11 December 2005

'No interference' in spy charges


Police raided Sinn Fein offices at Stormont in October 2002

There was no political interference in the decision to drop charges linked to an alleged IRA spy ring at Stormont, NI Secretary Peter Hain has said.

Mr Hain said the attorney general knew the prosecution would be offering no evidence "in the public interest".

The arrests in October 2002 led to the collapse of the power-sharing assembly.

Mr Hain said he too had been told but was not consulted days before. He said the idea the DPP could be influenced by any minister was "preposterous".

"This was a decision for the director of public prosecutions exclusively: as an independent Northern Ireland prosecution service they took that decision," he said.

"The idea that they would be influenced by any politician and certainly any minister is preposterous."

He said suggestions that there was an attempt to deflect attention from the announcement by making it on the same day the Queen was visiting Belfast were "equally preposterous".

Speaking to the BBC's Politics Show, Mr Hain dismissed various conspiracy theories about why the charges were dropped.

"Any republicans seeking, as some have done, to present the prosecution as some kind of gigantic conspiracy by so-called securocrats or politicians are 100% wrong," he said.

"Just as any unionists who have suggested in recent days that this is a big plot by myself as secretary of state or the government in one guise or other to cover up on behalf of republicans are equally wrong. Both versions are preposterous."

Would he lie?

Sinn Fein's Denis Donaldson, son-in-law Ciaran Kearney along with William Mackessy had a total of seven terrorism charges against them dropped on Thursday.

Mr Donaldson said there had been no spy ring and the charges were "politically-inspired".

'Huge grief'

Irish PM Bertie Ahern said the affair caused him and Tony Blair "huge grief".

The three were arrested following a police raid on Sinn Fein's offices at Parliament Buildings on 4 October 2002, when documents and computer discs were seized.

The arrests led to the power-sharing executive at Stormont being suspended, after the DUP and Ulster Unionists, led at that time by Mr Trimble, threatened to collapse the executive with resignations.

However, at an unlisted hearing at Belfast Crown Court, the three were told all charges were being dropped after the prosecution offered no evidence "in the public interest".

Mr Donaldson said they were now consulting legal representatives about what course of action they could follow in connection with the arrests.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the collapse of the case once again underlined the need to "face up" to elements within the PSNI who, he claimed, were opposed to political progress.

Both the DUP and the SDLP are seeking meetings with Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to clarify the reasons for the charges being dropped.

The Public Prosecution Service would not clarify what it regarded as the nature of the public interest which led to the charges being dropped.

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