The British Army In Belfast On The Day Joe McCann Was Shot Dead….

In the wake of the acquittal of two retired British soldiers in the 1972 killing of Official IRA leader, Joe McCann and amid speculation of an amnesty for British security forces involved in Troubles-related incidents, James Kinchin-White, examines the military background to McCann slaying.

(Note documents at the bottom of this piece)

THE SITUATION – HQNI


When Ted Heath read the Northern Ireland situation report (SITREP) for April 14th 1972, he would learn that eighteen explosions and fourteen shootings occurred during the previous 24 hours. Three of the bomb attacks occurred in Belfast causing extensive damage to property. However, a fourth device, in Corporation Street, was neutralized by a soldier using an 84mm Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon – the first time the recoiless rifle had been used for this purpose in NI. A busy day then, described in the SITREP as having endured ‘a comparatively high level of terrorism’ conducted by the IRA.

However, if Friday 14 April was considered a bad day, things would begin to get much worse in Belfast on Saturday morning. The Brigade Operations Room (Ops Rm) had recorded 108 incidents on Friday. By the end of Saturday, there were 178 new entries in the log book.

THE STRATEGIC POLITICAL BACKGROUND

By late 1971 the situation in NI was increasingly troublesome for a British PM whose personal and political aspirations were mostly focused on mainland Europe. At the fifth meeting of the secret Cabinet sub-committee on NI – known as GEN 47 – Edward Heath acknowledged that the situation in NI was jeopardizing both economic and defence policy as well as Britain’ts attempt to join the European Community (EC). What was needed, he argued, as a priority, was the ‘best reconciliation between conflicting considerations. But the first priority should be the defeat of the gunman by military means.

Between October 1971 and February 1972, GEN 47 began to consider arrangements for the government of NI in the event that direct rule from Westminster was unavoidable. On 7 March 72 the Heath government accepted that a purely military solution to the ‘troubles’ was not achievable. Home Secretary Reginald Maudling noted the dangers involved in taking a ‘political initiative’ (the term used to describe and disguise Westminster’s assumption of control in NI), but accepted these were outweighed by the consequences of doing nothing.

By 14 March the Cabinet were in agreement that at the very least, Westminster would assume responsibility for law and order in Northern Ireland.

In due course, the proposals were rejected by the Unionist prime minister, Brian Falkner, and his cabinet and, on 28 March 1972, Stormont was formally prorogued and Westminster assumed full responsibility for the North’s government and administration.

HQNI DIVISIONAL OBJECTIVE

At the end of the first quarter of 1972, General Mike Carver, the head of the British Army or Chief of the General Staff (CGS), to give him his formal title, discussed the ‘desirability’ of attempting to ‘wean the Provisional IRA’ away from the Official IRA (OIRA), with the purpose of concentrating all efforts against the Officials. If, he continued, the OIRA could be discredited, isolated and disarmed, it would leave the security forces free to try the same tactics on the Provisionals, albeit at a slower pace.

Earlier, Carver had reported to Cabinet that the balance of IRA forces was shifting in favour of the Officials with their reduced emphasis on Marxism but increased tendency for militancy. This, he suggested, ‘reflected changes in the leadership’ of the Officials.

INTELLIGENCE


As Westminster moved closer to assuming responsibility for the government of Northern Ireland, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) produced a ‘sombre’ assessment of likely reactions in Ireland. IRA strength in Belfast was estimated as 220 PIRA and 135 OIRA, but morale was low. It was further estimated that around 230 members of both factions were ‘on the run’ in the Republic. According to a 39 Brigade Intelligence Summary (INTSUM) for the period 5-11 April 1972, Joe McCann and nine other named members of Belfast’s OIRA, were believed to be among those ‘on the run’ living in the town of Omeath just inside the Republic.

THE TACTICAL SITUATION – 39th INFANTRY BRIGADE

The first major incident notified to 39 Brigade on 15 April occurred at around 0730hrs in the Ballymurphy area. A three-man plain clothes patrol from the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) believed they identified two PIRA gunmen on the Whiterock Road. In the attempted arrest operation, both men – the Conway brothers – were shot, but turned out to be innocent civilians, victims of mistaken identity. (A full account is available on The Broken Elbow).

The incident would become one of the most controversial of the period and led to severe unrest among the Nationalist community. But it was the fatal shooting of Joe McCann at around three o’clock in the afternoon that attracted more attention. McCann had been shot by soldiers of the Parachute regiment who were operating under the command of 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (3RHA).

1 Para were the Brigade reserve battalion resident at Palace Barracks, Holywood. As the resident reserve, they were regularly required to augment the ‘emergency tour’ battalions operating in the city (emergency tours lasted for 4 months). It follows that the reserve troops would often operate in different places, possibly areas they were not familiar with. However, 1 Para had been reserve battalion for almost two years and would likely know the city reasonably well as they were within the final few weeks of a deployment that began on 21 September 1970.

Nevertheless, in an Assessment of the Operational Situation in March 1972, we learn that since the introduction of Internment in August 1971, the Army campaign against the IRA was based on ‘a major effort of attrition’ by 39 Brigade in Belfast. The tactics used in the two other brigade areas were, by contrast, based on ‘a containment’ operation.

