From Irish Political Review: May 2006

Editorial Commentary

Plan B: For eight years since 10th April 1998, on various pretexts, the British Government failed to pressurise recalcitrant parties to the Good Friday Agreement to work the institutions. The threat of developing Joint Authority with the Irish Government was never applied.
On 6th April, after some weeks of leaks the 'stick' was finally brandished—9 months after the IRA agreed to decommision its weapons (which was not a requirement of the Agreement as voted on in two Referendums). A shadow Assembly will be established on 15th May. There will be three chances to set up the Ministerial arrangements under the GFA between then and 24th November. If the DUP does not nominate its Ministers, the representative aspects of the GFA will be ended and Joint Authority will be fleshed out.
The pressure is all now on Unionists. That, however, could change if IRA 'criminality' should resume/continue—depending on whether one believes the reports of Lord Alderdyce's International Independent Monitoring Commission. So far, every report has dove-tailed with Blair's strategy.
Presumably the Irish News was reflecting Northern Catholic opinion when it consigned news of Blair's initiative to a minor place on its front page on 6th April, preferring to lead with PSNI Gives Stab-Proof Vests To All Officers. On the same day the Irish Times led with November Deadline Set For NI Parties To Work Together. Both SF and the SDLP had lobbied against the Shadow Assembly plan. Even Tom Kelly, a former SDLP member who usually supports the NIO position, described it as a "betrayal" of nationalists (IN 3.4.06).
Dennis Donaldson: The timing of the murder of this IRA informer for the British was reminiscent of previous Northern 'psycho-dramas' intended to derail devolutionary rapprochements. However this time the Blair Government ignored the securocrats' offering. There can be little doubt that he was killed by his former handlers, who will not have liked his preference for Provo debriefing to exile and a new identity. Not that there was not reason enough for republican revenge—not by Provos, but by others who split off from the mainstream during the period of his perfidy. What makes this theory of a Provo assassination incredible is that his 'hideaway' was no secret to them. He was in a family holiday cottage which had been used as a retreat by various republicans. The killing followed just days after the Stickie-orientated Sunday World, in a World Exclusive authored by Hugh Jordan, made public the fact that he was in a remote area of Donegal and showed aerial pictures of the cottage. Donaldson told Jordan that Stormontgate was staged—and himself sacrificed by the British authorities—so that republicans would bear the blame for the suspension of the Northern Executive and Assembly:
"It was for whatever agenda they were up to—and that agenda is all too obvious.
"The plan was to collapse the instiutions to save Trimble—David Trimble was trying to out-DUP the DUP and in the end the DUP swallowed him up.
"The whole idea was to get Trimble off the hook and get republicans the blame. But it didn't work, because Trimble is history now.
"There was never a spy ring at Stormont…" (19.3.06)
Why should the Provos kill this person when he was confirming that they were innocent in the 'Stormontgate' affair?
An Phoblacht reported Gerry Kelly MLA as follows about the murder:
"Donaldson Death—Serious Questions For PSNI by Laura Friel
"“We are told that the man who led Sunday World journalist Hugh Jordan to Denis Donaldson's home in Donegal and who secretly filmed him was a former member of the RUC, Colin Breen. Shortly after the Sunday World exposé Denis Donaldson was killed…
"“Given the role played by Special Branch in Denis Donaldson's life over many years, the revelation of the involvement of Colin Breen in this story is extremely sinister…”
"According to the Sunday Business Post, the former officer, Colin Breen had worked in Tennent Street RUC barracks in Belfast before his retirement. Breen travelled with the Sunday World journalist to the Glenties area of County Donegal to track Donaldson down.
"Breen… is not a member of the Sunday World's staff and photographers employed by the newspaper were not used… Hugh Jordan made no mention of Breen's role.
"Breen secretly filmed Donaldson… video film was sold to a number of British television stations and broadcast… Within days of the coverage Donaldson was killed.
"The timing of the killing, just two days before the British and Irish governments unveiled their plans, has been seen by many as a deliberate attempt to thwart the political process…
"This is not the first time Hugh Jordan has been the media conduit for Special Branch's dirty war. In the late 1990s a former Special Branch agent, Thomas Douglas who worked as part of a black propaganda group, claimed he had fed Jordan fabricated stories designed to undermine the IRA cessation at that time.
"It's not the first time that an agent, apparently considered more useful dead than alive, has been killed. William Stobie, a Special Branch agent who supplied and later disposed of weaponry used in the murder of Pat Finucane, was shot dead after he backed the call for a public inquiry and appeared willing to co-operate with the Steven's probe…" (13.4.2006).
The family has said they do not believe the Provos were responsible for the killing, as does Andrew McIntyre (the dissident whose views often dovetail with British strategy).
The Irish Times has suggested Donaldson was really working for the Provos, both editorially some months ago, and in its lead story, Double Agent Found Murdered In Donegal Cottage (5.4.06). It has not explained the grounds for the suggestion that he was working for the IRA, rather than against. The paper is well connected to British Intelligence circles, and is probably just repeating what it was told by them.
The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, in the Dail rejected republican denials of complicity, saying the killing "bore the hallmarks of the execution of Eamon Collins outside Newry" [an informer killed by the IRA]. (Kenny was quoted approvingly by Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent 9.4.06, under the title, Donaldson Did Some Service To Two States.)
But readers can rest easy: in an editorial, Time To Face Political Realities, Geraldine Kennedy assures us that Lord Alderdyce will say 'who dunnit'. More significant is the news that NI Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, will undertake an investigation.
Troop Reductions: Over the coming two years the British Government plans to dismantle the five remaining Co. Armagh spy towers and reduce troop levels to 5,000.
Policing: Denis Bradley is withdrawing from his position as Policing Board Vice-Chairman. He suggested that PB members elect a Catholic Chairman this time around (a suggestion criticised by Tom Kelly, IN 31.3.06), and this would have happened if the UUP had followed through on its threat to boycott the PB (see April Irish Political Review). Sir Desmond Rea was re-elected Chairman, with Barry Gilligan, a property developer, as his deputy.
In an interview with the Irish News (23.3.06) Denis Bradley said that, though he and his home had been physically attacked, "from the start Sinn Fein and the IRA never intimidated him" or “were anything but properly adversarial at a debate level”. Indeed, "on many occasions senior Sinn Fein figures were the first to call at his home after an attack". The former PB Vice-Chairman also described "the decision to hand security over to MI5" as a "mistake".
Mervyn Gibson: Mervyn Gibson, a former Special Branch officer who became a Presbyterian Minister in 2000, has been ousted as Chairman of the Loyalist Commission as the UDA and UVF say he was involved in secret talks with the NIO about parades (IN 5.4.06).
Omagh Relatives: Omagh Relatives met Chief Constable Hugh Order, who rejected their challenging questions, saying he did not wish to be "interrogated" (IN 4.4.06).
DUP Life Peers:

