No-one comes out smelling of roses…

THE most likely explanation for Denis Donaldson’s exposure as a British agent inside Sinn Fein could have come about – quite possibly inadvertantly – as a result of probing by his solicitors, Madden & Finucane, into the ‘Stormontgate’ case. But perhaps it was only confirming conclusions Sinn Fein has been coming to over the past week…The Sunday Times reported that the police had handled evidence that theoretically could have been tampered with, such as the laptop said to contain the details of 1,400 prison officers, thus requiring the police to produce a “chain of evidence”. Since none was forthcoming, it strongly suggested the State was protecting an agent, a belief probably reinforced within SF when the charges were so mysteriously dropped without explanation “in the public interest” – standard British procedure in such cases. Since the case obviously passed the DPP’s evidentiary test, as the Attorney General confirmed to the SDLP, it wouldn’t have taken much of a leap of faith for SF see the work of an agent.

With only three suspects in the ring, SF would have been able to deduce who had access to what and when. They are likely to have drawn their conclusions only within the last few days – backed by the fact that Gerry Adams stood shoulder to shoulder at a Stormont press conference with Donaldson on December 9. Donaldson was effectively Adams’ chief of staff within the Assembly, often popping into other parties offices as the “friendly face” of Sinn Fein’s outreach.

Suspicions may also have been raised by the police granting Donaldson a shotgun licence shortly before his arrest, but the ST report suggests that Donaldson did not necessarily instigate the intelligence gathering, possibly being used to catch a bigger fish – probably IRA intelligence director Bobby Storey – in Operation Torsion.

The lists of names of people on the lists seized in the wake of the Stormont raids (including from Donaldson’s home, IIRC) was broader than just civil servants and prison officers, including loyalists and at least one republican who was seen as a problem to SF. This suggests that there was republican intelligence gathering on a wider level outside Stormont not involving the alleged Stormont spy inside SF. If the IRA had not seen the captured lists, it is doubtful the Government would have spent tens of millions on relocation schemes.

In ‘An Armed Peace’, Brian Rowan suggested that the files had been removed, copied and replaced by the police. Sinn Fein are probably working on the assumption that this was Donaldson’s role. However, Rowan claims today that Donaldson was not the source for the authorities finding out about republican intelligence gathering, again suggesting he wasn’t the instigator of the operation and that there is another high-level source within Sinn Fein as yet undiscovered.

The ST report suggests that the republican agent was being run by Special Branch. Since SB carried out the raid, perhaps Denis’s arrest was designed to protect him from suspicion from within SF. By that stage MI5 was involved. While they and John Reid advocated a more subtle approach (with his ‘Yellow Card’ warning), Bill Lowry, who resigned as head of Special Branch shortly afterwards, decided on a more heavy-handed approach. Perhaps he didn’t believe that London was taking the perceived threat to prison officers etc seriously enough. Perhaps he wanted revenge for the embarrassing break-in at the PSNI’s Castlereagh branch, in which both the IRA and MI5 had at different times been implicated. Lowry would later blame MI5 for his removal from the position.

SF will always blame the ‘securocrats’, but if Donaldson did not instigate the spying in the first place – which appears reasonable – then they were caught out by the agent, who was said to have worked for the British for 20 years.

Whether agent provocateur or not, for him to have remained in place for so long makes Sinn Fein look very silly indeed.

Earlier this month, Donaldson claimed that the dropped charges against him were proof of “political policing”. What he didn’t mention was that it was him doing the policing…

ADDS: The NIO has released a statement here.

  • harpo


    You seem to be taking the line that Donaldson HAS been exposed as a British agent. As do many others.

    So far as I can see all we have is an accusation that this is the case by PSF.

    You speculate that probing by his solicitors exposed this within the last week. And that PSF had suspicions for just the last week. Wouldn’t that be odd – they had years to think of such things and/or probe and only work it out within the last week? That’s handy.

    I have a different theory. Donaldson has accepted an offer from the Provos that he couldn’t refuse. They have asked him to take the blame for being a British spy, in return for a quiet life from here on in. No being dumped dead with a bag over the head in south Armagh.

    The Provos know that there is a real Brit spy about, but don’t know who it is. Making Donaldson the spy makes it look as if they have cracked the evil British plot. Whether they actually have or not.

    They also need an out for this Stormont spy-ring thing, so they get Donaldson to confirm that yes he set up a spy ring, but only because he as working for the Brits, and only because they wanted to collapse the Assembly to save Trimble.

    This scenario suits the Provos. PSF come off able to sell the usual securocrats story to their faithful, and have the advantage of now demanding that the institutions be brought back again as it was only a British dirty trick that had them collapsed.

    And all it costs them is getting a guy to nod along with what they say. I’m sure they still have the old powers of persuasion – the threat of a trip to south Armagh always helps.

    The only catch is that Donaldson is going to have to explain the differences between his latest claims and his claims made before these recent events. But the Provo faithful won’t care about that. They have their teeth into a british dirty trick.

  • Henry94

    The implication in this thread is that donaldson’s soliticitors discovered their client was a spy and reported that fact inn flagrant violation of their moral and legal responsibility to their client.

    That is a libel as I read it.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    There is no suggestion that the lawyers acted anything other than properly, if you care to read the intro again.

    M&C were acting on behalf of a client that they apparently knew only half the truth about. They could have exposed him without realising he was an agent, which is perfectly reasonable if they had no idea.

    You can’t libel someone by claiming they did the job they were employed to do – protecting their client and acting in their best interests. It ain’t their fault he isn’t who he said he was.

    They appear to have conducted a pretty thorough investigation, if the result of the other two previous defendants is anything to go by. They can hardly help if the third guy wasn’t on the level with them.

    And that doesn’t constitute defamation. Quite the opposite, I would’ve thought. No wonder Paul Berry is such a fan.

    Nice try though.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    Much as I hate to I’m going to edit your comments, as I believe you ARE libelling M&C, even if you do believe otherwise.