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Exposed British Spy Within Sinn Fein Is Slain

Denis Donaldson was tortured before being killed at his home, Irish justice minister says.

April 05, 2006|From the Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ireland — A former Sinn Fein official recently exposed as a British spy was found dead Tuesday, shot in the head and his right arm nearly severed, an Irish Cabinet member said.

Denis Donaldson was Sinn Fein's legislative chief in Northern Ireland's failed power-sharing government. He admitted in December that he had been on the payroll of the British secret service and the province's anti-terrorist police for two decades. Donaldson went into hiding because the traditional Irish Republican Army punishment for informing is death. Sinn Fein is the IRA-linked party that represents most Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The IRA denied responsibility in a one-line statement. "The IRA had no involvement whatsoever in the death of Denis Donaldson," the outlawed group said. The IRA last year declared that it was renouncing violence for political purposes and backed the pledge by handing over weapons.

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the 55-year-old Donaldson had been tortured before being killed -- apparently with one or two shotgun blasts to his head -- inside his isolated home near Glenties, County Donegal, in the north of Ireland. He was last seen alive Monday while walking in the village, McDowell said.

"His right forearm is almost severed," McDowell said. "He was shot in the head and mutilation was done to his body."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the slaying.

Blair and Ahern are to travel to Northern Ireland on Thursday to reveal a new blueprint for reviving a Protestant-Catholic administration, the intended cornerstone of the province's 1998 peace accord. The plan will call for the legislature in Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, to reconvene in mid-May and face a Nov. 24 deadline to elect an administration.

The killing appeared certain to harden Protestant opinion against cooperating with Sinn Fein. But officials in both governments said the announcement still would be made Thursday.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams suggested Donaldson's death might have been the work of IRA dissidents opposed to Sinn Fein's peacemaking efforts. But the Rev. Ian Paisley, whose Democratic Unionist Party represents most of Northern Ireland's Protestant majority, said someone in the IRA was the most likely culprit.

A Catholic-Protestant administration for Northern Ireland fell apart in October 2002 because of an IRA spying scandal involving Donaldson.

British prosecutors dropped all charges against Donaldson in early December. A week later came the news that he was a spy.

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