28 Nov 2021

Donaldson family taking legal action over inquest delays

Donaldson family taking legal action over inquest delays

The family of British agent  Denis Donaldson are taking an action in the High Court over the failure to hold an inquest into his murder in Donegal ten years ago.

Members of the family walked out of the inquest yesterday which was adjourned for the 19th time.

The family's solicitor told the inquest in Letterkenny that he has been instructed not to return to the inquest until the legal proceedings had been resolved.

Mr Donaldson was murdered near Glenties in April 2006 at a cottage he was staying in following his exposure as a British agent. His murder was later claimed by the Real IRA. 

The family are taking a judicial review against the coroner, Dr. Denis McCauley, the Garda commissioner, the attorney general, the director of public prosecutions and the minister for justice “to challenge the continuing delay of the inquest”.

Superintendent Michael Finan of the Letterkenny Garda district made an application for a four-month adjournment.

He said that following a mutual assistance request,  investigating officers had travelled outside the State early last month and obtained evidential material. The adjournment was sought to allow the evidential material to be processed, he said.

“It is not the intention of  An Garda Síochána to delay or hinder the inquest, but priority must be given to the criminal investigation,” he said.

Ciarán Shiels of Madden and Finucane Solicitors in Belfast told the coroner that the family had requested him not to return to the inquest “until there is a final ruling from the High Court or whatever court may follow that”.

Mr Shiels said the family have “the greatest of misgivings regarding the bona fides of the application because of the point blank refusal of  An Garda Síochána to assist the Police Ombudsman's office in Northern Ireland”.

He said there had been a “steadfast refusal” by the Garda to interview a British agent handler, known as Lenny, who had been in contact with Mr Donaldson in Donegal before he died.

Mr Shiels said the Garda had also refused to hand over Mr Donaldson's journal to the Ombudsman’s office, which had been found in the cottage in Glenties by gardaí.  He said the Garda had put it in writing that security reasons were the reason that it wouldn't be provided.

But Mr Shiels said that Mr Donaldson “was an agent for The PSNI, the RUC and the British,” so the security reasons could not be the security of the 26 counties.

Counsel for the Garda Commissioner, Stephen J Byrne, said that  An Garda Siochana could not release any information that could contaminate the trial. The investigation had to be allowed to do its job, he said. “That's why the superintendent is restrained by the amount of information he can impart. That is not a disrespect to the Donaldson family,” he said.

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