THE RUC & SPECIAL BRANCH

Following the report of the Hunt Committee (Oct 1969) the RUC became a non-retaliatory police service whose function was the preservation of law and order. Since the RUC was, at least in theory, a non-aggressive force, it required the consent and help of the general public to function. Where such consent and help are not present, the police required military support. It is from this premise that in any military concept of operations the Army was in support of the RUC. This statement is contradicted in a document produced in July 1972 which also reveals the extraordinary degree of uncertainty in government policy:

We consider that, under the extreme situation envisaged, the GOC should exercise operational control of the RUC for security operations. This would give him the power of direction over the Chief Constable, and D Int (Director of Intelligence) power of direction over Special Branch….We see no reason to change the GOC’s relationship with the new Governor from that existing at present with SSNI. However, we are not at all clear on the new position of SSNI, if indeed his Cabinet appointment is to continue.

The document makes an important distinction between the police, as ‘public’ servants independent of government, and Army personnel as ‘government’ servants. According to Graham Shillington, then RUC Chief Constable (CC):

The RUC in Belfast…is commanded by the Assistant CC (Belfast). Control is exercised through a sophisticated communications centre at Castlereagh. It is important however, to realize that, to a greater extent than is the case with the Army, the “man on the ground” has authority, and that the [Castlereagh] communications centre has a monitoring rather than command function. Every policeman is an independent law officer and is trained to use his own initiative.

Shillington’s statement (above) appears to be contradictory since ‘control is exercised through…Castlereagh, which has a monitoring rather than command function’. Nevertheless, on Special Branch (SB), Shillington’s report reveals its role is to collect and collate information about terrorists. But it is not concerned with taking criminals to court (that is a CID function). Liaison between SB and the Army is conducted through a Military Intelligence Officer (MIO) based at RUC Castlereagh and through Liaison Intelligence NCO’s (LINCOs) at RUC Divisional HQ’s where the Divisional Action Committee (DAC), chaired by the RUC divisional commander, is tasked with planning joint Army-RUC operations within the Division.

At the strategic level, Army-RUC relations were not good. In December 1971, the Chief of the General Staff provided a report on his recent visit to NI for the Secretary of State for Defence. On the RUC he said:

The force lacks leadership and direction and many of its senior officers are openly complaining of this. I suggest we appoint a Deputy Director of Operations (Police), who should be selected as a potential successor to the present Chief Constable (who should be given a ‘K’ in the Birthday Honours and in this way be encouraged to retire before too long).

Graham Shillington was knighted in the 1972 Birthday Honours list. He retired in November 1973.

It would appear then, that the circumstances leading to the death of Joe McCann on 15 April 1972, included either a planned or an opportunistic encounter between a two-man SB team traveling in the Markets area in an unmarked car, and a senior member of the Official IRA who had been believed to have been on the run.

Evidence found during the 2010 Historical Enquiries Team (HET) inquiry into the shooting indicates that the SB presence at the scene was indeed a simple coincidence. This evidence, attributed to an unknown RUC SB police officer was challenged during the trial due to its anonymity. But there are other factors that support this version of events and make it reasonable to assume that the entire incident developed from what was a routine a plain clothes police (SB) patrol, most likely tasked with gathering intelligence through observation. Moreover, HQNI had issued instructions that stated:

It is essential that all ranks know whenever members of the RUC are operating in their unit area in plain clothes…the RUC rules for opening fire when in civilian clothes are not as explicit as our own; basically, they only open fire in self-defence.

Precisely because the SB team found it necessary to ‘introduce’ themselves to what appears to have been an ad hoc military foot patrol there would, otherwise, have been no need for introductions if the MILOs, the LINCOs, the ACC, the DAC and Castlereagh’s sophisticated communications system were actually involved in a joint police and Army operation. No need for an ‘introduction’ if the Army had been aware, as they should have been, of the presence of a plain clothes RUC mobile patrol.

THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Following the events of 30 January 1972 and in a preparatory response to the Widgery Report on Bloody Sunday, and on 10 April 1972, the CGS wrote:

Some damaging criticisms had been made about one individual soldier*, but it would be undesirable for the Ministry of Defence to institute disciplinary action. The MOD would let the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have a brief on this case and on the orders contained in the Yellow Card including the reasons why it was not judged desirable for troops to fire warning shots.

Shooting training is directly linked to the rules of engagement and a special close quarter battle range was constructed at Hythe training area. However, this did not become available until January 1972 and was initially available for units about to be sent to NI. The soldiers involved in the McCann shooting had been in NI since September 1970.

Probably Soldier ‘F’

In February 1972 the CO of 1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards submitted his NI Post Tour Report (PTR) to Army Strategic Command for the period 17 October 1971 to 18 February 1972. On the issue of ‘Policy for Opening Fire’ he had this to say:

A situation of virtually open war now exists in Northern Ireland. Under these circumstances the current rules for opening fire are considered to be too restrictive. Furthermore, the rules are in certain respects being broken almost daily and this undermines the authority of the Yellow Card and thoroughly confuses the soldiers.

