By Gerry Bates
Denis Donaldson worked as a British spy within the top echelons of Sinn Fein for 20 years. He admitted that at a press conference four months ago. Now he has been shot dead at the remote Donegal cottage where he lived.
The shooting of a police spy is never an entirely reprehensible or useless act, even when the spy in question worked against an IRA which was waging a war against Northern Irish Protestants and the British state which had long ceased to make any political sense. If it ever made sense.
Who shot Donaldson? Ask the question “who benefits?” and the answer would be “those who are hostile to the ‘peace process’ in Northern Ireland”.
Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern are meeting this month to decided what to do next in Northern Ireland. There is talk of restarting the Northern Irish Assembly but without a new Executive or Government, in Northern Ireland — a “Shadow Assembly”.
The Northern Ireland power-sharing government has been suspended for the last three years. The occasion for that suspension was the police’s “discovery” that Sinn Fein, in the Parliament building at Stormont, had been helping the IRA collect information for possible future use against Unionist Assembly members and others. When he confessed to having been a British agent, Donaldson, who ran the Sinn Fein office at Stormont, said that Sinn Fein had been “set up” by the British secret service.
Even though the IRA has now — more or less — disarmed, the chances of getting power-sharing soon in a new Northern Ireland Government seem very remote. Under the Good Friday Agreement of 1978 the involvement of all parties with seats in the Six Counties Parliament is mandatory.
The Paisleyites and other Unionists support the idea of a “Shadow Assembly”, without an Executive. Sinn Fein and the SDLP, the Catholic parties, oppose it. One convoluted “conspiracy theory” explanation of the shooting of Donaldson, and the timing of it, is that it strengthens those who oppose a “Shadow Assembly”. That is too convoluted.
The most likely perpetrators are dissident Republicans. Not only are there separate splinter groups like the “Real IRA”, “Continuity IRA”, INLA, but the disarming IRA cannot but have looser structures and less discipline than the past. That it continues to exist at all is an anomaly. That sections of it are unhappy with the Adams-McGuinness leadership is certain.
The killing of Donaldson adds to the mystery of the Stormontgate affair. Was it a “scam”, as he said, entirely concocted by elements of the British “security service” — what Sinn Fein calls the “securicrats” — opposed to British government policy in Ireland and out to derail it? In making that allegation was Donaldson doing a political job for the Sinn Fein leadership?
In either case, the British “security service” agency, for which Donaldson worked for 20 years, were left with reason to loathe Donaldson. It is not inconceivable that they killed Donaldson. Such things have happened in the past.
The British “security service” were for decades involved in some of the most horrible events in Northern Ireland. Intertwined with Unionist murder-gangs, they set them on targets of their choice — on the solicitor Rosemary Nelson, for instance. Such people are perfectly capable for murdering Donaldson. The probability, however, is that he was killed by dissident Republicans.