The family of the Sinn Fein official turned informer, Denis Donaldson, have walked out of the inquest process after police stalling tactics led to his inquest being adjourned for the 19th time.
The family have begun a new legal action against the 26 County authorities for contravention of the state’s obligation to conduct a proper and timely investigation under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Donaldson (pictured) was shot dead in 2006 after he was exposed as a double agent who had worked for the Crown forces for 20 years. His killing was claimed by the breakaway IRA group known as the Real IRA.
The delay in holding a full inquest into his killing is believed to be linked to a secret personal journal he had written, which the Gardai police found in Donaldson’s cottage. The information contained within this document is said to be so sensitive that Irish authorities have continually asked for the delays as a cover-up.
The family believe the journal may contain potentially embarrassing information about Donaldson’s British state handlers and may even identify other senior figures in Sinn Fein who have worked as British agents.
Among Donaldson’s apparent tasks was to identify those within Sinn Fein who could not be trusted to support a peace deal with the British government. In particular, he helped ensure that the former Sinn Fein hardliner Gerry McGeough did not win the nomination to stand for the party in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in a Westminster general election.
Members of the family expressed their frustration with the obstruction in the case after the inquest was adjourned for a further four months on Wednesday in Letterkenny, County Donegal.
In a letter, sent to a number of state bodies and individuals at the end of March, the family said “there comes a point where that delay becomes unlawful and intolerable for those affected by the death.
“We submit that this threshold has been reached and that the inordinate and inexcusable delay in this matter is unprecedented in the history of the state.”
The family have previously raised their concerns about the case, including an accusation that the Gardai failed to properly investigate his killing and that PSNI police in the North may have contributed to his death.
They have also alleged that handlers in the PSNI may have actually been responsible for exposing his role as an informer when his treachery began to waver.
The family have also said that repeated Garda requests for more time have denied them their legal right to have an inquest into the death.
Although the inquest is now approaching its 20th adjournment, Gardai have still not interviewed the PSNI handler who worked with the Sinn Fein official.
In the most recent delay, gardai said in 2014 they made a request to gain potentially “significant” material from the PSNI. It was only delivered last month, and they have now requested no less than four months to examine the document.
The Donaldson family’s lawyer, Ciaran Shiels, said they did not accept the bona fides of the application, and said he had been instructed to commence judicial review against the Garda commissioner, the coroner, the attorney general, the DPP and the 26 County minister of justice.
Last year, the family launched separate legal proceeding with the courts in Europe over the delays in the investigation. The family have also issued a complaint to the police ombudsman in the Six Counties which includes a demand to have Donaldson’s journal made public during the inquest.
On the anniversary of the killing, the Donaldson family issued a statement. “Today marks 10 years since Denis was murdered,” it stated.
“No-one has yet been held to account for either his exposure as an agent or his subsequent murder. An inquest has still not even been held, yet it has been adjourned on 18 occasions by the Coroner upon the application of An Garda Siochana.
“For the final time, the Donaldson family are calling upon An Garda Siochana to fully cooperate with the ongoing Police Ombudsman’s investigation of Denis’s exposure in the north by giving the investigators unfettered access to his private journal which was being written by him at the time of his murder.
“The Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is a fellow law enforcement agency and is following a definite line of inquiry in relation to the family’s complaint.
“Despite repeated requests, they have been refused access to this document.
“The Donaldson family are appealing to all relevant state agencies, north and south, to finally remove any further obstructions to the truth and sincerely acknowledge the terrible damage they caused, or continue to cause, to the family by their actions and omissions. The onus is with them to remedy these wrongs.”