20 December 2005

BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | 'Spy papers collapsed assembly'


Sir Hugh said the police search was "professional"

Police searches at Stormont did not bring the power-sharing NI executive down, the chief constable has said.

Sir Hugh Orde said stolen documents "recovered in west Belfast" caused the assembly's suspension in 2002.

Former senior Sinn Fein member Denis Donaldson, one of three men cleared of IRA spying at Stormont, has admitted being a British agent for 20 years.

Sir Hugh told the BBC that informants were a "necessary evil" but made for "effective policing".

He said he had "pushed for a prosecution" in the case of Denis Donaldson and his two co-accused, who were also acquitted of spying at Stormont.

"The best way of this being aired would have been through a court of law, where everyone could have stood back, heard the evidence and formed a view on what went on in their own minds."

Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive collapsed in October 2002 following the arrests of three men, including Mr Donaldson, who had headed the party's administration office at Stormont.

Sir Hugh told BBC News on Tuesday: "The facts are very simple. On 4 October, we searched a property in west Belfast and recovered hundreds of pages of documents.

"These documents exist, they are real and much of it is sensitive targeting information.

"Targeting information of politicians, against civil servants, against members of the police service and against members of the prison service.

"There were documents relating to, for example, discussions between the prime minister and the president of the United States, between government and NI political parties - with the exception of Sinn Fein."

Sir Hugh said the search of Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont had been "limited" and professional.

The chief constable refused to speak specifically about Denis Donaldson, or confirm he was a spy.

Sir Hugh said that on taking up office, he had ordered a review of every informant and this was now done on an annual basis.

"The problem with Northern Ireland is that crime and politics have been inextricably linked for years.

"This is across the piste - it is not just one side or the other. There have been people who inform on crime who are also engaged in politics - it is one of the sad realities of Northern Ireland that does need to move on."


The DUP's Nigel Dodds said he welcomed Sir Hugh's "strong confirmation of IRA/Sinn Fein involvement in a spy ring at the heart of government", but said questions remained to be answered.

"Sir Hugh Orde has not explained why, given the clear evidence of criminal activity, no-one is to be prosecuted for any offence whatsoever," Mr Dodds said.

Chief constable refused to speak specifically about Denis Donaldson

"The chief constable's remarks today only stengthen the case for a full statement from government ministers about the whole affair."

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said: "What Hugh Orde neglects to tell the public is that the documents were recovered from the home of Special Branch agent Denis Donaldson.

"Denis Donaldson was at the heart of a British spy ring and a securocrat conspiracy which brought down the elected government.

"He was not acting on behalf of republicans or our peace process agenda. He was at all times working to the agenda set by the British State who employed him."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has met the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, to discuss the spying affair.

Party sources said they were dismayed by the government's decision not to hold an inquiry.

They believed what they called the "stone walling" by the government on the affair would make it more difficult to restore credibility in the political process in the New Year.

On Monday, Mr Hain rejected demands for a public inquiry into the so-called "Stormontgate affair".

Denis Donaldson said he had been recruited in the 1980s as a paid agent and deeply regretted his activities.

Unionists have said Mr Donaldson's statement proved the charges against all three were dropped "in a deal with the IRA" to secure decommissioning.

However, both the Northern Ireland Office and the Police Service of Northern Ireland have denied this.

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