Niall Stanage makes some significant points about the Stormontgate affair in the Guardian today:
Last Friday, a bombshell dropped. The key figure in the trio, Denis Donaldson, who was Sinn Féin’s head of administration at Stormont, owned up to a double life. He said that he had been a paid agent of British intelligence and Northern Ireland Special Branch since the 80s. His exposure turned the accepted version of events on its head. As things stand, the only proven spying operation at Stormont was run by forces of the state. And a paid agent of the state had been pivotal in the unravelling of a democratically elected administration. It is hard to imagine a graver scenario.
The government has sought to ameliorate the fiasco by claiming that the original police operation did indeed uncover stolen documents and that the Stormont raid was given a clean bill of health by Nuala O’Loan, the police ombudswoman. Neither assertion counters the idea that Donaldson could have acted as an agent provocateur. (Guardian)
A number of interesting questions are also being asked in this thread over on Slugger.
The BBC’s Brian Rowan had this to say about Operation Torsion back in 2002:
The operation spanned a period of months and, according to one source, the main target was the IRA’s so-called director of intelligence – a prominent west Belfast republican.
But he managed to avoid the net.
Four arrests were eventually made on 4 October and three men and a woman were subsequently charged. In the search operation, hundreds of documents and a lap top computer were seized.
But, I understand that long before this date, the police were already aware that the IRA had obtained copies of sensitive government documents as well as details on prison officers – the latter may have been copied from a human resources computer database at Prisons Control.
An assessment was made that the prison officers were under no threat from the IRA and Operation Torsion was allowed to run. (BBC)
Did they feel so secure because the documents were under the control of one of their own agents? If they were prepared to take such a risk, were they not capable of initiating the whole thing?
Why was the operation then rolled up in the most public manner possible without catching its main target, with the most significant arrest being one of their own agents?
Could the answer to this be related to the fact that the Special Branch officer who led the raid, Bill Lowry, spoke at the annual dinner of the anti-agreement DUP last year?
Could it also explain why Mr Lowry, according to his own account, was removed from his post at the behest of MI5?
And if Donaldson wasn’t co-operating with his handlers, why did they meet him two days before his arrest?
The answers to these questions might shed some light on why democracy in Northern Ireland has been suspended for the past three years, but don’t hold your breath.