The killing of Denis Donaldson divides political
opinion on this island, but everybody feels sorry
for his family. Even 'dissident' republicans who
have denounced Donaldson's treachery express their
sympathy for his relatives. Such sentiment is misplaced.
Shed no tears for the Donaldsons or their in-laws.
course, a family can't be held culpable for the
actions of one of its members. They were in the
dark as much as everybody else. But it has been
the Donaldsons' response to Denis's outing that
has been shameful. In the immediate aftermath of
his unmasking in December, they were surely at sixes
and sevens. But when they gathered themselves together,
a family statement would have been appreciated.
could have gone something like this: "It is
with shock and regret that we learned Denis was
a British agent. If we had known about this at any
stage, we would have told him to desist immediately
and we would have informed the republican movement
of his activities.
activities undoubtedly damaged the republican movement
and cause. We would like to apologise, in particular,
to those individual republicans for whom Denis's
activities may have had severe repercussions in
terms of imprisonment, injury or even the death
of their loved ones.
we wholeheartedly condemn what Denis has done, he
remains a member of our family and, in other capacities
over the years, has been a good son, husband and
father. However, we have told Denis that although
he can never put things right, he has a duty to
now come clean about his activities to the wider
republican family. We acknowledge that full disclosure
is needed even at this late stage."
no, the Donaldsons did not issue any such statement.
They remained in regular contact with Denis despite
his supposed refusal to co-operate with Sinn Fein
in debriefing sessions. Ciaran Kearney even gave
him the use of his cottage.
the Donaldsons finally did break their silence,
it was after Denis's killing. Their statement, issued
through a law firm, was far from dignified. They
blamed the media, they blamed Special Branch, they
blamed the Brits. It was as if Denis had been an
innocent little lamb in a field of wolves.
could have been argued if Denis had been a young,
inexperienced activist or if he had been tortured.
But Denis had faced no Guantanamo. He was a smart,
seasoned, senior figure. The Donaldsons chose to
bury their head in the sand and play the victim.
response might be understandable if they were a
non-republican family. But the opposite is true.
Both the Donaldsons and the Kearneys are steeped
in the history of this conflict. Did they display
such generous, compassionate feelings when other
informers were stiffed over the years? Damn sure
should have thanked their lucky stars that Denis
was dispatched to the hereafter with a few shotgun
blasts, and that it wasn't his old friend Scap charged
with disposing of him. Of course, the family will
mourn him but they should acknowledge his personal
Donaldsons' reaction has probably been influenced
by the Sinn Fein leadership. But that is no excuse.
It was ordinary republican activists who took the
hits: how many in the ard comhairle or Army Council
did Denis have sent to jail or the cemetery? They
escaped, as always seems to be the case, remarkably
unscathed. So it was ordinary republican activists
to whom the Donaldson's owed a fitting response.
in difficult situations, people rise to the occasion,
finding hidden depths in adversity. But neither
courage nor conviction was found in the Donaldsons
and Kearneys. All they managed was whining self-pity:
"Denis would have been all right if it wasn't
for the Big Bad Brits and then the Big Bad Media."
need to catch themselves on. There is a massive
arrogance in their attitude. There is hypocrisy
too. They said they didn't know who killed Denis
but it wasn't the Provisional IRA. It doesn't get
more ridiculous than that. You either know or you
don't know who the killers were. You can't have
it both ways. The family accused others of playing
politics and then they did the very same themselves.
It was the final cowardly, dishonourable act in
this whole stinking affair.