For the first time the DUP's mandate has been recognised, with the appointment of three peers: Mrs. Eileen Paisley, Maurice Morrow (Chairman), and Wallace Browne (Belfast Lord Mayor).

Eileen Bell: Eileen Bell of the Alliance Party is to be the new Presiding Officer of the Shadow Assembly.
Eddie Espie: Eddie Espie, an SDLP member since 1991 (and a Protestant) has resigned as Vice-Chairman: "The party today is a shadow of the party I joined based on the founding principles of democratic nationalism" (IN 30.3.06).
Martin Mansergh: Martin Mansergh has apologised to the 'Shot At Dawn' campaign (which seeks retrospective pardons for soldiers executed for cowardice in the Great War) for the role of his relative, Temporary Major Robert Otwayåßœ Mansergh of the 6th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (related to the Senator's grandmother) of Cork. Major Mansergh presided over the court-martial of Patrick Joseph Downey of Limerick in 1915, who was accused of disobeying orders. Private Downey was undefended. Dr. Mansergh said:
"Obviously I'm not responsible for what happened but I am a member, albeit a distant one, of the family…" (30.3.06).
—is the Senator assuming a genetic blood-guilt here?—a position with racist overtones. Moreover, as Martin Mansergh justifies Britain's role in the Great War, surely he should defend the means necessary to prosecute it?

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