RUC faces collusion row over security leak

The Northern Ireland security forces have been plunged into a fresh collusion controversy after a photocopy of confidential photographs of republican suspects was sent to a local newspaper.

One of the 20 men pictured in the document was shot dead earlier this year by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association. There were complaints at the time that sustained RUC harassment of the man had contributed to his death, but the new document has led to further allegations of direct security force collusion in the killing.

A senior RUC detective has been detailed to investigate the appearance of the document, which was posted to the Antrim Guardian newspaper. The words 'UVF' (Ulster Volunteer Force) had been scrawled on the material, but the UVF denied all knowledge of it.

The belief that the publicising of such a document would be damaging to the UVF led to conjecture yesterday that it may have been sent by a member of the security forces.

Sinn Fein said that at least eight people in another area, South Down, had been contacted by the RUC and told their personal details were in the possession of extreme loyalists. Collusion was widespread, Sinn Fein said.

The man who was killed was Danny Cassidy, a 40-year-old father of four. He was shot dead in April near his home in Kilrea, Co Londonderry, in circumstances which illustrate how existing nationalist suspicions of the security forces can be increased.

According to his family and a number of local people, Mr Cassidy had been constantly harassed by the security forces, in particular a DMSU (divisional mobile support unit) of the RUC.

The Catholic Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, declared at Mr Cassidy's funeral: 'It is unjust, irresponsible and wrong for police officers to pick out and highlight individuals in this public manner, thus putting their lives in mortal danger. This activity is wrong and unjust and it must stop.'

The bishop said yesterday that the whole affair should be thoroughly investigated.

Republican sources said that Mr Cassidy had not been a member of either the IRA nor Sinn Fein, although he had occasionally worked for the party at election times. They claimed he had been the victim of a campaign of harassment inspired by an individual member of an RUC DMSU, who was mistakenly convinced that he was an important IRA 'player'.

Other non-republican sources said they were convinced that he had not been involved in any such activity. 'But because of the degree of public harassment, a lot of Protestants must have been convinced he was,' one said.

Mr Cassidy's widow, Emmanuel, said yesterday: 'It is obvious there has been collusion between my husband's murderers and the security forces. I really don't have a lot of faith in this inquiry. It's the RUC investigating the RUC.'

British and Irish ministers and representatives of the four main Northern Ireland constitutional parties met in Belfast yesterday to re-start talks on political progress. It was decided to set up a committee, probably consisting of four people from each grouping, to carry on negotiations and refer back to occasional meetings of the full talks teams.