Stormontgate and the still unanswered questions

Alisdair McDonnell asked some interesting questions in his letter to the Irish Times yesterday. With his permission we re-print it today:From Alisdair McDonnell

Sinn Féin is claiming it was stitched up over the IRA spy ring at Stormont which led to the arrest and charging of a leading member, Denis Donaldson.

That is a profoundly serious allegation and one the SDLP takes very seriously. We are determined to get to the truth of what really happened.

That is why we have been asking certain key questions of Sinn Féin – and are looking for answers – so that we can decide if these allegations have any credibility.

First, everybody agrees that a rucksack with a mound of documents was found in Denis Donaldson’s house over three years ago. If there never was an IRA spy ring, why did Sinn Féin not expel him immediately when these were found?

Why did the party wait three years before taking action? How can it expect us to believe that it did not realise that he was an informer despite a huge pile of British documents being found in his house?

Or is it the truth that there really was an IRA-authorised spy ring? Is it the truth that the IRA expected British documents to be in Denis Donaldson’s house because he was part of that IRA spy ring – but, unknown to them, had been working for the British?

Second, Sinn Féin activist Niall Binéad, the right-hand man of Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, was convicted last year of IRA membership in a Dublin court after he was found with personal details of three successive ministers for justice. He also had details of where Southern politicians drank and gambled. Can Sinn Féin explain why its activist was following Southern politicians?

And, given that the IRA was clearly spying in the South, are we really to believe that it would never do so in the North? Are we to believe that the Provisional movement is more loyal to the institutions of the state in the North than the South?

Or is Sinn Féin claiming that Niall Binéad was set up by the Garda Síochána and that the Irish Government, led by Bertie Ahern, is working with Irish securocrats to undermine the peace process also?

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Why doesn’t the SDLP ask the key questions of the Police Ombudsman, who, it seems, didn’t know about Donaldson’s role as a British agent when she gave the Stormont raids a ‘clean bill of health’ in August 2004?

    Why doesn’t the SDLP ask Denis Bradley, the vice chairman of the Police Board, to explain how he expects people to have faith in the PB as the ultimate source of authority for the PSNI if he knew nothing about the ‘Stormontgate’ affair?

    How serious are the SDLP about defending democratically elected institutions? How serious are the SDLP about defending democracy?

    Or are they more serious about defending their Westminster salaries, their Stormont perks, their various cushy numbers in Quango-land?

  • The question is, who really runs Sinn Féin? A key member has been exposed as a British agent. How many other key decision makers in the party are agents also? Has the Sinn Féin party been guided blindly towards peace and power-sharing by British agents in its ranks? Have the rank and file of the party misplaced their trust in the movement’s decision-makers to direct them honestly? The fact is, no one really knows the answers. No one knows what the guiding force behind the provisonal movement is.

  • Henry94

    It is quite bizarre to see the SDLP trying to set themselves up as a star chamber on this issue.

    Have they no questions at all for the PNSI who they claim to hold to account?

    How could the names and addresses alleged to be found in the British agents house have been obtained by a spy-ring at Stormont? Where in Stormont were they kept and who had access to them?

    Why was one of the Sinn Fein offices at Stormont very publicly raided but not searched

    Who tipped of the media that a raid would take place?

    Why did they proceed with the case until the last minute when one of their agents was involved and the case was doomed?

    Did they tell the Ombudsman that the chief suspect was their agent?

    Why did Hugh Orde claim that their evidence consisted of documents found in a house but did not mention it was the house of a police agent?

    Are paid police agents just involved in passing information or are they ever involved in framing people?

    Were the documents put in the house in an attempt to lure a specific person into a trap?

    If a member of an organisation breaking the law makes the organisation a criminal one then does a member of an orgainsiation accepting a British royalist honour make the organisation a loyalist one?

  • Shore Road Resident

    If bringing up an former party officer’s OBE is the best you can do, Henry, then you’re really losing the argument.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Over 18 months ago there occurred the theft (sic) of the details of 400 republicans from the Castlereagh Police Barracks. The information was in the hands of the RIR, 28 of whom transferred to other duties.
    At the time the NIO security minister stated that he had been assured by the PSNI that they was nothing particularly sinister in the theft and that the deatails were not in the hands of other unionist paramilitaries. It was yet another lie that emanated from the PSNI and NIO.

