A minefield of conspiracy theorists

Niall Stanage on the Guardian’s comment for free site, argues that most theories arisings don’t actually make sense when you work them through logically.

  • Give Us The Truth

    This is the most intelligent, persuasive and sober assessment of the murder of Denis Donaldson that I’ve read anywhere.

  • DK

    On balance, this does seem the most likely reason – a personal grudge. Fits with the type of killing (shotgun and mutilation/torture), and the fact that DD lived in a remote area where he had family ties and, presumably, his worst enemies could be spotted.

    And for the theory that the killing happened at a critical stage in the peace process – when is it NOT at a critical stage!

  • Pete Baker

    “Even the instrument of his death – a shotgun – suggested an unsophisticated operation. Paramilitaries and state forces alike tend to use more advanced weaponry.”

    Not an entirely logical working through the theories by Niall. Not if it was intended to be a no-claim no-blame murder.

  • But a great deal better and somewhat less paranoid deduction than the ascription of clear blame on some of our other threads.

  • Pete Baker

    The competition wasn’t fierce, Mick.

    But I’d suggest it’s not so much ‘less paranoid’.. more of a ‘move along now, nothing to see here.’

  • harpo

    I’m still mystified by the insistence of some people to work from the basis of who had most to gain by his death. As if that proves who murdered him. It doesn’t. It only points to a possible suspect.

    Having something to gain isn’t the only reason for murdering someone. There are other factors, like good old revenge, that have to be taken into account as potential motives for killing someone.

    Some go further and state that the Provos have nothing to gain by killing him, and so they couldn’t possibly have done so. But that’s nonsense. When did the Provos start using such logic as the basis for deciding whether to kill people or not?

    Did they have anything to gain by killing civilians at La Mon House, or in Enniskillen, or in a shopping area of Warrington? Of course they didn’t – it brought them negative publicity in each case – but they went ahead with these attacks anyway, knowing full well that civilians would be around. The point is that like any other organization, the PIRA has never acted solely on the basis of whether an action would gain them something. In many cases they killed people simply because they could and they wanted to.

    In each of those 3 cases the PIRA admitted that they carried out the attacks, but they could have just as easily done what many do regarding Omagh – pretend that it wasn’t the Real IRA that set off the bomb as the Real IRA had nothing to gain by killing civilians in Omagh. All that would have been required would have been silence from the PIRA.

    And if the PIRA hadn’t admitted those 3 attacks there would be many IR supporters who would do what they do regarding Omagh – they would be saying that the PIRA couldn’t have done those bombings because the PIRA would have nothing to gain by killing civilians.

    Long story short – the PIRA often killed people just because they could. Whether it gained them anything or not rarely came into their thought process. The same is the case with Donaldson. Of course it appears that killing him wouldn’t gain them anything, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have killed him in revenge for his actions.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Following the attempted murder of a Catholic taxi driver in North Belfast a couple of weeks ago we were witness to a sober appreciation of events from the DUP. It was too early to draw conclusions stated Nigel Dodds, there was too little detail to ascribe blame gasped the self same politician.
    It seems this was a temporary, or more importantly political, aberration. on this occasion the DUP are in full flow with cries of ‘too early’ and ‘too little detail’ lost in the mire of the rush to pass judgement.

    One could almost be forgiven for thinking that the DUP viewed unionist paramilitary actions as less severe than perceived republican actions. Now there’s a turn up.

  • The Devil

    Perhaps his future in-laws were adamant that there was no way that they would entertain a shotgun wedding.

  • Glen Taisie

    ..Carlsberg don’t kill informers but if they did ………………

  • TL

    So many theories so little evidence.
    You know, I’m not trying to make light of a man’s death, but did anyone really think he’d die of old age?

  • circles

    At the end of the day folks, another man is dead and another family has lost someone to a brutal murder.
    The wise-cracks are completely out of order imo.

  • The Devil

    Well now let’s see…..

    Despised by the Loyalists for being a republican in the first place.
    Despised by Republicans for being a traitor.
    Despised by the Shinners for being an embarrassment.
    Despised by his handlers in the Branch for comming out.
    Despised by the C.P.S for ruining careers.
    Despised by MI6 for leading the hairybears to goldilocks door.
    Despised by the former Shinners of South Down for scullduggery.
    Despised by Noraid for more scullduggery.

    And DESPISED BY ME because I had 2008 in the Office Sweep.

  • The Devil

    at the end of the day….. it’s night

    That person you are talking about wouldn’t give a tuppany bollix about the demise of you and I and would have smiled at the demise of others..

    So go jump in a lake… Full Bloody Stop

  • missfitz

    Well, I never thought it was a random burglary, but I like the Guardian article. It fits, and makes sense.

    Old informers rarely die snug in their beds surrounded by the family doing the rosary, sadly they often die as they live.

    As the article says, its shocking but totally expected simultaneously.

  • Pete Baker


    The linked article deliberately downplays some elements and plays up other elements to create an impression that, although close to the expected conclusion, is actually diverted away from the most likely conclusion.

    It is, though, well written.

