23 July 2004
The theft of prison officers' addresses in an alleged IRA spying operation at Stormont has cost at least £30m, Northern Ireland Finance Minister Ian Pearson has announced.
But the figure, given in a written parliamentary answer, was immediately challenged by the Ulster Unionist Party, which said costs could total £100m.
Pearson disclosed that an initial £17m was spent protecting 1,426 prison officers and their families after the apparent IRA spying operation was detected. A further £13m went on new accommodation and 'reparations' for 454 staff who were forced to move home.
But the UUP's Michael McGimpsey rejected the figure. 'I have it on good authority from a well-placed source that this figure is just the tip of the iceberg. The real cost will be closer to £100m.'
He said the minister's calculations excluded tens of millions of pounds spent by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive through its Special Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings budget. This is used to buy the homes of prison and police officers and members of the public who have had to flee.
McGimpsey's comments came as it was revealed that documents listing suspected leading republican and loyalist terrorists are believed to have been stolen from the Castlereagh security centre. They are thought to be in the hands of the Ulster Defence Association.