Special Branch `subverted Stormont'
Special Branch `subverted Stormont'

One of three men charged over the alleged ``IRA spy ring'' which preceded the sudden collapse of the power-sharing government in the North of ireland in October 2003 accused the PSNI of damaging the peace process.

A group of three men and one woman were charged with gathering classified information through Sinn Féin's offices at Stormont, the site of the former Belfast Assembly.

Yesterday, Denis Donaldson, Sinn Féin's head of administration at Stormont, appeared before Belfast magistrates with Ciaran Kearney, a research officer for a west Belfast community group, and William Mackessy, a former Stormont porter. All charges have already been dropped against the fourth accused.

Speaking in court, Ciaran Kearney accused the PSNI Special Branch of an act of ``political subversion'' over their handling of the case.

``The allegation that I possessed documents of a secret, confidential and restrictive nature originating from the Northern Ireland Office has been withdrawn without explanation,'' Mr Kearney told Belfast Magistrates Court.

``Consequently the Special Branch fantasy of a Stormont spy ring is finally disproved. Special Branch collapsed the power-sharing executive and have endangered the Good Friday Agreement.''

Following the much publicized but apparently bogus raid on Sinn Féin's offices in Stormont, David Trimble's UUP threatened to withdraw from the powersharing Assembly unless the British government suspended the institutions.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair then unilaterally suspended the institutions and re-imposed Direct Rule from London.

Apparent efforts to revive the Assembly have been stymied by Blair's support for hardline unionist attempts to revise the 1998 Good Friday Agreement under which the institutions were set up.


Meanwhile, it has emerged that the PSNI police ignored an American chef sought in connection with the alleged ``IRA raid'' on Castlereagh.

On St Patrick's Day 2002, key documents on Britain's `Dirty War' disappeared from Special Branch offices at Castlereagh.

The then PSNI chief contable Ronnie Flanagan initially accepted the raid was an inside job, but later claimed the IRA was responsible. The claim increased pressure for Sinn Féin to be excluded from government and the Assembly suspended.

The PSNI claimed that US chef Larry Zaitschek, who had worked at the base, was one of its main suspects in the case. They initially claimed that their efforts to interview Mr Zaitschek had been stymied when he returned to America.

However, it later emerged that the chef had voluntarily been questioned by detectives on two occasions before leaving for America and had agreed to be interviewed for a third time by PSNI investigators in his native New York.

The Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP) made no application to extradite Mr Zaitschek, and it has now emerged that no effort was made to arrest or question the American chef during a visit to Ireland, North and South, in January.

Speaking from his New York home, Mr Zaitschek challenged the PSNI to officially seek to extradite him or publicly announce that he is not a wanted man.

``Given the fact that the American and British intelligence services regularly share information, I have no doubt the PSNI would have been informed that I was flying to Ireland.

``Yet I travelled throughout the south and the north and neither the Garda nor the PSNI stopped or questioned me once.

``For their own reasons the intelligence community in Northern Ireland have made me into public enemy No 1 during the last two years and briefed the media that they were ready to seek my extradition. Yet two years later the DPP is still stalling.''

Mr Zaitschek also questions why he has been denied access to his five-year-old son Pearse and estranged wife.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News