The story begins on 4 October 2002, when the Police Service of Northern Ireland conducted a raid on Sinn Fein offices in Stormont. Three people were arrested and charged for participation in an alleged Irish Republican Army spy ring. One of these, Denis Donaldson, “worked as a Sinn Fein Assembly Group administrator in Parliament Buildings at the time of the PSNI raid on Sinn Fein offices in October 2002, the so-called Stormontgate affair” and has confessed to being a mole for MI5 and now claims the alleged spy ring “was a scam and a fiction.”
But the allegations “led directly to the collapsing of the Northern institutions by David Trimble’s Ulster Unionists,” putting up a roadblock in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. The three accused have now been cleared, as Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions “suddenly announced that it was dropping all the charges against the trio on the grounds of ‘public interest,'” raising heated suspicions in the British parliament “what the DPP meant by ‘public interest'” and rumors spread “about the need to protect a high-placed informant…. With the fear that Donaldson’s name was about to leak out to the press and that by the weekend he would stand accused as the man the DPP had sought to protect, PSNI officers visited Donaldson’s West Belfast home to inform him that he was about to be unmasked as a long-term British agent. By late last Wednesday, Donaldson had made a statement to his solicitor and then faced a long night and day of questioning by comrades. As far as The Observer can establish, there was no use of physical violence to extract a ‘confession’ from the republican veteran.” Now that Donaldson has “confessed to 20 years of treachery, for working for the British security forces inside the republican movement, an admission that not long ago was the equivalent to signing your own death warrant,” it is the Unionists who are outraged; British Prime Minister Tony Blair had denied any knowledge of “why this prosecution was abandoned,” yet the Unionists claim that as “ultimate head of security,” Blair should have known “that Donaldson was an agent.”
[Sinn Fein’s] chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, said: “It is very, very clear from Sinn Fein’s perspective – and I think this is shared increasingly by many other people within our society – that there was a spy ring at Stormont, but it was a British spy ring controlled by securocrats, by people within the establishment who are hostile to the peace process.”
Meanwhile, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein explained that “[w]hat we believe was going on was a [MI5] spy ring at Stormont with the purposes of collapsing the institutions established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement,” casting doubt on the British government’s sincerity in its participation in the Peace Process. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the Irish government’s head of state, “described the whole ‘Stormontgate’ affair as ‘bizarre’ and said the latest twist was ‘as bizarre as it gets'” The British and Irish governments are supposed to be cooperating with Northern Irish Protestants/Unionists and Catholics/Republicans in creating a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. Ahern later elaborated, “This was a huge case, it doesn’t get much bigger than bringing down democratically elected institutions that people have voted for. What this is about I just don’t know.”
The Unionists are certainly right to be demanding an explanation from Tony Blair. “[Irish] Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern is to raise the issue with [British] Northern Secretary Peter Hain at talks which had already been arranged for Hillsborough on Monday.” But it’s worth noting that Donaldson’s repentence–“I deeply regret my activities with British Intelligence and RUC/PSNI Special Branch”–is apparently being taken at face value; even as Sinn Fein expelled Donaldson, Gerry Adams said he was under no threat from Republicans and that Donaldson had been about to be “outed” by the British.
Despite Adams’ assurances, Donaldson has fled; his “house in West Belfast was found abandoned, with informed sources saying there was no prospect of him returning to Ulster or the Republic of Ireland because of the risk of being killed…. [I]t is feared that individuals within the Republican movement would want to kill him in revenge for having been a British mole.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein is exposing more spies.