The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Grave Secrets

Anthony McIntyre • 16 April 2006

Those sentenced to death in Japan never know the moment of their execution. They may languish in jails, with only the basic necessities to ease their predicament. Suddenly, maybe decades after the passing of sentence, the cell door opens and the condemned is rushed to the gallows. On occasion misfortunates have fainted from shock before they made the drop. Perusing some journalistic reports would lend to a belief that the late Denis Donaldson lived such an existence, every noise sending the heart thumping to the thought of 'they have come.' Kevin Toolis, author of Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within The IRA's Soul, suggested:

Donaldson was a dead man walking. His end in a squalid remote cottage in Co Donegal was a death foretold. Indeed Donaldson must have wondered why his one-time comrades had waited so long since December to kill him.

This is unlikely. Donaldson most likely believed he was safe. He could have got out if he felt otherwise. His handlers, even if they now despised him, were in no position to abandon him to his fate had he requested a move. His was too high profile a case to do otherwise.

Toolis would find reinforcement for his thesis in the attempts by Sinn Fein leaders, and those writers they have managed to turn into Orwell's 'minor officials', to convey an image of Donaldson as disdainful and defiant, to whom the IRA could be forgiven for feeling no sense of reciprocal obligation. Gerry Adams writing in the Village stated:

Denis Donaldson was very unforthcoming about his activities. The party broke off all contact with him shortly after all this. He was told that if he wanted to make a full disclosure he should get in touch with us. He never did.

This is an allegation that had been doing the rounds in Belfast for at least a month prior to the Donegal killing. It may have increased the level of resentment already existing toward the former agent of the peace process. Those angry that he was a spy, may now have felt that he was rubbing their noses in it by disdainfully declining to divulge the extent of that spying. Having your beach towel stolen is bad enough; having sand kicked in your face by the thief for good measure may make the difference between resentment and revenge.

Nevertheless, it is hard to buy into the notion that Donaldson was not the recipient of a safe passage ticket from the Provisional leadership. What else explains his decision to snub his handlers and push the Sinn Fein line that the only espionage venture at Stormont was a British one? Knowing that he could easily have been bumped off in a variety of ways by any number of people, an obvious calculation for him to make was that he would need to placate the one force with the ability to centralise and control the bulk of his potential killers - the Provisional leadership. Would he have ventured, an Eliza Manningham-Buller signed cheque in his wallet, into the wilds of Donegal having thumbed his nose at it?

From this perspective, Donaldson told his Provisional interrogators as much as he felt he needed to in order to stay alive. According to Gerry Moriarty, the Sinn Fein leaning Daily Ireland, shortly after his exposure, made that much clear. It indicated that:

self-confessed British agent Mr Donaldson was co-operating with Sinn Féin at a de-briefing session somewhere in Ireland. It said that Mr Donaldson reportedly had been "candid" in his accounts of his role as an informer over two decades but was "downplaying the effect his spying activities had on his former colleagues''.

And the tactical options adumbrated by Daily Ireland for the consideration of Donaldson's former colleagues:

A bullet will have to be bitten between now and the February Sinn Fein Ard-Fheis: do republicans spell out the full extent of Donaldson's breathtaking double-dealing over 20 years and risk further reverberations or do they keep mum and join Peter Hain and Hugh Orde in drawing a veil of silence over what has taken place?

Most likely, the leadership pretended that Donaldson withheld all details about his involvement with the British to spare it the task of having to detail the extent of his nefarious activity to the Provisional grassroots. This may have been done to cut off at the pass demands for his immediate execution. Alternatively, the leadership may have wanted to minimise its own culpability in failing to detect him for so long.

Whatever Denis Donaldson told those who debriefed him will now remain a secret. The full extent of what the leadership learned from him about his spy role will never be known unless some leader or interlocutor is of a mind to share it. Given that the same leadership did everything possible to allow Freddie Scappaticci's role to go unexplored, the chances of transparency in the case of Denis Donaldson must be slim.

In this sense, while the leadership is likely to be remain absolved of complicity in his fate, his killing dovetails nicely with its need to ensure that no more informers come forward to embarrass it. If Denis Donaldson was, as British intelligence sources told Thomas Harding of the Daily Telegraph, not the star mole but in the top 20, a possible further 19 holds out the promise of many blushes to come.










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Index: Current Articles

18 April 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Grave Secrets
Anthony McIntyre

Spoiled Rotten
David Adams

Let Bygones be Bygones
Mick Hall

Urgent Memo — Judas Was One of the Bad Guys!
Dr John Coulter

Cluedo in Donegal
Anthony McIntyre

Easter Message
John Kennedy

Óglaigh na hÉireann Easter Statement
The Sovereign Nation

IFC Easter Statement, 2006
Joe Dillon

Lincoln's Despair
John Kennedy

Fred A. Wilcox

Hamas Being Forced to Collapse
Sam Bahour

Profile: Philippe Val
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

11 April 2006

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



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