10 December 2005

Stormontgate row rages on

Belfast Telegraph

Politicians demand answers over fiasco

By Deborah McAleese
10 December 2005

NATIONALIST and unionist politicians have furiously told the Government that it must "come clean" over the collapse of the Stormont spy ring case.

They demanded clarification from the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and the Director of Public Prosecutions over the case, which led to the suspension of Stormont Assembly and Executive three years ago.

A judge at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday acquitted Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy after the Public Prosecution Service said it would offer no further evidence.

The three men were arrested in October, 2002 at the time of a police raid on Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood urged the PSNI to publicly explain its involvement in the case and its feelings on the decision to acquit the men.

He said: "This case suggests the bad decisions and bad standards that existed around previous decisions in shoot-to-kill, Nelson and Stobie, and still endure. The Attorney-General cannot run for cover. Answers are needed."

DUP leader Ian Paisley said he was "amazed" that the Secretary of State Peter Hain was "not most anxious to meet with the public representatives who have very serious concerns" over the decision not to proceed with prosecutions in this case.

Mr Paisley said: "I believe that this is an attempt to conceal something so serious that even one of the guarantors of the agreement, (Bertie) Ahern, admits to bewilderment and recalls that there was such evidence at the discovery of the spy-ring that could not be challenged. Talk about a cover-up."

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said: "The public is left in limbo, with a cloud of suspicion hanging over the case."

He said that Dr Paisley was "gradually learning that the abuse he and his party have heaped on the Ulster Unionists now applies to himself".

"It is not as easy as he thought to prevent a determined government from doing its own thing with republicans."

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern expressed bafflement over the collapse of the case. Speaking after talks with Tony Blair in Downing Street yesterday, he said: "This brought down the institutions and created huge grief for me and for the Prime Minister. We had hundreds of troops descending on the Stormont building for what we were told at the time was irrefutable evidence. It vanished yesterday with no prosecutions. It was a lot of grief for no prosecutions. I think it is all very interesting and I don't quite understand."

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