Northern Ireland news

Gerry Adams denies sanctioning murder of Denis Donaldson

Martin McGuinness, senior Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson, and party leader Gerry Adams at Stormont in December 2005. Picture by Paul Faith, Press Association

THE murder of former senior Sinn Féin official and MI5 informer Denis Donaldson was 'commissioned' by republican Thomas 'Slab' Murphy and sanctioned by party leader Gerry Adams, it has been claimed.

A man claiming to be a former Special Branch agent within the IRA told a BBC Spotlight programme on Tuesday night that the IRA and not a dissident group, carried out the killing.

The programme broadcast a series of explosive claims - all dated after the time the anonymous informer, known as 'Martin', became a Special Branch agent in 1997. They included:

:: Mr Donaldson had confirmed to the anonymous informer that there was an IRA 'spy ring' at Stormont which had stolen vital documents from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). Police raided Sinn Féin's Stormont offices in 2002 amid allegations of a 'spy ring' - a raid which led to the suspension of power sharing

:: Police discovered the IRA had at one time held sensitive information, including details of all serving prison officers

:: That the IRA's own 'intelligence records' included maps and codes of the NIO's security system, aerial photos of British army bases and personal, including sexual, details about unionist politicians

:: Police had warned Mr Donaldson shortly before he admitted he was an agent in 2005 that members of the media believed he was an informer

:: Mr Donaldson was writing a journal - now in the hands of gardaí - understood to include details about what he did as an IRA man and a British agent

:: Martin Galvin, of Noraid in New York, who worked with Mr Donaldson, claimed he complained several times to 'high ranking people in Ireland' that he suspected the Sinn Féin official was an informer

:: That when the informer 'Martin' told Special Branch about the IRA 'spy ring', senior republican Bobby Storey, who the informer told the programme was the IRA's head of intelligence, became the main target of a covert surveillance operation. In a statement to Spotlight, Mr Storey denied having been an IRA intelligence officer

Mr Donaldson (55), who was close to Mr Adams, was shot dead at an isolated cottage near Glenties, Co Donegal, in April 2006.

He was arrested at the time of the police raid on Sinn Féin's Stormont offices in 2002, but late in 2005 prosecutors said they were dropping all charges "in the public interest".

Days later, Mr Donaldson confessed to being a double agent who had worked for police and MI5 for 20 years.

Although the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the murder in 2008, 'Martin' told the BBC it was carried out by the IRA and suggested it was sanctioned by Mr Adams, a Louth TD.

"I know from my experience in the IRA that murders have to be approved by the leadership," he said.

He added: "Gerry Adams, he gives the final say".

Denis Donaldson, who was shot dead in Co Donegal in April 2006

In a statement given to Spotlight, Mr Adams' solicitor said his client had no knowledge of - and no involvement whatsoever - in Mr Donaldson's killing. He added that his client categorically denies he was consulted about 'an alleged IRA army council decision' or that he had the final say on what had been sanctioned.

'Martin' dismissed claims the Real IRA was responsible for Mr Donaldson's murder and said the dissident group made the claim "for the kudos, a forlorn hope that someone might take them more seriously these days".

Security sources told the programme the killing was made at the insistence of alleged south Armagh IRA leader Thomas 'Slab' Murphy to 'maintain army discipline'.

The programme alleged the south Armagh IRA leadership was angered by revelations Mr Donaldson had been an informer because he had acted as an intermediary between them and the republican leadership in Belfast.

It also claimed the south Armagh grouping blamed Mr Donaldson for IRA operations which had been 'compromised' and suspected he had planted covert listening devices which they had found.

A BBC spokeswoman later said they had contacted Murphy's solicitor but had not received a response by the time the programme was screened to press early on Tuesday evening.

Murphy, a Co Louth farmer, was jailed for 18 months for tax evasion in February. The 66-year-old was found guilty of nine charges at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

The self-confessed republican protested his innocence.

In July, a 74-year-old man appeared before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin accused of withholding information about Mr Donaldson's murder.

The programme said it understood the Garda investigation is now focused on a separate person, originally from Co Donegal but now based outside the Republic, who has been described as sympathetic to dissident republicanism.

The Police Ombudsman has been investigating police's handling of the Denis Donaldson case, including how he was warned his cover was about to be blown. The ombudsman's report is expected to be published later this year.

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