- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

BELFAST Police charged Sinn Fein's senior legislative aide yesterday with possessing stolen British government documents, spurring fears about the survival of Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant government.
Denis Donaldson, 52, the head of administration for the Irish Republican Army-linked party in the province's legislature, was charged with five counts of possessing British documents "likely to be of use to terrorists."
Police are reported to have found the papers in Mr. Donaldson's house on Friday during raids on the homes of Sinn Fein activists and the party's offices at Stormont Parliamentary Building. His arraignment was set for today.
Three others arrested including a former British civil servant suspected of passing documents to Mr. Donaldson until quitting his job in September 2001 still were being interrogated by detectives yesterday.
Britain's secretary for Northern Irish affairs, John Reid, said the struggle to keep alive the province's nearly 3-year-old administration had reached "a critical stage."
Referring to a list of suspected attacks and other activities by the IRA in the past year, Mr. Reid said, "Somehow we have to have an assurance that, if these things have happened in the past, they will happen no longer."
But Martin McGuinness, the former IRA chief who serves as education minister in the power-sharing administration, accused Britain of "breathtaking hypocrisy."
Mr. McGuinness noted that for many years British intelligence agents have been bugging Sinn Fein homes and cars, forcing the party's security personnel to conduct regular electronic sweeps for hidden listening devices.
He added that British civil servants have gone unpunished for leaking confidential documents to the two major Protestant parties, the Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists.
Mr. McGuinness rejected the accusations against Mr. Donaldson, who worked with all 18 Sinn Fein lawmakers in Northern Ireland's 108-seat legislature.
The crisis came at a time when the survival of the province's four-party administration, the key achievement of a 1998 peace accord here, already was in serious doubt.
First Minister David Trimble, the Protestant who leads both the administration and the Ulster Unionist Party, has battled for the past three years to outmaneuver Protestant critics who say sharing power with Sinn Fein is a mistake.
At an Ulster Unionist meeting last month, Mr. Trimble almost lost a key policy vote and his leadership but survived by cutting a deal with his chief critic, Jeffrey Donaldson. The new Trimble-Donaldson policy committed the Ulster Unionists to withdraw from the administration, forcing its collapse, if the IRA didn't demonstrate it had ceased all activities by Jan. 18.
The IRA, although largely observing a 1997 cease-fire, remains active on several fronts within its militant Catholic power bases.
The group, estimated to have about 500 members, continues to attack rivals in crime and runs a range of profitable rackets, from fuel smuggling to commercial businesses.


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