Stormont 'spy ring' relatives speak out


The families of four people accused of operating an IRA spy ring at Stormont have called for the charges against their relatives to be dropped.

In a statement marking the first anniversary of the arrests, the families of53-year-old Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson, his 32-year-old son-in-lawCiaran Kearney, 45-year-old porter William Mackessy and 47- year-old catererFiona Farrelly, criticised the charges against their relatives.

They insisted all four - whose arrests triggered the suspension of devolutionin Northern Ireland last year - were "supporters of the peace process".

The families said: "The Director of Public Prosecution has yet to decidewhether there is any basis for the charges which are being strenuously contestedby all defendants.

"We believe in the innocence of our loved ones."In the last year as formal judicial proceedings have been pursued, the rightto be presumed innocent and the right to advance a proper, effective legaldefence have been relentlessly undermined.

"Their Special Branch accusers have yet to substantiate any of their widelypublicised allegations with evidence. The inordinate delays in providingdisclosure to defence lawyers has been repeatedly raised in court."

The arrests of the four last year coincided with a dramatic high profile raidon the Sinn Féin offices in Stormont.

The police operation was dubbed Operation Torsion.Although material was confiscated from Sinn Féin's office, police later handedit back.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde also expressedregret about the way the search at Stormont was conducted.

The IRA and Sinn Féin have repeatedly denied allegations of a republicanintelligence gathering operation.

The families claimed last night their relatives had been the victims of acampaign of "malicious and sustained misinformation".And they called for the truth about Operation Torsion to be revealed.

"Our families are supporters of the peace process," they insisted."Indeed character references from many public figures have pointed to theeffort and dedication some of our relatives have demonstrated in their own livesto the development of the peace process.

"We share the view of An Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern thatthe outworkings of Operation Torsion were 'open to suspicion'.

"To fully dispel those suspicions and to clear the name of our relatives, weare calling for the full truth about Operation Torsion to be disclosed and forformal judicial proceedings against our relatives to be thrown out."