“He was sidelined to the point of being removed from any work.”

Roy McShane carrying the coffin of an PIRA member killed by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988.Following on from yesterday’s MI5 protective custody for Adams’ driver story there are a couple of reports worth noting. In the Irish Times, Gerry Moriarty notes, “Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey said he and other senior republicans were disappointed but not terribly surprised by the news.” While in the Guardian Henry McDonald reports that –

“It is understood MI5 advised him to leave his west Belfast home after it emerged that an internal IRA investigation found he had been working for the British for more than a decade.”

Which would raise the question – who exactly was conducting that investigation? And, with McShane reportedly already ‘sidelined’, to what end? This Irish News report may point to a possible answer.. [subs req] Updated belowAdds Also in the Irish News [subs req]

In February 2006 Sinn Fein unexpectedly replaced all its Belfast-based drivers and bodyguards for Mr Adams and other senior republican politicians. It is unclear if this decision was linked to suspicions that McShane was working as a spy.

Originally from Lurgan in Co Armagh, he had lived in west Belfast from his early teens, sharing a house in the lower Falls with IRA leader Billy McMillan in the mid-1960s.

He is understood to have been a member of the Territorial Army for a time during this period.

Throughout the Troubles McShane worked as a cabinet maker in west Belfast.

It is understood he served little or no time in prison.

However, he was implicated in one of the worst murders of the Troubles when West German industrialist Thomas Niedermayer was abducted and killed in December 1973.

In the 1980s McShane is known to have been a member of the IRA ‘nutting squad’.

As a member of that unit he was close to Freddie Scappaticci and, ironically, would have had the task of exposing agents within the IRA.

In 1989 that internal security unit was stood down over concerns that it had been infiltrated by the British intelligence agencies.

In what would prove to be a crucial mistake the IRA moved many of those involved in the ‘nutting squad’ into protection and driving roles for the Sinn Fein leadership.

For more than 20 years McShane was regularly seen driving the Sinn Fein leadership to and from meetings.

Following the decision to bring an end to McShane’s role as a Sinn Fein driver he is understood to have been working as a taxi driver in the lower Falls where he had been living in recent years.

Republican sources last night recalled that McShane had shown strong contempt for Sinn Fein administrator Denis Donaldson after he was exposed as a British agent in December 2005.

And from another Irish Times report by Gerry Moriarty [subs req]

A senior Sinn Féin spokesman yesterday suggested that in recent years, at least, the party suspected McShane was an informer. “He was sidelined to the point of being removed from any work.” Nonetheless, while he did not have a strategic role in the party, he was physically close to those who did – and at important times in the long negotiating process that finally led to the May 8th, 2007, powersharing deal. He’s been around a long time.

This will hardly be the last such revelation, which has caused quite an amount of shock in west Belfast and other republican areas. When Lord Eames and Denis Bradley and other members of the commission on the past travelled to London to examine the Stevens papers on collusion, they were said to be shocked by how deeply the IRA and Sinn Féin were infiltrated.

If MI5 could land catches such as Denis Donaldson and McShane, it follows that it is likely it netted other senior figures. It is likely that if McShane was outed, others too will be exposed, perhaps on a drip-drip basis to cause continuing embarrassment to Sinn Féin. This latest revelation should not destabilise the current regime at Stormont, but it will upset ordinary republicans, causing them to wonder what the “war” was about, was the IRA leadership really in control, who was genuine, who was a “tout”. That must be uncomfortable and annoying for Adams and other leaders, but it is just something they must live with it and manage.

Republicans said McShane could return to west Belfast if he makes peace with his family and his community and that he was under no threat from the IRA. But McShane will be mindful that Denis Donaldson, in whose company he was often seen at Stormont, had similar assurances, and yet ended up gunned to death in a cottage in Donegal.