Spy wars: SF ran sex spy ring at Stormont

The Sunday Tribune has an unnamed source who asserts that there was indeed a Sinn Fein spy ring at Stormont, and it included both politicians and party employees. More damagingly, the aim of the ring was not to prosecute an armed campaign against rival politicians, but part of a dirty tricks campaign against Unionist politicians. More damagingly still, amongst its targets were un-outed gay politicians, which sits strangely with the party’s consistent public support for gay rights.

Correction: The Tribune’s unnamed source was not specifically named as an MLA, as originally reported here on Slugger. “We were told to find out any weaknesses they might have . . . how much they drank, where they drank, who they drank with, ” the source said. “We were told to find out if they had a gambling problem or money difficulties, if they cheated on their wives, who they were sleeping with, if any of them were gay.”

Some of those party members who were approached objected, “believing it contradicted Sinn Fein’s stated aim of building trust with unionists”.

Interestingly, they did not target members of the DUP, the MLA sources reasons that this was because they would not talk to Sinn Fein.

Information gathered was relayed back to the Assembly member organising the spy ring, who liaised with a Sinn Fein staff member whose name is known to the Sunday Tribune. It is understood the Sinn Fein staff member then reported the information to the director of intelligence of the IRA’s GHQ (general headquarters) staff, the west Belfast man who masterminded the Northern Bank robbery.

The whole article reads as follows:

By Suzanne Breen Northern Editor

SINN Fein politicians and employees looked for compromising sexual and financial details on unionist party members during a year-long Sinn Fein/IRA spying campaign at Stormont.

Details of the alleged spy ring, the existence of which has always been denied by Sinn Fein, have been given to the Sunday Tribune by a member of the party’s Stormont team. They suggest that the spy ring was very active and was not a fabrication by British ‘securocrats’, as Sinn Fein has claimed.

The source claimed the party’s Assembly representatives and administrative staff at the time knew of the spy ring’s existence and were asked to gather intelligence on unionist politicians. He described the party’s ongoing denials that no Sinn Fein spy ring existed as “completely untrue” and said it was time to tell the truth about events at Stormont.

The source claimed the spy ring was “an open secret” among the Sinn Fein team and began a year before the 2002 arrest of Denis Donaldson, the party’s Stormont administrator who was outed as a British agent last month.

Donaldson wasn’t the spy ring’s leader or organiser.

According to the source, an Assembly member, whose name is known to the Sunday Tribune, instructed other Sinn Fein representatives and staff to gather information on unionist Assembly members.

“We were told to find out any weaknesses they might have . . . how much they drank, where they drank, who they drank with, ” the source said.

“We were told to find out if they had a gambling problem or money difficulties, if they cheated on their wives, who they were sleeping with, if any of them were gay.”

Some of the Sinn Fein members and employees cooperated but others refused. Ulster Unionist politicians were the targets as the DUP wouldn’t talk to Sinn Fein. “Barriers were breaking down between us and the UUP. People would find themselves naturally chatting to UUP colleagues during a tea-break in a committee meeting or in the members’ bar, ” the source said.

Information gathered was relayed back to the Assembly member organising the spy ring, who liaised with a Sinn Fein staff member whose name is known to the Sunday Tribune.

It is understood the Sinn Fein staff member then reported the information to the director of intelligence of the IRA’s GHQ (general headquarters) staff, the west Belfast man who masterminded the Northern Bank robbery.

Some Assembly members objected to the spy ring, believing it contradicted Sinn Fein’s stated aim of building trust with unionists.

The source stressed unionists were never in danger of assassination from the IRA.

“The operation was to build intelligence and to placate foot-soldiers in the movement who had doubts about even entering Stormont. It was to relay the impression ‘we might be in here but the war goes on’.”

The source also claimed that Donaldson had accessed pornographic material at Stormont on computers used by Sinn Fein, but had stopped after complaints from a female member of Sinn Fein’s staff who feared that his internet habits would damage the party if they were discovered.

A Sinn Fein spokesman yesterday denied the party operated a spy ring at Stormont.

“There was a spy ring, at the centre of which was a British agent, Denis Donaldson, ” he said.

  • Continuity IRA claims attack on RUC barracks
    IN A statement on November 11 the Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for a booby-trap bomb outside Castlewellan RUC barracks in Co Down on November 1.

    Two RUC officers were injured in the blast. One of them lost a leg and two fingers. The blast occurred as the RUC moved a traffic cone left outside the barracks.

    In a statement to newspapers accompanied by a recognised code-word a caller said: “The Continuity IRA states a number of their Volunteers carried out an attack on the British occupation forces in Castlewellan on November 1, as a result of which two of them were badly injured.”

    CAIN also attributes the bomb to the CIRA

    RUC press release attributes the bomb to republicans, BBC, RTE, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, Irish News all run with this line. Later it is speculated that it might have been loyalists; then the Continuity issues a statement claiming responsibilty, which is reported on in the Irish Times, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life.