The original Yellow Card at article 11, provides for circumstances in which a soldier may open fire against a person who, although they are not at present attacking, has ‘in your sight’, killed or seriously injured a person whom it is your duty to protect. As the conflict intensified and the Army began to take significant casualties, this statement was understood more as to apply when a soldier is informed that the suspect has killed or seriously injured a person and where there is no other way of stopping the suspect. The Army is not an ‘individual’ entity in the sense that ‘orders and information’ are conveyed during the battle, and the soldier is obliged to act according to the information he receives.

This Coldstream Guards statement was frequently reiterated in several PTR’s of the period. Although the PTR’s were not released by the MOD until October 2017, the authorities can hardly claim they were unaware of the issues nor of the opinion of senior tactical commanders.

THE SHOOTING

An RUC Liaison Officer informed HQNI that Joe McCann was pronounced dead on arrival at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) at 1508hrs. He had been shot near the junction of Joy Street and Hamilton Street in the city’s Markets area. 39 Brigade had reported that he had been shot by soldiers from 1 Para who were conducting a random foot patrol. The report described McCann as the CO 1st Battalion Officials and that he had recently been said to be on the General Staff HQ Officials in Dublin.

Further information from 39 Brigade revealed that McCann was being followed by RUC SB and that the policemen had ‘made themselves known to the [1 Para] patrol’ before attempting to arrest McCann who then ran off. Eight shots were fired at him by the patrol and he died as a result of GSW (gun shot wound) to the stomach.

COMMAND & CONTROL (C2)

Following his appointment as Secretary of State for NI (SSNI), Willie Whitelaw arranged his initial working week in Belfast for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning of each week, returning to London on Wednesday afternoon to participate in Thursdays cabinet meetings at Westminster


However, as a direct prelude to the assumption of responsibility for the government and administration of Northern Ireland by Westminster, control over the coordination of all security operations, including those conducted by or involving the RUC, was handed to the GOC NI with effect from 24 March 1972.

Nevertheless, the directive on the GOC’s changing job description, while restating the GOC’s responsibility to the Chief of the General Staff, also noted that the new Secretary of State (SSNI) was responsible for security policy and law and order. In effect, the SSNI had replaced Stormont authority, but in doing so did little to alter the dual responsibility of the GOC (previously Westminster and Stormont, now Westminster and the NIO).

SUMMARY

Despite the beliefs held by all concerned on 15 April 1972, neither the Conway brothers nor Joe McCann deserved to be shot. In a strict interpretation of the Rules of Engagement, none of the three men were armed, none posed an immediate threat and as far as can be determined, there were no witnesses able to identify them as having killed or seriously injured any other person. The criteria for opening fire had not been met.

Nevertheless, in both shootings, soldiers at the scene had been briefed over time to believe that the suspects they encountered that day had in fact been involved in the murder of fellow soldiers. In the Conways case, it was a simple case of mistaken identity. For Joe McCann on the other hand, he was a wanted man, with a ‘three star’ classification (most wanted) who was strongly believed to have been involved in the deaths of up to 13 members of the security forces.

There is little doubt however, that the chaotic circumstances revealed in this paper, represent a material contribution to the fate of the young republican leader. Culpability lies within the inadequate training arrangements for troops in those early years, with inadequate coordination, ineffective and ambiguous rules and a breakdown of established procedure.

A proper investigation conducted at the time of events would almost certainly have revealed these extraordinary circumstances where the Yellow Card, an instrument designed to ensure that culpability would always reside with the individual, was not fit for purpose – an outdated Colonial-ear instrument in which the only major difference was the colour of the paper.

The absurdity of Command-and-Control arrangements is best summed up with a comparison of the two events described in the paper. On the same day, during the same military campaign, in the same city, involving the same Army, the same regulations, the same structures and the same procedures, two things happened:

First, two innocent men were shot and wounded by a plain clothes Army patrol in West Belfast.
Second, a young Republican leader, though unarmed, but suspected of involvement in several killings was confronted by a uniformed Army patrol, working in unplanned conjunction with two plain clothes Police officers, reacted to an immediate dilemma by opening fire, on a fleeing suspect resulting in his death.

Almost half a century later we now know that the leader of the plain-clothes Army patrol which shot the victims of mistaken identify was awarded the Military Cross. He was an officer.

Two of the three soldiers who opened fire on the IRA leader found themselves in Court charged with murder. They were just squaddies.

QUESTIONS

Elaborate Command and Control arrangements intended to manage operational relationships between the RUC and the Army were not invoked on the day of the shooting. Why not? Were soldiers aware of the ‘authority’ of SB officers? Did they react in relation to this ‘authority’?

Strategic level Command and Control arrangements were in a state of flux at the time of the shooting due to the assumption of responsibility for NI by Westminster. The newly appointed SSNI was not fully established in NI at the time of the shooting. The GOC had just been given added responsibility for the coordination of RUC involvement in security operations – had an effective handover taken place? Who was actually in charge?

The SSNI, William Whitelaw, appeared to interpret the rules of engagement in a similar manner to the soldiers when he apologised for the death of McCann, but stated ‘he should have been shot in the legs’.

Were the 1 Para patrol deployed by 1 Para or by 3 RHA? – all log entries on the shooting came to 39 Brigade from 3 RHA and to HQNI from 39 Brigade. Who briefed the patrol?

At the point of the shooting, who actually had ‘authority’?

