20 January 2006

Sinn Féin insists special branch spy ‘is safe at home’

Irish Examiner

By Dan McGinn

A FORMER Sinn Féin election worker who admitted spying on his colleagues is safe at home, the party claimed last night.

Sean Lavelle, from Donagh in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, confessed to being a special branch agent since 1980 in a statement issued through his solicitor.

His move came after Gerry Adams predicted more spying allegations would surface in the party after last month’s unmasking of its head of administration at Stormont Denis Donaldson as a British agent.

But while Mr Donaldson has stayed away from his native Belfast, Mr Lavelle was assured by Sinn Féin Assembly member Tom O’Reilly that he was safe living at home.

In his statement, Mr Lavelle said he was pressured into becoming a Special Branch agent after he was arrested in 1980.

“I deeply regret my activities and the hurt which they have caused to my family and to my community,” he said.

Sinn Féin played down Mr Lavelle’s significance, claiming he had been an election worker but was no longer a party member.

Republicans have faced a barrage of allegations since Mr Donaldson last month confessed his role as a British agent for more than 20 years. The 55-year-old, was arrested by police in October 2002, along with his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy, on accusations that they operated a spy ring at Stormont which went to the heart of former Northern Secretary John Reid’s office.

After a three-year legal battle, charges against the three men were dropped at Belfast Crown Court last month, with prosecutors insisting it was no longer in the public interest to pursue the case.

In a further stunning twist, Mr Adams announced a week later he had expelled Mr Donaldson from the party for spying on his colleagues.

Belfast has been rife with rumours since then about more spies in republican ranks. Several senior republicans have been warned by police that they are suspected of being agents and, although none has publicly rejected the allegations, it is clear republicans are bracing themselves for more claims.

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