18 December 2005

Donaldson 'was not the only spy in Sinn Fein'


Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday December 18, 2005
The Observer

The spy scandal that has rocked Sinn Fein took another bizarre twist last night over allegations that there is yet another informer working for the British inside the republican movement.

And unionists warned last night that the British government's refusal to hold a public inquiry into the Denis Donaldson affair would damage prospects for talks in the new year aimed at restoring devolution in the north.

Republican and security sources both claimed that Donaldson, the head of Sinn Fein's administration at Stormont, was not alone in spying for Britain.

One republican source said at least one Sinn Fein worker with a track record in the IRA is now under suspicion as the informant who tipped off the PSNI about the extent of the spying operation at Stormont.

Asked if there were more informants in danger of being unmasked, a senior security source in Northern Ireland said: 'The leadership must be looking around and wondering who the hell they can trust. But one thing is for sure - Denis Donaldson did not tip off anyone about Stormontgate. He was definitely not the source, of that I am certain.'

It emerged last night that Sinn Fein officials refused to allow the media to ask Donaldson any questions about whether he was being held against his will. The 55-year-old former director of International Affairs for the party had been driven to Dublin by party officials from Belfast on Friday.

Donaldson made a public confession in front of an RTE camera and the news station's chief reporter Charlie Bird. No other media organisations were invited to his press conference on Friday.

The British government yesterday refused to comment on the affair but said it was unlikely there would be a public inquiry.

Last night Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator and former IRA chief o staff, accused Donaldson of betrayal. 'There has always been in conflict situations around the world people who betray their comrades and colleagues and the very organisation they publicly claim to be supportive of,' the Mid Ulster MP said.

In the recent past these words would have been enough to sign a death warrant. But given Sinn Fein and the IRA's commitment to non-violent methods and the decommissioning of arms earlier this summer, it is no longer politically possible to impose the ultimate sanction on this latest informer.

McGuinness added that Sinn Fein would be seeking a face-to-face meeting with Tony Blair to discuss the fallout from the affair. He alleges Donaldson's role as an agent proves that the spy ring was a plot to destabilise the power-sharing government by elements opposed to Sinn Fein.

However a spokesman for Downing Street last night denied there would be any talks with Sinn Fein before Christmas.

Unionists yesterday demanded a public inquiry into the affair, which started on 8 December when the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland dropped charges of spying against Donaldson, his son-in-law and a civil servant. They had been accused of operating a spy ring for the IRA against the police, prison officers, civil servants and other political parties at Stormont.

The DPP said the charges were dropped because a trial was 'not in the public interest'. Both unionists and the SDLP claimed the 'public interest' meant the protection of a highly placed informant within Sinn Fein.

Democratic Unionist justice spokesman Ian Paisley Junior said the scandal had seriously damaged the prospects of restoring devolution. The initial accusations of an IRA Stormont spy ring in 2002 shattered unionist confidence in sharing power with Sinn Fein and brought down the government in Belfast.

'A public inquiry is a must at this stage because millions of pounds of public money were used to re-house people. Hundreds of people had to move home because of the spy ring. Now we find that a man at the centre of it was an agent,' Paisley said.

'We have said there can only be talks in an environment of trust. There is no trust at this present time and if the government is refusing an inquiry then there can be no trust and thus no talks.'

Donaldson, who was one of Gerry Adams's most trusted aides, is believed to be in hiding in the Irish Republic.

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