“the likeliest culprits”

An interesting, and to a large extent persuasive, line of argument from Ed Moloney in the Irish Times. Asking – “So, who killed Denis Donaldson and why?”[subs req]. He, perhaps surprisingly to his critics, believes that “The IRA leadership is probably telling the truth when through its nom de guerre, P O’Neill, it denies involvement, at least any ‘authorised’ involvement.”He begins by pointing out that the narrative being promoted initially by some, that of an attempt to undermine the Blair-Ahern push at Navan, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny –

To be sure, the killing has cast a shadow over the initiative, but if the aim was to derail it by suggesting the IRA was still active then shouldn’t the gunmen have struck nearer to the November deadline for the restoration of devolution, especially if there were signs of a deal emerging by then?

As it is, by the time November comes around in seven months’ time, Donaldson’s murder is likely to be a distant memory and its impact much less significant.

Moloney’s reasoning on why “The IRA leadership is probably telling the truth when through its nom de guerre, P O’Neill, it denies involvement, at least any ‘authorised’ involvement.” is persuasive –

All the circumstances of the Denis Donaldson affair suggest that a deal was done between him and the IRA in the wake of his admission that he had been a British spy. In return for leaving him be, Donaldson would come clean about his past and continue to recite the Sinn Féin spin about Stormontgate, which is that there never was an IRA spy ring, only something concocted by British “securocrats” in order to save David Trimble’s skin.

The IRA may not have had much choice given its recent pledge to cease all of its activities, but it would not be beyond the IRA, as Donaldson would have known full well, to do him fatal harm in a plausibly deniable way.

Accidents, after all, can be arranged.

If there hadn’t been a deal, Donaldson would never have settled in Co Donegal, a county favoured by IRA army council members for holiday homes. And sure enough, when the Sunday World tracked him down to his primitive cottage a few weeks ago, Donaldson was careful to stick faithfully to the spin on Stormontgate.

Ed Moloney argues that there are instead two groups of suspects to choose from and that his most likely culprits pose a question for the SF leadership –

Leaving aside the possibility that the killer was someone with a grudge against Donaldson, in this context two types of suspect emerge. One is a dissident group, either Continuity or Real IRA, whose motive for killing Donaldson would be to demonstrate their incorruptibility in contrast to the Provisionals’ iniquity.

Yet the dissidents would want to claim responsibility, or credit, for killing Donaldson, and they haven’t. And the gunman or gunmen used a shotgun to kill him, meaning they wanted to leave no ballistic clues as to their identity or motive.

That points to malcontents within the Provisional IRA as the likeliest culprits, whose reason for killing Donaldson would be to protest the policy of excusing high-level informers and by so doing make a wider point about where the peace process has brought republicans.

Recently the British and Irish authorities began a determined drive against IRA criminality, raiding farms and confiscating millions of euro from leading IRA figures in the south Armagh area. Since this was never supposed to be in the peace process script, the question now is whether the anger of south Armagh republican leaders was given violent and bloody expression in Denis Donaldson’s Co Donegal cottage last Tuesday.

If so, then this would be the first outward sign of IRA discontent with the Adams-McGuinness strategy since the Real IRA revolt of 1997.

The dilemma then facing the Sinn Féin leadership would be what to do about it: stay outside a Stormont government in the hope of appeasing the hardliners, or seek refuge from them inside the respectability of a new executive and cut the umbilical cord once and for all.