The Irish Independent has an inspired headline on an article by Maurice Hayes on the unmasking of Denis Donaldson as an informant – “Paperknife cuts Sinn Féin” – and looks at conlficting views on the importance of informants in policing. While, in The Times, David Sharrock remembers a, perhaps now revealing, quote from Donaldson in 1994 – “For too many people the IRA has become the end in itself and no longer the vehicle to achieve the end for which it fights” – and The Guardian is not tempted by an inquiryMaurice Hayes also points to the role of informants, and the conflicting views of their importance –
There is something deep in the Irish psyche that is uncomfortable with the idea of spies and informants.
There is a wider view too that in these days of transparency, police forces should not enlist the services of informants. And yet, criminals rarely give themselves up, crimes are rarely solved by brilliant Sherlock Holmes exercises of deductive logic or solely by forensic science, but because somebody has been induced to talk.
It is not only embarrassing to the Sinn Fein leadership, following Stakeknife, that their inner circles should have been penetrated again. Rumours of further disclosures of even bigger fish to come, probably deliberately started, are designed to foster distrust and create more confusion.
There must be those still of a military tendency who will question the vulnerability, if not the judgment and gullibility of the political leadership. The desire to limit damage internally and among the faithful is one strong reason why Sinn Fein have come out so strongly in an effort to transfer blame to the Brits and the police, to divert attention from internal weaknesses, and to prevent their own members from asking awkward questions.
In the fractured politics of the North, all parties will claim some gains from the episode. Sinn Fein will seek to blame the Brits and the securocrats, and use the occasion to justify having nothing to do with policing until the code of discipline includes a requirement never to arrest anyone, much less question them, never to use covert surveillance or informant or accomplice evidence.
Unionists will use it as an excuse to down tools on power-sharing and the creation of a local Executive.
The Guardian Leader column adds an interesting view on inquiries –
It is tempting to call for an inquiry, and there will doubtless be more calls today. Yet it is important to ask of such a call, as of the revelation itself, what its purpose is and who really benefits? Northern Ireland has had many inquiries; some have been unavoidable and useful, others have been distractions and devices for delay. The threat from the spy ring was genuine, not confected, the Northern Ireland police ombudsman confirms, but it is extremely unlikely that an inquiry into Stormontgate will uncover the full truth.