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Friday 22 August 2014

'New and significant' leads in hunt for killers of British spy Denis Donaldson

Greg Harkin

Published 27/03/2014 | 15:28

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IRA informer Denis Donaldson was shot dead in April 2006

GARDAI have uncovered “new and significant” leads in their hunt for the killers of British spy Denis Donaldson, an inquest heard today.

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Mr Donaldson, a former IRA member and senior official in Sinn Fein, was shot dead at a remote cottage outside Glenties, Co Donegal in 2006.

Lawyers representing his relatives boycotted today’s hearing at the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny in protest at plans to adjourn the inquest for a 13th time.

Ciaran Shiels, from Madden & Finucane solicitors in Belfast, had earlier faxed coroner Dr Denis McAuley with a detailed letter of complaint.

In it Mr Shiels said the Donaldson family were planning to sue the State over the “undue” delay in holding an inquest.

Barrister for An Garda Siochana Stephen Byrne told today’s hearing that had Mr Shiels been present he would “certainly object” to many aspects of his statement.

He said some of it was commentary and had “the potential to impair” the Garda investigation.

However, he said, the Garda reasons for seeking a new adjournment were “bona fide.”

Supt Michael Finan, who is leading the hunt for Mr Donaldson’s killers, told Dr McAuley that new leads had emerged since the inquest was last adjourned in September last.

“Additional matters have been investigated and these are new and significant; I have informed the DPP that additional evidence may be forthcoming,” said Supt Finan.

He said the new matters “may produce additional” evidence but he was constrained from saying anything further.

Dr McAuley went through the three page fax which showed that Supt Finan had told the family on March 21 that new information had been discovered by investigating officers.

“I hope you and Mr Donaldson’s family can appreciate that I cannot disclose the nature of the investigative matters referred to but assure you that they are genuine,” Supt Finan had said in his letter to Mr Shiels.

Dr McAuley said the family had expressed a desire to see Mr Donaldson’s diary which, the family claimed, they had been told contained “no evidential leads to the Garda murder investigation team.”

Mr Byrne however said Gardai took a different view in relation to the journals and had strong objections to many aspects of the letter.

“It is not as straight forward as the family may think,” said the barrister.

The family had also told the coroner in their letter that there non appearance at today’s inquest was “in now way to be interpreted as a personal discourtesy to yourself.”

Dr McAuley also said that the family could now apply for legal aid under new European laws if they wished and he would pass on their request.

Dr McAuley adjourned the case until July 3.

“I want to get this running as soon as possible,” he said.

He said he was “very pleased” about the new developments in the murder investigation.

“I would much rather have a criminal case than an inquest case. But if things don’t develop quickly I do want to hold an inquest before the end of this year,” added Dr McAuley.

Before the hearing Mr Shiels issued a press statement in which he said the family of Mr Donaldson no longer had any faith in the Garda investigation.

The former Provisional leader had worked undercover for the British for more than two decades and left the North in December 2005 after being outed by Sinn Fein.

He was shot dead in April 2006.

Two years after the killing the Real IRA in Derry claimed responsibility for the murder.

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