22 December 2005


Daily Ireland

**Take 2


Ciarán Barnes

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PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde will tell Bertie Ahern today that the Police Ombudsman gave the Stormontgate operation a clean bill of health. However, a top solicitor is now asking if the Ombudsman knew the PSNI’s main suspect was a British spy.

The SDLP is considering calling on the Police Ombudsman to conduct a second inquiry into the 2002 Stormont raids which led to the collapse of the Assembly, it emerged yesterday.
Newry and Armagh MLA, Dominic Bradley, told Daily Ireland that, in light of the Denis Donaldson spy revelations, Nuala O’Loan’s office may have to revisit the original investigation.
The SDLP man’s comments came after a lawyer acting for one of the men at the centre of the Stormontgate affair raised doubts about the ombudsman’s investigation.
Kevin Winters, a solicitor for Ciarán Kearney, said issues have arisen in relation to material provided to investigators by the PSNI.
Both Mr Bradley’s and Mr Winters’ concerns centre on whether the Ombudsman knew Donaldson was an informer during its probe into PSNI raids connected to the alleged Stormont spyring.
The investigation ended in August 2004, 16 months before Donaldson was unmasked as a spy.
It found that the raids at homes of republicans in west Belfast and Sinn Féin’s Assembly office were justified.
However, the Ombudsman’s refusal in recent days to comment on the crucial issue of its knowledge of Donaldson’s role as an informer has cast doubts over these findings.
Mr Winters believes a lot of legal issues arising out of the probe require considerable analysis and examination.
He said: “One of these areas is the Police Ombudsman investigation and its remit, specifically on the issue of the material provided to the Police Ombudsman to conduct its investigation.”
Daily Ireland understands that the PSNI had no obligation to inform the Ombudsman that Denis Donaldson was a spy unless investigators asked that specific question.
Republicans are convinced that this key fact was hidden from the Ombudsman in order for it to give the PSNI Stormont raids a clean bill of health.
During searches of homes in west Belfast officers found a bag allegedly containing sensitive documents taken from Stormont.
This discovery was said to be the catalyst for the raids on Sinn Féin’s Stormont offices that led to the fall of the Assembly.
The bag was found in the home of Special Branch agent Denis Donaldson.
Republicans are convinced it was placed there purposely by Special Branch to provide an excuse for the raid and bring down the Executive.
Donaldson admitted his role as a 20-year Special Branch and British military agent at a press conference in Dublin last week.
The admission came shortly after he, Ciarán Kearney and Billy Mackessy were acquitted of charges of being part of an alleged IRA spy ring at Stormont.

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