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Republican councillor arrested in Donaldson murder probe released without charge

Gary Donnelly leaves Letterkenny Garda Station after his release yesterday
Connla Young

AN independent republican councillor arrested in connection with the killing of British agent Denis Donaldson has been released by Gardai without charge.

Gary Donnelly was arrested in Co Donegal as he made his way home from a republican commemoration at Meenbanad, near Dungloe, west Donegal, on Sunday.

He was later taken to a Garda station in Letterkenny before being released yesterday.

A second man also detained on Sunday remained in custody last night.

A senior Sinn Féin member, Denis Donaldson (55) was shot dead at a cottage near Glenties in April 2006, months after he admitted working as a British agent.

The Real IRA, which later merged with other groups to form the organisation known as the ‘IRA’, claimed responsibility for killing Mr Donaldson.

Mr Donnelly has been a member of Derry and Strabane council since being elected as an independent republican in 2014.

It is understood he was arrested by armed Gardaí at a restaurant as he and several others, including Derry and Strabane councillor Paul Gallagher, returned from the commemoration.

The warrant for Mr Donnelly’s arrest was dated from last November.

It is understood that on his release yesterday Mr Donnelly attended a council meeting in Derry.

Mr Donaldson’s family last night declined to comment on the arrests but renewed a call for authorities to question his former PSNI and RUC handler, who is known as ‘Lenny’.

In a statement issued through their solicitor Ciaran Shiels they said: “The family believe he is the person with the most serious questions to answer in this matter and we would urge, yet again, that the authorities to speak to him under caution and as a suspect in this case.

“The family would also call upon all serving and retired officers who have information about Lenny and (his) activities to bring that information forward to the authorities as soon as possible.”

Mr Donnelly was arrested after speaking at a centenary commemoration of the Meenbanad ambush in Co Donegal, where two republicans were freed from a British Army escort in what is considered one of the first acts in Ireland's War of Independence.

Organiser and Donegal councillor Michael Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig welcomed Mr Donnelly’s release last night.

“I believe they had ample time to question Gary if they so wished to,” he said.

“They waited until we had the commemoration.

“It was a staged to undermine the work that is being done by socialist republican independent councillors in the north-west who challenge the political establishment on both sides of the border.”

Gardaí last night confirmed one man has been released without charge and a file has been sent to the Republic's director of public prosecutions.

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