    Continuity IRA claims it carried out Castlewellan bomb attack
    Loyalists had been chief suspects

    By Martin Breen

    11 November 2000 THE Continuity IRA has claimed it was behind the Castlewellan bomb attack which left a policeman seriously injured.

    CIRA admit bomb blast

    12 November 2000
    DISSIDENT republicans have admitted responsibility for the bomb attack on Castlewellan RUC station, which left one policeman seriously injured.

    In a statement, the Continuity IRA said its members planted the pipe bomb. Police initially thought it had been carried out by loyalists.

    The crude device, which exploded inside a traffic cone outside the station, was of a type used in the past by loyalists.

    The CIRA statement, accompanied by a recognised codeword, said: “The Continuity IRA states that a number of their volunteers carried out an attack on the British occupation forces in Castlewellan in November 1, as a result of which two of them were badly-injured.”

    Reserve Constable David Fegan, 42, lost a leg and part of his hand after triggering the bomb, by opening the police station’s gates.

    His colleague was treated for shock, but escaped serious injury.

  • I’m really not sure where all of this is going.

    It does seem strange that there is all of this ‘outing’ all of a sudden. And it is hard not believe Sinn Fein’s general line, which is that intelligence service agents are behind it. And Sinn Fein is clearly the victim.

    However some (more than a few) of our readers have seen fit to conclude from that probable fact that it is perfectly in order to attack the integrity of any journalist writing in this area.

    Well, the law has something to say about making baseless claims against the integrity of any individual, whether journalist, politician or ordinary citizen.

    That does not mean that journalists and public figures are above criticism. But if you are going to challenge their work, you need to be on top of your brief. Especially if it ends up in court. And some of the challenges on this thread have been the result of some very shoddy work indeed.

    I have no idea if this work is true. But to my knowledge Breen is a reputable journalist reporting in good faith. If someone can definitively falsify the report, then you would be doing us all a favour by putting your evidence in public. I’m sure Ms Breen would take it on the chin too, though no one likes to get it wrong.

    But in the absence of that evidence, much of this thread reads like a bad episode of repetitive shooting of the messenger.

  • oceallaigh

    you do protest too much Mick ,calm down .I am sure Breen is a big girl and can defend herself .All she has to do is name her source .

  • OC,

    I’m sure you’re right. But I was making a pitch for higher quality as much as anything else.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Scrag,

    I merely point at the foundations of her credibility. What is built on that since then is dodgy indeed.

    But you seem to be a fan so hang in there. The next exclusive complete with republican activists, ex republican prisonerss and one West Belfast Republican is just around the corner.

  • onanothermanswounds

    Slugger scrag
    Re explosion at Castlewellan barracks.Despite the quoites from the various media outlets I do not believe the CIRA when they said they carried out this attack. Forensically the device used was of a type previously used by Loyalists. Nonetheless whether it was Loyalists or CIRA ( collusion between Loyalists and CIRA perhaps? Now thats a story that any investigative journo would want to get her teeth into) the point is that the day after the attack Suzanne Breen wrote an article in which she quoted HER source as saying that it was the Real IRA that carried out the attack.Wrong.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    But to my knowledge Breen is a reputable journalist reporting in good faith. If someone can definitively falsify the report, then you would be doing us all a favour by putting your evidence in public

    Here’s the beef, Mick. A reliable member of the SF team at Stormont has told me that the story is rubbish.
    QED.

    If Suzanne Breen can get away without putting actual evidence into the public domain, what’s to stop anyone else doing it. All we have is her word and I, for one, don’t take that at face value given recent stories she’s done – such as the scurrilous attack on Madden and Finucane a few weeks before Christmas. Also the name Willie Frazer seems to be popping up a lot in her stories these days – Willie says this, Wilie says that….Wilie wants to march to Dublin, Willie thinks Paul Berry’s sexuality and what he gets up to in a hotel bedroom with a masseur and some oil is his own business but if he thinks he can get away with using M&F to represent him in a legal action given that firm’s past history (PF getting shot) well he’d be warned that God fearing border Protestants will think a great deal less of him.

  • J Kelly

    But to my knowledge Breen is a reputable journalist reporting in good faith. If someone can definitively falsify the report, then you would be doing us all a favour by putting your evidence in public

    Mick this may be true, i do not know this particular journalist at all, but my reading of this thread is not to question her reputation but to discuss the use of unidentified sources to report a disputed story. The use of unidentified sources imo diminishes any story and creates a whiff of sensationalism and doubt.

  • martin ingram

    Some of the best stories the worlds press has ever published have come from unnamed sources. For example , The Sunday Times with the Israeli nucleur bomb (Vanunu)The Washington Post and Deep Throat ( Nixon) The Scottish Sunday Herald Freddy Scappaticci ( Murder of IRA men by one of their own).

    I could go on, But Eh you cant make an omlette without breaking an egg now can you.

    Martin.

  • martin ingram

    sorry nuclear

  • spartacus

    scrag wants an example. doesn’t anyone remember this?

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,997198,00.html

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