20 December 2005

Murphy: Stormont spy ring existed


20/12/2005 - 08:32:11

Former Northern Secretary Paul Murphy today said he was “absolutely satisfied” that there was an IRA spying operation at Stormont.

Since the collapse of the trial of three men in relation to the alleged spying earlier this month, Sinn Féin has claimed that the raids on its offices in 2002 were a “political policing” operation designed to bring down the North’s devolved institutions.

Controversy over the affair was fuelled further by the revelation that one of the three men, Denis Donaldson, was a long-standing spy for British intelligence.

But Mr Murphy, who was Northern Secretary at the time of the raids and is now chairman of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, insisted he had no doubt that the spy ring existed.

He acknowledged that the affair had damaged the peace process, but said he believed it was “robust” enough for devolution to be restored.

“It was definitely a paramilitary intelligence-gathering operation,” Mr Murphy told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“There was about 1,000 stolen documents discovered in Belfast and 1,000 people had to be warned and it cost £35m (€51.5m) to make sure they were safe.

“That’s unquestionably what was the case.”

He added: “In the weeks and months ahead, this is obviously a temporary problem in terms of the peace process, but I think the process is robust enough to be able to withstand this and other problems.

“At the end of the day, I think that people in Northern Ireland have come so far since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that they won’t allow this issue or anything else to stop the progress that we have seen.”

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