Call for end to `spy ring' prosecutions

The families of four people accused of operating an `IRA spy ring' at the Belfast Assembly have called for the charges against their relatives to be dropped.

In a statement marking the first anniversary of the arrests, the families of 53-year-old Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson, his 32- year-old son-in-law Ciaran Kearney, 45-year-old porter William Mackessy and 47- year-old caterer Fiona Farrelly, criticised the charges against their relatives.

They pointout that all four - whose arrests were used to excuse the collapse of the power-sharing institutions in Belfast last year - were supporters of the peace process.

The families said: ``The Director of Public Prosecution has yet to decide whether there is any basis for the charges which are being strenuously contested by all defendants.

``We believe in the innocence of our loved ones.

``In the last year as formal judicial proceedings have been pursued, the right to be presumed innocent and the right to advance a proper, effective legal defence have been relentlessly undermined.

``Their Special Branch accusers have yet to substantiate any of their widely publicised allegations with evidence. The inordinate delays in providing disclosure to defence lawyers has been repeatedly raised in court.''

The arrests of the four last year coincided with a bogus high profile raid on the Sinn Fein Assembly offices, dubbed `Operaton Torsion'.

Although material was confiscated from Sinn Fein's office, the PSNI police later handed it back with apologies.

The families claimed tonight their relatives had been the victims of a campaign of ``malicious and sustained misinformation''.

And they called for the truth about the raid to be revealed.

``Our families are supporters of the peace process,'' they insisted.

``Indeed character references from many public figures have pointed to the effort and dedication some of our relatives have demonstrated in their own lives to the development of the peace process.

``We share the view of An Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern that the outworkings of Operation Torsion were `open to suspicion`.

``To fully dispel those suspicions and to clear the name of our relatives, we are calling for the full truth about Operation Torsion to be disclosed and for formal judicial proceedings against our relatives to be thrown out.''

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2003 Irish Republican News