Stormont spy ring case lies in tatters

Allegations of a so-called spy-ring at Stormont – which led to the fall of the devolved Assembly in 2002 – were in tatters last night after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) officially dropped half of the charges that were initially brought by Special Branch.


Half of the charges are now dropped

Allegations of a so-called ‘Stormont spy-ring’ were in tatters last night after the Andersonstown News learned that no-one is now charged with the offence of possessing “documents of a secret, confidential or restricted nature originating from government offices” – which, it was alleged, had been copied or stolen by republicans from Castle Buildings, Stormont.

In a further development, it can also be revealed that the Department of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has officially dropped half of the charges that were initially brought by the PSNI’s Special Branch REMIT team in October 2002.

Four local people – Denis Donaldson, Ciarán Kearney, William Mackessy and Fiona Farrelly – were each charged with possessing information that could be useful to terrorists following the top-secret Special Branch operation, codenamed Torsion.

‘Operation Torsion’ ended with high-profile PSNI raids on Sinn Féin offices at Stormont and local homes on October 4, 2002.

In total, the four accused were originally charged with 14 offences, but that number has now been slashed in half – with just seven charges outstanding.

Those charges will formally be put to Mr Donaldson, Mr Kearney and Mr Mackessy at a Preliminary Enquiry hearing in Belfast Magistrates’ Court on February 4.

All the charges against Fiona Farrelly were sensationally dropped without explanation by the DPP on December 17 last year.

And it is understood that the remaining accused are now charged only with offences that relate to allegations of possessing information on individual persons or properties – including serving or former military or loyalist figures.

Incredibly, no-one is now charged with possessing the personal details of 1400 prison officers, which the Prison Officers’ Association was recently using as a pretext for demanding increased security protection from the NIO.

No explanation has yet been given by the DPP for its decisions in relation to the developments in the case.

The BBC’s Security Editor, Brian Rowan, had revealed the existence of the Special Branch’s ‘Operation Torsion’ in November 2002.

Mr Rowan also printed further explicit details about ‘Operation Torsion’ in a book which he first published six months ago.

Defence lawyers have previously indicated that they may call Mr Rowan as a witness at a later date.

The latest developments in the case are also expected to impact on the paperback version of Mr Rowan’s book – which is due for publication in March.

Commenting on our revelations last night, West Belfast Sinn Féin MLA, Michael Ferguson, said that the developments in the case “give a lie – once and for all – to the spurious and outrageous allegation that republicans were involved in some mythical spy-ring”.

“Sinn Féin has consistently said that the agenda of the PSNI – and Special Branch in particular – was nothing more than an anti-Agreement agenda.

“These cases were used as a pretext for anti-Agreement securocrats to ensure that their desire to pull down the political institutions was fulfilled.

“These latest developments very clearly expose the partisan political policing that still exists within the PSNI.

“The force within a force prevails and Sinn Féin believes that the ongoing nature of these – and other cases – proves the need for proper accountability to be enforced within the North’s policing and criminal justice system.

“Quite clearly we have a long way to go to reach that goal,” said an angry Michael Ferguson.

Last night DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was astounded by the revelations. Speaking to the daily Irish language newspaper Lá yesterday, he said he would be “astounded if there was no evidence in terms of intelligence gathering against prison officers, members of the security forces and politicians”.

“I myself had the police visiting me telling that my personal details were in the hands of the Provisional IRA. Hundreds of prison officers and their families in my constituency had to move as a consequence of Stormontgate and Castlereagh.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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