DOCUMENTS

Sinn Fein And Bobby Sands’ Funeral

There is only one way to settle the disputed claim over where Bobby Sands wanted to be buried. Sinn Fein has produced the text – but not a copy – of a ‘comm’ from the dead hunger striker saying that he was now content to be buried in Milltown. This was issued by a former low level SF press officer in the party’s Dublin office turned party councillor. That it was not issued by someone in the North, like Danny Morrison, who had daily interactions with Sands and other senior prisoners during the protest, may or may not be a matter of significance. There is only one way to settle the matter. Sinn Fein must a) produce the original comm and b) submit it to a reputable forensic expert who can accurately date the document. I notice that Sinn Fein are not disputing the claim, at least so far, that Sands’ wishes not to be buried in a shroud but in a blanket symbolic of his prison protest were apparently ignored.

The British Army In Belfast On The Day Joe McCann Was Shot Dead

Sir Maurice Oldfield, MI6 And Kincora – And How MI5 Creates ‘False Files’ To Fool The Police

These are more intriguing excerpts from Judge Tony Hart’s inquiry into Kincora which may not have received the coverage they deserved at the time of his report’s publication in 2017:

Visits by officials to Kincora

603 At page 145 of his book The Kincora Scandal, Chris Moore refers to an account by a former Military Intelligence Officer he refers to as “Dennis” driving a civilian to Kincora “at the end of 1975 or early in 1976”. The Inquiry has been able to identify “Dennis”, and at the Inquiry’s request the MoD traced Dennis who provided a witness statement to the Inquiry. In it he described how he was instructed to drive an unnamed visitor to East Belfast. He collected his passenger at HQNI at night, he believes around 7pm. At his passenger’s direction he drove to a house in East Belfast that he now knows to be Kincora. His passenger entered the building where he remained for a period which Dennis describes as not being sufficiently longer or shorter than an hour, ie, approximately one hour. When his passenger emerged Dennis drove him back to HQNI.

604 His passenger did not identify himself, but Dennis said he formed the impression his passenger was most probably civilian rather than military, something he thought little of at the time Dennis described the man as, “aged approximately mid-40s with somewhat curly dark hair, about 5ft 7 inches in height, slim build, pointed features and wearing what appeared to be a suit under a fawn coloured raincoat”. This description of the episode conveys a remarkable grasp of detail of an other wise unremarkable event 40 years before, even allowing for the possibility that Dennis was able to refresh his memory from the account he gave to Chris Moore in the course of Mr Moore’s researches for The Kincora Scandal. It may be that there was a visit, but some of the detail may have been affected by the passage of time. If Dennis’s account is reliable, it suggests that the Army provided transport to and from Kincora, probably in early 1976, to a person who wished to visit what was by then known to several agencies to be McGrath’s place of work. That such an occasion occurred cannot be ruled out. There are two possible explanations for such a visit. The first is that there was a political, or security, intelligence purpose for the visit. Although Tara was believed to be of peripheral importance in early 1976, that does not mean it was necessarily of no importance. We cannot exclude the possibility that an official might wish to speak to McGrath about political matters, unlikely though that may appear to be in the light of all the references to which we have referred in which it is said that little was known of Tara in early 1976.

Sir Maurice Oldfield, thought to be the model for Le Carre’s ‘Smiley’ character

605 The other reason could be that it was for some form of sexual assignation or enquiry. Such a reason appears highly unlikely in view of all the evidence we examined in chapter 26 to the effect that none of the residents recall visitors by men coming to the building for such purposes.

606 If there was such a visitor, it cannot have been the occasion described by Richard Kerr. In chapter 26 we examined his description coming home early from school one day and entering a room with three men in it. Richard Kerr was at Kincora from July 1975 when he was fourteen and he reached the school leaving age of 16 in May 1977 when he was still living there. He was therefore a resident of Kincora during the winters of 1975 to 1976 and of 1976 to 1977. His account was that he came home early from school because it was snowing, so he must have returned in daylight hours The visit described by Dennis was at night, after 7pm when it was dark.

607 As we have explained, Richard Kerr has alleged that he was sexually abused by Sir Maurice Oldfield, but the description of his passenger given by Dennis makes it clear that the passenger was not Sir Maurice Oldfield. As can be seen from the photograph that accompanied his obituary in The Times of 12 March 1981 he was not slim, did not have dark curly hair, nor had he pointed features. By early 1976 he was 61 because he was born in November 1915.

Sir Maurice Oldfield

608 Apart from the allegation by Richard Kerr, allegations were made in the media after his death that Sir Maurice Oldfield visited Kincora, and/or had contact with McGrath. Sir Maurice Oldfield was a member of the SIS from 1947 and became Chief of the Service in 1973 and remained as Chief until he retired in January 1978. In October 1979 he was asked by the Prime Minister to take on the newly created post of Security Coordinator in Northern Ireland Because of the risk to his life that this post, and his previous history, created, he was assigned police officers in London who guarded his flat, and others who accompanied him when he left the flat. As the result of a casual conversation with the porter on the desk of the block of flats in which Sir Maurice lived that took place in November 1979, one of Sir Maurice’s protection officers was told that Sir Maurice was homosexual. The protection officer immediately reported this conversation to his superiors in the Metropolitan Police The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police reported this matter to the Home Secretary, who informed the Prime Minister. On 22 November 1979 the Secretary to the Cabinet wrote to the Permanent Undersecretary of the Home Office that the Prime Minister had decided that Sir Maurice’s appointment should not be extended, and should be brought to an end as soon as reasonably possible.

