MI5 double agent Dennis McFadden may have been linked to a network of spies within Sinn Féin before he began to spy on Saoradh and other republican organisations, according to reports.
As well as being involved in several republican groups, McFadden was a former chair of Sinn Féin’s North Antrim Comhairle Ceantair, a senior party role.
Former Sinn Féin councillor in the area, Monica Digney, has revealed details of efforts by her and her colleagues to raise the alarm over the spy.
She said suspicions expressed by her and other party members were dismissed. She resigned along with 17 other party activists in 2016.
McFadden, a native of Glasgow, was exposed as an agent last year after an MI5-led ‘sting’ targeted Saoradh and other political activists.
McFadden was responsible for renting two properties in County Tyrone and invited activists the PSNI have claimed are linked to the ‘New IRA’. Ten, including a Palestinian, are currently interned by remand at Maghaberry jail.
A member of the Saoradh national executive for years, McFadden held the post of resource officer. He told the group he was working as an international hotel inspector but had previously claimed to be a pilot.
Ms Digney told the Irish News her suspicions about McFadden were raised almost immediately with officials at Sinn Féin’s offices on Falls Road after he was ‘parachuted’ into north Antrim.
“He appeared out of nowhere and claimed to be an airline pilot,” she said.
“We went to Sevastopol Street (a Sinn Féin HQ) several times but each time we were ignored. Then he just vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
“His story just didn’t add up, he claimed to be a pilot, but people who worked for the same airline he claimed to work for had never heard of him.”
Ms Digney said concerns were raised with several mid and senior level managers within Sinn Féin.
“Several suspicious things happened that made us really, really concerned,” she said. “Every time we went to talk about it we were told ‘he’s alright’. Nobody knew anything about him.
“Someone within the hierarchy of Sinn Féin okayed him, okayed him to sit in meetings at Sevastopol Street, okayed him being there when huge decisions were taken - someone okayed that.
“We were made to feel as if we were almost picking on him, looking for a reason. A blind man on a galloping horse could see what was happening.”
Despite his prominent role, McFadden regularly failed to attend party organised protests.
“Often we would keep details of protests fairly tight but when we would arrive the area would be saturated with police and loyalists. I believed he was working for the British during that time.”
At the time, the peace process was in danger of collapse as a result of the British government’s failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement and its demands for an arms surrender from the Provisional IRA.
Ms Digney said that some of McFadden’s actions put the safety of Sinn Féin members at risk.
“When you go to a thing and the cops and loyalists arrive, that’s scary, you think ‘no, this is a set up’.”
Ms Digney is convinced that McFadden was placed into north Antrim “to do and see what he could and then get him out - it was that blatant”.
She said that during the same period of time another suspected agent, Paddy Murray, was also active in the local party organisation. It is thought Murray and McFadden could have been protected by MI5’s agents within the Sinn Féin hierarchy. One was Denis Donaldson, who was exposed in 2005.
Ms Digney said no background checks were carried out on McFadden.
“He was brought in, was never a cumann member, and he just appeared and we were told ‘this is the new chair’ of the Comhairle Ceantair and he came in and took over.”
“I remember asking when he disappeared, ‘where did McFadden go?’ and was told ‘ah, we don’t know, he just went.”
Sinn Féin has refused to confirm or deny if it has investigated McFadden, but played down his impact on the organisation.
It said only: “Dennis McFadden was a member of North and East Antrim Sinn Féin for a short time almost two decades ago.
“Like all Sinn Féin members he attended local party meetings which routinely discussed political developments.”