Ahern says truth about spy ring may never emerge

 

The whole truth about the Stormont spy scandal which led to a top Sinn Fein representative being unmasked as a British agent will never be known, the Government claimed tonight.

After talks with Mr Hain at Hillsborough Castle today, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said setting up another tribunal to run alongside those which have been running in both jurisdictions may not get the answers

"I don't think we will ever find out what was behind the whole issue in Stormont."

"It's mind-boggling as far as I'm concerned that a unit like Sinn Fein have within their ranks someone that's a British spy for 20 years," he added.

He was speaking in the wake of revelations that Sinn Fein veteran Denis Donaldson was a British spy for 20 years and that he may have operated within an MI5 spy ring in Stormont.

Mr Donaldson, who was a key aide to party president Gerry Adams and once jailed alongside republican hunger-strike icon Bobby Sands, made his stunning confession on Friday after being thrown out of the party.

He had been acquitted eight days earlier of charges that he was involved in the so-called Stormontgate espionage plot along with his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy.

The Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland dropped its three-year case against the men, claiming it was no longer in the public interest.

That decision sparked an outcry, given that the original allegations against the three men brought down the Northern Ireland Assembly in October 2002.

It also set in motion an astonishing series of events that led to Mr Donaldson being outed.

"When the word came through in relation to Stormont my initial reaction was it's curiouser and curiouser," said Mr Ahern.

"Then my second reaction was somebody like Mr Donaldson is a very lucky man. "A number of years ago he mightn't have been able to get in his car and drive down with his solicitor to Dublin to make a statement.

"There was a time perhaps that somebody like Mr Donaldson would have been found along the border, perhaps even in my own constituency, but it's an extremely murky situation."

Earlier the Government indicated it will not be seeking an independent inquiry into the Stormontgate scandal.

The reaction of the Government to date has been marked by incredulity and bewilderment, although it is anxious that the affair does not divert efforts away from the re-establishment of democratic institutions in the North.

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern set the tone of the Government's approach in the early hours of Saturday morning when he said that Stormontgate "never added up to me".