- Oct 24, 2006
By David Sharrock
Saturday February 09 2008
Sinn Fein was rocked last night after it was revealed that the official driver for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness was an MI5 spy.
Roy McShane was said to have fled his home in west Belfast yesterday, apparently under the protection of the security services.
It was the second major spying blow to hit the party in the past two years.
The news was broken by Sinn Fein, which admitted Mr McShane had worked for the British intelligence services for a number of years.
Police refused to comment on the disclosure, which will be deeply embarrassing for Sinn Fein president Mr Adams, after the sensational revelation two years ago that one of his closest aides had also worked for MI5.
Denis Donaldson (56), who headed Sinn Fein's support team at Stormont, was later shot dead near Glenties, Co Donegal.
Mr Donaldson served a sentence for an IRA bombing and later was instrumental in the Republican movement's contacts with Middle Eastern groups.
Mr McShane, ironically known as 'Roy the Rat', was a former IRA man from the Clonard area of Belfast's lower Falls.
He was a driver for senior republicans, including around the time of the developing peace process which led to the signing of the Good Friday agreement 10 years ago. Even though he would have been considered no more than a rank-and-file republican -- he was described last night by former associates as a "working-class foot soldier" -- he would have been privy to highly sensitive information as he ferried senior republicans back and forward to Castle Buildings, where the negotiations took place.
A small, grey-haired man who was a popular figure, he would sometimes chat to reporters at the margins of the negotiations, revealing his fondness for golf.
He was on first-name terms with all Sinn Fein leading members, including Martin McGuinness, now deputy First Minister in the Assembly.
Sinn Fein was playing down Mr McShane's importance last night, saying it had suspected him for some time and taken action to sideline him.
But there is no doubt that it will be a heavy blow to the party, since those in positions of confidence close to the leadership would have been regarded as entirely trustworthy.
At a recent closed meeting of a committee looking at ways to address the legacy of violence, the extent of the penetration of the republican movement by informers was revealed when it was stated that the intelligence services had 10 filing cabinets stuffed with details of their agents.
Although Donaldson was shot five months after he admitted working as a double-agent, republicans said Mr McShane had nothing to fear if he returned home. They claimed that he had been under suspicion for a number of years.
Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein Assembly member, said he had been advised by Mr McShane's family on Thursday.
"Rumours were on the go and he confirmed to them it was the case. We did have our suspicions about him.
"We didn't have specific evidence but that's why he was sidelined.
"As far as I'm concerned he's safe. Let's face it, the war's over.
"His family's quite distressed and it's up to this man to make his peace with them."
However, a former friend of Mr McShane on the Falls Road claimed the spy "will never be able to show his face around here again".
Mr McShane would have worked closely with the Sinn Fein team of bodyguards, some of whom carried guns, who protected Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness, and would have been one of MI5's top informers.
- David Sharrock