DUBLIN - The IRA's political ally Sinn Fein today expelled a senior member after he admitted he had been spying for Britain for two decades.
Denis Donaldson was cleared last week of spying for Sinn Fein which seeks to end British rule in northern Ireland. In fact, he said, he had been a British agent for 20 years.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern called it a "bizarre twist".
"I was a British agent at the time. I was recruited in the 1980s after compromising myself during a vulnerable time in my life," Donaldson, formerly Sinn Fein's head of administration at the mothballed Stormont Assembly in British-ruled Northern Ireland, told Irish state broadcaster RTE.
"Since then I have worked for British intelligence and the RUC/PSNI Special Branch. Over that period, I was paid money." Donaldson said he deeply regretted his activities and apologised to his family and the Republican movement.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams told reporters at a news conference in Dublin that Donaldson had approached the party after police informed him that his cover was about to be blown and that his life was in danger.
The British government refused to comment on the revelations.
Donaldson had been cleared only last week of spying for Sinn Fein, which wants a re-united Ireland.
The Stormont assembly, in which Catholic and Protestant parties on either side of the sectarian divide shared power, collapsed three years ago following a police raid on Sinn Fein offices.
Donaldson, along with two others, was later arrested and charged with having documents likely to be of use to terrorists. But the Director of Public Prosecutions decided last week it was no longer in the public interest to pursue the case.
"If what we're hearing now, that one of Sinn Fein's top administrators in Stormont turns out to be a British spy, this is as bizarre as it gets," Ahern told RTE.
Adams said it was too soon to say what the consequences would be in terms of kick-starting stalled talks on restoring the power-sharing government set up under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement but repeated his commitment to the process.
He also accused elements within the British intelligence services of trying to undermine it because they were unhappy at changes that have largely ended 30 years of violence between republican and pro-British paramilitaries.
"Those who ran those agencies ... they hate republicans with a passion. For them the war isn't over, for them Good Friday (Agreement) was a huge mistake," said Adams who has repeatedly denied the existence of a Sinn Fein spy ring at Stormont.
In his statement to RTE Donaldson said the spy ring was "a scam and a fiction" created by security forces.
The Northern Ireland Office denied on Friday the Stormont raid in 2002 was politically motivated, saying it had been purely to prevent paramilitary intelligence gathering.