609 His appointment was terminated soon afterwards and Sir Maurice returned to private life in 1980. He soon became gravely ill and died aged 65 on 11 March 1981. Despite the necessity for dispensing with his services because of the revelation of his homosexuality, the Prime Minister wrote to him thanking him for his public service to which he replied on 25 June 1980

610 Because of the nature of his admissions and the concerns that these created that he may have been vulnerable to blackmail by foreign intelligence services there was considerable concern about the nature and extent of his homosexuality. In March 1980 he denied to the Secretary to the Cabinet that he was a practising homosexual, nevertheless a direction was given that a full review should be undertaken of his Positive Vetting clearance. An investigation was then carried out by MI5. The investigation included thirteen interviews of Sir Maurice between 25 April 1980 and 7 January 1981 during which his life since leaving school was thoroughly investigated.

611 The Director General of MI5 reported the outcome of the investigation to the Secretary of the Cabinet on 19 February 1981 In his letter to the Secretary of the Cabinet of 19 February 1981, Sir Howard Smith, the Director General of MI5, observed that whilst Sir Maurice: “revealed further details of his homosexual activities during the investigation, it is probable he did not admit the full extent of those activities It is clear that he was not very discreet in his homosexual relations and that he laid himself dangerously open to compromise [by foreign intelligence services] through his admitted homosexual relations with hotel stewards in the Far-East during the 1950s.

612 It is against that background of a possible, if not probable, failure by Sir Maurice Oldfield to disclose every aspect of the homosexual activities in which he had engaged that the Inquiry has examined the allegations that he may have visited Kincora, had dealings with McGrath, or may have had homosexual relations with residents of Kincora, whether as Head of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1973 until his retirement in January 1978, or during his subsequent period as Security Coordinator in Northern Ireland from October 1979.

613 One of the matters raised with him during an MI5 interview on 28 March 1980 was whether he had homosexual relations after he took up his position as Security Coordinator, to which he replied that it was quite impossible for him to have any such relations from the time he took up the “Irish appointment” and was placed under guard. Insofar as that remark may have included homosexual relations in London during his time as Security Coordinator that was almost certainly untrue as the circumstances which led to the discovery of his homosexuality suggest.

614 Nevertheless, so far as his time in Northern Ireland as Security Coordinator was concerned, while he was physically present in Northern Ireland Sir Maurice Oldfield was closely guarded for his own safety. His private secretary during his time as Security Coordinator explained to the RUC in 1982 that: “For security reasons Sir Maurice always travelled in Northern Ireland with a police escort and was accompanied by police officers whenever he left the Stormont Estate”. It would therefore have been extremely difficult for Sir Maurice Oldfield to have visited Kincora, or to have homosexual relations with anyone in Northern Ireland, without such a visit being known to his private secretary or the police officers who accompanied him, or without such relations being suspected.

615 SIS provided the Inquiry with a hand written note on a document created by another SIS Officer in 2001. The handwritten note reads:“MO was in N Ireland at the time”. This follows immediately after an entry which reads:“[redacted] Colin Wallace the Army Officer engaged in psyops in N Ireland in the 70s. He went to prison on a manslaughter conviction. On release he attempted to clear his name. It was a cause celebre”.

616 The Inquiry asked SIS to identify any material in SIS records that would enable the meaning of the comment, or what it referred to, to be understood SIS have told the Inquiry that the writer of the hand written paragraphs on the document is unknown, and the person who composed the type written note upon which these words were written left the Service in 2001, and efforts to contact the author had been unsuccessful. In 2001 someone in SIS appears to have believed that Sir Maurice Oldfield was in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, but the basis for that belief, and whether it was accurate or not, have not been established. If the SIS are correct, Sir Maurice would not have arrived in Northern Ireland until long after Colin Wallace left, in which case the unknown author of the note was mistaken. In their response to the Inquiry Warning Letter SIS suggested that it was more likely that the annotation was no more than a ‘flag’ for the writer or someone else to follow up at a later stage, and that there being nothing to pursue the matter required no further comment.

617 SIS Officer F worked in the IJS on behalf of SIS at HQNI from 1973 to 1975 His statement to the Inquiry suggests that Sir Maurice did not visit Northern Ireland in the early years of his period as Head of the SIS. However, Officer F’s statement does not assist in establishing whether Sir Maurice may have done so from 1975 to 1979 after Officer F’s service in Northern Ireland.

618 Whilst on balance the absence of any reference in the SIS records to Sir Maurice Oldfield being in Northern Ireland before he became Security Coordinator in 1979 is indicative that he was not, however, the absence of an explanation for the note to which we have referred means that we cannot put the matter any higher than that.

The 2011 SIS note

619 In 2011 SIS Officer G examined four ring binders with material relating to Sir Maurice Oldfield, including the 1980 MI5 investigation Officer G made the following comments at the start of his note “The relationship [Oldfield] had with the Kincora Boys’ Home (KBH) in Belfast and subsequent ‘rent boy sex scandal’ is, in my view the only remaining potential sensitivity in the papers. The sensitivity being that [Oldfield] may have a link to (by association through his friendship of the KBH Head) of the alleged crimes at the boys’ home. Given the current climate surrounding similar cases, it may at some point emerge as an issue”.

