Arrest in Denis Donaldson murder probe?

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Previously adjourned, for the fifth time, in August last year, the inquest into the 2006 death of former senior Sinn Féin figure Denis Donaldson was adjourned again in January ahead of a further pre-inquest hearing on May 5.

Now the BBC are reporting that a 70-year-old man has been arrested and is being questioned in Letterkenny Garda station, County Donegal.   As RTÉ notes, the man is being detained “on suspicion of withholding information”.  He can be held for three days.

Responsibility for Donaldson’s murder was claimed in 2009 by the Real IRA.

The Donaldson family have recently been calling for an investigation into the “role played by British state agencies”, in particular, “the identities, motivations, activities, links, communications and movements of [Donaldson's former handler] Lenny and their Special Branch associates.”  Which has echoes of earlier conspiracy theories…  And here’s another post worth linking to.

But that investigation would, probably, not be in the public interest…

There have already been questions about the motivations behind some versions of events concerning Denis Donaldson…

And a reminder of a more coherent theory of events, as evidenced by Liam Clarke

Although Donaldson was an important agent to the British during these years, former intelligence officers doubt that he passed on all the information to which he had access. Otherwise he would not have survived for two decades.

As the peace process began to provide political dividends in the form of the Good Friday agreement and power sharing, Donaldson became head of the party’s administration in the parliament buildings in Stormont.

Police believe that he knew of an IRA spy ring at the heart of the British administration at Stormont but kept quiet about it for fear that his role would be exposed.

Donaldson apparently did not know that the spy ring was revealed to the RUC Special Branch by a lower-level agent whose information sparked a three-month surveillance operation known by the codename Operation Torsion.

A mass of intelligence material gathered by the IRA at Stormont was removed from a house in Belfast by the police, copied and returned in the vain hope that Bobby Storey, the IRA’s head of intelligence, would eventually take possession of it and expose himself to arrest.

This entrapment and surveillance operation took place against strong advice from MI5 who urged the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to seize the papers and leave it at that. It reasoned that this would be enough to halt the spying operation and bring Donaldson into line.[added emphasis]

In the end the police decided to recover the IRA intelligence cache and make what arrests they could — including Donaldson and his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney. The affair led to the collapse of power sharing and the fall of David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, who was blamed by loyalist voters for being too trusting of Sinn Fein. In the continuing political fall-out, Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist party ousted the Ulster Unionists as the majority party at the last general election.

No-one’s been charged, nevermind convicted, yet.  So keep the speculation to a minimum.

Adds  The updated BBC report notes that a second man in his 30s has also been arrested for questioning.

Update  Both men have now been released without charge.

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  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin
  • Nunoftheabove

    Has it ever been confirmed that Liam ‘Copeland’ McGinley is either in protective custody and/or has been placed within the witness protection program in relation to his apparent willingness to share with the Gardai what he alleged/s he knew about the Donaldson killing following on from the apparent attempt by RIRA to kill him in November 2007 ?

  • The Raven

    Who’s that standing behind Donaldson in the photograph they always use?

    Wonder if he can shed any light on what happened…

  • 241934 john brennan

    Denis Donaldson played a pivotal role in the organisation/reorganisation/disorganisation (take your pick) of Sinn Fein in the South Down constituency. The following extract from the Down Democrat weekly newspaper is probably as near the truth as we are ever likely to get – about his political motives, activities and influence:

    “TCM Archives > Down Democrat > 2006/01/03 > Spy ring riddle

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006 :

    ________________________________________
    Spy ring riddle

    SENSATIONAL claims about the existence of a culture of spying and intelligence gathering by Sinn Fein members in South Down have been made in the aftermath of the Denis Donaldson affair.

    Disillusioned party activists have told the Down Democrat that they believe the former Sinn Fein Director of Elections, who before Christmas was unmasked as being a British agent for 30 years, has planted his own network of spies throughout South Down. They have also voiced strong criticism of the role played by Caitriona Ruane in the constituency, describing her as “a divisive figure who was always too quick to follow the Donaldson line.”

    The Sinn Fein leadership is also accused of turning a blind eye to the activities of a convicted drug dealer.

    THE central role of MI5 agent Denis Donaldson in developing Sinn Fein’s electoral strategy across South Down has left the constituency riddled with informers and intelligence gatherers who are actively working for the British Security Forces.

