Donaldson used to be a frequent visitor to the street
where I live. His purpose was to visit his daughter
Jane, with whom he had a very close relationship.
Jane and her partner were a quiet couple; so quiet
in fact that neighbours were often prone to comment
on how remote they were. There was nothing aloof
about them. They simply kept themselves to themselves
and poked their noses into no one else's business.
one occasion, before my rift with Sinn Fein, Denis
dropped by with a book for me. He asked would I
review it for An Phoblacht/Republican News.
It was The Operators by James Rennie. The
subject matter of the book was Rennie's time spent
with the 14th Intelligence Company. People familiar
with the outfit will recall its murder of three
men robbing a bookies at the bottom of the Whiterock
Road in 1989.
primary purpose of the 14th Intelligence Company,
as its name suggests, was to monitor republican
activists and collate as much intelligence on them
as possible. I read the book, which is still on
the shelf with the pages pencil-marked at spots
I felt were worthy of featuring in any review. For
some reason that I no longer remember I never got
around to reviewing it. Since Denis publicly admitted
to having been in the same line of business as the
14th Intelligence Company, I have sometimes wondered
if he was having a quiet laugh, thinking he was
pulling one over on me.
my fallout with Sinn Fein I was in the company of
a journalist on the Garvaghy Road and met Denis
who unbeknown to us was there to keep the British
informed of Sinn Fein's intentions. He and I exchanged
formal pleasantries after which he spewed vitriol
onto the journalist who was driving the car we were
in. The source of Denis's ire was the journalist's
predictions that Sinn Fein would scupper republicanism
and settle for an internal solution. Denis was visibly
angry. He accused the journalist of mischievously
and maliciously undermining the Sinn Fein leadership.
His parting shot was something to the effect that
soon we could expect articles from the same journalist
predicting that Sinn Fein would shaft the residents
of Garvaghy Road.
stayed out of the dispute, allowing Denis to fulminate
and the journalist to respond with witticisms which
managed to infuriate him even more. When we drove
off, there was one firm conclusion in my mind: Denis
was a solid supporter of the peace process and would
seek to police alternative views on the leadership's
Price tells of an event where she saw Denis firmly
push the peace process. It was in the Roddy McCorley's
social club in West Belfast back in the 1990s. Denis
was the main Sinn Fein speaker. He was accompanied
by one of those characters who says nothing but
who everybody knows is the IRA representative at
the table and whose silence - an example meant to
be followed by the audience - is the imprimatur
of 'the army' on Sinn Fein's deliberations. Denis
outlined the logic for an IRA ceasefire as being
an integral part of the peace process. The manner
in which he explained it led Dolours Price to ask
him would it not have been more consistent for the
Republican Movement to have liquidated itself earlier
on in favour of a strategy of entryism into the
SDLP. For her, republicanism was being abandoned
and the movement was merely constitutional nationalism
for now dressed up in republican clothing. Denis
answered a question that she never asked him thereby
evading having to deal with the thrust of her critique.
Without breaking stride he regaled his listeners
with passionate arguments for the peace process.
republicans such as Gabriel Megahey and Martin Galvin
in New York, or Paddy Murray in Antrim and Martin
Cunningham in South Down had sharper exchanges with
Denis as he battled to impose the leadership line
against those raising objections. Most of these
found themselves replaced as a result of Denis's
when he thought I merited a scowl rather than a
nod he had, as rich as you like, taken to briefing
journalists that myself and others through our critical
public commentary were doing the work of the British.
He sought to undermine us on the grounds that we
were hostile to the peace process.
these events drift through my mind, I don't know
what Denis really thought. It seems to me that he
did genuinely believe in the peace process. Perhaps
he saw his role as not primarily that of the British
agent working to shaft the republican leadership,
but an agent of the peace process who sensed that
the leadership and the British state had a similar
agenda and his role was to facilitate both, marry
the two and shoo away critics.
strong US supporter of the Sinn Fein leadership,
the newspaper editor Niall O'Dowd, stumbled over
this but professed bafflement when he did: