Denis Donaldson, who spied for British forces for over twenty years while working as a top Sinn Fein official, has been found dead.
Following his outing as an informer in December, Mr Donaldson had begun living a hermit-like existence in an abandonded cottage in the County Donegal village of Glenties.
According to reports, Mr Donaldson died of a single gunshot wound. A pathologist is currently performing a post-mortem.
A one line statement from the Provisional IRA this evening said the organisation had no involvement whatsoever in Donaldson’s death.
Donaldson had been the most senior Sinn Fein official based at Stormont Parliament Buildings. The west Belfast resident and one time friend of hunger striker Bobby Sands was a key aide to Gerry Adams who helped ensure Sinn Fein’s Stormont machine ran smoothly.
Mr Donaldson came to public attention in October 2002 after the PSNI raided Sinn Fein’s offices at Stormont as part of an investigation into republican intelligence-gathering.
His arrest, along with that of his son-in-law, Ciaran Kearney, and of William Mackessy, a former Stormont porter, became known as Stormontgate.
His double life was exposed when the allegations of an IRA spy ring at Stormont last year. The scandal over the allegations heralded the end of power-sharing under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Donaldson said he had been a British agent for the last two decades, having compromised himself in the 1980s during what was a “vulnerable” period of his life.
“Since then I have worked for British intelligence and the RUC/PSNI Special Branch. Over that period I was paid money,” Mr Donaldson said in a statement to RTE last December.
He said he “was not involved in any republican spy ring in Stormont. 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 branch. 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.”
Mr Donaldson said the allegations of an IRA spy ring had been an attempt to blame the IRA for the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement and to sustain the political life of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.