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They stuck to their guns

AS THE Government moves closer to a face-to-face meeting with members of the IRA, an intriguing detail has emerged of the last time such a tete-a-tete was held, in Chelsea 21 years ago.

According to The Volunteer, the memoirs of the reformed IRA bomber Shane Paul O'Doherty, newly published by HarperCollins, a group of leading Provisionals who were flown to London to meet the then-Northern Ireland Secretary, William Whitelaw, were actually permitted to carry personal firearms for the


According to O'Doherty, the group of six men, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, were flown to England by the RAF before being whisked to the secret meeting in a fleet of limousines.

Accompanied by members of the Special Branch, they entered a house in Cheyne Walk and, still carrying their weapons, were received by Whitelaw. 'It was Martin McGuinness who told me about the guns,' O'Doherty said yesterday. 'He said that he did

not trust the British an inch and there was no way he wasn't taking a gun. This was clearly an instance when the IRA leadership was seen by the Government to be above the law.'

Yesterday Whitelaw passed on a terse message, stating that he 'had no reason to suppose' that O'Doherty's account was correct; yet it is inconceivable that if guns were carried, the British security forces would not have known about it.

In his memoirs, published in 1989, Whitelaw described the meeting as 'a non-event'. 'The IRA leaders simply made impossible demands to which I told them the British government would never concede.'

HABITUAL readers of Diamondback, the student newspaper of University of Maryland, Baltimore, were prevented from buying a copy last week after undergraduates stole and burnt more than 10,000 copies. The editorial offence? Not enough minority models were featured in a fashion spread. The perpetrators were keen, however, that readers should not languish without alternative intellectual stimulation: 'Diamondback will not be available today,' read a notice above news-stands, 'so read a book]'

Family decoration IN THE slightly Cubist-style of this portrait of Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the sultry features of Melissa Bell - alias Lucy in the Australian soap opera Neighbours - could well be the next adornment on the wall of the Health Minister Tim Yeo. The Tory MP prefers decorating his office with oil paintings - like this one - by his 22-year-old son, Jonathan, rather than with the more austere selection on offer from the Government's art collection.

Yeo Jnr's latest work - a portrait of Miss Bell - may, if finished, be included in a west London exhibition starting tomorrow. It was commissioned, he says, in a drunken moment. 'I told her that she had strong features and I'd like to do it,' he explains amiably.

If Yeo pere is prepared to stump up the price - his son's paintings sell for 'between pounds 200 and pounds 1,000' - he could add it to his collection. 'It was only recently, when I started to make money from it, that he took an interest and hung them in his office,' explains Yeo Jnr. 'I think it was something to do with the fact that they've got 'Yeo' stamped on them.'

TIDINESS has never been Kenneth Clarke's strong point, but yesterday it nearly cost him the leak of the Budget. A BBC camera technician, helping to set up the autocue in the House of Commons, took it upon himself to do 'the white test', which involves holding a piece of white paper in front of the camera to create a true colour perspective. No sooner had he performed it with a scrap from a nearby bench than he was pinned down by three heavies who had emerged from the shadows. 'Help,' squeaked the technician, shaking his piece of paper. 'What have I done?' 'You've got the first page of the Chancellor's Budget,' they replied.


1 December 1822 Lord Byron writes to Lady Hardy: 'I have always laid it down as a maxim - and found it justified by experience - that a man and woman make far better friendships than can exist between two of the same sex - but then with the condition that they never have made - or are to make love to each other. Lovers may (be) - and indeed generally are - enemies - but they never can be friends because there must always be a spice of jealousy and a something of Self in all their speculations. Indeed I rather look upon Love altogether as a sort of hostile transaction - very necessary to make - or to break - matches and keep the world a-going - but by no means a sinecure to the parties concerned. Now as my Love perils are pretty well over and yours by all accounts are never to begin - we shall be the best of friends imaginable - with this advantage - that we may both fall to loving right and left without either sullenness or sorrow.'