is the name given to the controversy surrounding an alleged Provisional Irish Republican Army
spy-ring based in Stormont
, the parliament building of Northern Ireland
. The term was coined in October 2002
after the arrest of Sinn Féin
’s Northern Ireland Assembly group administrator Denis Donaldson
, his son-in-law Ciarán Kearney, and former porter William Mackessy for intelligence-gathering on 4 October 2002
Ten days following the arrests devolved government in Northern Ireland arising from the Good Friday Agreement
collapsed. The raid involved "scores" of PSNI
officers who entered the building to remove two computer disks from the Sinn Féin offices. The raid took place in what was described as a "blaze of publicity". The two computer disks were quietly returned later. Thousands of documents were reportedly discovered by the police in Donaldson's Belfast
Charges dropped 2005
On 8 December 2005
the charges against all three men were dropped by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service
. Lawyers for the service said that
"the prosecution for the offences in relation to the accused are no longer in the public interest".
Sinn Féin claimed that the prosecutions had been politically motivated and were dropped because of lack of evidence. Some unionists
suggested that dropping the charges was a "reward" for the final act of decommissioning
by the Provisional IRA
announced on 26 September
On 16 December 2005
, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams
announced to a press conference in Dublin
that Donaldson had been a spy in the pay of MI5
for over twenty years. This was confirmed by Donaldson in a statement to broadcast media outlet RTÉ
In his statement Donaldson described the alleged Sinn Féin spy ring in Stormont as "a scam and a fiction". Adams has asserted that both the planned leaking of Donaldson's name as an informer and the original Stormontgate allegations were engineered by the security forces to discredit Sinn Féin and cause a crisis in the peace process. The affair had been investigated by Nuala O'Loan, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, who ruled that the raid was not politically motivated. O'Loan found that the
"decision to seek a warrant authorising a search of a specific desk in the Sinn Féin offices was reasonable, proportionate and legal"
but was critical of the number of vehicles used and the scale of the police operation. Normally the Ombudsman's office is given access to all relevant codenames and reports relating to informants. Yet O'Loan was unaware that Donaldson was by his own admission, an informant. Following the public unmasking of Donaldson, O'Loan stood by her 2004 judgement on the search. The Northern Ireland Office
has also strenuously denied that Donaldson was an agent.
Both the Irish
governments have ruled out inquiries into the controversy. Tánaiste
(deputy prime minister) of Ireland , at that time , Mary Harney
said: "I think the last thing we probably need right now is some form of inquiry which may not get very far British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain
described the unfolding scandal as turbulent, but said that inquiries
"cost hundreds of millions of pounds. I am not going down that road when it is quite clear that it is not in the public interest to do so
The Irish Taoiseach
(prime minister) Bertie Ahern
, described events surrounding the incident as "bizarre".
Immediately after the December revelation, unidentified security sources said that a second informer acting independently of Donaldson disclosed the alleged spy ring Former PIRA prisoner and critic of Gerry Adams, Anthony McIntyre, has claimed that a more important British agent is operating in the organisation, and that Donaldson was sacrificed by Sinn Féin to deceive people into thinking that the most serious infiltration had been ended.
Since his admission Donaldson
had been living in the Republic of Ireland
where he was debriefed by republicans about the extent of his work for British intelligence
. On 4 April 2006
he was found shot dead at house he had been using as a retreat near Glenties
, County Donegal
. Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell
said that Donaldson had been shot in the head and that his right forearm was almost severed. However, a post mortem revealed that he had died from a shotgun blast to the chest. Donaldson's death is now the subject of an ongoing murder inquiry.