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Government's red faces after weapons find

Published 25/08/2016

The discovery of loyalist weapons on Government-owned property caused acute embarrassment for officials.

The items were found at premises off the Shankill Road in the 1980s.

The details emerged in newly-released files which discuss Sinn Fein's illegal occupation of Housing Executive buildings for constituency services.

A series of documents outline the problem of government property being misused.

One flags up the weapons find and notes the potential for embarrassment.

It states: "It could be very embarrassing if it ever became public knowledge that government was the owner of premises in which weapons were found".

The same files note that officials were aware of a dozen examples of Sinn Fein advice centres operating without proper title to the premises.

It notes dispossession was a slow process and not easy to implement.

One letter from Housing Executive chairman Norman Ferguson sets out the difficulties.

It states: "Past experience shows that, while recourse to the law to regain possession would be the natural action to take, there are serious obstacles.

"Because of location, as well as who the illegal occupiers are, enforcement of any judgement in our favour is likely to be very difficult and to require the backing of the RUC and possibly the Army".

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