KIBOSHED Double agent Denis Donaldson scuppered plans for Mickey Rourke movie on Bobby Sands
Details of Donaldson’s double-dealing in the United States – including his efforts to wreck plans for Hunger Strike film – are revealed for the first time
April 28 2022 08:30 AM
Double agent Denis Donaldson scuppered plans for a blockbuster movie on the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, the Sunday World has learned.
Top Hollywood star Mickey Rourke was lined up to the play the IRA icon who died in the Maze Prison after 66 days without food.
But the ambitious film blueprint – which at the time would have been a major propaganda boost for the IRA – was kiboshed by British agent Donaldson, it has been claimed.
Full details of Donaldson’s double-dealing in the United States – including his efforts to wreck plans for a film about Sands – are revealed for the first time today in an exclusive interview with leading Irish-American lawyer and former Noraid chief Martin Galvin.
Donaldson was gunned down at his hideaway cottage home in a remote part of Co Donegal in the early hours of April 4, 2006, three weeks after he spoke to this newspaper.
Just six months earlier, Donaldson stunned his comrades when he appeared on TV news bulletins beside shocked Sinn Féin leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams to reveal details of his double life as a British agent inside the IRA and Sinn Féin.
But today – in an exclusive interview with the Sunday World – Irish republican activist Galvin reveals how Donaldson blocked plans for a Hollywood film on the hunger strike which left 10 paramilitaries dead.
Ironically, Donaldson was a prison buddy of Sands, and the two were famously pictured together in jail, Donaldson’s hand wrapped around the man whose name is still revered by revolutionary movements around the world.
Galvin himself grabbed world headlines 38 years ago when the RUC stormed a rally he was addressing in a bid to arrest him in Andersonstown, Belfast.
During the raid, Sean Downes (22) was shot dead with a plastic bullet fired at point-blank range by an RUC officer.
Later, Galvin became the editor of the Irish People newspaper and he shared an office in New York with Donaldson.
This week he told the Sunday World: “We had a major film planned on the hunger strike.
“Elizabeth O’Hara – the sister of hunger striker Patsy O’Hara – came to me and other members of the republican movement in the States.
“She had already spoken to people like Mickey Rourke and other top actors who were on board for a film on the hunger strikes.
“They wanted to do something which would have supported the cause for which Bobby Sands and Patsy O’Hara and the other hunger strikers had died.
“But Denis Donaldson deliberately undermined it. That’s just one of many things he did to undermine what we were doing.
“There’s no explanation for what he did, except that he was a British agent and he was clearly working for them,” he stressed.
Galvin also revealed how, shortly after he had approached Bill Clinton – at the time a candidate for the Democratic Party – that he first met the amiable Donaldson.
“I was the National Publicity Director for Irish American Aid and Editor of the Irish People. And I asked Bill Clinton to support moves to get a visa for Gerry Adams to enter the United States and he agreed to run with it.
“Our organisation was – like we are now – an Irish-American Aid (Noraid) group. We were working with other Irish organisations to bring issues to a very high level. Any Democratic candidates were asked about a visa for Gerry Adams.
“It was 30 years ago this month and we were moving well in that direction. Denis Donaldson came out to the States. He worked in the Irish Northern Aid office.
“But it became obvious to me that he was working against us. He was definitely not working on the agenda for Irish-America.
“I didn’t know it immediately that he was working for the British government, but in retrospect it’s very clear. And it became definitively clear.”
Galvin went on to reveal details of how the FBI infiltrated the Noraid office, going as far as persuading one of its agents to take up a post as a junior reporter.
It was all part of elaborate FBI plans to scoop former IRA prisoner Hugh Feeney.
Feeney had served a lengthy sentence in England along with Belfast republicans Gerry Kelly and sisters Marion and Delours Price, when they were all convicted of bombing central London.
“Donaldson returned to Ireland,” Galvin explained, “and soon afterwards, Hugh Feeney came out to replace him. Within a few weeks, Hugh Feeney had rebuilt many of the bridges Denis Donaldson had torn down as he tried to undermine us.
“But then the FBI came to our offices. They smashed their way in to the Northern People office and they arrested Hugh Feeney and sent him back to Ireland.
“The FBI case was based on the fact that Hugh Feeney had previously been a political prisoner.”
After Hugh Feeney was deported back to Ireland, Denis Donaldson – who had served a 10-year sentence for a botched bomb attack on an east Belfast drinks warehouse – returned to the States to take up his old post.
“But Denis Donaldson – who was in exactly the same situation as Hugh Feeney – had no trouble.
“He used his own name. He was always speaking openly over the phone and he was laughing as he did so.
“It became obvious there was only one possible explanation: Donaldson was a British agent and a traitor,” Galvin said emphatically.
And the lawyer also insisted he made other senior Irish republicans aware of his views on the man they had sent to the States to run republican affairs in New York.
“I presented that and I shouted it as loud as I could,” Galvin added.
Galvin also said he wasn’t surprised at all when in 2005, Donaldson revealed publicly he had been a long-term agent of the state working for MI5 and the RUC Special Branch.
“The surprise to me was why it took so long,” he said.
Now 71, Galvin is chairman of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the US, the oldest and largest overseas Irish-American organisation in the world.
He is fully committed to peace and he is currently visiting Ireland to maintain links with members and supporters here. And his organisation will also be making financial contributions to community projects on this side of the Atlantic.
But as Galvin explained this week, the AOH is also fully engaged in raising Irish-related issues with American politicians.
“Just last month we put forward a resolution in the House of Representatives to oppose any amnesty for investigations into state killings,” he said.
“Brandon Lewis (Northern Ireland Secretary) was actually in Washington at the time and we had an opportunity to confront him and explain the resolution to him.
“It resulted in the American Congress making a strong and bipartisan statement. It is a measure of how important the legacy issue is.”
Galvin said he intends to visit the Battery Bar in Ardboe on the shores of Lough Neagh, where his friend Liam Ryan was shot dead when UVF gunmen attacked the pub in November 1989.
“Liam was a very good friend of mine. He had lived in the States, but came back to Tyrone. His murder was clear collusion.
“Almost right away, everyone knew it was off-duty members of the Ulster Defence Regiment acting as conduits for the UVF who were responsible.
“We intend to produce major report which will be presented at the Battery Bar. Liam’s murder is tied in with a number of other killings involving the same weapons.
“We are hoping our report can form the basis of an Ombudsman report,” said Galvin.