Prosecutors in the North have dropped their main charges
against two Belfast republicans accused of involvement in an
alleged IRA "spy ring" at Stormont.
Sinn Fein's head of administration, Denis Donaldson, and his
son-in-law, Ciaran Kearney, were originally charged in October
2002 with possessing documents of a secret, confidential or
restricted nature that originated in government offices.
However, those charges have now been dropped. Mr Donaldson and
Mr Kearney may still face remaining charges, which are
significantly less substantial than the PSNI police previously
The pair were arrested after highly publicised PSNI raids on
republican homes in Belfast and on Sinn Fein's offices in
Scenes of squadrons of armed police raiding the party's office
dramatised the arrests in an operation dubbed 'Operation
Torsion'. The PSNI subsequently claimed to have uncovered a
high-level IRA "spy ring" in Stormont, a move that caused the
collapse of the North's political institutions and the
re-imposition of direct rule from London.
The then First Minister, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
claimed the affair was 'bigger than Watergate'.
However, it quickly emerged that nothing was found at the Sinn
Fein office at Stormont.
The authorities dragged out the so-called 'Stormontgate' case
for fifteen months without any charges brought against the
pair and their fellow accused, civil servant William Mackessy
and west Belfast woman Fiona Farrelly.
The inordinate delays in providing disclosure to defence
lawyers has been repeatedly raised in court.
It was alleged in a bail hearing that a laptop computer found
at Farrelly's home, including the details of prison warders.
However, all charges against Farrelly were dropped in
It is understood that the accused will deny the remaining
The British authorities are once again being urged to reveal
truth behind 'Operation Torsion', widely believed to have been
a political manoeuvre to justify the collapse of the Assembly
and to build pressure for the disbandment of the IRA.
The families of the four have said their relatives had been
the victims of a campaign of "malicious and sustained