyalist councillor to meet the Rev Ian Paisley. When the loyalist paramilitant arrived, it said, the superintendent made it clear that the police would not have any discussions with him.

The statement added: 'The chief inspector left the room and the man was informed that there would be no discussion with him. The man complained to the chief inspector in heated tones about police activity in the area . . . It was a brief stand-up encounter and the man then left.'

Reliable sources among loyalists and a security service member with detailed knowledge of the meeting said last night that the RUC statement was misleading and the meeting had been more substantive.

Earlier yesterday, the opposition leader in the Irish Republic called on Sir Patrick to clarify the facts about the incident. John Bruton, leader of Fine Gael, said he would be very concerned if the RUC had any contact 'with a criminal gang like the UDA or Sinn Fein or the IRA'. He added: 'The most important thing . . . is that the truth should be told . . .'

Leading article, page 19