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Sunday, 6 October, 2002, 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
Sinn Fein official faces 'spy' charges
Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams and supporters outside the Belfast court
A leading figure in Sinn Fein has appeared in court charged with having documents likely to be of use to terrorists.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was at the special sitting of Belfast Magistrates Court to watch senior Stormont official Denis Donaldson, 52, face five charges.

The documents allegedly included the personal details of the senior British army officer in Northern Ireland, Lt Gen Sir Alistair Irwin.

Denis Donaldson: Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont
Denis Donaldson: Facing five charges after the raid

Charges were made following a police raid on Sinn Fein's office at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

As 200 Sinn Fein supporters gathered outside the court, politicians were working to head off Northern Ireland's biggest political crisis since 1998.

All the institutions set up by the Good Friday Agreement are on the verge of collapse.

Intelligence gathering

Mr Donaldson, Sinn Fein's head of administration in the assembly, was remanded in custody until 11 October after pleading not guilty to the charges.

He was one of four people arrested in north and west Belfast last Friday as part of an ongoing investigation into IRA intelligence gathering.

The five charges included having documents containing personal details of a police officer, members of the armed forces - Lt Gen Sir Alistair Irwin - and known loyalists.

Crisis talks

He was also accused of having a confidential government document and a sketch of Castle buildings, Stormont, where the Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998.

As the court hearing was held, a war of words between the political parties raged outside.

Sinn Fein were furious at the cancellation of a planned meeting with Secretary of State John Reid.

This is nothing to do with publicity, this is a very serious and a very grave matter

Dr John Reid

Instead Tony Blair has requested the party's leaders come to Downing Street for crisis talks.

Outside the court on Sunday Mr Adams vowed the republicans would not walk away from the peace process and accused the unionists of creating the crisis.

He described the raids and arrests as "highly orchestrated".

Dr Reid denied the raids were a stunt and said the peace process was at a critical stage.

Appeal for calm

"This is nothing to do with publicity, this is a very serious and a very grave matter and over the next couple of weeks I think we are in a critical position," he said.

"We certainly need answers from Sinn Fein and the republican movement.

"The people of Northern Ireland need answers and certainly the prime minister wants answers."

As the Reverend Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists threatened not to participate in normal Assembly business until a motion to dissolve Stormont was debated, SDLP leader Mark Durkan appealed for calm.

"In circumstances where we do not know what is or is not involved, there should be no rash actions which cannot be recovered," he said.

  • A second person appeared in court on Sunday.

    Fiona Farrelly, a 46-year-old caterer from Rosgoill Park in west Belfast, is charged with having in her possession a laptop which could be useful to terrorists and also of having the personal details of full-time employees of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

    She was remanded to appear on videolink on 11 October.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Denis Murray
    "The government believes the onus is on Sinn Fein to explain themselves"
    The BBC's Mark Simpson
    "He's alleged to have had details about soldiers serving in N. Ireland"
    Dr John Reid, Northern Ireland secretary
    "It won't wash for people to protest that this is somehow political"
    See also:

    05 Oct 02 | N Ireland
    04 Oct 02 | N Ireland
    04 Oct 02 | N Ireland
    Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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