Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams (pictured) should quit in the wake of spying allegations which have rocked his party, a leading SDLP member claimed today.
As pressure mounted on the British government to hold an inquiry into the scandal which brought down Northern Ireland’s devolved government in 2002, SDLP vice chair Eddie Espie said Mr Adams should take the heat for the revelation that one of his aides Denis Donaldson was a British spy.
Mr Espie said: “This project of super collusion happened under Gerry Adams’ watch. For 20 years, Denis Donaldson, one of Adams’s closest allies, has been feeding information to the British intelligence services.
“Only a few days ago, Gerry Adams was happy to appear alongside Donaldson on the steps of Stormont, presenting him as a ’victim of securocrats’ and trying to tell everyone to move on from the Stormontgate affair.
“Now it transpires that Adams was singing the praises of an arch-British agent.
“As party leader throughout the period of Donaldson’s double agency, Gerry Adams was party leader. The buck stops with him. The only option now open is for Gerry Adams to resign.”
Republicans have been reeling since it emerged on Friday that Mr Donaldson, Sinn Féin’s former head of administration at Stormont, was working for British Army and police intelligence since the mid-1980s.
The revelation came eight days after the Public Prosecution Service announced in Belfast Crown Court it was dropping a case against Mr Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy based on claims that they were involved in a republican intelligence gathering operation.
The three men were arrested in October 2002 and a high profile raid by police took place on Sinn Féin’s offices at Stormont.
Allegations that republicans were running a spy ring led to the suspension of power-sharing by the then Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.
Devolution has not been restored since.
Sinn Féin has strenuously denied there was ever any republican spy ring.
On Thursday, Mr Donaldson, a friend of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, confessed to party officials he had been spying on them for two decades after he was warned by police he was about to be publicly exposed as an agent.
His expulsion from Sinn Féin was revealed by Gerry Adams on Friday who also unmasked the 55-year-old as a spy.
Mr Donaldson later confirmed the claims in a statement on Friday night.
The former Sinn Féin official said he had been recruited by the security services after he was compromised at a vulnerable time in his life.
He also stuck to Sinn Féin’s claims that there was no republican spy ring at Stormont.
“I was not involved in any republican spy ring in Stormont,” he said.
“The so-called Stormontgate affair was a scam and a fiction. It never existed. It was created by Special Branch.
“I deeply regret my activities with British intelligence and RUC/PSNI Special ranch. I apologise to anyone who has suffered as a result of my activities as well as to my former comrades and especially to my family who have become victims in all of this.”
Democratic Unionist MEP Jim Allister yesterday called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to make a statement in the House of Commons tomorrow on the Stormontgate affair.
Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey has also demanded an explanation.
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness yesterday insisted the only spy ring which operated at Stormont was run by the British intelligence services.
He stopped short of calling for a public inquiry into the affair.
The Mid Ulster MP told BBC Radio Ulster: “What would a public inquiry achieve? In the circumstances the unionists have called for an inquiry. Let’s see if they get one. Let‘s see if that happens.
“It is very, very clear from Sinn Féin’s perspective – and I think this is shared increasingly by many other people within our society – that there was a spy ring at Stormont, but it was a British spy ring controlled by securocrats, by people within the establishment who are hostile to the peace process.”