02 January 2006

Police in visits to three well known republicans

Belfast Telegraph

IRA witchhunt fear as 'spy suspects' warned

By Chris Thornton
02 January 2006

Turmoil over spies inside Sinn Féin and the IRA continued today after police made holiday visits to well known republicans in Belfast.

PSNI officers visited several men to warn them that the IRA suspects them of being informers in the wake of Denis Donaldson's exposition as an agent.

Republicans view the visits as an attempt to sow doubt in republican ranks by drawing the IRA into a witchhunt. The warnings are also suspected of being a way to protect a second informer by spreading suspicion.

Police have refused to comment on the visits, but say they have a duty to issue warnings whenever they have information that someone's life is in danger.

Sinn Féin said the reports were an attempt "to distract attention away from the fact that elements within Britain's intelligence agencies were responsible for collapsing the power-sharing government in the North".

Several republicans were named in Sunday newspapers as being suspected informers in the wake of the Donaldson affair. Donaldson, a longtime IRA member who became Sinn Féin's office manager at Stormont, admitted to being an informer after the collapse of the Stormontgate case.

He had been accused of receiving material stolen from British Government offices at Stormont, but ended up admitting spying on behalf of the PSNI.

Two men named by the Sunday Times were said to have been identified by a Sinn Féin spokesman.

A third man - a senior figure in the party - named as an agent by a Dublin newspaper is preparing to sue over the allegations, Sinn Féin indicated.

"Republicans have many decades of experience of the black propaganda activities of British intelligence and the efforts of some in their agencies to undermine the peace process," a Sinn Féin spokesman said. "There is no truth to the story. It has been printed without any evidence whatsoever."

Meanwhile, the IRA praised the "discipline and commitment" of its members in a New Year's message.

The statement made no mention of the Donaldson affair, but referred to the announcement last July that it would end all activity and the third phase of decommissioning in September.

"We remain wedded to our republican objectives. We are confident that these objectives will be achieved," the statement said. "We fully support and commend everyone working for these goals, especially our comrades in Sinn Féin."

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