27 February 2006

Spy probe is not on, insists Hain

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
27 February 2006

The Government has spurned council demands for a full investigation into the Denis Donaldson 'Stormontgate' spying scandal.

Secretary of State Peter Hain said the Government did not see the need for a "costly" public inquiry.

The rebuff came after several local councils requested an official inquiry and clarification over the role of former Sinn Fein administrator Donaldson, who was exposed as a British agent.

With the fallout from the Stormont spy-ring allegations continuing to mar the political landscape, Mr Hain also reiterated it is not Government policy to comment on such claims.

In a letter, however, the Secretary of State said: "There was, without any doubt, paramilitary intelligence-gathering which the police acted to prevent.

"As a result of their operation, hundreds of stolen documents were recovered, over a thousand people had to be warned and over £30m had to be spent on protective measures."

The letter, written on his behalf by Mr Hain's private secretary, said Attorney General Lord Goldsmith stated unequivocally there was no political interference in the decision to drop the subsequent prosecutions.

"Political considerations did not form any part, or in any way affect, the decision. That, quite properly, was a matter solely for the independent prosecuting authorities.

"It is not Government policy to confirm or deny such claims as those made by Denis Donaldson, one of three persons charged with intelligence gathering offences. The Government does not see the need for a costly public inquiry."

The three men were arrested after a police raid on Sinn Fein's offices in Parliament Buildings in October 2002, which led to the collapse of the power-sharing Executive and Assembly.

In a surprise move last December the Public Prosecution Service dropped spy-ring charges against 55-year-old Donaldson and two other men on the grounds it would not be in the "public interest" to proceed.

Two weeks later, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams announced in Dublin that Donaldson had been a paid spy for British intelligence, and had been expelled from the party.

Later that day, the revelation was confirmed by Donaldson himself who said he had been recruited after compromising himself during a vulnerable time in his life.

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