Many things puzzle me about Denis Donaldson, the senior Sinn Feiner who spied for the Brits in Northern Ireland, not least the question of why the Director of Public Prosecutions decided some time ago that it was “not in the public interest” to proceed with the prosecution of Donaldson and others for their alleged espionage in Stormont.
His murder took place in one of my favourite parts of Ireland — the hinterland of Glenties, a lovely country town where we always stop at Highlands Hotel on our way through. So there was a creepy edge to the story for us. It’s a reminder that Ireland is sometimes like Sicily — all that warmth and family values and hospitality, while below the surface is a dark underbelly of savagery.
Robin Wilson has a thoughtful piece about the murder in OpenDemocracy.net. Excerpt:
My guess (and that is all it is at this stage) is that the deed was done by IRA members embittered by Donaldson’s treachery, and meanwhile keen to taunt the Sinn Féin leadership of Adams and McGuinness for their endless preening in front of the TV cameras in pursuance of a “peace process” that is doing nothing to deliver the objectives for which the ordinary IRA volunteers sacrificed so much of their adult lives.
An additional political aim would be to signal to the governments of Bertie Ahern in Dublin and Tony Blair in London that some Republicans remain defiantly outside any tent of “inclusion” and “reconciliation” they can construct.
If dissident IRA members are indeed responsible, this might signal the beginning of the collapse of the organisation’s own edifice, which could take place quite quickly and engulf a Sinn Féin leadership that is already finding the reception has got much colder in Dublin, Washington, and even London.
It seems highly improbable that the attack could have been authorised by the IRA leadership. Adams and McGuinness “condemned” the killing, a toxic word they have not used since the Real IRA splinter-group committed the Omagh atrocity in August 1998; this suggests they are serious about their denials of any responsibility (when the Provisional IRA commits a murder but won’t admit it, the organisation just says it’s “wrong”). And while I think the Real IRA or Continuity IRA would have claimed Donaldson’s murder if they had authored it, internal Republican dissidents who had decided it was time to give up on loyalty to the leadership and “whack” the informer would have no reason to identify themselves.
Aside: I launched Google Earth to have a look at the location of the cottage — only to find that it had been obscured by cloud on the day the satellite pictures were taken.