British government to be pressed on spy claims

THE British government will come under intense pressure today to say if its intelligence services were operating a spy ring in Stormont.

Following what Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described as the “bizarre” revelation that senior republican Denis Donaldson was a British agent for 20 years, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will hold separate meetings with Northern secretary Peter Hain in Belfast about the claims.

The meetings come in the wake of calls from all main nationalist and unionist parties in the North for an enquiry on the so-called Stormontgate affair.

The case against three men, including Mr Donaldson, accused of being involved in a republican spy ring was dropped by the prosecution service a fortnight ago because it was not in the public interest.

On Friday, Mr Donaldson, who admitted he was an agent for police special branch and for British intelligence services, described the spy ring as a sham.

Yesterday, Mr Hain denied claims by both the DUP and Sinn Féin that the British government was involved in a cover-up. But he conceded events surrounding Mr Donaldson’s admission were “turbulent.”

And last night, Tánaiste Mary Harney said she did not know if an inquiry “would achieve an awful lot.”

“The last thing we probably need is some form of inquiry that does not get too far,” she said.

While accepting that there probably was a British spy ring, she said that infiltration had occurred on all sides. She said the emphasis should be on trying to ensure normal politics returns to the North of Ireland.

Mr Adams requested a meeting with Mr Hain during a long telephone conversation with the Northern Secretary on Saturday.

Yesterday, he said he intended to raise with Mr Hain the “damaging role of those within the various British policing and intelligence agencies who are actively working to subvert and undermine the peace process.

“The onus to stop this lies with the British government. It has to take whatever steps are necessary to rein in the wreckers who are opposing British government policy. And there has to be an end to political policing.

“If the war is over for the British government then it has to end the war mentality and activities of elements of its own system,” he said.

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