620 Paragraph five of the paper written by Officer G contains the following comment“More worryingly is the small collection of papers in file three which relate to the relationship [Oldfield] had with the Head of the Kincora Boys’ Home (KBH) in Belfast”.

621 The reference to a friendship with the Head of the KBH, obviously the Kincora Boys’ Home from the context, is potentially significant because, if correct, it is utterly at variance with the mass of evidence examined by the Inquiry suggesting that there could not have been any such relationship or friendship.

622 SIS Officer A has stated to the Inquiry that this was explored further with SIS Officer G in 2014 having reviewed his 2011 note, and the underlying material Officer G commented: “Having been given full access to the papers, though my focus was on volumes 1-3, I conclude that my original statement was imperfectly drafted. As it stands this particular sentence is at odds with that which immediately follows it “This institution became the focus of press allegations of a homosexual vice ring – [Oldfield] was never implicated” This appears to infer that when he drafted the 2011 note Officer G did not make it sufficiently clear in the opening sentences that what he was referring to were allegations relating to Sir Maurice Oldfield, and not to material from which it might be inferred, or confirmed, that the allegations might be true.

623 This was a highly contentious issue that had received a great deal of attention inside the SIS on occasions in the past, quite apart from equally detailed attention in other Government departments, as well as critical comments in Parliament and elsewhere. We were not impressed by the bland reference to the document being “imperfectly drafted”, and consider that the lack of care shown merits criticism. The Inquiry has examined all the material held by SIS relating to Sir Maurice Oldfield as described by SIS Officer A in his statement of 8 December 2016 and found nothing to indicate that Sir Maurice Oldfield ever visited Northern Ireland before he took up his appointment as Security Coordinator in October 1979.

625 Having reviewed all of the evidence we are satisfied that the allegations about Sir Maurice Oldfield’s connections with Kincora have no substance.

Allegations about other British Officials in the Northern Ireland Office

629 In early 1982 the then Political Correspondent of the BBC in Northern Ireland, the late W (Billy) D Flackes told Mr David Gilliland, who was the Director of Information Services for the Northern Ireland Office, that four former officials of the NIO had been concerned in homosexual activity, three of whom were believed to have been involved in homosexual offences against children. Mr Gilliland later told the police that Mr Flackes named the four officials as Peter England, Brian Watkins, Leslie Imrie and Peter Bell. It was also alleged to Mr Gilliland that the person who later became Sir Maurice Oldfield’s private secretary had been the subject of an attempted indecent assault by Peter England.

630 Mr Flackes was interviewed by D/Supt Caskey on 6 April 1982 about these allegations. He declined to make a written statement, but said that the information concerning the four officials was common gossip and had been for years. Mr Flackes said he had no knowledge of any criminal acts, and nothing to indicate a vice or prostitution ring.

631 Mr Hewitt who was Sir Maurice Oldfield’s private secretary while Sir Maurice was Security Coordinator in Northern Ireland, told the police that he had never been assaulted by Mr England. Mr England died on 24 August 1978/ Mr Bell was interviewed by D/Supt Caskey on 7 April 1982. He denied the allegations relating to him. Mr Imrie was interviewed on 26 April 1982 and provided a written statement dated 28 April 1982. He also denied the allegations and denied that he was homosexual. He referred to a report in Private Eye relating to his conviction in April 1979 for masturbating in a public place in London, saying that he denied the allegation and felt the outcome was unjust. He denied that he was homosexual, or having homosexual relationships while he was in Northern Ireland in 1972/197

632 Mr Flackes said these allegations were common gossip and had been circulating among journalists and others for years. The Inquiry has found no evidence to support the allegations that these individuals were involved with homosexual activity connected in any way with Kincora residents.

633 During the process of examination by the Inquiry of other files after the conclusion of the public hearings, Inquiry Counsel raised a number of issues with MI5, and their response to these issues was contained in a further witness statement by Witness 9004 dated 29 November 2016. We do not consider it necessary to refer to each of the matters raised therein; they can be seen in the statement which can be found at KIN4135 and following.

Reference by SIS Officer to an Agent ‘aware of sexual malpractice’

634 A reference by SIS Officer A in his witness statement of 27 May 2016 to “at least one agent who was aware of sexual malpractice at [Kincora] and who may have mentioned this to his SIS or Security Service Case officer” prompted Officer 9004 to deal with this. A Note for File dated 17 October 1989 which was written by MI5 Officer 1 contained a record of the meeting with the SIS Officer concerned. That note refers to a particular CHIS (Confidential Human Intelligence Source) whose identity is known to the Inquiry. MI5 Officer 1 expressed a view in that record that some of the information on the CHIS’s file could be “incorrectly interpreted”. In paragraph 9 of his witness statement Officer 9004 concluded:“Extensive reviews of its files enables MI5 to confirm that no MI5 CHIS produced intelligence about child abuse at Kincora prior to the media revelations of January 1980”.

