05 April 2006

Ahern and Blair to go ahead with announcement despite killing


04/04/2006 - 23:05:17

**Photos are of Donaldson outside the remote cottage (see map). They are from the BBC and were taken by Sunday World.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Irish and British governments were tonight united in their insistence that plans to unveil proposals for a new power-sharing executive will go ahead on Thursday as planned despite the killing of Denis Donaldson.

“The dark detail that surrounds this murder is a tragic and regrettable reminder of Northern Ireland’s past,” a Government spokesman said.

“The focus has to be on allowing positive politics to take root and achieve agreement with leadership in Northern Ireland.”

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was quick to condemn the killing.

“We condemn this brutal murder,” he said. “The matter is now under investigation by An Garda Siochána.”

“We hope that whoever was responsible for the callous act will be brought to justice as soon as possible.”

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usJustice Minister Michael McDowell said Mr Donaldson had been seen alive in the village of Glenties yesterday and that it appeared the murder took place today.

The minister has been quick to blame the IRA for past events but refused to speculate on who was responsible for the murder.

“I am not willing to jump to any conclusions because I don’t want to, in any sense, to point the finger of blame at this stage.

“But obviously it isn’t helpful. I doubt that whoever did it intended it to be helpful.”

The British government also insisted that the Donaldson murder would not deflect them from working towards the restoration of devolution.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said: “Nothing will deflect the government from its aim of ensuring political progress in Northern Ireland.”

Downing Street said that Mr Blair “strongly condemned” the killing.

A No 10 spokesman noted that Mr Adams had also condemned the murder and had disassociated what he called “pro-peace process republicans” from the attack.

As expected, there was a marked contrast in reaction to the incident from the north’s political leaders.

The conciliatory mood of the Irish and British Governments was not shared by Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley, who said he had been told Mr Donaldson’s hand had been cut off.

“I have heard his hand was chopped off in this murder,” said Mr Paisley.

He said the murder was very strange, others who had been discovered to have been spying “were just wiped off the face of the earth”.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHe added: “ If what I have heard is true that they cut his hand off, that would show that they were saying ‘here is a hand that signed away, what we would say, his obligation to IRA/Sinn Féin and we will deal with him’ – it looks like that sort of murder.”

The veteran politician expressed scepticism at the IRA denial of responsibility and said the killing could have implications for the joint proposals due to be announced by Mr Blair and Mr Ahern.

“There are serious talks that are going to take place and I would say that this has put a dark cloud over those talks,” he said.

“If this man has been murdered because of his connection with IRA/Sinn Féin and because of the past happenings, then it strikes a blow at what the two governments are trying to do – to say that the IRA has forsaken these ways and they are seeking peace.”

Condemning the killing of Donaldson, SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said it was “an appalling and brutal murder”.

“Everybody has the right to life,” said Donaldson “Nowhere on this island does anybody have the right to take life.”

“There must now be a very thorough Garda investigation. Everybody and every organisation must co-operate fully with that investigation. The killers of Denis Donaldson must be brought to justice.”

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey condemned those behind the brutal murder but said when the isolated location where Mr Donaldson was living was considered then he “must have been seen by many as a sitting duck”.

“There were many people both inside and outside the republican movement who would have been happy to see him go,” said Empey. “Whether another spy who was in the republican movement is responsible or others who would regard his removal as tidying up loose ends, we should not be surprised by this development.”

Mr Ahern and Mr Blair are due in Armagh City on Thursday to announce the proposals were they are expected to announce a time-table to revive shadow power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

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