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Northern Narnia full of tales of the unexpected

(Tom Kelly, Irish News)

Well what a week! First the so-called Stormontgate case fell apart. The explanation by the Prosecution Service for the sensational collapse had less substance than a stripper's G-string. Sinn Féin claimed vindication; unionists alleged collusion; the police were unimpressed; the NIO was in a state of flux and the men at the centre of allegations protested their innocence. Then came the coup-de-grace as Sinn Féin declared that Denis Donaldson, their head of administration at Stormont and close associate of Gerry Adams, was a paid British agent for the past 20 years.

It would be nothing unusual for the Provisional movement to discover an agent in their ranks but for the fact that the same Mr Donaldson was the man arrested and charged with the Stormont spy allegations. The unravelling of the dirty war has begun in earnest and long may it continue. When speaking about the odious 'on the run' (OTR) legislation, Mark Durkan was right to say this was a case of collusion between the government and the Provisionals to give mutual cover to their heinous past activities. The unionists are calling for a public inquiry and why not? Much has been made about collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces which led to the deaths of many innocent Catholics and given the revelations about level of infiltration of the Provisional movement by agents of the security forces, it is reasonable to now ask if similar ugly deals were done which resulted in the unwarranted death of others.

For those in the Provisionals, the transformation from war machine to political movement must seem less and less like a road freely chosen by its members.

Some are no doubt asking how much guidance and influence did high ranking informers play in that transformation?

In fairness, this is a fairly legitimate question given the closeness of some informers to the leadership of Sinn Féin. Many of those in the Provisional movement who lost family members in the so-called struggle must be wondering if their loved ones paid the price for the political ambition of others. No matter how much they cry foul play by the securocrats, the outing of Donaldson is deeply embarrassing for the leadership of Sinn Féin. Thankfully, Mr Donaldson escaped the fate of past informers and was sent to his solicitor and not to a road in south Armagh in a black binliner.

From the public viewpoint trust has taken a severe blow. It is clear that the government has absolutely no principled plan for restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. They have asked us to accept lower thresholds of democracy and justice than would be acceptable in any other part of the United Kingdom. They have gone further by insulting our intelligence.

The pronouncement by Shaun Woodward that "the IRA was no longer involved in organised crime" was akin to being asked to believe in the Tooth Fairy.

How in all seriousness can an illegal organisation which over 30 years has built up a multi-million pound business through fuel and cigarette smuggling; counterfeit goods, racketeering and protection disappear in four months? If they have been able to completely privatise their entire operations in such a short period of time, the government should second the leadership of the Provisional movement to the Strategic Investment Board to oversee the implementation of its £16-billion investment strategy for Northern Ireland.

If the government think that by a series of shabby back door deals they can create political stability in the north then they are gravely mistaken. Yet they don't seem to be learning from their mistakes. The OTR legislation will either be culled or dramatically changed. The recent pronouncement by the NI Human Rights Commission on the offensiveness of the OTR legislation is a welcome intervention but will be of cold comfort to the government. This group of ministers are using both carrot and stick measures to lead us into devolved government but the public is showing little appetite for the prize. However, we are where we are because people chose two parties that require these types of partisan trade-offs.

But after last weeks revelations what are we to expect next? Will Hume be 'outed' as a Sinn Féin plant in the SDLP? Was Trimble a DUP Trojan horse in the Ulster Unionists? Will Rome reveal Paisley as a secret agent? Who knows because here in Northern Narnia the truth is stranger than fiction!

December 20, 2005

This article appeared first in the December 19, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News