    The claims about the vulnerability of Sinn Fein to infiltration by agents collecting information on behalf of the Stormont authorities have been made by a group of South Down based party activists.

    They say that they have been left with “no alternative” but to voice their concerns in public. Their comments come in the wake of the outing of Denis Donaldson as a British agent just before Christmas.

    As a former Director of Elections for Sinn Fein he was regarded as a member of the party’s elite inner circle and as the effective Chief of Staff for Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

    The confirmation that Denis Donaldson had been on the payroll of British Intelligence for over two decades has thrown Sinn Fein into turmoil. Questions continue to be asked within political circles over the exact timing of the disclosure that Donaldson was a British agent.

    In particular there is recurring speculation that his cover was blown after 20 years in order to protect a number of even more highly placed intelligence moles within Sinn Fein.

    “We cannot trust anybody anymore. It’s as simple as that. When you have a major player like Donaldson turned over as a British spy it could be your brother or sister who is also on the paid informer list.

    “We have no faith in promises that we will be listened to. The people at the top, the people close to the leadership, are the same individuals that have forced hard working members of Sinn Fein out of the party.

    “They parachuted in Caitriona Ruane to fight the South Down seat in the General Election. This was done over the wishes of the rank and file membership who wanted to support a locally based candidate.

    “We complained when Donaldson demanded that his own people were given priority in the last Local Government elections. “Francie Branniff had no say in being moved out of Down District to fight for a seat on Banbridge Council.

    “Frank McDowell was another one that Donaldson wanted to get rid of. But Frank refused to budge, despite all sorts of dirty tricks. “Party headquarters tried to say he had a rough and ready image and that he didn’t fit the new profile they wanted in their Councillors.”

    There was also anger expressed over the treatment of former Downpatrick based Councillor Aiden Carlin, who at one stage was regarded as a rising star of Sinn Fein. “Aiden Carlin was given no option but to quit the party. He was looked upon as one of the best young prospects we had by many people.

    “But because he questioned the way the party was going on some issues he was invited up to the Short Strand and given an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    “He was given promises about investigations into various matters before eventually being prevailed upon by elements based in South Armagh to stand aside. “When you are given the choice of having your name on a ballot or a bullet the decision making process becomes pretty easy.”

    The embarrassing revelations in the Down Democrat about the prominent role played by a convicted drug dealer while at the same time representing Sinn Fein in Newcastle was another contentious issue.

    “When questions were asked about why a convicted drug dealer in Aveen Butler was allowed to stay in the party and continue to make offers of cash donations for various projects, we were told it was none of our business.

    “The public was told lies by the leadership over Aveen Butler. They knew for months before Butler was exposed as having a record for drugs offences.

    “Yet they allowed her to build up a profile as a community activist in Newcastle. “Was it perhaps because Butler was willing to offer sums of £10,000 for various projects that she was tolerated?

    “It’s no surprise that plenty of decent and committed Sinn Fein supporters like former Hunger Striker Gerry Carville and election worker Mickey McClelland refused to play any further public role for the party when the sordid Aveen Butler revelations surfaced” they said.

    The Sinn Fein party workers and members told the Down Democrat that they repeatedly warned about the long term implications of pursuing the Donaldson selection agenda, especially regarding Caitriona Ruane. “But we were not listened to. It was a case of “Do what I say and don’t ask any questions.”

    “People were hauled in from South Armagh and put in positions of authority. Long standing Republicans, from places like Castlewellan, were dumped and left humiliated. “Those people that Donaldson handpicked were to a certain extent vetted by the party, even though he always made it clear that he would have the final say.

    “There are plenty of people in Sinn Fein who are now very concerned that those party workers were also given the stamp of approval by the British Government. “And did the Brits have a say in the choice of Ruane as the candidate to fight Eddie McGrady in the Westminster seat?

    “After all, it suited the British to keep South Down in SDLP hands. All the publicity just before the General Election of a dirty tricks campaign against McGrady based on leaked Stormont documents gave the SDLP a head start. “Combined with the choice of a weak and unpopular candidate in Ruane it was perfect for the SDLP. It also suited the British perfectly.

    “Looking back at the whole Stormont spygate issue and Donaldson’s pivotal role in the case it all ties up very neatly as an example of Donaldson’s political betrayal. “Nobody can convince us that that isn’t the situation.” The Sinn Fein activists stressed to the Down Democrat that they were in no way to be classified as so-called Dissident Republicans.

