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16 April 1998 Edition

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NIO security chief to leave

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By Mick Naughton.

An Phoblacht has learned that John Steele, the NIO's Director for Policing and Security, will be leaving his post before the summer.

Steele and his assistant Stephen J Leach were the main Stormont officials responsible for the briefing document dubbed the `gameplan', which was leaked to the press last summer. The document was submitted on 20 June 1997, two weeks before the Drumcree march on 6 July. It advocated ``finding the lowest common denominator for getting some Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road''. This at a time when Marjorie Mowlam was asserting her desire for a negotiated solution.

The news that Steele is vacating his post comes at a time when the NIO is dogged with controversy over other leaked documents that have seriously damaged Mowlam.

Last month a document submitted to Mowlam by new Director of Communications, Tom Kelly, was leaked to the DUP. The paper outlined how the British government planned to rally support for a Yes vote in a referendum following any talks agreement.

The names Steele and Leach turned up again last week during a Judicial hearing taken by Ormeau residents against the Parades Commission. It was revealed the pair were on the interview panel of three that appointed Tommy Cheevers and Glenn Barr to the Commission.

So worried is the NIO about these damaging leaks that from now on `confidential' documents are to be specially coded to prevent leaking.

The first document to be thus coded was the 65-page `Mitchell paper' handed to talks delegates and the two governments on Monday night.

David Watkins, also an NIO official, rather than Leach is to take over from Steele. Little is known about Watkins though he has been described as being more extreme than the departing Steele.
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