Adams on Denis Donaldson’s murder

Following on from the conspiracy theory Danny Morrison promoted, Sinn F�in president Gerry Adams, writing in Village magazine, but picked up by the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, also casts the net of suspects wider than the focus on republicans – either provisional, disgruntled or dissident. Meanwhile the Guardian’s leader picks out some previously expressed views on informers, including Adams’, before rowing in behind the ‘move along now’ line – as it did on the Stormont spy-ring case.From the Guardian leader –

The killer may have been an oppositional or a sanctioned republican or even – don’t rule this possibility out – a provocateur whose loyalties lay elsewhere. Mr Donaldson’s place in Northern Ireland’s secret war, whether in life or in death, was a hall of mirrors. History and culture, however, point strongly to some species of republican vengeance. Mr Donaldson confessed in December that he had been a British spy inside Sinn F�in for 20 years. The torture and killing of informers – or “touts” – are indelible parts of the historic culture of violent republicanism. The murder and possible mutilation of Mr Donaldson look like an act in that tradition; in terms of established republican ethos, he had it coming.

By the destruction of informers, the legendary IRA leader Michael Collins once said, the very air is made sweeter. “For myself,” Collins went on, “my conscience is clear. There is no crime in detecting and destroying, in war-time, the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.” In the days before the modern IRA’s ceasefires and decommissionings, today’s republican leaders also took a similar view. “Everybody knows that the penalty for informing is death,” Gerry Adams once observed. IRA members are “totally and absolutely aware of what the penalty for doing this is,” Martin McGuinness has also said.

In his article, while maintaining that neither he, nor anyone in Sinn F�in, has had any contact with Donaldson since his expulsion from the party, Adams describes him as “a pathetic figure”, minimises his role within Sinn F�in, and implies a financial motivation behind Donaldson’s role as an informer. Adams also quotes a sum that is not contained in Donaldson’s public statement.

Denis Donaldson was very unforthcoming about his activities. The party broke off all contact with him shortly after all this. He was told that if he wanted to make a full disclosure he should get in touch with us. He never did.

Those who turn informer or who act as agents rarely do so out of conviction. Invariably they have shown some weakness and this is exploited. I knew Denis Donaldson since I first met him in Cage 11in Long Kesh in the mid 70s. I had very little contact with him over the years in terms of our day-to-day business. He was never part of the Sinn F�in negotiating team or of our leadership, but he was genuinely popular and very personable. When I learned that he had been working for the British I was fairly philosophical about this. I was moved to a sharp short twist of anger only when the iconic photograph of Bobby Sands, accompanied by Denis Donaldson, appeared in the media. But that to one side, the war is over. So, Denis Donaldson was one of the lucky ones. Or was he?

He said he earned around �40,000. Maybe he understated this. But even if he was earning more, what a way to end up. Living in self-exile. Trying to come to terms with whatever he had done. Trying to figure out what to do in the future. Where to go? Like Gypo Nolan in O’Flaherty’s The Informer, Denis Donaldson had turned into a pathetic figure. I have huge sympathy for his family as I do for the families of other informers and agents, particularly those who were killed by the IRA.

Did I expect Denis Donaldson to be killed? There was always a danger that he could be attacked if he was in some public place. But no, I didn’t expect that any republican would go out premeditatedly to kill him. Not when the IRA had clearly set its face against this. So, I don’t think the killing of Denis Donaldson was a revenge killing.

At which point I’ll note again the recollections of David Sharrock, who previously recalled talking to Denis Donaldson in 1994, and in particular this quote from the time

�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�

But there’s an extract in a previous post that’s also worth airing at this point. From an article by Maurice Hayes in the Irish Independent, written when Donaldson’s role as an informer was initially made public –

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.

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