17 December 2005

Brooding silence as unopened cards fill letterbox at no 16

Belfast Telegraph

By Linda McKee
17 December 2005

NEIGHBOURS of Denis Donaldson were arriving home with their Christmas shopping as the TV cameras descended on Aitnamona Crescent, seeking Donaldson's reaction to his shock expulsion from Sinn Fein.

Seasonal lights glimmered in windows all along the peaceful residential west Belfast street yesterday evening, but number 16 lay dark and silent.

With Donaldson facing a future away from Belfast after admitting being a British spy for 20 years, the blinds were drawn at his deserted house in a quiet street off the Monagh Bypass.

Last night, the mailbox at the side of the terraced house was stuffed with unopened Christmas cards.

Although a silver Volkswagen Golf car and trailer waited in the paved area outside the front door of the home of Sinn Fein's former head of administration at Stormont, neighbours said there had been little sign of life for the past few days.

Some were reluctant to comment at all on the neighbour who had been at the centre of the Stormontgate crisis - the political controversy that brought down the Northern Ireland Assembly.

One described him as being a quiet older man who wore glasses.

Another, referring to Donaldson and his wife Alice, said: "They kept themselves to themselves.

"I haven't seen them for a week or so."

Other locals were at keen to stress that outsiders were not welcome in their street, which lies in the republican heartland.

One neighbour was terse, saying: "I keep myself to myself and he keeps himself to himself."

A former close associate commented: "I presume now he will have to blow - how could you look people in the eye after this?

"It is his wife Alice and his daughter I feel sorry for."

As the first evening newscasts came, curious residents at Aitnamona were gathering at their doors to watch the unfolding drama outside as the flashes went off and the TV cameras began to roll.

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