17 December 2005

A shiner for the Shinners

Belfast Telegraph

Are republicans feeling twitchy as another spy is uncovered? asks laurence white

By Laurence White
17 December 2005

NORTHERN Ireland's 'dirty war' has taken yet another bizarre, even surreal, twist.

Denis Donaldson, the self-confessed British agent, was one of Sinn Fein's top 'cold warriors' - this will spook republicans.

Just over a week ago, Mr Donaldson was one of three men facing charges of spying for Sinn Fein inside Stormont buildings.

It was his arrest in October 2002 and the arrest of two other men, one his son-in-law, the other a porter at Stormont, which effectively brought down the power-sharing Assembly and has left the province in political limbo for around three years.

The charges were dropped nine days ago after the prosecution service said it would not be in the public interest to proceed.

Well the public is well and truly interested now.

Political opponents of Sinn Fein will be rubbing their hands with glee as another alleged 'traitor for old Ireland' is unmasked.

Following on from the outing of the agent code-named Stakeknife who was the head of the IRA's security division, a second very senior member of the republican movement has been uncovered working for the British intelligence services.

Both are west Belfast men and both would have been seen as close to the northern leadership of the movement.

That is something which is bound to unnerve even the poker-faced Gerry Adams.

Just what will other senior republicans in places like west Tyrone, south Armagh, Kerry or Dublin be thinking?

Adams, Martin McGuinness and their northern colleagues carefully worked their way to the top of the republican movement and just as carefully sidelined others who did not share their vision of the way ahead.

What must those who favoured the bullet over the ballot box think of the leadership now?

In the bad old days of the Troubles those caught, or even suspected of, working for the police or Army were treated without mercy even though most were low-level operatives who had been turned because of some personal weakness.

But Stakeknife and Donaldson were of a different order. They had much more influence and knowledge. Indeed now many republicans will be asking just how much influence did they exert.

Even more chillingly, at least to republicans, many will be wondering if there are more agents in influential positions in the republican movement.

Donaldson said yesterday he had been working as an agent since the 1980s, so it is hardly stretching the imagination to think that others have been equally busy.

This all would be fascinating enough if it was just a simple Brits v Shinners dirty war. But it isn't.

We all have been caught up in the fall-out. We don't have an Assembly even though we keep electing more than 100 members to it. We don't have a say in how this province is run, even though we have more elected politicians than we need.

Instead we have a group of imposed Direct Rule ministers who are railroading through water charges, huge rate rises, sweeping education, health and political reforms without any fear or hindrance.

We are paying double because of this dirty war - paying for politicians who are doing nothing and (soon) paying through the noses for water which falls in such copious from our skies that it continually floods our homes.

And, ultimately, there is the highest price of all - we have lost all confidence in the political process.

All of those involved in dirty wars end up being soiled and most people don't want to share in that contamination.

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