TOP TOUT OUT
The exposure of a top-level spy within Sinn Fein has dealt a
significant if belated blow to the British government's efforts to
control and manipulate the peace process.
The outing of Denis Donaldson, a highly prominent party veteran
and a de facto member of the Sinn Fein leadership, has stunned
the North's political establishment and thrown a major question
mark over political developments in recent years. Donaldson has
admitted to have secretly worked on behalf of the RUC/PSNI
Special Branch and British military intelligence for over 20
From the Short Strand area of east Belfast, Donaldson played a
central role in the so-called 'Stormontgate' plot, a British plan
to collapse the institutions of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement
through the "discovery" of a republican spy ring at the heart
the Belfast Assembly.
Donaldson was one of five arrested in October 2002 following a
scene of high political farce at the Stormont parliament
buildings, the seat of the Assembly. Sinn Fein's offices at
Stormont, where Donaldson was head of administration, were raided
by hundreds of PSNI police in a bogus and artificial attempt to
create a crisis in the peace process.
Although no evidence was found to justify the charges, blame fell
on the party and the Provisional IRA for the collapse of the
Agreement, rather than the increasing intransigence of the main
Donaldson appeared at a press conference in a Dublin hotel on
Friday and confirmed he had worked as a Special Branch agent
since 1985. He said his last contacts with the RUC/PSNI Special
Branch had been in the days preceding his arrest in 2002 and last
week, when he was informed his cover had finally been blown.
The informer said he had been recruited "during a vulnerable
time". He apologised to former comrades and his family for his
Stormontgate was "a scam and a fiction" orchestrated by PSNI
Branch, he added.
The development has generated an extraordinary amount of
speculation as to how much damage Donaldson has inflicted on the
republican cause, and the manouevring which led to his "arrest"
at Sinn Fein's Stormont office three years ago.
What is unquestionably true, however, is that the only spy
involved in the so-called Stormontgate affair was a paid Special
Branch agent working on behalf of the British government.
Donaldson is the highest mole ever placed by the British
government within the republican movement, and his exposure has
scandalised the Sinn Fein leadership as well as the British Prime
Minister. Tony Blair, who would have been closely briefed on
the handling of Britain's prime intelligence asset in Ireland, is
facing calls for an explanation of his governments' apparent
efforts to destroy the peace process. Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams
is also being urged to resign by the rival nationalist SDLP for
his close association with Mr Donaldson.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the development on
Friday, Mr Adams said the nature of British rule in Ireland had
for a very long time been driven by "a security agenda, with
policy dictated by British Intelligence, state police and
military agencies. The Good Friday Agreement is, as much as
anything else, about ending that."
Mr Adams said the allegation of a Sinn Fein spy ring at Stormont
was "a carefully constructed lie created by the Special Branch in
order to cause maximum political impact.
"The fact is that the collapse of the political institutions was
a direct result of the actions of some of those who run the
intelligence and policing system of the British.
"The fact is that the key person at the centre of those events
was a Sinn Fein member who was a British agent. This is entirely
the responsibility of the British government."
Mr Adams, however, was careful not to directly blame the British
Prime Minister for the scandal, instead castigating the PSNI and
the intelligence agencies who he said were "a law onto
The Sinn Fein President called on Tony Blair and the 26-County
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern "to wake up to the reality" that these
agencies were working against the implementation of the Good
Friday Agreement and were "operating to their own agenda with no
"Sinn Fein has been very conscious of the negative role being
played by elements within the British system and we have raised
these matters consistently with both governments," Mr Adams said.
"If Britain's war is over then the British Prime Minister needs
to come to terms with the fact that he has to end the activities
of the securocrats.
"This entire episode underlines the need for an end to political
policing. That, and defending the Good Friday Agreement remains
the focus of Sinn Fein."