I finally got around to reading the cover story in April’s Atlantic today.Â It is an article about the ruthless world of double agents in the IRA.Â All well and good.Â The author of the piece, Matthew Teague, describes a meeting with Denis Donaldson:
In Belfast I met with Denis Donaldson, a Sinn FÃ©in party leader and an IRA veteran alleged to have run the IRAâ€™s intelligence wing. Heâ€™s a folk hero who led hunger strikes early in the Troubles, and British investigators say he traveled the world, cultivating terrorist contacts in Spain, Palestine, El Salvador, and elsewhere: a hard IRA man if there ever was one.
When I mentioned the names of Scappaticci and Fulton, Donaldsonâ€™s shoulders slumped. â€œI still canâ€™t believe it,â€ he said, shaking his head. â€œMy God.â€
So here we have an IRA man expressing shock at the effectiveness of the spies.Â Flip on to the end of the article and we get this:
A few weeks later, back in the United States, I received a phone call early one morning from a source in the United Kingdom. He said, â€œYer man Denis Donaldsonâ€â€”the legendary IRA hunger-striker who had met with me in his kitchenâ€”â€œhas just been expelled from Sinn FÃ©in, about three minutes ago. For being a British spy.â€
Donaldson, it turned out, had been spying on the IRA for two decades.
A revelation!Â In the context of the article as a whole, it was an effective one.Â
I closed the article and prepared to get some work done, when this caught my eye on the Reuters feed:
LONDON (Reuters) – A former senior member of Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, expelled by the party in December after he admitted he had been spying for Britain, was found shot dead on Tuesday, Britain’s Sky television reported.
Denis Donaldson was found dead in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, the report said, without giving further details.
Donaldson was a convicted IRA bomber who spent time in prison with now Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and was head of Sinn Fein’s international department.
Donaldson and two other men were arrested in 2002 and accused of spying for the Irish Republican Army’s political ally Sinn Fein at the Stormont parliament in Belfast.
It later emerged that he had in fact been a mole for the British inside the IRA for two decades.
Donaldson, who went into hiding after the revelations, said he deeply regretted his activities and apologized to his family and the Republican movement.
Adams said Donaldson had approached the party after police informed him his cover was about to be blown and his life was in danger.
I got chills.