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Top ira leader was british spy

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Sinn Fein Expels Key Insider for Spying
Sinn Fein Expels Prominent Member for Serving As a British Spy for the Past Two Decades
The Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Sinn Fein expelled a prominent party member Friday for serving as a British agent for the past two decades, a strange twist in a scandal that wrecked Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration.

Gerry Adams, leader of the Irish Republican Army-linked party, said Denis Donaldson, its former top administrator in the home of the power-sharing government, confessed to passing information to British intelligence agents for the past 20 years.

The latest revelation came after British state prosecutors last week mysteriously dropped all charges against Donaldson, his son-in-law, Ciaran Kearney, and William Mackessy, a former British civil servant, who had been accused of spying for Sinn Fein.

"The fact is that the key person at the center of those events was a Sinn Fein member who was a British agent," said Adams, who last week appeared alongside Donaldson and his two co-accused to declare their innocence at a Belfast news conference.

In an admission issued to Irish broadcasters RTE, Donaldson said he had betrayed colleagues in the Sinn Fein-IRA movement for decades and been paid by both Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence agency and Special Branch, the secretive intelligence-gathering and informer-running unit within Northern Ireland's police. He did not say how much he was paid or what kind of information he had conveyed.

"I was recruited in the 1980s after compromising myself during a vulnerable time in my life," Donaldson said. "I apologize to anyone who has suffered as a result of my activities, as well as to my former comrades, and especially to my family who have become victims in all of this."

Donaldson, 55, could not be reached for further comment. Nobody answered the door or the telephone at his home in Catholic west Belfast. Neighbors said they had not seen him for several days.

In Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said he found Adams' claims hard to believe.

"If what we are hearing now, that one of Sinn Fein's top administrators in Stormont turns out to be a British spy, this is as bizarre as it gets," Ahern said.

Donaldson and the two other men were arrested in October 2002 and charged with pilfering British documents likely to be of use to the IRA including records listing the personal details of potential IRA targets. The claims brought an end to a Roman Catholic-Protestant coalition that included Sinn Fein, the main accomplishment of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.

Adams said Donaldson admitted, under questioning by two senior Sinn Fein officials, that he had been passing information to British intelligence agencies from inside Sinn Fein-IRA circles for the past 20 years.

Adams also accused Special Branch of concocting the spying scandal to destroy power-sharing.

The arrest and accusations against Donaldson, Kearney, and Mackessy raised fears the IRA was planning to end its 1997 cease-fire, a prerequisite to power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

British prosecutors said it was "in the public interest" to drop the charges against the men but declined to elaborate.

Adams called the spying charges against all three men "a carefully constructed lie created by the Special Branch in order to cause maximum political impact."

Britain's Northern Ireland Office denied Adams' accusations, saying the 2002 police operation was intended "to prevent paramilitary intelligence-gathering."

Donaldson was the senior legislative aide for Sinn Fein in the Stormont Parliamentary Building, the base of a four-party, 12-member administration that included two Sinn Fein members.

Police who searched Donaldson's home said they found more than 1,200 pages of pilfered British documents and identified him as a member of the IRA's intelligence-gathering unit.

They said the documents listed the license plate details of civilian vehicles driven by British soldiers and police, British security force files on military and police deployments, background on Protestant extremists and a retired judge, and a floor plan for key British government offices.

Donaldson had been imprisoned in 1972 for plotting to bomb government buildings and a distillery. He was paroled and later caught by French police in 1981 traveling on a false passport from Beirut, Lebanon.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

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Top ira leader was british spy

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