Sinn Fein claims office was bugged by the Government

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Indy Politics

Sinn Fein accused the British Government yesterday of planting a sophisticated bugging device in one of its Belfast offices. Gerry Adams, the party president, claimed it was the second device uncovered in the past week and said he would present it to Tony Blair in person.

Sinn Fein accused the British Government yesterday of planting a sophisticated bugging device in one of its Belfast offices. Gerry Adams, the party president, claimed it was the second device uncovered in the past week and said he would present it to Tony Blair in person.

The device was reportedly uncovered on Monday evening at Connolly House in Anderstown, west Belfast. Only days earlier, Sinn Fein claimed to have found another bug at the home in Belfast of a woman who works for Mr Adams.

The allegations come as Northern Ireland's political parties finalise their positions in preparation for this week's talks at Leeds Castle in Kent.

They are likely to cast a shadow over the talks, which aim to find a way to restore devolution to Northern Ireland. Mr Adams said that the buggings were a "gross violation" of Sinn Fein's rights. He was speaking at a hastily arranged press conference, where the second device was on display.

"It highlights the continuing hypocrisy of a British system which uses its enormous resources to spy on its political opponents," he said.

"It is also evidence of the 'war mentality' among the securocrats who run the Northern Ireland Office and whose only engagements with the peace process is to subvert and undermine it."

Vowing to take the device to Mr Blair at Leeds Castle, Mr Adams added: "It is not a matter of just showing the Prime Minister, it is a matter of returning it to the Prime Minister. It is a matter for him to decide if this is the way to proceed ­ if he hasn't authorised this, who has?"

The most recent device was disguised as a joist beneath a first-floor office. It contained microphones pointing up into the office and down into a conference room below, according to Sinn Fein. It was found while work was being carried out on the building.

Last week, the party also put on display a bug it says had been planted in the attic of a flat in Anderstown.

Mr Adams said the party worked on the principle that its offices were always under electronic surveillance, and added: "This is simply the proof."

He added: "This is not the way to make peace. The British make it very, very hard to make peace when this goes on." It is not the first time that Sinn Fein has accused the Government of bugging. Five years ago, the party claimed that a bug was planted in a car used by Mr Adams and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, during an attempt by the US senator George Mitchell to revive the Good Friday Agreement. In 2003, The Times newspaper also published what was claimed to be a series of secretly recorded telephone conversations between Mr McGuinness and senior government officials.

Yesterday the Prime Minister's official spokesman declined to comment on the alleged find at the Sinn Fein offices. "We don't comment on such matters," he said. "As for the coming talks, they are about the issues which the Prime Minister identified two years ago ­ decommissioning, an end to paramilitarism and a complete commitment to power-sharing."

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