08 January 2006

New Informer Claims Denied

Irish Abroad: Intelligencer

**Via Newshound

THE murky world of Northern Ireland politics just got darker this past holiday season with a splurge of stories about new informers in the higher echelons of Sinn Fein.

One newspaper, the Irish Sunday Times, even went so far as to print two names of well known Sinn Fein activists, though hardly leader potential, who the paper claimed had been visited by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and told they were about to be outed.

The British-based Sunday Times has long been a conduit for British security services to ply their trade, so it is hardly surprising that it would be the first to publish names.

The Sinn Fein reaction was speedy, with stories about lawsuits being filed against newspapers that named anyone as being an informer.

The party recognizes clearly that the aim of all the speculation is to destabilize Sinn Fein at a critical time, just as the two governments are about to begin new talks aimed at restoring the Assembly.

Why the British security services would be working so hard to prevent that is a question only British Prime Minister Tony Blair can answer. It seems more and more that the securocrats are running the asylum, instead of being the inmates.

Where Is Donaldson?

THE whereabouts of Sinn Fein spy Denis Donaldson are still a major mystery, with some reports that he is still in the Irish Republic being debriefed by former colleagues in the Republican movement.

What Donaldson’s ultimate fate will be may never be known. Having refused British protection he is dependent on the Republican movement he betrayed to sort out his future — hardly an enviable position.

There is little doubt, though, that Donaldson struck a deal with Republicans before he came clean that he would not be killed or injured in any way if he revealed all. The fact that leading lawyer Peter Madden (former partner of the late Pat Finucane) appeared with Donaldson at his press conference in Dublin was surely a strong indication of that.

A life abroad, living anonymously, seems to be Donaldson’s best bet, though there is speculation that his wife and family are seeking to stay in Belfast where they have their home.

However, one can only imagine what their lives will be like given the hostility to Donaldson by many who believe that his information may have led to the death of their loved ones.

Why Inform?

WHAT makes someone like Donaldson betray everything he knows and turn informer? It is a question that has long baffled those who study the mind of such individuals.

Certainly, there is no doubt a financial incentive, but it cannot be the only reason a person turns on his colleagues. Donaldson claimed in his statement that he had been compromised in some way in the 1980s, but there was no further explanation.

He was known as a womanizer, but it hardly seems — even if he were caught in some compromising position — that it would be sufficient to make him turn on his colleagues. Perhaps we will never know his true motivation.

Stakeknife Informer

UP until Donaldson the most famous double agent was Freddie Scappaticci, a senior member of the IRA’s internal security staff, known as the Nutting Squad.

Scap’s role was to essentially to force suspected informers into confessing before he or someone else shot him. Scap was widely known for his brutal methods in winning confessions from suspected informers, some of whom in retrospect were undoubtedly innocent.

The irony of a paid British agent murdering other paid informers was not lost on many people. But what convinced Scappaticci to turn in the first place?

Martin Ingram, a former member of the Force Research Unit, the secret British army counter intelligence division who knew Scappaticci, had a definite opinion on the matter.

Ingram (real name Jack Grantham) co-wrote a book in 2004 about British dirty tricks. He believes Scap was turned in large part because of his irrational hatred of Martin McGuinness, the Republican leader who is probably the most admired man in the movement.

Scap even went so far on one occasion to grant an interview anonymously, pointing the finger at McGuinness, so deep was his hatred.

Of course Scappaticci, like Donaldson, tried at first to brazen out the accusation that he was a secret agent for the British, when he was revealed as the legendary “Stakeknife,” the long suspected senior spy at the top of the Republican movement.

Eventually, however, the evidence was overwhelming.

Scap Vs. Donaldson

HOW big was Scappaticci in comparison to Donaldson? Very big indeed.

As Ingram reported, Scap had an entire wing of the Force Research Unit devoted to the monitoring of his activities and the tip-offs he gave. Scap was the one who tipped of the British in October 1987 to the huge arms shipment from Libya bound for Irish shores.

His tip led to the dramatic arrest on the high seas of the crew of the trawler Eksund, who were bringing the arms to Ireland.

It is hard to imagine that Donaldson was anywhere near that vital. He was an important operative, but he never really penetrated the senior levels of the movement according to reliable sources.

That seems about right. While the Donaldson outing was in particularly dramatic circumstances, the Scappaticci one was the more significant in the long run.

Another difference is Sinn Fein leaders such as McGuinness and Gerry Adams were pictured with Donaldson just a week before the outing, while Scappaticci had begun to be suspected for some time before he was finally revealed.

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