  • missfitz

    Am I missing something Pete?
    I guess the sense I took away from this was that it was probably not the usual suspects. Indeed, I felt he was going down the road of personal revenge as opposed to silencing or tout revenge.

    Indeed I heard someone on Stephen Nolan this morning who seemed to be saying that DD may possibly have been responsible for the death of her relative. I was rushing, but I could hear the depth of hatred and venom in her voice and it struck me forcibly that indeed DD may not have had quite as many friends as enemies.

    Interestingly, Jim McDowell was on as well and he took quite a bit of flack for the Sunday World article. He handled it in stride, of course, but defended his actions resolutely

  • Pete Baker


    I heard that interview and Jim McDowell was absolutely right.. there’s been a concerted campaign against the Sunday World, by loyalist paramilitaries who seem to have latched onto this issue as well.

    And yes, Niall Stanage is arguing that it could have been a personal vendetta.. but, as I pointed out earlier in thread, his argument for this being an unsophisticated attack has flaws that he ignores in the effort to paint it as an non-political murder.

    I’ll probably have a post about this some time tomorrow.. but, in short, the motivation behind it, IMO, is clearly Donaldson’s role over 20 years as an informer on the inner workings of Sinn Féin.

    The only question is whether the murder is an internal rogue element sticking two fingers up at Adams and McGuinness.. or if it’s an attempt to murder under the cover of plausible denialibilty..

  • Whatever

    PIRA still operates as a clandestine organisation and runs a number of semi-criminal enterprises, and when Sinn Fein eventually has to cut links with the totally irredeemable elements, will continue well into the future. Provisional Republicans also have a clear historical tradition and indeed a code, currently codified for the PIRA in the Green Book, about how the organisation operates that has been developed over years of struggle – in this it is made clear what must occur to informers. Remember Donaldson did not come clean about his role until it was about to be made public anyway so he has no defence on this account.
    The PIRA in order, for the sake of the peace process, has recruited and trained new members at least until two years ago. These volunteers and a new generation of leaders on the Army Council wish to fulfil there role in the maintenance of the tradition of an organisation which they have pledged their life’s too, informers can undermine the organisation. There are a number of other bodies out there only to willing to grab it’s mantle.
    There will have been no shortage of volunteers willing to carry out this task. Of course with an untraceable shotgun and possibly under the command that if apprehended to claim personal or dissident motives.

    The maintenance of organisation integrity is a clear enough requirement for the death of Donaldson. If this integrity is undermined we may face a future where dissidents are the new face of militant republicanism. On the larger political level this killing does nothing for the Provos, in ghetto and internal politics the death of Donaldson and any possibility of Provo involvement is a god send. It will also act as a clear message to Adams that a new generation is willing to maintain the organisation even if he now sees the future only in the party.

    This is why the PIRA are contenders for having an involvement in Donaldson’s death. The continue of PIRA dominance in republican paramilitarism is a necessity for peace – if this killing was necessary to maintain this then it was god for peace in the long run if not the ‘peace process’.

    Even if the above does in a historical time frame turn out to be close to the events that led to this tragedy the only real concern is what next. In my opinion the only sensible approach is “move along” and let the historians sort it out.

  • missfitz

    Look forward to that tomorrow then, but it’s got to be even money at this point either way. I think its becoming clear that there really is a shooting gallery lined up as potential suspects, and its a question of take your pick.

    The personal vendetta theory is probably the only one that will provide an immediate respite for any difficulty in the PP.

    It has echoes of some of the great crime story lines, with so many potentials out there, and the stability of a nation riding on the outcome. It certainly is a big story.

  • Pete Baker


    “The personal vendetta theory is probably the only one that will provide an immediate respite for any difficulty in the PP.”

    Indeed.. hence the promotion of that theory.


    The even money shot is spread between the outlines I gave.

    As for the competing narratives.. well.. I may already have mentioned those in another thread..

  • missfitz

    Yeah, its interesting how this is sustaining so much varied debate. I read your other stuff and trying hard not to duplicate comments.

    Like I said though, it has elements of a real classic, with so many strands and conspiracies and theories and complications and potential fall out.

    I feel desperately cynical about this, but there was such an inevitability about it. I should feel terribly sorry for him and his family, but I really am finding it hard to empathise with the situation. I wouldnt normally be so clinical about a murder.

  • Pete Baker

    This quote from an interview David Sharrock of the Times conducted with Denis Donaldson back in 1994, which I think Sharrock, correctly, re-quoted again today – but I picked out previously here – may help re-assert some of that empathy.

    “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”

    It certainly does for me.

  • missfitz

    That is the position I have found I now take on the IRA Pete.I think maturity and research lead you to realising that this is the case.

    From the same link – Maurice Hayes said
    “There is something deep in the Irish psyche that is uncomfortable with the idea of spies and informants.”

    Spooky? Other than that, a very interesting thread to remind us of, and some very interesting dialogue on it

  • Pete Baker

    Not sure I’d class that as spooky, missfitz.. I’d say it’s more an example of an indication that there is a general societal seeking for external causes in such cases.