Spy-ring prosecutions `politically motivated'

Prosecutions arising out of an alleged IRA spy ring at the Belfast Assembly were politically motivated, it was alleged in court yesterday.

The Assembly was suspended last October after unionists threatened to collapse it over claims that the IRA was running a spy-ring in the Assembly buildings.

The claim was made by a lawyer for one of three Belfastmen accused of possessing information documents. They are Denis Donaldson, who was Sinn Féin's head of administration at the Assembly when he was arrested last October, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and William Mackessy, a former Stormont porter.

At the last two remand hearings defence lawyers complained about ``inordinate'' delay in completing fingerprint tests on documents seized by police. This led to a Magistrate stating last week that the testing should be given priority.

This week, the prosecution lawyer said police were now of the view that they could proceed to send the defendants for trial without the fingerprint analysis.

Joe McVeigh, representing Kearney, asked how the Crown could have hung their hat on fingerprint evidence for the last six months and then say they could move to a committal hearing without it.

``This bolsters our claim that from the outset this has been a politically motivated case,'' said Mr McVeigh.

The hearing was adjourned until November 12 and the prosecution said it was hoped they would then be able to fix a date for a committal hearing.

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