The Secret IRA Meetings: Government and Sinn Fein met daily, says McGuinness

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MARTIN McGUINNESS, the Sinn Fein leader approached by the Government, said yesterday that contacts were continuing 'on a daily basis'.

He said the face-to-face meetings were ended by the Government when John Major reached an accord with James Molyneaux, leader of the Official Ulster Unionists, for support in defeating Tory rebels on the Maastricht treaty.

But Mr McGuinness said the contacts had continued 'sometimes on a daily basis'. He said in addition to the key ministers, the name of the contact was known to two Northern Ireland Office civil servants, John Chilcott, the permanent under-secretary, and Quentin Thomas.

Mr McGuinness has denied allegations he is Londonderry chief of the IRA, northern commander of the IRA and IRA chief of staff.

He has been a member of on Sinn Fein's ruling National Executive for more than a decade and said he met a British government official from the Foreign Office in October 1990, when Baroness Thatcher was still in power.

'It was just a discussion; it was a meeting at their request which I agreed to do after consultation with my colleagues.

'It was in a quiet residential area somewhere in the north of Ireland. I arrived by car; he arrived by car. There was absolutely no security whatsoever and everybody was at ease,' he said on BBC Television's On the Record.

'We had a discussion which did not really lead to anything of a substantial nature. But since that discussion there has been fairly intense contact between the British government representatives and ourselves.'

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