By Danny Morrison (for the Guardian)
Denis Donaldson’s death, after his being unearthed as an agent, would not have come as a shock several years ago. Traditionally, the price of informing on the IRA has been execution. But last year the IRA, in laying down its arms, formally announcing an end to its armed struggle and exhorting its volunteers to work politically for the organisation’s objectives, certainly eschewed action such as a revenge killing.
Ian Paisley’s DUP, in particular, by blaming “Sinn Féin/IRA” and alleging continued IRA activity has exploited Donaldson’s death as a golden pretext for the DUP’s continued opposition to power sharing and the Good Friday Agreement.
The republican movement had nothing to gain by killing Donaldson. It needs peace in order to bed down the Agreement and work the all-Ireland bodies established by it. Crucially, Sinn Féin needs peace to expand on its flourishing electoral base in the south of Ireland and perhaps hold the balance of power in a future coalition. It certainly does not need a fresh, brutal reminder of the old days.
For the IRA to be linked to Donaldson’s death would completely undermine its strategy. Nevertheless, the DUP and sections of the media, largely because of their own bias, claim his killing could only have been carried out by the IRA. Others allow for the possibility of IRA volunteers acting unofficially, individual republicans or dissidents aiming to scupper the peace process on the eve of a major announcement about the future of the Assembly by the British and Irish premiers in Armagh.
Few in the media or among mainstream political parties have dared to consider British involvement.
Denis Donaldson, for whatever reason, would not reveal to his former comrades how the British “turned” him into becoming an agent, nor the detail and extent of his betrayal. He was a liability and still had secrets about Stormontgate, amongst others: dangerous secrets which could potentially damage his British superiors.
Why would British involvement, rogue or otherwise, seem so fantastical? We know that members of British intelligence and the Special Branch ran loyalist murder squads; that as far back as the 1970s the Garda Siochana were infiltrated by the British; that during the conflict they allowed their agents in the IRA - such as “Stakeknife” - to kill. They allowed other agents to kill soldiers and policemen in order to establish and maintain their subversive credentials. In a desperate attempt to thwart Sir John Stevens’ inquiry they even burned down his offices! It was certainly a dirty war.
The media is so conditioned to be hostile to the republican movement that it does a disservice to the public by not exploring all the possibilities, however unpalatable the possible conclusions. Why doesn’t some MP ask the British prime minister in the House of Commons if he can he rule out the possibility of state involvement in the assassination of Denis Donaldson?