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RTE journalist silent over SF/DUP link-man claims

RTE's northern editor, Tommy Gorman, has refused to comment on reports in unionist political circles that he acted as a go-between to facilitate secret exchanges between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party.

Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff for a decade, has claimed in his memoirs, Great Hatred, Little Room, that a journalist liaised with the DUP in a secret backchannel exercise to communicate with Sinn Fein after the Assembly elections in November 2003.

The claim was vehemently denied by DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson, who said there had been no direct contact between the party and Sinn Fein before March last.

"What politician in his right senses would ask a journalist to be an intermediary?" he said. "The purpose of a backchannel would be to help negotiators. Ian [Paisley], Nigel [Dodds] and myself never received any reports from a backchannel," he said.

"The meeting he [Powell] is referring to was when three of us were sanctioned by the party executive to meet Sinn Fein on March 24," the East Belfast MP said.

Mr Gorman declined to comment on the reports. But it has been suggested the meetings were designed to sound out the positions of both parties and for each to probe whether the other could be trusted to do a deal when the time came to sign up to an agreement to restore the Stormont Assembly.

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