Irish confident that Dublin not to blame : The Leak : The Irish peace c risis

The Irish government was confident last night that the leak of the Anglo-Irish draft document did not come from within its ranks and promised "consultation" with Whitehall "to seek to establish how it occurred." Amid speculation in Dublin and London that pro-Unionist sources within the British government originated the leak, there was a widespread assumption in Whitehall that the Government would launch a full enquiry.

One reason why there are no hard answers to the question of who leaked the contents of the document is that the draft had a relatively wide circulation for something so sensitive. Numbered copies ran into double figures within the British government. A larger number was distributed, with a slightly lower classification, than those of the Downing Street declaration before it was published in December 1993. Drafts have also periodically sent out to the Northern Ireland Cabinet Committee.

The parties in the peace process all had their motives. Both the Ulster Unionists and the British government are adamant that no document, not even a detailed account of its contents, was exchanged between ministers and the Northern Ireland politicial parties in their recent meetings. If we take that at face value, then the assumption must be that it came orginally from within either the British or the Irish governments. The Times story enigmatically described the draft as coming "from sources in Dublin". But few officials or politicians in London last night subscribed to that view.

There were fewer takers still, at least in London, for the superfically attractive conspiracy theory that it was a piece of kite flying by the British government in order to apply pressure on Dublin to modify its stance on what should go into the final version, through an outraged Unionist reaction - and to get the worst of the Unionist reaction over with before the full document was published.

The evidence suggests the purpose was destructive and was perpetrated, as Sir Patrick put it yesterday, by an "enemy of the peace process."

One reason for the suggestion that an intermediary who had seen or been read parts of the document lay behind the leak, was that there are tiny errors of punctuation and, more significantly, absences of underlining and square brackets in the quotations in the Times. It was even noted that a reference to Lord Cranborne as a pro-Unionist member of the Cabinet in the Times story was deleted for later editions of the newspaper.

Dick Spring, deputy Taoiseach and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, said: "I am convinced that the leak could not have come from any Irish source in Dublin and we will be in consultation with the British government to seek to establish how it occurred." Martin McGuinness, who yesterday led a Sinn Fein team to the latest round of talks with British officials in Belfast, said the leak clearly came from a pro-Unionist source and was aimed at destabilising the peace process.

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