Stormontgate: how events unfolded

 

2002/October 4th: Police raid Sinn Féin offices in Stormont and a number of other premises in Belfast after a year-long inquiry into an alleged republican spy-ring. Four people are arrested and hundreds of documents seized.

A top security source tells The Irish Times: "Police are very, very confident about the strength of their case."

October 6th: SF's chief administrator at Stormont, Denis Donaldson, is charged with holding confidential details about members of the police and British soldiers.

October 7th: UUP leader David Trimble claims the affair is 10 times worse than Watergate and says he cannot foresee the Stormont executive sitting again.

Gerry Adams calls the events "grotesque", "unbelievable" and "bizarre".

October 14th: The executive, the North-South Ministerial Council, and the British-Irish Council are suspended. Direct rule from London is reimposed.

November: The BBC quotes a senior security force claiming the break-up of the alleged spy ring was assisted by a police agent "deep within the IRA".

2003

September 10th: Lawyers for the three defendants in the Stormontgate affair criticise the delay in the case as "inordinate" and threaten legal action if proceedings are not expedited.

2004

February: Charges of possessing confidential or restricted documents are dropped. although the defendants still face up to 10 years in jail for having documents useful to terrorists.

July 19th: The North's security minister says costs arising from the Stormontgate operation are likely to be around £30 million.

This includes the relocation of 454 prison staff, improved security for others whose details appeared in the documents seized and numerous stress compensation claims.

The UUP says the real cost could be £100 million.

August 1st: An investigation by Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan  finds that the Stormont raid was carried out in a proper manner and was not politically motivated, rejecting SF claims to the contrary.

2005

December 8th: The North's Public Prosecution Service drops the remaining charges against the defendants, saying it is "no longer in the public interest" to pursue them.

The PSNI confirms that its investigation is over, and nobody else is being sought.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says that the affair had caused "a lot of grief for no prosecutions" and adds that it is "all very interesting".

December 16th: Sinn Féin expels Mr Donaldson, saying he has admitted to being a British agent.