    What exactly have the new anti collusion SDLP (who sit on the Policing Board (PB)) done to hold the PSNI to account or their initial lying and cover-up?
    Have the SDLP been able to find out how many of the RIR members were arrested?
    Have the SDLP been able to find out how many of their homes were raided?
    Have the SDLP been able to find out why the PSNI delayed 18 months in telling those under threat from unionists that their details hade been leaked?
    Have the SDLP been able to ascertain the assistance that was given to the 400 to protect their homes from attack?

    Maybe the SDLP have none of these answers, but it is they who stated they were going on the PB tio hold the PSNI to account. It is they who stated that they were always opposed to collusion. It appears they are more interested in historical cases and the ready headline as opposed to their oft repeated claim to be holding people to account.

    The truth about the SDLP’s real intentions can be gleaned from the O’Donnell effort. Not once does he ask any questions of the PSNI. Not once does he entertain the notion that the state forces conspired to bring down the Assembly.
    The O’Donnell letter is just the latest in a long line of evidence that the SDLP don’t really and have never cared about collusion.

  • bigwhitedove

    Big Al knows well and good that everyone gathers political intelligence on their political opponents, this is not unique to Ireland north or south.He along with other party colleagues were very good at the start of the year in gathering information on the McCartney murder, no doubt this information, garnered from those in the bar and outside, and from members of the republican movement, could have been deemed by some to have been of “use to terrorists” i.e he and his colleagues could have ben charged with the same offence as Donaldson or Binead. Instead of keeping the information for private party use, big Al & co gave it to the media and other political parties. That is the only difference as far as I can see!!

  • Shore Road Resident

    Perhaps, Pat, if Sinn Fein wasn’t sulking over joining the Policing Boards, they could have obtained those answers themselves instead of having to wait for the SDLP to do their job for them?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    SRR,

    the questions I asked have nothing to do with SF at all. It has to do with the SDLP attitude of holding the PSNI to account over their lying and conspiracy of silence over this issue. It also calls into question their new found zeal on the collusion issue. It is they who have taken a very public position on these issues.

    This is a very real issue for the 400 concerned, if the SDLP don’t want to get to the bottom of the issue and prefer to get friendly headlines they should simply say so.

    After they afraid that they will have been seen to be inept on the Policing Board while collusion is still continuing?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Yes, your questions have to do with policing. The only forum for obtaining answers from the PSNI is the Policing Boards. Sinn Fein will not sit on the Policing Boards, claiming they are ineffective. This makes the Policing Boards ineffective for Sinn Fein’s purposes. And round and round it goes.
    Perhaps the real reason SF avoids the Policing Boards is because it wouldn’t like the answers to its own questions.

  • Northern FF

    Pat McLarnon

    You’re right to criticise the SDLP working to hold the PSNI to account via the Policing Board – it’s much better to mount ‘white line pickets’ outside police stations while simultaneously maintaining double agents within your ranks.

    And on the question of collusion, has no one explained that since the Provos appear to have been riddled with informers for the last twenty years, they now arguably represent the biggest state murder agent of them all.

  • Niall Binéad was hardly Aengus’s “right hand man”! He’s a longtime activist from Aengus’s constituency, that’s all. There’s absolutely no reason anyone in the party leadership should have known what he was doing with those names, assuming he was doing anything with them.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Northern FF,

    go back and read the first paragraph of my 2.17pm post very carefully, take it in and then try again.
    As for the rest of your ramble I prefer it from the likes of Ingram.

  • Paul

    Meanwhile, Allister McDonnell’s questions go unanswered.

  • J Kelly

    Could someone answer me this simple question when is it spying and when is it being tipped off by a sympathetic civil servant?

  • DK

    Paul,

    Yep – biggest point of Allister’s article is that SF seemed quite happy for DD to remain in the ranks for 3 years and never questioned his having the documents. Sort of suggests that maybe they expected him to do spying, or ordered him to.

    SF apologists here prefer to dig at the SDLP rather than address the key points of the article.

    The SDLP used to be an apologist for anything done by SF, but that strategy hasn’t fared well at the polls and now they are increasingly going for the only party they can reasonably expect to get votes off. No more easy ride for SF.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Before Mc Donnell is emntitled to answers I believe it is necessary to establish the bona fides of the SDLP on this issue.

    Are they after the truth or making political capitol? Mc Donnell claims to want to get to the bottom of the incident yet is unprepared to ask searching questions of the PSNI. So according to him only SF have questions to answer at this point. In his mindest are the PSNI incapable of wrongdoing? If so this would contradict the present SDLP on collusion where they tell us there was indeed collusion by state in criminal activity.

    Could it be that they feel they are unable to get answers from the PSNI and therefore they are on the Policing Board under false pretences and their claims of holding the PSNI to account are dishonest?
    In the most serious incident on collusion in recent years (Castlereagh) they have not shown any great urgency in confronting the PSNI.

  • Mick Fealty

    J Kelly,

    Absolutely. There is a systemic lack of openess in Northern Ireland. In large part that’s to do with being in a post conflict society. As Feeney pointed out, there is not likely to be an inquiry into any of this because the Enquiry Act safeguards a lot of this territory under national interest.

    A further point he made was that in absence of establishable facts, most unalligned members of the public will be victims of spin in the blame wars.

    Getting back to some settled form of government would help, but at some point there needs to be a willed move towards greater transparency.

    Relaxing the libel laws would be a good start.
    However, at the start of 2006 all of that seems a long long way off.

  • Mick Fealty

    Pat,

    “I believe it is necessary to establish the bona fides of the SDLP on this issue”.

    Is that not a very subtle (albeit an entirely respectable and political) form of playing the man? 😉

    Either the questions are valid or they’re not?

    Surely?

  • DK

    Pat,

    I don’t really care about the SDLP and didn’t even know that Allister was in the SDLP, he could have been a loyalist for all I knew. All I saw were a lot of anti-SDLP posts and no attempt to explain the points addressed. Suppose that is politics though – attack the man and forget the words.

  • Crataegus

    Obviously this is deeply embarrassing for SF and whilst I can understand the SDLP’s relish rubbing in the salt I think it would serve everyone better to try and unpick the British Government’s involvement. A bit of openness and truth from SF would help as it would benefit them and us all. What we have FROM ALL INVOLVED is a pile of half truths, deceptions and down right lies.

    This simply proves that SF are a side show. Aim for the puppet master.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Mick,

    it is a very clear case of tackling the SDLP postion on collusion and holding the PSNI to account. It was a letter issued in the name of Mc Donnell and not the SDLP press office.

    If the SDLP believe the state forces are guilty of collusion (and they were making a great point of this pre Xmas) then why are they accepting without question the position of Orde on Stormont? If they were serious about collusion they would be asking questions all round not just off SF.

    The point I make on the Castlreagh case is that it occurred on the SDLP watch while they were on the Policing Board. A serious incident occurred where the details of 400 people were stolen. The SDLP have been unable or more importantly unwilling to get to the bottom of that issue. To do so would bring them into direct conflict with the PSNI and question heir decision to join the PB.

    SF bashing is perfectly acceptable and political point scoring is all part of the game but the SDLP shouldn’t try and dress it up as anything else.

  • Shore Road Resident

    So Pat, your posts are “a very clear case of tackling the SDLP postion on collusion” while everyone else’s are just “SF bashing”?

    Change the record, please.

  • J Kelly

    SF bashing are what the SDLP are about and thats politics but when a party becomes fixated with its opponents it could very easily forgets its purpose. By the way could anyone tell what is the purpose of the SDLP.

  • Crataegus

    J Kelly

    What is the purpose of the UUP DUP, SF, Alliance, Greens, ………? Think they have all lost their way.

  • bigwhitedove

    I thought I had answered Big Als points, when I stated my belief that all parties in Ireland/the world engage in collating political intelligence on their opposition.
    Why should Sinn Fein be any different?
    Who cares what Donaldson(allegedly) had in his sack?. It was not being used to kill anyone merely to gain political advantage for Sinn Fein. I doubt even this was the case as I am sure M15 doctored them( before they went out) to ensure political advantage for others involved in the peace process!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Oilibhear, as usual despite having these things explained to you, you do not seem to understand how policing actually works – in Northern Ireland or anywhere else. I can answer your questions thus :

    Why doesn’t the SDLP ask the key questions of the Police Ombudsman, who, it seems, didn’t know about Donaldson’s role as a British agent when she gave the Stormont raids a ‘clean bill of health’ in August 2004?

    It is the Police Ombudsman’s role to investigate police misconduct or abuse. The Police Ombudsman does not have day to day access to internal operational matters within the police. Donaldson’s status as an informer has absolutely no bearing on this. Everyone agrees, including the PSNI Chief Constable, that the raid was handled badly but that is about the height of it.

