29 May 2006

Sinn Fein denies press claim that McGuinness spied for the British


By Tom Peterkin, Ireland Correspondent
(Filed: 29/05/2006)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe claims and counterclaims that have defined Northern Ireland's intelligence war took an unexpected twist yesterday when Sinn Fein dismissed allegations that Martin McGuinness spied for the British.
Martin McGuinness, Denis Donaldson and Gerry Adams

**One big happy family

The claim, made in a Sunday newspaper by a former agent handler, came after months of rumours suggesting that another senior figure at the heart of Sinn Fein was about to be exposed as a spy. Sinn Fein swiftly denied the allegation that Mr McGuinness worked for MI6 during the early 1990s, describing it as "nonsense".

The denial was made amid an atmosphere of deep suspicion within republican circles. Last year's outing of Denis Donaldson, the former head of Sinn Fein administration, as a British agent caused speculation that there were more moles among the republican elite.

Mr Donaldson's murder in a remote cottage in Glenties, Co Donegal, last month suggested that betrayal of the republican cause still carries the death penalty.

Sinn Fein said the McGuinness allegation, carried by the Irish tabloid Sunday World, was "rubbish".

Should the notion that Sinn Fein's chief negotiator was a "tout" gain any credence it would be deeply damaging to the republican movement.

"We have heard this all before," a Sinn Fein spokesman said.

"It is rubbish." he added. "It is nonsense. Anybody with half a wit will treat it with the contempt that it rightly deserves."

Yesterday Mr McGuinness attended a Gaelic football match between Derry and Tyroneat Omagh. He declined to make any comment.

The allegation came less than a week after Gerry Adams's failed attempt to install Mr McGuinness as a Sinn Fein deputy first minister during the most recent attempt to restore devolution at Stormont.

The Sunday World article quoted Martin Ingram, a former agent handler who unmasked Freddie Scappaticci as a British spy two years ago.

Before Mr Donaldson, the exposing of Scappaticci, the head of the IRA's internal security, as the agent Stakeknife was the highest-profile spy case to rock the Provisional movement.

The newspaper published an undated document, which Mr Ingram claimed to be the transcript of a conversation between Mr McGuinness and an MI6 handler.

Mr McGuinness is not mentioned by name, but Mr Ingram claimed that the codename J118 referred to him.

The document outlines dialogue between J118 and a handler, denoted as G.

According to Mr Ingram, they discuss plans for the IRA's "human bomb" strategy of 1990.

In the first human bomb attack, the IRA's Patsy Gillespie drove an explosive device to a vehicle checkpoint at Coshquin on the Donegal border.

A booby-trapped door resulted in the bomb being detonated while he sat in the driver's seat.

Gillespie was killed along with five soldiers from the Kings Regiment.

The document showed J118 saying that everyone was "geared up for it". It also showed G reassuring J118 that "no one can point the finger at you".

G also tells J118 not to worry about IRA members who wanted to take the human bomb campaign to Belfast, adding: "We will look after things in that department, you just concentrate on the checkpoints."

Interviewed in the Sunday World, Mr Ingram claimed that Mr McGuinness's MI6 handlers encouraged the IRA to go for the human bomb campaign to provoke a backlash against the Provisionals.

He suggested that the five British soldiers were sacrificed as a "means to an end". Mr Ingram said: "They play the long game, not the short game. To them solving the problems in Ireland was a marathon, not a sprint."

Yesterday, however, a security source told The Daily Telegraph that it was "nonsense" that MI6 would pursue such a strategy.

The exposure of Mr Donaldson as a British agent of 20 years standing provided evidence that Sinn Fein had been infiltrated at the highest levels. Nevertheless, for devoted republicans it would be unthinkable for Mr McGuinness to be a British spy. With Mr Adams, the Sinn Fein president, he has masterminded the party's political strategy and his republican credentials are regarded as impeccable.

During the Saville Inquiry into the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings, he admitted that he was an adjutant (second in command) in the Derry Brigade of the IRA.

His membership of the IRA led to him serving a jail sentence in the Irish Republic.

Mr McGuinness has claimed that he left the IRA in the mid-1970s to concentrate on his work with Sinn Fein, the Provisionals' political wing.

Since then, however, it has been repeatedly alleged that he and Mr Adams had remained IRA key figures and were members of the seven-strong army council.

Both men have denied that they were on the council.

Mr McGuinness was elected to the House of Commons in 1997, but has never taken his seat, refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

More recently he was the education minister in the last power-sharing administration.

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