“the likeliest culprits”

An interesting, and to a large extent persuasive, line of argument from Ed Moloney in the Irish Times. Asking – “So, who killed Denis Donaldson and why?”[subs req]. He, perhaps surprisingly to his critics, believes that “The IRA leadership is probably telling the truth when through its nom de guerre, P O’Neill, it denies involvement, at least any ‘authorised’ involvement.”He begins by pointing out that the narrative being promoted initially by some, that of an attempt to undermine the Blair-Ahern push at Navan, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny –

To be sure, the killing has cast a shadow over the initiative, but if the aim was to derail it by suggesting the IRA was still active then shouldn’t the gunmen have struck nearer to the November deadline for the restoration of devolution, especially if there were signs of a deal emerging by then?

As it is, by the time November comes around in seven months’ time, Donaldson’s murder is likely to be a distant memory and its impact much less significant.

Moloney’s reasoning on why “The IRA leadership is probably telling the truth when through its nom de guerre, P O’Neill, it denies involvement, at least any ‘authorised’ involvement.” is persuasive –

All the circumstances of the Denis Donaldson affair suggest that a deal was done between him and the IRA in the wake of his admission that he had been a British spy. In return for leaving him be, Donaldson would come clean about his past and continue to recite the Sinn Féin spin about Stormontgate, which is that there never was an IRA spy ring, only something concocted by British “securocrats” in order to save David Trimble’s skin.

The IRA may not have had much choice given its recent pledge to cease all of its activities, but it would not be beyond the IRA, as Donaldson would have known full well, to do him fatal harm in a plausibly deniable way.

Accidents, after all, can be arranged.

If there hadn’t been a deal, Donaldson would never have settled in Co Donegal, a county favoured by IRA army council members for holiday homes. And sure enough, when the Sunday World tracked him down to his primitive cottage a few weeks ago, Donaldson was careful to stick faithfully to the spin on Stormontgate.

Ed Moloney argues that there are instead two groups of suspects to choose from and that his most likely culprits pose a question for the SF leadership –

Leaving aside the possibility that the killer was someone with a grudge against Donaldson, in this context two types of suspect emerge. One is a dissident group, either Continuity or Real IRA, whose motive for killing Donaldson would be to demonstrate their incorruptibility in contrast to the Provisionals’ iniquity.

Yet the dissidents would want to claim responsibility, or credit, for killing Donaldson, and they haven’t. And the gunman or gunmen used a shotgun to kill him, meaning they wanted to leave no ballistic clues as to their identity or motive.

That points to malcontents within the Provisional IRA as the likeliest culprits, whose reason for killing Donaldson would be to protest the policy of excusing high-level informers and by so doing make a wider point about where the peace process has brought republicans.

Recently the British and Irish authorities began a determined drive against IRA criminality, raiding farms and confiscating millions of euro from leading IRA figures in the south Armagh area. Since this was never supposed to be in the peace process script, the question now is whether the anger of south Armagh republican leaders was given violent and bloody expression in Denis Donaldson’s Co Donegal cottage last Tuesday.

If so, then this would be the first outward sign of IRA discontent with the Adams-McGuinness strategy since the Real IRA revolt of 1997.

The dilemma then facing the Sinn Féin leadership would be what to do about it: stay outside a Stormont government in the hope of appeasing the hardliners, or seek refuge from them inside the respectability of a new executive and cut the umbilical cord once and for all.


  • Busty Brenda

    So Maloney agrees with us who have been saying this on Slugger!

    Nice one slugger.

  • Lurker

    Which scenario is the greater threat to the peace process?
    1: IRA operatives are now acting against orders and embarrassing the leadership, i.e. a split.

    2: Adams and co sanctioned the killing.

    Of course it could have been a chauvinistic farmer from the neighbourhood. The use of a shotgun is said to imply caution with forensics, but it could equally suggest an amateur with no access to anything more sophisticated.

  • sohnlein

    How predictable – Moloney throws some sticks up in the air and comes up with the scenario that is most damaging to the Adams/McGuinness leadership…

  • Ken A. Biss

    It’s all speculation, because no one really knows except whoever it was/were that did it. But if Moloney and others can specualte, why can’t I? They day DD was quite a womaniser, and that is probably how the Brits and their local satraps got him onto their hook in the first place. So, has anyone considered the possibility that someone took badly to being cuckolded?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Yet another piece to add to the ‘well i haven’t really got a clue’ collection. To see these so called experts scrambling to try and prove their expertise (sic) is really amusing. Now if any one of them had used their ‘insight’ or ‘contacts’ within republicanism to the British forces to state, even a few weeks ago, that an attack on Donaldson was imminent then they could be given house room. Talk about bolting stable doors.

