year 2005, Sinn Féin's much-vaunted centenary
year, has proved to be the party's worst since the
beginning of the peace process. Assailed from every
conceivable angle for its duplicity and deceit,
it took the first steps into the new year to a cacophony
of voices chorusing "lies!" at it.
months later, the phonetics have not changed all
that greatly, "spies!" now being the new
buzz term of opprobrium hurled in the party's direction.
certainly takes something to give the peace process
a touch of élan. The bizarre Kafkaesque act
being staged is a good choice for those seeking
some form of alternative theatre to the Christmas
pantomime circuit regaling yuletide revellers.
it not for the periodic scandals that sprinkle the
peace process and titillate a long-suffering population,
our zest for life would be heavily compromised by
those insufferable advocates of the process who,
with their fluency in gibberish, have whipped us
into a state of narcolepsy.
week, which began with the usual Monday nonsense
about securocrats, showed all the promise of finishing
in similar vein until the Denis Donaldson defibrillator
sparked and shocked some serious life into an otherwise
tedious seven days.
a senior and crucially positioned Sinn Féin
apparatchik, confessed to having been a British
spy for 20 years. Give or take a year or two, he
is hardly a member of the lonely club.
I first learned of this latest Sinn Féin
security debacle, my sole thought was, "and
who else?" To think that Donaldson draws the
curtain down on Sinn Féin's spy problem,
one would need to be as daft as some Short Strand
mural artist who, so long as any Provisional leader
endorsed it, would readily paint the walls with
"Denis, revolutionary hero of the peace process,
was only touting for peace."
is the sheer gullibility of large swathes of the
republican rank and file that has allowed the Sinn
Féin leadership strategy to last so long,
with its persistent affront to republican sensibilities,
without any serious questions being asked of it.
have for long been central to British state attempts
to shape the IRA and in particular nudge it towards
a peace process.
1983 the role of Bobby Lean was crucial. By turning
supergrass and securing the temporary imprisonment
of key IRA personnel, Lean changed the internal
balance of power within the IRA and allowed Gerry
Adams to consolidate his grip on the Provisional
republican movement as a whole, opening the way
for the current strategy and the abandonment of
everything the Provisionals hitherto held dear.
recent years the role of Freddie Scappaticci, a
central player in the IRA's internal security apparatus,
came under sustained scrutiny. Scappaticci's purpose
as a senior British agent was to help render the
IRA's military option redundant, thus allowing the
logic of a peace process to take root.
the peace process had to have some intellectual
autonomy rather than exist in a vacuum created by
the implausibility of continuing with an armed campaign.
This is where agents of influence came into play.
Taylor details in his book, Provos, how British
military intelligence, working on the premise that
"Gerry Adams would do almost anything to further
his political career", sought unsuccessfully
to turn Derry republican Steven Lambert.
role would be "to pass on information of the
mood within the party, attitudes of particular individuals
to particular policies and to implement and push
policies" devised by the British. Remarkably,
those policies and the core tenets of the peace
process are not dissimilar.
therefore comes as no surprise to find Martin Ingram,
a former British army operative, who co-authored
a book detailing the nefarious espionage record
of Scappaticci, writing on a website recently that
he had one thing in common with Gerry Adams: both
set out to destroy the IRA and both succeeded.
it is even less surprising to trace the lengths
gone to by the Sinn Féin leadership to cover
for Scappaticci when he was eventually exposed.
his part, Donaldson also functioned in the agent
of influence mode. Even if as a result of Stormontgate
his influence had declined, there was no unavoidable
reason for the British to out him.
there were strong suspicions and whispers that the
Stormontgate trial was aborted by the British to
protect a key informer.
Donaldson had been arrested and held on remand for
a period as a result of the Stormont spy ring being
collapsed in October 2002, most people not unreasonably
took the view that he was a victim of the informer
rather than being the informer himself. However,
a search for the informer increased the risk of
an agent more important than Donaldson being exposed.
Donaldson was outed as a foil against further investigation.
The "tout has now been exposed" dismissal
"so let's get on with the business of the peace
process", as Gerry Adams called for last week.
this perspective, the British give Sinn Féin
wriggle room so that it maintains some of its ring
craft rather than have it flail on the ropes, as
well it might if another informer was to be exposed
who, this time, was much more central in the public
mind to the peace process than Donaldson ever was.
last night's Last Word programme on Today FM, Martin
Ingram confirmed to presenter Matt Cooper that there
are senior Sinn Féin household names at present
working for the British. Far from the British "securocrats"
moving to undermine Sinn Féin, they are seemingly
striving to protect it from serious investigation.
particular irony in all of this for the voter in
the Republic is that after decades of being free
from British involvement in their part of the island,
the dilemma they face is that by voting Sinn Féin
they increase the likelihood of returning MI5 to
the Dáil. Now that truly is an appalling