Reference by ADCI to ‘false files’ in 1982

636 In a telex sent on 29/30 June 1982 by the MI5 Assistant Director and Coordinator of Intelligence (ADCI) he referred to the possibility of creating “false files” in anticipation of lines of enquiry which it was anticipated D/Supt Caskey would seek to follow in his Caskey Phase Three investigation into Kincora. The use of the expression “false files” demonstrates that a senior MI5 officer considered the possibility of creating a “false”, that is a misleading or untrue, file to show to the police. This reference could be interpreted to mean either (a) that such a file would be composed of fabricated documents, or (b) that genuine documents would be brought together from other files but placed in a single file in a manner that would conceal sensitive material. Whichever was in the officer’s mind when he used the expression, the use of the expression “false files” was at best unwise and at worst demonstrated a willingness to deceive the police.

637 The relevant portion of the telex relates to whether MI5 should disclose the identity of one of its agents to D/Supt Caskey because MI5 had not told the RUC Special Branch that the person was an MI5 source. The MI5 officer’s telex continued: “We will also ask HSB [Head of Special Branch]/DHSB [Deputy Head of Special Branch] about the status of this particular enquiry and what is likely to happen to any report that is produced. We assume Caskey is an astute police officer and we should be in difficulty if we attempt to deceive him and manufacture false files or deny the existence of real ones”.

638 The context of the telex makes it clear that the idea was only raised to be discarded by the officer concerned, and we are satisfied the suggestion was not pursued in this instance.

(My comment: so, were any false MI5 files given to Judge Hart’s inquiry?)

How MI5 Used The RUC’s Kincora Probe To Place Spies Beyond The Reach Of The Law: Its Agents Can Never Be Questioned By Police

Some eighteen months ago, in December 2019, a British court, a body called the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, ruled by a 3 to 2 majority that MI5’s policy of allowing its agents and their informants to participate in serious crime was lawful, thus placing MI5 almost fully beyond the reach of the law.

The judgement, which the Tory government led by Boris Johnson enacted into law In September 2020, scandalized civil libertarians but unnoticed at the time went the fact that MI5 had effectively put its leadership and agents beyond the reach of the law some forty years earlier when the agency refused to allow the RUC to question a senior MI5 officer about what he or his informants knew about sexual abuse at the Kincora Boys Hostel in east Belfast.

The MI5 officer was Ian Cameron who worked at the British Army HQ at Thiepval barracks in mufti, described as an ‘Assistant Secretary (Political)’, but in reality one of three senior MI5 officers stationed in strategic positions in the security apparatus so as to monitor political and security policies during the Troubles. Cameron was, by one account, a seasoned spy and had run the equivalent of MI5’s office in Berlin before coming to Belfast.

A second MI5 officer had an office at RUC headquarters in East Belfast while in 1972, MI5 secured the position of Director and Co-ordinator of Intelligence (DCI) at Stormont and was thus in charge of all British intelligence operations in Northern Ireland.

Although MI6 continued to have a presence, and was represented by officers in Northern Ireland and had a seat on the MI5/MI6 Irish Joint Section (IJS) offices in both Belfast and London, helping to funnel intelligence to the Joint Intelligence Committee in Downing Street, by 1973, MI5 effectively ruled the intelligence roost in Northern Ireland.

When the Kincora scandal finally broke in 1982, the then RUC Chief Constable, John ‘Jack’ Hermon, who would later be knighted, appointed Detective Superintendent George Caskey to head the investigation into a scandal which we now know touched all three branches of the security machine in Northern Ireland, the police, the military and the spies.

Roy Garland, as a young Orangeman

Eventually, Caskey found himself knocking at the door of Ian Cameron at Thiepval barracks armed with thirty questions, only to be brusquely dismissed. This was not just Cameron’s doing but the action of MI5’s leadership in London, assisted by agency’s legal adviser Bernard Sheldon who later became legal adviser to MI6 and GCHQ.

An account of this episode is contained in the much neglected (by the media, this reporter included) report of the committee of inquiry into alleged abuse at childrens’ homes in Northern Ireland, headed by former judge Tony Hart whose commentary in his final report in January 2017 was suitably cutting:

Although Ian Cameron was by now retired, he remained subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and therefore required authorisation from MI5 in order to discuss anything relating to his duties as the Assistant Secretary (Political). We are satisfied that the documents to which we have referred make it abundantly clear that MI5 were not prepared to allow him to be interviewed under any circumstances because, as it was put on 5 August 1982, it was their “principle that no serving or former member of the Security Service should be interviewed by the police”. That position was maintained throughout by MI5 despite repeated formal requests by the RUC that Ian Cameron should be made available for interview. Ian Cameron was never made available for interview by the RUC, nor was any statement prepared by him to the RUC in which he answered the 30 questions…...

Kincora detective dismisses VIP ring claims | Ireland | The Times
Kincora House

We consider that MI5’s “principle that no serving or former Officer of the Security agencies should be interviewed by the police” in the course of a criminal investigation was wholly unjustified. We are satisfied that in the ultimate analysis it was for the RUC and not for MI5 to decide what was relevant to that criminal investigation. We criticise MI5 for consistently obstructing a proper line of enquiry by the RUC by their refusal to allow the RUC to interview Ian Cameron, and by their refusal to authorise Ian Cameron to provide a written statement answering the 30 questions.

