16 December 2005

Sinn Féin expels 'British agent' in Stormont row


16/12/2005 - 15:13:31

A top republican was thrown out of Sinn Féin tonight after its leader Gerry Adams alleged he was working as a British agent.

Denis Donaldson, 55, the party’s former head of administration, was expelled after an investigation by the leadership.

Eight days after he and two other men were cleared of spying charges inside Stormont, Sinn Féin announced he had been told to quit last night.

A statement from Mr Adams said: “The collapse of the power sharing government was blamed on allegations of a Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.

“The fact is that there was no Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.

“The fact is that this was a carefully constructed lie created by the Special Branch in order to cause maximum political impact.

“The fact is that the collapse of the political institutions was a direct result of the actions of some of those who run the intelligence and policing system of the British.

“The fact is that the key person at the centre of those events was a Sinn Féin member who was a British agent.

“This is entirely the responsibility of the British Government.”

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said: ``Police do not confirm or deny whether an individual is or was an informant.''

In October 2002, Mr Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy were arrested on suspicion of operating a spy ring at Stormont.

Police Land Rovers raided Sinn Féin’s offices at Stormont in scenes which resulted in the then Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid suspending devolution in Northern Ireland in an attempt to stave off a unionist walkout from the power sharing executive.

Eight days ago, the Public Prosecution Service announced it was no longer pursuing a case against the three men because it was not in the public interest.

Sinn Féin said the decision to drop the charges against the men was proof that the Stormontgate raids were part of a political policing operation.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain have faced demands from unionists and moderate nationalists in recent days for a Parliamentary statement explaining why the Public Prosecution Service withdrew the case.

Following separate meetings with Lord Goldsmith on Wesdnesday, the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists, the nationalist SDLP and Ulster Unionists complained that he stonewalled them when they asked what the public interest was.

Sinn Féin leader Mr Adams was due to hold a press conference later at Dublin’s Gresham Hotel following the decision to expel Mr Donaldson.

Republicans were left reeling today by the claims against Mr Donaldson, a popular figure within Sinn Féin.

As the head of Sinn Féin’s administration at Stormont at the time of the spy ring allegations in October 2002, he was a familiar face around Parliament Buildings.

During devolution, he would have come into contact with other political parties on a day to day basis, popping in and out of their offices.

In May 2003, the Republican Movement was also stunned when it was claimed west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was one of the British Army’s most valued intelligence agents, Stakeknife.

Mr Scappaticci strenuously denied the claims at a press conference.

In his statement today, Mr Adams criticised the use of informers and agents by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The West Belfast MP said: “What is clear is that there are those within the PSNI and the intelligence agencies who are a law unto themselves, who use informers, spies and agents and who are operating to their own agenda with no accountability.

“They are manipulating the situation for their own narrow ends. They have sought to undermine Sinn Féin and are working against the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement which is the publicly stated policy of the British and Irish Governments.

“The British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach have to wake up to this reality.”

Mr Adams said Sinn Féin had alerted the British and Irish Governments to the negative role in the peace process being played out by elements within the British system.

He continued: “If Britain’s war is over then the British Prime Minister needs to come to terms with the fact that he has to end the activities of the securocrats.

“This entire episode underlines the need for an end to political policing. That, and defending the Good Friday Agreement remains the focus of Sinn Féin.”

Unionists said tonight they were astonished by the expulsion.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “This has certainly given an added twist to the entire Stormontgate scandal, and confirms our view that the reasons the court decided not to prosecute was because to do so would have compromised an agent of the state and sensitive security documents.

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