    “We are Republican by conviction. No one can take that away from us. It isn’t us who have been found out to have been supplying information to the British. “We have never compromised on our principles and we never will. But we determined to ask questions that will have to be answered.”

    They told the Down Democrat that up to now those that dared to question the official party line as dictated by Donaldson over the past number of years have been placed, at best “in a kind of political quarantine.”

    “They are treated as diseased dogs. They are completely muzzled and only allowed to repeat what is fed to them through the central publicity office.

    “Those that are regarded as being beyond redemption are just dumped out into a Siberian type political exile. “The general public, the ordinary people who voted for Sinn Fein, don’t realise how tight the control is.

    “Denis Donaldson operated, and was allowed to operate, a form of Thought Police control. “He ruled with a rod of iron. He was allowed by the party leadership to get away with what he wanted to get away with.

    “Now however people are looking over their shoulder. They are, quite rightly in our opinion, asking if the strategy implemented by the leadership was all of their own or was it really a blueprint drawn up and ultimately sanctioned by the British?

    “Donaldson was never away from South Down. It was his baby. He was the one that pulled all the strings in getting people into positions of authority. “Good people have been forced out of the party. They couldn’t take it any more. They could see what was going on.”

    The Sinn Fein party activists told the Down Democrat they believe that the entire complexion of the party in South Down, and its approach towards any form of internal dissent, has been formed and shaped by the values and views of Denis Donaldson.

    “The Donaldson agenda was at its strongest in South Down. He called all the shots. “But it was the British who supplied the ammunition. “And even though Donaldson has gone the individuals he allowed to pull the various triggers are still firmly in place.”
    ________________________________________

  • http://amanfrommars.blogspot.com/ amanfromMars

    “Denis Donaldson operated, and was allowed to operate, a form of Thought Police control. “He ruled with a rod of iron. He was allowed by the party leadership to get away with what he wanted to get away with.

    “Now however people are looking over their shoulder. They are, quite rightly in our opinion, asking if the strategy implemented by the leadership was all of their own or was it really a blueprint drawn up and ultimately sanctioned by the British?

    Hi, 241934 john brennan,

    Does that suggest that the leadership, which has had a remarkably charmed existence, were/are also paid agents/foreign assets like Donaldson? Wow, that is something which has been kept quiet and might not be popular with a whole range of folk for a whole host of unpleasant reasons.

  • Kadfoomsa

    The thing about Donaldson for me was not that he was a member of Sinn Féin, he wasnt.

    He was a Crown Agent operating to subvert a politcal party.

    He clearly was very good at it and all his actions must be seen in this context.

    The question for the Crown is that is it right to subvert democracy in this manner by running agents, Stasi style inside political parties.

    Sinn Féin caught with pants down sure. Not sure if I believe that the entire Republican leadership are actually British agents, why would Unionist oppose Sinn Féin if in actual fact Sinn Féin was ruled by agents of the very crown that unionists submitt so completely to?

  • http://amanfrommars.blogspot.com/ amanfromMars

    Not sure if I believe that the entire Republican leadership are actually British agents, why would Unionist oppose Sinn Féin if in actual fact Sinn Féin was ruled by agents of the very crown that unionists submitt so completely to?” ….. Kadfoomsa 13 April 2011 at 4:24 pm

    All it would need is few right at the top with a lot to hide to be prime targets for turning with the offer of solid well paid legit employment with lots of perks and expenses for the milking and bilking of, and as you rightly say the stealth in the deception would be in it being hard to believe and easily dismissed as being unlikely. And that is its greatest strength. It’s a typical intelligence head game move.

  • granni trixie

    To people like me who are in an anti-violence political party in NI, republican in fighting or informers is something we know not. And I resent that the talk in this post is as if it is the norm. Its another world.

  • http://amanfrommars.blogspot.com/ amanfromMars

    To people like me who are in an anti-violence political party in NI, republican in fighting or informers is something we know not. And I resent that the talk in this post is as if it is the norm. Its another world.” ….. granni trixie 13 April 2011 at 10:20 pm

    It is the norm in those other worlds, granni trixie. And you can’t really ignore it if it isn’t going away.

  • Kadfoomsa

    Granni Trixie,

    The suggestion that MI5 dont run agents in the Alliance Party is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

    Alliance of all the parties follow closest the official Crown line.

    Come on!

  • Pete Baker

    Update Both men have now been released without charge.