    Not one of them did, so their so called ‘sources’ can be viewed as questionable. The easy option is always to be wise after the events

    Most of these stories are variations on a theme where the author hasn’t even the decency to quote where they were originally lifted from.

  • The Devil

    ***** access to anything more sophisticated *****

    Can we just put this one to bed, the weaponary choosen for the execution was as sophisticated as was required for the desired result, and as effective as any other more sophisticated weaponary available to the executioner.

    The weapon of choice also had the advantage of outstripping more “sophisticated” weapons in the sucurity aspect of the opperation, if the executioners were detained going to the place of execution they can use the hunting shotgun excuse, and after the event had taken place the execution squad could feel extremely confident in the fact that forensics were reduced to a minimun and ballistics reduced to mere guess work that will not stand up in a court of law.

    Exact past history with one Eamon Collins shows that if need be to avoid the ballistic blame game the IRA will rely on crude unsophisticated weapons to execute informers. Eamon Collins was beaten stabbed and run over several times with a car until he was dead, the PIRA carried out the killing under saction from a member of the ruling Army Council.

    Other non sactioned killings by IRA personnel like that of Robert McCartney have resulted in knives being choosen as the prefered non-sophisticated weapon.


  • Busty Brenda

    ‘someone took badly to being cuckolded’

    that’s right Ken A Bliss, it was a woman scorned. Now off to bed with you and pull the covers over your head. thats right, lie down. Breathe easy.

    (rolls eyes)!!

  • Dave

    The death of DD does lead to speculation of who done it and why?, so how about this one:

    Who ever sactioned the murder of DD have lost their marbles or command and control.

    Either way they has lost the leadership of whichever organisation they are part of.

  • Ken A. Biss

    Busty Brenda:

    “it was a woman scorned.”

    Look up “cuckold” in the dictionary, BB lady. It means quite the opposite to “scorning” a woman.

  • Doctor Who

    It´s quite simple…

    The Butler did it.

  • aquifer

    Having written histories of the IRA, Maloney would be well qualified to guess right.

    Donaldson also had a role in imposing a leadership favoured candidate in South Down, where IRA Oil rackets historically provided huge funding for a hardline campaign, until the recent and resented police crackdown. This is also where Eamonn Collins, author of ‘Killing Rage’, was murdered.

  • sohnlein

    “THE Provisional IRA hired a Continuity IRA gunman from County Cavan to murder Denis Donaldson, gardai believe.

    The murder and its fallout are causing panic within Sinn Fein/IRA. An emergency meeting of the IRA leadership was held the night after the murder, the Sunday Independent has learned.

    Now gardai believe the terrorist organisation may be splitting with hardliners openly against the Adams-McGuinness leadership.” Sunday Indy

  • sohnlein

    Hmm, alternative take…(so much for continuity) (sic);

    “Security sources have now ruled out the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA – as Donaldson’s killers. Instead, they that the murder was carried out by disgruntled IRA members, frustrated that Donaldson was the third high profile informer to be granted an amnesty by the leadership. One of those pardoned on the quiet include a man who sat alongside such luminaries as Shay McGrane and Micky McKevitt on the IRA’s Executive.”

  • Nic

    Donaldson was an IRA insider who informed.
    The very fact that he was alive so long after his outing, and that he chose to live among the comrades he betrayed on the costa provo, must mean he had done a deal of some sort and therefore had de facto IRA protection.
    Don’t know about the rest of you hardy types, but I ain’t about to drive into the heart of bandit country and take out a made man, even if he did shag my wife.

    Not without clearing it with the Capi at least.
    Which means that either the “leadership” sanctioned or allowed or permitted it; or someone with the resources and network to attemp it is defying them.
    Moloney’s reasoning is solid, and is the conclusion the Irish Gardai have also come to (see today Sindo), and I’m sure in most pubs around the country it’s the only logical conclusion that could be drawn either.

    Either way it looks bad for Adams, but then I’ve been saying he’s finished from the moment Donaldson was outed anyway. Sooner or later he’s going to cut and join FF so he can get a ministerial car and an expense account in two jurisdictions, which is about the height of him anyway.

  • The Devil


    Well if it’s speculation innuendo and gossip time I have an idea of my own, Dennis Donaldson was in fact innocent of being a British Agent.

