The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Agent Of The Peace Process

Anthony McIntyre • 9 April 2006

Denis 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.

On 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.

The 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.

After 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.

I 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 behalf.

Dolours 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.

Other 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 machinations.

Later 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.

As 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.

A strong US supporter of the Sinn Fein leadership, the newspaper editor Niall O'Dowd, stumbled over this but professed bafflement when he did:

Donaldson, by everyone's account, did a good job steadying the Sinn Féin leadership in the US ... "No Sinn Féin representative would have done anything different than Donaldson did," said a Sinn Féin source in Ireland … That remains the essential dilemma. Although a self-confessed British agent, Donaldson dampened down dissension in the US, rather than causing it to flare up, as the British surely wanted.

The point is neither the British nor the Sinn Fein leadership wanted dissent in the US or anywhere else. In suppressing any whiff of dissent Denis, working for the peace process, was the agent of both.





















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

11 April 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Shed No Tears for the Donaldson Family
Geraldine Adams

Buried in Secret
Anthony McIntyre

The Donaldson Dilemna
Bill Ashe

Motive for Murder
Mick Hall

Victim or Pawn?
Dr John Coulter

Agent of the Peace Process
Anthony McIntyre

Happy Easter
John Kennedy

Where, O Where, Is Our James Connolly?
Paul Maguire

Nice One, Tony
John Kennedy

Putting on the Poor Mouth
Seaghan O Murchu

Spare Us the Cures from Quacks
Dr Seamus Kilby

Profile: Antoine Sfeir
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters page has been updated:

Standing Up to the Enemies of Free Speech


Irish Republicanism and Islam


Real human rights - without any religious blackmail


Resisting Censorship


and more...

Freedom of Speech index

4 April 2006

Interview with Michael McKevitt
Forum Magazine

Catching the Monkey
Anthony McIntyre

Policing the Status Quo
Mick Hall

John Kennedy

T.W.A.T and the problem with Leopard spots
Eamon Sweeney

Bigotry Imperils the Union
David Adams

'Fury over British PM bigot remarks'
Michaél MhaDonnáin

Then Why Is My Colour On Your Flag?
Derick Perry

Exorcise the Ghosts to Revive the Party
Dr John Coulter

How the Irish Screwed Up Civilisation?
Seaghan O Murchu

Play Ball
John Kennedy

Cumann Frithdheighilte Na h-Eireann - An outline
Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh

Irish Prisoner Suffering Extreme Medical Neglect in English Prison
Paul Doyle

Profile: Maryam Namazie
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Expression: No Ifs and Buts
Maryam Namazie

Manning the Firewalls
Anthony McIntyre

Ulster Muslims' Fury at Web Cartoons
Elham Asaad Buaras

Freedom of Speech index



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