The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Buried in Secret

For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate
- Mersault, in Albert Camus's The Outsider

Anthony McIntyre • 9 April 2006

There was something pathetically sad about the circumstances of Denis Donaldson's burial in West Belfast this morning. While not as poorly thought of as the UDA's Jim Gray, who managed only thirteen in his funeral cortege, less than a hundred mourners for a man who was well known throughout Ireland and further afield was a measure of the fall from 'hero to zero' that Donaldson accomplished. Six months ago, a funeral for the former Sinn Fein administrator would have attracted thousands. Today's minimalist event echoed the numbers that attended IPLO funerals during that organisation's feud with the INLA in 1987. Public distaste for the activities of the deceased simply results in an abstentionist posture toward their funerals.

Last night, a number of Donaldson's colleagues from his Sinn Fein days arrived at the family home in Aitnamona. Senior IRA figures and elected politicians as well as some of Donaldson's fellow apparatchiks are said to have been amongst them. It was hardly to pay respects to the dead man. They more than most despised him and, it is claimed, out of media earshot are expressing personal satisfaction at his passing. While many genuinely felt sympathy for the family, a factor in their visible presence must have been a local PR exercise aimed at firming up the view that the IRA did not murder Donaldson. Not that there would be any great community disquiet towards those responsible for the killing, but it helps feed into a discourse of deniability from which Sinn Fein stands to gain in the wider political arena. By not attending the funeral itself in full view of the camera, Sinn Fein can mute the derisory scorn that would inevitably be directed the party's way from its own supporters for having accompanied a British spy on his final journey. While Gerry Adams may have been tempted to carry the coffin of Denis Donaldson as an act of publicly distancing himself from the Donegal killers, there was no need to. The two governments have been quick to step in as figurative pallbearers on his behalf.

For the unprepared the funeral came so quick it had the feel of being a secret burial rather than a private one. In this morning's dozen or so Irish News death insertions for the dead man the customary funeral arrangements were not mentioned. Even the requiem mass was held in the family home before Donaldson's remains were whisked across rain and windswept Belfast streets to his final destination in a nearby cemetery. In contrast to his wide reaching public profile, the man as a private citizen was effectively banished to the narrowest of spheres. His loved ones, who yesterday described his warm family side, seemed reluctant to prolong their excruciating anguish and opted to bring the curtain down on the prolonged tragedy that has befallen them. Like Orson Welles, they must be thinking 'it isn't real, but it's true."

Prior to last Tuesday's incident in Donegal the family of Denis Donaldson must still have been in the process of grieving for the man they thought they knew, the false god whose temple collapsed leaving them to scour the rubble and pick up the pieces. Last December they saw him die a social death once he appeared in front of the cameras for the second last time and admitted his role as an agent of the British crown. After the republican persona of Denis Donaldson died, the emotional stability of his family must have been in freefall. Instead of a grave to visit they had a cottage which housed a shell of the man they once knew. In such circumstances emotions oscillate between the poles of blame and grief and allow little peace of mind.

His children used to having grown up under the protective wing of a father whose status as a republican must have impacted on how they were viewed both by themselves and others, were suddenly staring into a strange new world. They were most likely still grieving the social death of their father when Tuesday's news of his physical demise reached them. Since then they have criticised British security services for causing Donaldson's predicament and the media for disclosing his whereabouts.

Understandable as the need to make sense of their dilemma is, there is a certain gravity here that will always pull deliberations back to its own centre. Special Branch or MI5 made hay while the sun was shining. Donaldson was not an unwilling partner. The Sunday World by pursuing an interview with him merely delivered 'the most sought-after scoop in years' and which won the 'admiration and envy' of its media rivals. The Sunday World no more revealed Donaldson's location than Christopher Columbus 'revealed' America.

When the dust settles, the prevailing judgement on Denis Donaldson is likely to be that he was the author of his own downfall, and whose chief trait was one of incorrigible unfaithfulness. He was unfaithful to his family, his comrades and ultimately to his handlers when he failed to tell them about the Stormont spy ring and later spun the Sinn Fein line that the only espionage in the building was British orchestrated. Like Albert Camus's Outsider, Denis Donaldson was tone deaf to the beat of the nearest drum, preferring instead to march to the staccato of a foreign one, which in the end became his funeral dirge.

























Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

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



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices