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4 March 1999 Edition

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RUC trying to undermine peace process

West Belfast Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey has accused the RUC of ``pursuing a political agenda'' in their announcements that an arms find ``appeared to be of a 1998 origin''.

This announcement was seized upon by the UKUP leader Robert McCartney who insisted that the discovery suggested that the IRA was currently rearming and used this to call the IRA cessation into question and demand that the UUP break off all contacts with Sinn Fein.

Mr Michael McAnoy, the owner of the West Belfast house where the weapons were found, has insisted that he knew nothing about the weapons. He was released without charge and told by the RUC in Castlereagh interrogation centre that they knew he had nothing to do with the find.

On Friday 19 February Mr McAnoy came forward to state that he has lived in the house for the past 28 years and knew nothing of the find. He also stated that he believed that the cache was left in the house towards the end of 1997 when the building was unoccupied to allow for major renovations.

This was around the same time that the IRA had called a cessation of military activity, therefore the arms find could not have been of 1998 origin and could not indicate, as the RUC and the unionist ``No'' camp would wish people to believe, that the IRA are preparing to return to military activity.

Criticising the RUC comments Mr Maskey has claimed that this latest incident is ``another example'' of comments being made ``in a hype of publicity''.

He added that ``Three people were arrested and charged last year in a great hype of publicity, all orchestrated by the RUC at a time when there were calls for our exclusion from the talks. Those arrests subsequently led to our expulsion from the talks in Dublin Castle and of course the evidence was non-existent and the three men were subsequently released with no blaze of publicity''.

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