Monday 26 August 2019

Man to be charged with the murder of former Sinn Féin worker Denis Donaldson

Denis Donaldson
Denis Donaldson
Killing: The cottage where Denis Donaldson was shot dead. Photo: PA
Denis Donaldson stands beside former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Denis Donaldson, the senior Sinn Féin official and British spy, who was shot in Donegal in April, 2006. Photo: PA
From left: Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, Denis Donaldson and Gerry Adams in Stormont, in 2005, before Donaldson was unmasked as a British informer. Photo: Paul Faith/PA
The bedroom in the cottage near Glenties where Donaldson was killed. Photo: North West Newspix
The inside of the house at Derryloughan near Glenties where Denis Donaldson was murdered. (North West Newspix)
The isolated house at Derryloughan, near Glenties where Denis Donaldson was murdered. (North West Newspix)

Rebecca Black

A man is to be charged by gardaí over the murder of former Sinn Féin worker Denis Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson was shot dead at a remote cottage in Donegal in April 2006.

It came months after he admitted that he had been an agent for the security forces.

Mr Donaldson was a former Sinn Féin director of elections and a close friend of hunger striker Bobby Sands.

Denis Donaldson stands beside former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Denis Donaldson stands beside former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

The sequence of events surrounding his death dated back to 2002 after three men, including Mr Donaldson, were arrested following a raid on Sinn Féin's Stormont office.

The powersharing executive between unionists and nationalists collapsed and government restored direct rule to Northern Ireland a week later.

In 2005, charges against three men were dropped and within days Sinn Féin said Mr Donaldson was a British agent and expelled him from the party.

He later said he had worked as a spy since the 1980s.

A long-running inquest into Mr Donaldson's death at Donegal Coroner's Court has been adjourned several times to facilitate Garda inquiries into his murder.

On Wednesday it emerged at the inquest that the Garda had sought a warrant from the Special Criminal Court in Dublin for the arrest of an individual to bring him before the court to be charged with murder.

Killing: The cottage where Denis Donaldson was shot dead. Photo: PA
Killing: The cottage where Denis Donaldson was shot dead. Photo: PA

A Garda spokesman said they requested the inquest proceedings be paused while a fresh criminal investigation is launched.

"At a sitting of Donegal Coroner's Court today, 03 July 2019, An Garda Síochána sought a remand into the inquest into the death of Denis Donaldson, in accordance with section 25(2) Coroners Act 1962," he said.

"As criminal proceedings have been initiated in this case, An Garda Siochana is not making any further comment."

Mr Donaldson's family has welcomed the development and said that they are determined to get answers about what happened to him.

The isolated house at Derryloughan, near Glenties where Denis Donaldson was murdered. (North West Newspix)
The isolated house at Derryloughan, near Glenties where Denis Donaldson was murdered. (North West Newspix)

They said in a statement today: "The charges to which gardaí referred today were sparked by a new avenue In their investigation opened back in 2012. That development had coincided with the decision by the current Police Ombudsman to reopen an inquiry into the role of senior PSNI intelligence officers in a criminal conspiracy to expose and endanger Denis Donaldson.

"We are mindful of the fact that the individual who may face charges is not physically amenable to gardaí and he is currently serving a massive prison sentence outside of the jurisdiction. Following his release from custody, he faces an additional 3 year supervisory release in that jurisdiction. Therefore, even with a fair wind, it is highly unlikely that any criminal proceedings might meaningfully be commenced until a further decade at least passes by," they said.

"In these circumstances, what should invite more public scrutiny is that the new phase in the Garda investigation and the related criminal charges announced today have their genesis in an eavesdropping surveillance operation conducted by MI5.

"It has been the family’s consistent contention that officers in MI5 and PSNI Special Branch had exposed Denis as an agent.

"The Deputy Chief Constable of Police Scotland and the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána are both aware of the identity of Denis' handler and his supervising officer who are the subject of the complaint to the Police Ombudsman by the Donaldson family.

"Today's 'breakthrough' has now been publicised just as the final report by the Police Ombudsman is due to be released to the Donaldson family. Despite this, our interest remains in establishing the truth."

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