Tory politicians on republican 'hit list'

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Names of Conservative politicians has been discovered on a republican hit list in Belfast, it was revealed today.

It was seized during a series of searches following a break–in at Special Branch offices in the city which was blamed on the IRA.

Security sources in Belfast confirmed that a list of names had been recovered in the New Lodge area of the city.

It is understood acting Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn today briefed Professor Desmond Rea, chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

One source said: "We are talking about some really sensitive stuff."

Conservative Central Office in London confirmed it was aware of the list.

It was found during a series of searches in Belfast and Londonderry following the break–in at Castlereagh on St Patrick's Day (March 17) – but it was not among the documents stolen when three intruders overpowered a Special Branch officer.

Sinn Fein has denied the IRA was involved in the burglary.

But security chiefs have insisted the missing documents from Castlereagh were in the possession of the Provisionals.

A cook who once worked in the east Belfast complex and who left Northern Ireland just before the raid has been questioned in New York by detectives from Belfast. The FBI is also involved in the inquiry.

Sources in Belfast today said there were no immediate plans to seek his extradition, but he could be interviewed again.

Security sources disclosed the politicians on the list were being alerted.

It was unclear how many names were on the document.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Quentin Davies was among those informed of the discovery today. Mr Davies visited the republican stronghold of south Armagh on Tuesday.

A number of army bases are understood to be on the list as well.

Among the politicians likely to be warned that their name features on the document is David Ervine, an Assembly member with the loyalist Progressive Unionists.

He said: "This has huge implications for the peace process and I think it has the potential to scupper it."