08 January 2006

Ahern: Move on from spying scandal


08/01/2006 - 17:43:48

Political parties must move on from the Stormont spying controversy to focus on restoring devolved government to the North, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said tonight.

In the aftermath of Sinn Féin’s head of administration at Stormont Denis Donaldson revealing he was a British spy, Mr Ahern said he believed it was best if people tried to return to concentrating on the peace process.

“I think it would be helpful if we continue to try to normalise society in the North where nobody is watching anybody, where we have proper political parties, proper garda procedures, proper policing procedures and that we all move on in that kind of a vein,” he said.

“To start checking who was spying on who, or if two spies were spying on each other, or maybe three spies were spying on each other. I’m afraid I would need to live to a very old age to ever resolve the Northern Ireland peace process.”

Mr Ahern said he was prepared to move on from the revelations as he would never be able to resolve it.

Northern Ireland’s political institutions have been suspended since October 2002 when allegations about a republican spy ring at Stormont threatened to permanently destroy them.

Denis Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy were arrested and accused of operating the intelligence gathering operation.

However last month the case against the three men dramatically collapsed in Belfast Crown Court when the Public Prosecution Service said it was no longer in the public interest to pursue it.

In a further dramatic twist, Sinn Féin expelled Denis Donaldson one week after he was warned by his security force handlers that his cover was about to be blown.

Mr Donaldson went into hiding after confessing his role to party officials and later appeared on Irish television reading from a prepared statement admitting he was a spy.

Mr Donaldson said he was recruited to work for British intelligence and the RUC/PSNI Special Branch after compromising himself during a vulnerable time.

“I think there is no doubt about it, the way agents have been used in Northern Ireland, the way targeting has been used in Northern Ireland, the way technology is used in Northern Ireland is strange. I have plenty of experience of that over my years dealing with Northern Ireland,” the Taoiseach told RTE Radio’s This Week programme.

Mr Ahern said it was crucially important that Northern Ireland moved forward to a stage where the political institutions were back in place.

“I really believe that 2006 is the year where we should try and get back the institutions in Northern Ireland, everybody has to take chances and everyone has to take risks. I have taken a lot on the peace process, so has Tony Blair and so have others,” he said.

Mr Ahern warned risks would have to be taken by all sides.

“I don’t think the chances left in this are that enormous, I don’t think they are that unsurmountable,” he said.

Mr Ahern said he hoped the Democratic Union’s Dr Ian Paisley, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and British Prime Minister Tony Blair could focus their attention fully on the restoration of the Stormont Assembly in 2006.

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