    Now a few of you may be thinking that The Devil has been consuming copious quantities of his own buttermilk, or had one of those New Sinn Fein frontal labotomy jobs done for a laugh, or the latest batch of cheap IRA ciggies have come from Jamica where they substituted Ganja for tobbacco.
    Well I just want to reassure you that The Devil is stone-cold Sober still able to think for himself and dreadlock free.
    My conspiracy theory goes like this, the discovery of the New Sinn Fein spy ring(I think even the muppets now accept there was a New Sinn Fein spy ring at Stormont)and the ensuing investigation was starting to uncover a more senior member of New Sinn Fein and if the situation was not rapidly addressed this Senior New Sinn Fein member would have been completely exposed.

    So senior was the individual involved that the ramifications for the party would have been so extreme that the party itself may not have survived. Morale simply would not have existed, the will to continue would have been sapped from the entire movement and the knives would have been out not for mere individuals but for large sections and chunks of the movement at a time, and the party would been unelectable.
    A situation would quickly arise were the New Sinn Fein republican movement would decend into a leaderless politically bankrupt uncontrollable permanantly fractured mob opperating without vision or compassion.

    Step forward the bravest of the brave, not just a volunteer but a Super Volunteer a man who was willing to sacrifice everything for the cause health wealth freedom and even his good name, a man so steeped in republican tradition that his silence was guaranteed and his cooperation assured, his history would have to be impeccable and beyond reproach because this man was going to be a Judas a Messiah and a Lazarus.
    He would be seen as the Judas by all for betraying the movement and his comrades, for those in the know he would have been seen as the Messiah who saved the movement and the peace process, but he would have to live in isolation outside Belfast for a significant period of time until a deal was finalised, then bit by bit the true story of Stormont could be told when it was no longer embarrassing for New Sinn Fein now in Government North and South, and step forward Lazarus Donaldson the greatest republican ever, a man whos photos would soon replace those of Bobby Sands up in Adams-Connolly house.

    There was for Denis a snag, the masterminds of this brilliant plan needed the Judas they wanted the Messiah and they could have lived with the Lazarus, but there was no fucking way they were ever gonna have a Saul so Lazarus is dead long live the Judas.

  • The Devil

    Actually that post looks quite scary, I have visions of The Devil dumping a mobile phone in Belfast lough and heading to the continent.

    I wonder would Mr Martin give me the address of the cheap Internet cafes.

  • Innismurray

    Ed Moloney’s article looks to me like a rehash of the spin coming out of NI that dissident republicans or rogue PIRA murdered Donaldson.
    One fact is reported in The Sunday Business Post that “A former RUC officer was one of the two men who exposed the whereabouts of the self confessed British spy Denis Donaldson in a Sunday tabloid last month.” The article by Colm Heatley names this person as “Colin Breen”. It goes on “Breen, who allegedly has close ties with the Special Branch, secretly video-taped Donaldson outside his remote hideaway”. Also it asserted “He is not a Sunday World staff member, and the newspaper’s reqular staff photographers were not used.” Make of that what you will.

  • DK

    So Devil, your theory is that DD was sarificed by Sinn Fein to avoid damage caused by the revelation of the bigger spy?

    Why would an innocent DD want to protect a spy?

    If, for the good of the party, what guarantees are there that the bigger spy would not just be outed at a convienient time by the Brits?

    To confirm your theory – we should expect a big name in Sinn Fein to meet with a tragic accident pretty soon.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    While the Devil’s theory sounds crazy, there may be an element of truth in it, and I have the gut feeling that as the spotlight moves away from Donaldson it will fall onto the second spy.

    Moloney wrote that “if the aim [of Donaldson’s killer] was to derail it [the Navan announcement by the two PMS] by suggesting the IRA was still active then shouldn’t the gunmen have struck nearer to the November deadline for the restoration of devolution, especially if there were signs of a deal emerging by then?

    As it is, by the time November comes around in seven months’ time, Donaldson’s murder is likely to be a distant memory and its impact much less significant.

    This seems plausible enought, particularly as Blair went out of his way to hint that the timing of Donaldson’s murder was more than mere coincidence.

    You have to wonder in whose interests would it be to create a crisis in the political process before the November 24 deadline – or maybe next month, when the Assembly is reconvened? Imagine the scenes if the spy was uncovered on his first day back at work in Parliament Buildings – the Brawl in the Hall would look like a tea party.

    * * *

    On the Sunday Business Post story about Colin Breen, the story tried to imply that Breen was Hugh Jordan’s source. I’m not convinced at all that this is true.

    The SBN story was probably based on the information provided on this blog – http://www.whokilleddennis.blogspot.com/ – which also stated that Breen was an ex-Special Branch officer. I have real doubts as to whether this is true either. While no-one seems to doubt he was the cameraman, I’m wondering why the waters are being muddied!

  • Belfast Gonzo

    PS: It was Twenty Major what done it! ;o)