How significant was Donaldson?

Suzanne Breen reports on the shockwaves going through Sinn Fein and the IRA in the wake of Friday’s events. She also argues that there is little doubt that Sinn Fein or the IRA was keeping highly detailed intelligence files on their political opponents.Despite protests to the contrary Donaldson appears to have been part of an influential group within the leadership of Sinn Fein:

Gerry Adams has downplayed Donaldson’s role, stressing he wasn’t a member of the ard comhairle or Sinn Fein’s negotiating team. But several sources insist he was part of Adams’ “inner circle”, attending key strategy meetings and having access to a wide range of information. He was said to be Adams’ eyes and ears at Stormont. “Denis never hogged the limelight, ” said one veteran republican. “He was a backroom boy but he was well in there.”

After one stay in the US, Donaldson boasted he had become friends with actor Mickey Rourke, but generally he kept a low profile. “Denis never stood on any toes, never made enemies, ” the source said. “He was everybody’s friend. If certain things were being discussed and he was there, nobody minded. The attitude would be ‘talk away, it’s only Denis’.”

She also picks holes in Sinn Fein’s assertion that the Donaldson arrest proves that Sinn Fein and/or the IRA were actually spying:

Over 1,000 stolen documents were recovered in police raids. These documents weren’t invented by the PSNI. The Sunday Tribune has learned that their existence has been independently confirmed by unionists and the SDLP. The documents included names and addresses of a wide variety of individuals, correspondence to government, and SDLP and Ulster Unionist papers.


In Stormontgate, documents were found in Donaldson’s home. Sinn Fein has been aware of this since the 2002 raids. Had Donaldson taken the documents without sanction, he would have been immediately expelled from the party. Even if Donaldson was an agent provocateur, such an operation would have required Army Council or GHQ (General Headquarters staff) approval.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty