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?

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