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More Spies May be Lurking in Sinn Féin's Cupboard


It would be daft to believe exposure of Donaldson marks the end of Sinn Féin's spy problem

Anthony McIntyre • Irish Times, 20 December 2005

The year 2005, Sinn Féin's much-vaunted centenary year, has proved to be the party's worst since the beginning of the peace process. Assailed from every conceivable angle for its duplicity and deceit, it took the first steps into the new year to a cacophony of voices chorusing "lies!" at it.

Twelve months later, the phonetics have not changed all that greatly, "spies!" now being the new buzz term of opprobrium hurled in the party's direction.

It certainly takes something to give the peace process a touch of élan. The bizarre Kafkaesque act being staged is a good choice for those seeking some form of alternative theatre to the Christmas pantomime circuit regaling yuletide revellers.

Were it not for the periodic scandals that sprinkle the peace process and titillate a long-suffering population, our zest for life would be heavily compromised by those insufferable advocates of the process who, with their fluency in gibberish, have whipped us into a state of narcolepsy.

Last week, which began with the usual Monday nonsense about securocrats, showed all the promise of finishing in similar vein until the Denis Donaldson defibrillator sparked and shocked some serious life into an otherwise tedious seven days.

Donaldson, a senior and crucially positioned Sinn Féin apparatchik, confessed to having been a British spy for 20 years. Give or take a year or two, he is hardly a member of the lonely club.

When I first learned of this latest Sinn Féin security debacle, my sole thought was, "and who else?" To think that Donaldson draws the curtain down on Sinn Féin's spy problem, one would need to be as daft as some Short Strand mural artist who, so long as any Provisional leader endorsed it, would readily paint the walls with "Denis, revolutionary hero of the peace process, was only touting for peace."

It is the sheer gullibility of large swathes of the republican rank and file that has allowed the Sinn Féin leadership strategy to last so long, with its persistent affront to republican sensibilities, without any serious questions being asked of it.

Agents have for long been central to British state attempts to shape the IRA and in particular nudge it towards a peace process.

In 1983 the role of Bobby Lean was crucial. By turning supergrass and securing the temporary imprisonment of key IRA personnel, Lean changed the internal balance of power within the IRA and allowed Gerry Adams to consolidate his grip on the Provisional republican movement as a whole, opening the way for the current strategy and the abandonment of everything the Provisionals hitherto held dear.

In recent years the role of Freddie Scappaticci, a central player in the IRA's internal security apparatus, came under sustained scrutiny. Scappaticci's purpose as a senior British agent was to help render the IRA's military option redundant, thus allowing the logic of a peace process to take root.

But the peace process had to have some intellectual autonomy rather than exist in a vacuum created by the implausibility of continuing with an armed campaign. This is where agents of influence came into play.

Peter Taylor details in his book, Provos, how British military intelligence, working on the premise that "Gerry Adams would do almost anything to further his political career", sought unsuccessfully to turn Derry republican Steven Lambert.

His role would be "to pass on information of the mood within the party, attitudes of particular individuals to particular policies and to implement and push policies" devised by the British. Remarkably, those policies and the core tenets of the peace process are not dissimilar.

It therefore comes as no surprise to find Martin Ingram, a former British army operative, who co-authored a book detailing the nefarious espionage record of Scappaticci, writing on a website recently that he had one thing in common with Gerry Adams: both set out to destroy the IRA and both succeeded.

Consequently, it is even less surprising to trace the lengths gone to by the Sinn Féin leadership to cover for Scappaticci when he was eventually exposed.

For his part, Donaldson also functioned in the agent of influence mode. Even if as a result of Stormontgate his influence had declined, there was no unavoidable reason for the British to out him.

Certainly there were strong suspicions and whispers that the Stormontgate trial was aborted by the British to protect a key informer.

Because Donaldson had been arrested and held on remand for a period as a result of the Stormont spy ring being collapsed in October 2002, most people not unreasonably took the view that he was a victim of the informer rather than being the informer himself. However, a search for the informer increased the risk of an agent more important than Donaldson being exposed.

Arguably, Donaldson was outed as a foil against further investigation. The "tout has now been exposed" dismissal "so let's get on with the business of the peace process", as Gerry Adams called for last week.

In this perspective, the British give Sinn Féin wriggle room so that it maintains some of its ring craft rather than have it flail on the ropes, as well it might if another informer was to be exposed who, this time, was much more central in the public mind to the peace process than Donaldson ever was.

On last night's Last Word programme on Today FM, Martin Ingram confirmed to presenter Matt Cooper that there are senior Sinn Féin household names at present working for the British. Far from the British "securocrats" moving to undermine Sinn Féin, they are seemingly striving to protect it from serious investigation.

A particular irony in all of this for the voter in the Republic is that after decades of being free from British involvement in their part of the island, the dilemma they face is that by voting Sinn Féin they increase the likelihood of returning MI5 to the Dáil. Now that truly is an appalling vista.





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5 February 2006

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More Spies May be Lurking in Sinn Féin's Cupboard
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One Year On
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SF's Support 'Lay With the People Involved in Robert's Murder'
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Murky Maghaberry
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Rebutting a Defamatory Article
Declan Carroll

Getting the Facts Right
Statement from McKevitt & Sands Family

"Close Enough for Government Work"
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Boxing Shadows
Dr John Coulter

When is Enough, Enough?
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Serving the Agenda of Two Masters
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St Pat's Day
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The Letters page has been updated.



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