Thursday 22 February 2018

Family of murdered IRA spy launch legal action against State

Denis Donaldson. Photo: Paul Faith/PA
Denis Donaldson. Photo: Paul Faith/PA

David Young

The family of murdered IRA spy Denis Donaldson have launched legal proceedings against the State over ongoing delays in holding an inquest.

The development emerged after another adjournment in the long-stalled coroner's probe into the shooting of the MI5 agent by dissident republicans 10 years ago.

Relatives of Mr Donaldson walked out of Donegal Coroners' Court in protest at the latest hold-up.

The 55-year-old senior Sinn Féin official and close colleague of party president Gerry Adams was shot dead at an isolated cottage near Glenties in Co Donegal in April 2006.

He had been living there since his exposure as an MI5 agent the previous year.

With the inquest approaching its 20th adjournment, Mr Donaldson's relatives have issued proceedings with the High Court against Donegal coroner Denis McCauley; the DPP, the Garda Commissioner, the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice.

Family solicitor Ciaran Shiels said they wished to challenge ongoing delays and "antiquated" legislation under which adjournments had been granted.

After the hearing in Letterkenny, Mr Shiels said: "There comes a point after so many adjournments, after the tenth anniversary, that the delay in commencing the inquest proper becomes intolerable.

"With that in mind the family instructed me to commence judicial review proceedings against the Garda Commission, the coroner, the Attorney General, the DPP and also the Minister of Justice."

Dissident republican group the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the murder in 2008 but the circumstances surrounding Mr Donaldson's outing as a British agent and subsequent assassination have been shrouded in mystery.

Gardaí believe the killers can still be caught and do not want an inquest to proceed while the criminal investigation remains live.

In 2014, gardaí made a mutual assistance request to a police force outside the Republic in a bid to gain potentially "significant" material.

Garda Superintendent Michael Finan told Mr McCauley his officers had obtained that material last month. He asked for an adjournment of four months to enable detectives to pursue enquiries.

Counsel for the state Stephen Byrne insisted there was no suggestion the application for adjournment was anything other than genuine.

Granting the adjournment to August 31, Mr McCauley said he was satisfied there was "momentum" in the investigation.

Irish Independent

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