Arrest in Denis Donaldson murder probe?

Previously adjourned, for the fifth time, in August last year, the inquest into the 2006 death of former senior Sinn Féin figure Denis Donaldson was adjourned again in January ahead of a further pre-inquest hearing on May 5.

Now the BBC are reporting that a 70-year-old man has been arrested and is being questioned in Letterkenny Garda station, County Donegal.   As RTÉ notes, the man is being detained “on suspicion of withholding information”.  He can be held for three days.

Responsibility for Donaldson’s murder was claimed in 2009 by the Real IRA.

The Donaldson family have recently been calling for an investigation into the “role played by British state agencies”, in particular, “the identities, motivations, activities, links, communications and movements of [Donaldson’s former handler] Lenny and their Special Branch associates.”  Which has echoes of earlier conspiracy theories…  And here’s another post worth linking to.

But that investigation would, probably, not be in the public interest…

There have already been questions about the motivations behind some versions of events concerning Denis Donaldson…

And a reminder of a more coherent theory of events, as evidenced by Liam Clarke

Although Donaldson was an important agent to the British during these years, former intelligence officers doubt that he passed on all the information to which he had access. Otherwise he would not have survived for two decades.

As the peace process began to provide political dividends in the form of the Good Friday agreement and power sharing, Donaldson became head of the party’s administration in the parliament buildings in Stormont.

Police believe that he knew of an IRA spy ring at the heart of the British administration at Stormont but kept quiet about it for fear that his role would be exposed.

Donaldson apparently did not know that the spy ring was revealed to the RUC Special Branch by a lower-level agent whose information sparked a three-month surveillance operation known by the codename Operation Torsion.

A mass of intelligence material gathered by the IRA at Stormont was removed from a house in Belfast by the police, copied and returned in the vain hope that Bobby Storey, the IRA’s head of intelligence, would eventually take possession of it and expose himself to arrest.

This entrapment and surveillance operation took place against strong advice from MI5 who urged the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to seize the papers and leave it at that. It reasoned that this would be enough to halt the spying operation and bring Donaldson into line.[added emphasis]

In the end the police decided to recover the IRA intelligence cache and make what arrests they could — including Donaldson and his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney. The affair led to the collapse of power sharing and the fall of David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, who was blamed by loyalist voters for being too trusting of Sinn Fein. In the continuing political fall-out, Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist party ousted the Ulster Unionists as the majority party at the last general election.

No-one’s been charged, nevermind convicted, yet.  So keep the speculation to a minimum.

Adds  The updated BBC report notes that a second man in his 30s has also been arrested for questioning.

Update  Both men have now been released without charge.

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