    Why doesn’t the SDLP ask Denis Bradley, the vice chairman of the Police Board, to explain how he expects people to have faith in the PB as the ultimate source of authority for the PSNI if he knew nothing about the ‘Stormontgate’ affair?

    Because the Police Board is not the “ultimate source of authority” over the police. Hugh Orde is. Instead, the PB is there to hold the police to account, so that local people and politicians can understand it’s performance and have it explain itself. The PB emphatically does not exist to allow politicians or anyone else to dictate operational procedure to police officers, it does not exist to allow officers to be grilled, and it definitely does not exist to allow sensitive police operations to be explained to the general public while they are in progress – all of these things are impossible even in Chuckyland. I can’t understand why so many republican-oriented people like yourself are having such difficulty understanding what the PB is for – perhaps that is because you are being malicious.

    How serious are the SDLP about defending democratically elected institutions? How serious are the SDLP about defending democracy?

    Since it is Sinn Fein who are in the situation where one of their members was arrested and charged while in possession of several incriminating documents, it is not the SDLP who have a case to answer for here.

    Or are they more serious about defending their Westminster salaries, their Stormont perks, their various cushy numbers in Quango-land?

    Sinn Fein receive all of these salaries, and negotiated several “perks” as part of the Weston Park talks. SF applied considerable pressure – and eventually got their way (quite rightly too) – to have offices and facilities at Westminster. If you are going to level silly accusations like this level them at all of our politicians, or come up with a better argument.

  • TAFKABO

    Who cares what Donaldson(allegedly) had in his sack?. It was not being used to kill anyone merely to gain political advantage for Sinn Fein. I doubt even this was the case as I am sure M15 doctored them( before they went out) to ensure political advantage for others involved in the peace process!

    My favourite comments of the day, a complaint that you can’t even steal documents and be sure that those evil Brits haven’t tampered with the information beforehand.

  • bigwhitedove

    Hardly a complaint, but a statement of fact.
    BTW when was it alleged that the documents were stolen?

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Because the Police Board is not the “ultimate source of authority” over the police. Hugh Orde is. Instead, the PB is there to hold the police to account, so that local people and politicians can understand it’s performance and have it explain itself. The PB emphatically does not exist to allow politicians or anyone else to dictate operational procedure to police officers, it does not exist to allow officers to be grilled, and it definitely does not exist to allow sensitive police operations to be explained to the general public while they are in progress

    Thank you Comrade Stalin for providing the rationale for NOT supporting ‘policing’ as it currently operates in this ‘pravince’. How can anyone ‘understand the PB’s performance’ if they don’t know the facts of such high profile cases. You’ve convinced me that all the PB is a talking shop where people are paid handsomely to turn up and provide the optical illusion of debate. It’s be cheaper and more effective if they set up an internet forum like SOT!

    As for the comments about SF and salaries and perks, you know as well as everybody else that SF members do not get their full salaries – they are paid into a party fund and they get an average industrial wage. The rest is used for party political purposes. That’s unlikely to happen with the SDLPers and the rest who pocket their wages in their entirety – unless you can correct me – and pick up their various perks including, it seems, various baubles and coloured beads from the Great White British Mother in the Palace.
    The Ombudsman should have known whether or not Donaldson was an agent before giving the conclusion she did on the Stormont raid, a conclusion which has been perverted and misappropriated by politicians and the media, including the editorial writer in the Irish Times (17 December) to give the PSNI a ‘clean bill of health’ on this most controversial of issues.
    As for McDonnell’s questions, it’s a bit ridiculous for him to be questioning SF about their silence about the duffle bag given they could hardly have said anything before now as a) they probably didn’t know how it ended up there, given they weren’t involved in a spyring. (that is their position, despite McDonnell’s protestations)

    b)if they had suspicions, was it right to act on these before the trio had been tried and acquitted of all charges against them by the courts?

    McDonnell’s questions are misdirected but he’s entitled to ask them – it just shows the rest of us his warped sense of priorities. The government of which he would be part has been overthrown by a plot engineered by the police or elements within the ranks and all he can do is blame Sinn Féin. Shucks, who’s writing his script for the movie blockbuster Alisdair in Blunderland?

  • topdeckomnibus

    What ever is the basis for the thinking here ?

    That an organisation formed which had internal security and became a threat to the British State ? That the secret squirrels then had to penetrate the organisation in order to steer it along the political path desirous of the state ?

