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Mi5 mole in sinn fein fear of assassination

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MI5 mole in Sinn Fein 'faces life in fear of assassination'
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 18/12/2005)

A senior member of Sinn Fein, who admitted spying for MI5 for more than 20 years, will spend the rest of his life living in fear of assassination, senior security sources believe.

The disclosure that Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, had been penetrated by an MI5 spy at such a senior level will send shock waves through the organisation.

Denis Donaldson, 55, acquitted last week of leading an IRA spy ring in the "Stormontgate" affair that ended Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive three years ago, has been exposed as one of MI5 most highly-placed republican spies.

It comes at a sensitive time in the peace process, which is in stalemate over the Rev Ian Paisley's refusal to resume power-sharing with Sinn Fein because of concerns over decommissioning of arms.

The Democratic Unionist leader last night called for a Commons statement from Tony Blair to explain why the case against Mr Donaldson and others had been dropped.

Ulster Unionists are bound to ask how high up in the Government the spy was known about, considering the impact of the affair on their former leader David Trimble, whose career was in tatters soon after.

Mr Donaldson, 55, was one of three men arrested in October 2002 and accused of operating a republican spy ring at Stormont.

However, after a three-year legal battle, the charges against Mr Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and William Mackessy, a civil servant, were dropped last week by the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.

Mr Donaldson this weekend confirmed Sinn Fein's argument that there was no republican spy ring operation at Stormont.

"The so-called Stormontgate affair was a scam and a fiction, it never existed," he said. "It was created by Special Branch."

Mr Donaldson, who shared a prison cell with Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, during the 1970s, is unlikely to suffer the same fate as many previous informers - a bullet in the back of the head after hours of brutal interrogation. But he is also unlikely to return to his home in Andersonstown, west Belfast, unofficially described as the "heart of Provo Land".

One senior security source last night described Mr Donaldson as a "very lucky" man. He said: "Two years ago he would have been found on an isolated country road with a bullet in the back of his head and a sign around his neck declaring that he was a traitor to the republican cause.

"He may be safe at the moment but all it takes is one rogue member of the IRA with a grudge and a gun and Mr Donaldson may well be regretting his past. But the climate is different now. Rather tellingly, after he outed himself as an informer he was told to go and see a solicitor. He will still spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder."

His role as an MI5 spy emerged at a press conference in Dublin on Friday night, when Gerry Adams said that Mr Donaldson had admitted to being a paid British agent for the past 20 years.

Mr Donaldson said he had been recruited by MI5 after an indiscretion, believed to be related to a sexual encounter or a gambling problem.

He said: "I was recruited in the 1980s after compromising myself during a vulnerable time in my life. Since then I have worked for British intelligence and the Royal Ulster Constabulary/Police Service of Northern Ireland Special Branch."

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