Sinn Fein says that talks began in 1990

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Indy Politics
A SINN FEIN spokesman travelled to Westminster yesterday to release documents designed to show that republicans had been in secret contact with the British for three years, writes David McKittrick.

Tom Hartley, national chairman of Sinn Fein, alleged the Government had lied about the contacts.

The Government's version of events is that the secret contacts, admitted last November by Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, lasted between February and November last year and had involved only exchanges of documents through intermediaries.

But Sinn Fein's dossier appears to show that regular contacts, including face-to-face meetings, had gone on between October 1990 and last November. Mr Hartley said: 'The British government now refuses to deal with Sinn Fein and refused to provide clarification of the Downing Street declaration. But throughout this record of exchanges there are examples of clarification sought by Sinn Fein and given by the British Government.'

Downing Street sought to dismiss the documentation produced as 'simply a diversion' and said Sinn Fein should explain why the IRA was still killing people.

It has been clear for some time the declaration is not about to bring about the IRA cessation of violence which some optimists had hoped it might produce. Sinn Fein is trying to soften the impact of that.

The meeting was organised by theLabour MPs Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. Lady Olga Maitland, secretary of the Tory backbench Northern Ireland committee, accused Sinn Fein at the meeting of 'cynical hypocrisy'.