The family of Denis Donaldson – who was killed by the Real IRA in 2006 after it emerged he had been an MI5 informer – are going to the High Court in an attempt to speed up the inquest which continues to be delayed 10 years after his death.

The 18th sitting of the inquest was told in Letterkenny on Wednesday that “pre-action” letters about the intended High Court proceedings had been sent to Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, Coroner Dr Denis McCauley, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and An Garda Síochána.

Family solicitor Ciarán Shiels, of Madden and Finucane, told the inquest the letters were sent on March 31st.

The recipients had 14 days to reply which ends on Thursday.

He said he was aware the coroner had prepared a full reply which he expected by Wednesday. All he had from the other recipients were holding or acknowledgment notices.

Donaldson family members, who had boycotted the inquest during recent sittings, were at Wednesday’s hearing but they left halfway through, following delivery of further instructions to their solicitor.

Mr Shiels said: “The family has instructed me not to return to future sittings until there is a ruling from the High Court.”

Unlawful breach

He said the High Court action was being taken because the family considered the continued adjournments were an unlawful breach of their rights to a concluded inquest.

Mr Shiels told the hearing that a Garda investigation of Mr Donaldson’s murder refused to interview his British government handler known as Lenny. Counsel told the inquest: “We know he contacted Denis when he was in Donegal. ”

The solicitor added: “The gardaí refused to interview special branch officers in the North who contacted Mr Donaldson when he was in Donegal.”

Mr Sheils said the gardaí had refused the family and the Northern Ireland police ombudsman access to a journal Mr Donaldson was preparing before he was killed.

Stephen Byrne, for the State, said what was at stake in the continued Garda adjournment applications was an attempt not to contaminate criminal proceedings.

Supt Michael Finan said Garda investigators had travelled outside the jurisdiction on five occasions in their inquiries. As recently as March they had obtained evidential material which was being processed. He asked for a further adjournment.

Criminal investigation

Coroner Dr McCauley said he was happy the criminal investigation was “very much up and running and accelerating.” He adjourned the inquest further until August 31.

Mr Donaldson was shot dead aged 56 by gunmen in a cottage near Glenties, Co Donegal, on April 4th, 2006. The Real IRA claimed responsibility.

The former senior Sinn Féin official had confessed to spying for police Special Branch in Northern Ireland and secret service MI5 just months before he was killed.

The Irish Times