DUBLIN, Ireland – A former Sinn Fein official recently exposed as a British spy was found fatally shot Tuesday after apparently being tortured, police said.
Denis Donaldson was Sinn Fein’s former legislative chief in the failed power-sharing government of Northern Ireland. He admitted in December he had been on the payroll of the British secret service and the province’s anti-terrorist police for two decades. He went into hiding because the traditional Irish Republican Army punishment for informing is death.
But 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.
Irish Foreign 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 northwest 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. It’s a murder we’re dealing with.”
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair both condemned the killing.
The killing comes at a pivotal moment in Northern Ireland’s 13-year-old peace process.
On Thursday, Blair and Ahern are to travel to Northern Ireland to reveal a new blueprint for reviving a Protestant-Catholic administration, the intended cornerstone of the province’s 1998 peace accord.
The plan – 3 1/2 years of diplomacy in the making – would call for Northern Ireland’s legislature 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, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics in Northern Ireland. But officials in both governments said Thursday’s announcement would go ahead anyway.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams – who in December initially defended Donaldson as an innocent man, then outed him as a British spy – said he did not know who killed him. But he suggested it might have been the work of IRA dissidents opposed to Sinn Fein’s peacemaking efforts.