Portrait of a traitor
There is no denying that republicans are angry and disgusted by
the outing of the once popular, and occasionally revered, Denis
The typical reaction of Sinn Fein activists in Belfast was one of
Brought up in the strongly republican Short Strand area of east
Belfast, the 55-year-old grew up with the IRA's struggle.
His father was an IRA man in the 1950s and it wasn't long before
Donaldson joined himself. Sentenced to ten years in Long Kesh,
and it was during this time that he met key republican figures
Bobby Sands and Gerry Adams.
A smuggled photograph, picturing him arm-in-arm with Bobby Sands
and others, helped to ensure his reputation in later years.
His time in Long Kesh's Cage 16, regarded as a republican think
tank, further bolstered his reputation as a committed republican
and a serious thinker.
Released in 1976, Donaldson became active in the developing Sinn
Fein party, with its peace strategy in its infancy at the time.
A smiling, canny man, Donaldson rose through the republican ranks
in the 1980s.
Holding the trusted position of IRA intelligence officer for a
lengthy period, Donaldson would have had access to the IRA's most
It was during this time that he was recruited. His statement on
Friday claims he had "compromised" himself during "a vulnerable
time", but admitted he had been paid money for his information.
By the time he flew to Lebanon in 1987 as part of a republican
delegation that tried to secure the release of Irish hostage
Brian Keenan, he was already working for (the then RUC) Special
Working in the background, Donaldson shunned the Sinn Fein
spotlight but became increasingly involved in the political
process. With a reputation as 'a charmer', he was already
established as a key aide to Gerry Adams and the rest of the
party leadership, and effectively worked as a Sinn Fein chief of
As the peace process began to develop momentum in the early 1990s
Donaldson was playing a key role in coordinating Sinn Fein's
offices in the United States.
He helped organise the first US trips by Gerry Adams and Martin
McGuinness and was granted a visa waiver to enter the country.
It remains unclear whether the US goverment was aware of his
work, which would have included spying on US citizens for the
He had an invaluable listening post not only on Irish-America but
also on the US administration, which was at loggerheads with the
British government on many aspects of Irish policy. Donaldson met
State Department officials regularly, carrying messages back and
forth from the republican leadership.
Donaldson ensured his advancement by unswervingly supporting the
Adams-McGuinness leadership and the party's peace strategy. He
was a key aide in the negotiation of the 1998 Good Friday
When the Assembly was established, Donaldson was given the key
job of head of Sinn Fein administration. From then until his
arrest in October 2002 he was in a position to feed his handlers
The move was seen as highly unusual as republicans had been
consistently been blocked from carrying personal protection
Suspicion grew after details of the PSNI operation 'Torsion'
claimed that documents had been removed from Donaldson's house,
photocopied and then returned. Attempts to secure official
documentation on this process resulted in British officials
issuing a series of 'Public Interest Immunity Certificates' --
During the past year, with the assembly collapsed, Mr Donaldson
worked at Sinn Fein's Falls Road headquarters.
It has since emerged that just weeks before his arrest Donaldson
had become the first Sinn Fein official to be granted permission
by the PSNI to carry a gun for his own protection.