Taoiseach sceptical of 'spy' claims

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern tonight described allegations that a senior Sinn Féin figure was a British agent as bizarre.

Following the expulsion of top republican Denis Donaldson from the party’s ranks, Mr Ahern said it would take a strange twist of imagination to accept that such a key player had been spying for the British government.

“Mr Donaldson, who would be known to the Irish Government, effectively was one of the heads of the Sinn Féin administrators in Stormont, and if what we are hearing now, that one of Sinn Féin’s top administrators in Stormont turns out to be a British spy, this is as bizarre as it gets,” Mr Ahern said.

Denis Donaldson, 55, from west Belfast, had been accused of running a spy ring while managing Sinn Féin offices in Stormont.

But all charges were dramatically dropped last week without any explanation.

The so-called Stormontgate affair played a huge part in bringing down the Northern Ireland institutions in 2002.

“We have always had our doubts about Stormontgate but I would just like to hear all sides of it before I can pass a judgment on it, and I am not in a position to do that now,” Mr Ahern told RTE television.

He said he had already raised the spy ring controversy with British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week.

“Stormontgate never made much sense to me, the dropping of the charges made less,” the Taoiseach said.

Mr Ahern was speaking in Brussels where he is attending crunch talks on the future of the European Union budget.

“This is just a bizarre twist, if what we are being asked to believe that the senior Sinn Féin administrator in Stormont turns out to be an agent of the British Security service, that takes some twist of even my imagination,” he said.

“On Stormontgate, it was a huge issue, it brought down the executive, it wasn’t maybe the only thing but it was a huge part of it. I would just like to hear what everybody says during the evening.”

Mr Ahern added that Sinn Féin had contacted his office in Dublin and that he would make a further statement on the matter after weighing up all the information.

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