    Go back aways. The organisation leaked or lost its blueprint terrorist strategy to the state in 1962.

    The Secret Squirrels from the outset (in spite of alleged million pound a year soviet backing of the “enemy within” and in spite of Soviet expertise possibly being at the organisation’s disposal) never took the plan seriously. To the extent they cut their anti sabotage budget and never even briefed the police on the plan once in the subsequent 43 years. Why was that ?

    That is what I call an unanswered question

    And when you consider the troubles Churchill had with MI6 because they considered the Second World War an inconvenient interlude to their main work (anti Soviet) why would you think the Irish situation loomed large in the strategic thinking of the secret squirrels ?

    On the other hand someone setting up an avowedly Marxist group on yer own turf … could be very useful. If someone had not started one the secret squirrels would have started their own ?

  • Crasher

    J Kelly

    All those parties appear irrelevant because a innane media constantly focuses on the pontifications of Pope Gerry the First and his band of Cardinals.

    If the media gave unbiased, even handed publicity to all sides the other parties might have a higher profile.

  • Crasher

    Sorry J kelly, that was directed to Crateagus

  • Crataegus

    Crasher

    I have mixed views about the press, in my opinion they have been mediocre, have lacked balance and have not been sufficiently analytical or critical. Sure they have a lot to answer for, but blaming them is futile. Basically they are people doing a job and just like any other profession most put in their time and get paid. Give them something easy and they cover it anything other than that requires effort and, “hay why bother, doesn’t pay the mortgage, children to collect from school and granny to visit!” I have a few favourites who deserve accolades but some are fairly crass and cringingly twee.

    Lets face it SF milked the process for every ounce of publicity it could get, but the role of HM Gov seemed hell bent on promoting them and giving them opportunity and shafting others. Giving the recent revelations and suppositions about spooks there are a lot of questions unresolved.

    But from the Press point of view why should they cover the UUP, Alliance, SDLP, DUP, Greens, Labour, Conservatives and Socialist types etc. Where is the coherent vision, the compelling argument, the positive, progressive, coherent agenda. Where is the vision to fire up support the statesmen willing to set a positive agenda?

    The UUP continue to fall on their own swords, the DUP have an image and attitude problem like no other and can’t move out of the shadow of the big man, the SDLP really do need to re-examine many of its positions and sacred cows. The Alliance, Greens, Labour in NI, Conservatives, Socialists etc. generally very nice people, but politically fragmented and lack resources. While they remain so they will be irrelevant to the political future, and like McCann reduce to slinging brickbats from the side lines.

    Let’s face it the Agreement is a construct that encourages and institutionalises ‘camp politics’ Parity of esteem presupposes everyone at least tries to play a straight hand, but what if they don’t, what if there is fundamental disagreement? Who ever heard of an administration where all are ensured a role and no opposition?

    Then we had all the positive news spin about how good they were when in office. I wonder who was responsible for that? They weren’t good they were mediocre, but from the electorates’ point of view how could you get rid of an administration given the set up. This is not democracy, there is no chance of fundamental choice or change, its structures are barking mad.

  • Crasher

    Crataegus,

    I would blame the soft media approach to SF for their development at the expense of “democratic” parties. No matter what the event in NI the opinion of GA is given pre-eminence in the media, the opinions of others, even when they have issued statements, comes somewhere down the agenda. SF could not “milk” the process without the compliance of the media. A party thet continually gets media exposure (uncritical) is bound to get a better election showing – such is the nature of our uncritical electorate.

  • Crataegus

    Crasher

    On many occasions I have seen the press swarm around JA like flies round a turd, but that is the nature of the press. It is an easy story with the whiff of sulphur and high drama. It is a story with its stereotypes, which the audience will understand without too much explanation. How can a democratic party get coverage when there is a joker with a private army?

    There was some critical media coverage, but they seemed unable to really unite to attack the obscenity of the bomb and bullet twin track and SF got away with murder. (In the metaphoric sense of course). They seemed unable to land a body blow, to wound, but I have a feeling that that is changing and SF no longer walk on water.

    What you have to ask is what would make them swarm around say Ford of the Alliance Party? Nothing I can think off. What about Reg Empy? Not too many headlines come to mind.

    What really annoyed me was the British Government’s approach. For example at key stages they made it very clear that SF with its ‘friends’ were important and that the SDLP were of no relevance to them. Utterly disgraceful.