Sinn Féin expels British agent in Stormont row
A top republican was thrown out of Sinn Féin tonight after its leader Gerry Adams alleged he was working as a British agent.
Denis Donaldson, 55, the party’s former head of administration, was expelled after an investigation by the leadership.
Eight days after he and two other men were cleared of spying charges inside Stormont, Sinn Féin announced he had been told to quit last night.
A statement from Mr Adams said: “The collapse of the power sharing government was blamed on allegations of a Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.
“The fact is that there was no Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.
“The fact is that this 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 Féin member who was a British agent.
“This is entirely the responsibility of the British Government.”
A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said: ``Police do not confirm or deny whether an individual is or was an informant.''
In October 2002, Mr Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy were arrested on suspicion of operating a spy ring at Stormont.
Police Land Rovers raided Sinn Féin’s offices at Stormont in scenes which resulted in the then Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid suspending devolution in Northern Ireland in an attempt to stave off a unionist walkout from the power sharing executive.
Eight days ago, the Public Prosecution Service announced it was no longer pursuing a case against the three men because it was not in the public interest.
Sinn Féin said the decision to drop the charges against the men was proof that the Stormontgate raids were part of a political policing operation.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain have faced demands from unionists and moderate nationalists in recent days for a Parliamentary statement explaining why the Public Prosecution Service withdrew the case.
Following separate meetings with Lord Goldsmith on Wesdnesday, the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists, the nationalist SDLP and Ulster Unionists complained that he stonewalled them when they asked what the public interest was.
Sinn Féin leader Mr Adams was due to hold a press conference later at Dublin’s Gresham Hotel following the decision to expel Mr Donaldson.
Republicans were left reeling today by the claims against Mr Donaldson, a popular figure within Sinn Féin.
As the head of Sinn Féin’s administration at Stormont at the time of the spy ring allegations in October 2002, he was a familiar face around Parliament Buildings.
During devolution, he would have come into contact with other political parties on a day to day basis, popping in and out of their offices.
In May 2003, the Republican Movement was also stunned when it was claimed west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was one of the British Army’s most valued intelligence agents, Stakeknife.
Mr Scappaticci strenuously denied the claims at a press conference.
In his statement today, Mr Adams criticised the use of informers and agents by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The West Belfast MP said: “What is clear is that there are those within the PSNI and the intelligence agencies who are a law unto themselves, who use informers, spies and agents and who are operating to their own agenda with no accountability.
“They are manipulating the situation for their own narrow ends. They have sought to undermine Sinn Féin and are working against the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement which is the publicly stated policy of the British and Irish Governments.
“The British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach have to wake up to this reality.”
Mr Adams said Sinn Féin had alerted the British and Irish Governments to the negative role in the peace process being played out by elements within the British system.
He continued: “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 Féin.”
Unionists said tonight they were astonished by the expulsion.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “This has certainly given an added twist to the entire Stormontgate scandal, and confirms our view that the reasons the court decided not to prosecute was because to do so would have compromised an agent of the state and sensitive security documents.
“It also raises the question that the decision not to proceed was politically motivated.”
Mr Mackessy, one of the three men cleared of the spying charges, once worked as a security man at the offices of Sir Reg Empey, then a minister in the powersharing executive at Stormont.
Sir Reg, now leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said tonight he would be seeking an urgent meeting with Government officials.
Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Alasdair Fraser has declined to comment on the affair
But Sir Reg said: “If this was the person who was being protected by the DPP, then there is no reason why these prosecutions cannot proceed.
“It actually debunks the claims by Sinn Féin there was no spy ring operating inside Stormont, when in fact there was.”
The Northern Ireland office strongly rejected Mr Adams' claims.
In a statement, it said: “We completely reject any allegation that the police operation in October 2002 was for any reason other than to prevent paramilitary intelligence gathering.
“The fact remains that a huge number of stolen documents were recovered by the police.
“As a result of the recovery of these documents, a large number of people had to be warned.
“We are not going to comment on the specifics of the case or these allegations.
“In terms of the dropping of the prosecution, that was a matter for the independent prosecuting authorities and there was no political interference whatsoever in that decision.”
Tonight the SDLP called on the British government to come clean on the affair.
The party’s deputy leader and south Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell said there was a distinct possibility Denis Donaldson was being used as a scapegoat to cover someone else.
He said: “We can now understand why Gerry Adams was so eager to move on from this affair last week, but fortunately the media and others didn’t let him and continued to ask questions.
“It is time for Sinn Féin to stop trying to cover up for the past and for themselves, as they are doing with the On-The-Run deal. Now that the truth is coming out we hope they will also face up to the truth of the Stakeknife affair and admit who knew what and when.
“There is now deep scepticism about what goes on in elements of the British Government and the provisinal leadership. The British government cannot retain credibility and continue to duck behind smokescreens called public interest.”
At a press conference in Dublin, Mr Adams said Denis Donaldson had admitted to being a paid British agent for the past 20 years.
Mr Donaldson had approached the party’s six county cuige chairman Declan Kerney after being warned by the PSNI he was going to be outed and his life was in danger.
At a subsequent meeting with Mr Kerney and another Sinn Féin official, Leo Green, he admitted to being a British agent and was expelled from the party.
Asked if he suspected there had been an informer, Mr Adams said: “I was very, very suspicious and some of us were very suspicious when the events of 2002 unfolded, when we saw this hugely-orchestrated operation at Stormont because we knew there was no Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.
“More recently, when this case collapsed, when the British did not prosecute, that suspicion was deepened,” he said.
“I had suspicions that there was somebody wrong within this – I had no specific suspicions about Denis Donaldson.”
Mr Adams said he would be talking by telephone to both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Berti Ahern to brief them on the situation.
He added: “I would be shocked if for one moment I thought that the British Prime Minister was part of any plot to take down a power-sharing executive he had spent a considerable amount of time, along with the rest of us, putting in place.”
Instead, he said, he had an informed suspicion the situation had been engineered by elements within British intelligence in Northern Ireland.
“My view is that that element who actually orchestrated the raid on Stormont and brought down the power-sharing executive were not satisfied with the fact this whole thing collapsed, and were about outing him and about creating another crisis in the peace process,” he said.
Mr Adams said he believed those elements wanted to see Mr Donaldson run away or be taken into protective custody with the blame laid at the door of republicans.
The Sinn Féin President said it was hard to know what the impact of these latest events would have on the peace process.
The question could not be answered until it was known if the British had started to tackle those within the system who were opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.
He said Mr Donaldson was currently with his solicitor.
Unfortunately there are likely to be even more traitors lurking within the Irish republican movement doing the work of their British colonial masters.
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