20 December 2005

New allegations on Castlereagh chef

Daily Ireland

Ciarán Barnes

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The chef at the centre of the Castlereagh break-in investigation was given a job in the canteen at the security complex despite the Special Branch knowing he was a republican.
When hundreds of files on police informants were stolen during the 2002 St Patrick’s Day burglary, Larry Zaitschek, who was on first-name terms with many Special Branch detectives, fled to his native New York. He has so far refused to return.
It is understood the Special Branch was alerted to Zaitschek’s background by British spy Denis Donaldson, who on Friday admitted to being a British agent for 20 years.
The SDLP is now demanding the British government reveals how known republican Zaitschek passed stringent security checks to get a job at Castlereagh.
A popular belief among republicans is that Donaldson and the Special Branch insisted on Zaitschek getting the job in order to pin any blame for a ‘burglary’ on the IRA. Zaitschek denies any involvement in the break-in.
Calling on the British government to come clean, SDLP assemblyman Alban Maginness said: “How could he [Zaitschek] have cleared those checks with his links to Sinn Féin? I find it baffling that he got a job there.
“Recent disclosures about Denis Donaldson re-open the entire Castlereagh issue.
“What we need now from both the British government and the Provos are definitive statements on Castlereagh and the Stormont spyring.”
While running Sinn Féin’s New York office in the mid-1990s, Donaldson met Zaitschek and encouraged him to join Friends of Sinn Féin. The pair renewed their acquaintance in 1998 when Zaitschek relocated to the North with his now estranged Belfast-born wife. In 1999, the chef got a job at the Castlereagh security complex – the nerve centre for Special Branch intelligence-gathering operations.
He fled the North three years later just days after the Castlereagh burglary in which hundreds of files on Special Branch informants were stolen. The incident led to more than 100 members of the PSNI moving home at a cost of millions to the taxpayer.
Sinn Féin believes the break-in was planned by rogue agents determined to collapse the Assembly and end the party’s role in government.
The PSNI rejects this claim, insisting the break-in was the work of the IRA.
No-one has been charged in connection with the Castlereagh burglary.
The PSNI has said it will arrest Zaitschek if he returns to the North, yet it has not issued a warrant for his extradition from the United States. In October 2002, seven months after the Castlereagh break-in, the Assembly was suspended following raids on Sinn Féin offices at Stormont.
Denis Donaldson, the party’s head of civil administration, Ciarán Kearney and Billy Mackessy were arrested and charged with spying. It was alleged the IRA had in place a sophisticated spyring, a claim rejected by republicans.
The case against the men collapsed two weeks ago when the charges were withdrawn amid claims from the Public Prosecution Service that they were not in the “public interest”.
A week later Donaldson admitted to being a long-term Special Branch and British military spy.
After confirming his role as a paid agent, Donaldson said there was never an IRA Stormont spyring. He said it had been invented by the Special Branch to collapse the power-sharing Assembly.

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