IOL: 'Spy ring' accused condemns PSNI special branch

'Spy ring' accused condemns PSNI special branch
05/02/2004 - 12:48:34

A man arrested as part of a PSNI investigation into an alleged IRA spy plot at government offices in Belfast today accused the North's Special Branch of threatening the Good Friday Agreement.

As Ciaran Kearney, 32, claimed in court that charges against him of possessing secret papers had been withdrawn, he hit out at how the investigation was carried out.

Kearney said: “The Special Branch fantasy of a Stormont spy ring is finally disproven.”

Kearney, the research officer for a west Belfast community organisation, appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court with two other men, including a senior Sinn Féin official, for a preliminary inquiry into the case which led to the collapse of the Northern Ireland power-sharing administration nearly 18 months ago.

Kearney insisted he was innocent and vowed to defend himself against the allegations made against him.

Many of the charges put to him 18 months ago by detectives have now been scrapped, he told the court.

“Most of all, the allegation that I possessed documents of a secret, confidential and restrictive nature originating from the Northern Ireland Office has been withdrawn without explanation,” he told the court.

However he still faces charges of having documents likely to be useful to terrorists, including personal details of former members of the British armed forces, and individuals thought to be involved in loyalist political and paramilitary activity.

Kearney, of Commedagh Drive, west Belfast, was arrested in October 2002 with his father-in-law Denis Donaldson, 53, Sinn Féin administration chief at Stormont, and William Mackessy, who worked at NIO offices.

All three men, who were arrested after police launched a high-profile raid on Sinn Féin’s Stormont offices, have been out on bail but appeared in court today to hear the charges against them.

Donaldson, of Aitnamona Crescent in the city, is also accused of possessing documents useful to terrorists.

These include military vehicle registrations and information about police and troop deployment contained in incident briefs.

He also allegedly had a floor plan of offices at Castle Buildings, Stormont used by the NIO and details on suspected loyalist political or paramilitary activists.

Personal details of a former judge, two members of the forces and a police officer were also allegedly in his possession when police arrested him in October 2002.

Mackessy is accused of collecting information between February 19 2001 and October 5 2002, including the military vehicle registration details and security force operational movements, together with maps of the NIO offices and personal details on the former judge.

Mackessy and Donaldson declined to comment when asked in court, but Kearney vented his anger at the way the raids had affected him personally and the wider peace process.

He said: “The clock cannot be turned back. My family has been victimised and the political process has been damaged. Special Branch carry the blame for that.

“Special Branch collapsed the power-sharing executive and have endangered the Good Friday Agreement.

“They have not yet been made accountable for that act of political subversion.”

All three men were returned for trial in Belfast Crown Court at a later date.

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