Councillor caught up in wave of false arrests

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Prominent Derry councillor Gary Donnelly has again been arrested and released by Gardai in County Donegal in connection with the execution of British agent and Sinn Fein informer, Denis Donaldson.

Gary Donnelly, an independent republican member of Derry City and Strabane Council, was arrested in County Donegal on Sunday. Mr Donnelly was attending a commemoration marking the centenary of the Meenbanad Train Ambush, where he was a principal speaker.

It is the second time that the Derry and Strabane councillor has been released without charge after being arrested and questioned about the 2006 killing. It is understood no new evidence has emerged to justify the arrest.

Event organiser, Donegal independent councillor, Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easpaig, condemned the arrest.

“It was staged to undermine the work that is being done by socialist republican independent councillors in the north-west who challenge the political establishment on both sides of the border.”

The move has been linked to a broader campaign of state harassment of republicans. Saoradh National Executive member Jude Macrory, coordinator of the party’s youth wing Eistigi, was arrested on Monday and interrogated at the PSNI’s Musgrave base in Belfast, before being released. Another prominent Saoradh activist, Thomas Ashe Mellon, had his house in Derry raided before he was taken in for interrogation.

Mr Donnelly, who was released unconditionally from Garda custody, ironically returned in time to help to vote down an attempt to use public funds for councillors to make a trip to Buckingham Palace.

Mr Donnelly said his vote was “crucial” as the move was narrowly defeated, thanks to the Sinn Fein’s casting vote. “As far as I am concerned I’m back to work and it was an important vote because it saved ratepayers’ money,” he said.

In a statement issued on Monday, Mr Donaldson’s family also criticised gardai for not arresting and interviewing the RUC (now PSNI) Special Branch officer who dealt with the Sinn Fein official.

They have accused the agent handler, referred to as ‘Lenny’, of contributing to Mr Donaldson’s death by exposing him as an informer. Gardai have inexplicably refused to question Lenny.

“The family believe he is the person with the most serious questions to answer in this matter and we would urge, yet again, that the authorities to speak to him under caution and as a suspect in this case,” they said.

“The family would also call upon all serving and retired officers who have information about Lenny and activities to bring that information forward to the authorities as soon as possible.”

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