So, what was it that MI5’s bosses in London did not want Ian Cameron to talk about? And was it this and not just the principle that MI5 believed that to do its job, it had to be beyond the reach or normal law and order agencies that shaped the following events?

That story begins with a British Army intelligence officer based at Thiepval barracks in 1975, a Captain Brian Gemmell, part of whose job was to gather information about Loyalist and Unionist paramilitary groups and funnel it both to his own superiors and to Ian Cameron, who appears to have had the final say in his activities.

Gemmell, who was from Strathclyde, Scotland and was a born again Christian who harboured ambitions of eventually joining MI5, met Roy Garland, the former associate of Tara founder, William McGrath and the person who made the anonymous Confidential Phone call to the RUC in 1973 about McGrath and Kincora. They met through a mutual evangelical Christian friend who worked as a vet.

William McGrath

The Hart reports takes up the story:

He described how his personal contacts in Christian evangelical circles led him to meet James McCormick who raised the topic of McGrath with him. “The question of Tara was raised at one stage and that its leader William McGrath was a homosexual pervert. It was McCormick who actually spoke to me about this and he suggested that I should speak to Roy Garland who was ex-Tara and Garland was trying to expose Tara and McGrath”.

He then described what Roy Garland said to him in the following passage in the police statement:“I was introduced to Garland by McCormick and I remember the gist of what he said. Garland was afraid of McGrath and he mentioned that McGrath owed him a lot of money and also owed other people money. He told me how McGrath had recruited young boys into his circle of influence and it was partly religious and partly sexual – masturbation being the main theme – how McGrath had spoken to small boys about this subject. This occurred back in the 1960s and Garland was one of these boys. Some of it developed into homosexuality and I believe this also included Garland. I recollect Garland saying something about McGrath pursuing him after Garland got married and this was causing him distress and that it might break up his marriage”.

He went on to describe a second meeting with Roy Garland: “Again McGrath’s homosexual tendencies, his background and all aspects of Tara were discussed. Although I can’t remember if it was named I do know that Garland told me about McGrath being in charge of a boys’ home However, I do remember going to the Newtownards Road area looking for this home I went there to get the picture in my mind as to what we were working on. I remember seeing a large detached house which I thought it was. I did not go into this house. I remember that Garland was quite outraged that McGrath should be in charge of a boys’ home. I didn’t feel too happy about it myself especially for potential victims and the fact that McGrath was presenting an evangelical front”.

MI5 HQ, just across the Thames from MI6’s more modern home

Gemmell continued:

I made a written report of my second meeting with Garland I believe that this was a four side MISOR [sic], which would have been graded SECRET-UK eyes A. Because of the political implications surrounding Tara the information was only passed to Headquarters N Ireland and retained at 39 Infantry Brigade HQ. After this inter view I was debriefed by the Assistant Secretary (Political) in his office at HQNI I believe it was on a Saturday morning just prior to lunch. The Assistant Secretary, Mr Ian Cameron, was told by me the details of the interview I had with Garland. I believe that the interview I had with the Assistant Secretary was either tape recorded or his secretary, a female, took notes. When I told Mr Cameron about the homosexual involvement of various persons in Tara he reacted very strongly and said that we did not want to be involved in this kind of thing. He was abrupt to the point of being rude and instructed me to terminate my enquiries concerning Tara and in particular to get rid of another informant with whom I had been associating. This other informant was not throwing any light on the subject in question, ie the homosexuality. However, other events took place shortly afterwards which resulted in the Assistant Secretary reversing his decisions and allowing me to pursue the enquiry concerning Tara through the other informant. I can’t remember any other specific information regarding McGrath and the boys’ home. As I said I only had two meetings with Garland and it was he who gave me this information about McGrath and the home.” (MISOR should read MISR which stands for Military Intelligence Source Report)

Gemmell, using a false name, was later interviewed on the BBC Public Eye TV programme, an episode titled ‘Kincora – The MI5 Connection’. Here is the exchange:

“Question: Does Roy Garland mention Kincora?


(Brian Gemmell):Yes he tells me that at that stage McGrath has a position in Kincora and that Kincora is a boys’ home, he’s very concerned about that.


Question: Does he mention Kincora by name or does he just say boys’ home?


(Brian Gemmell):I believe it’s by name, I can’t remember exactly but I believe it’s by name He doesn’t know exactly what is going on but we are putting 2 and 2 together and making 4 when history shows that we should have made 6.


Question: Does he say that he believes that boys or young people are being abused in the boys’ home
?


(Brian Gemmell):I think he says he believes it but he doesn’t know it to be true.


Question: No evidence?


(Brian Gemmell):I do not think he has been into the boys’ home, put it that way.


Question: Are you concerned at the allegation?


(Brian Gemmell):I am concerned at the allegation Yes.


Question: Did you believe him?


(Brian Gemmell):I believed that Mr Garland believes he is telling me the truth. It obviously has to be investigated and enquired into”.


The programme continues with the statement that: “James wrote a report of his meeting and sent it up to his Army superiors as a matter of routine. He says it was then passed to MI5 who shared the same building at Army Head Quarters”
.

Much of the Hart report dealing with Brian Gemmell’s allegations is taken up with a dismantling of his claims. Like Roy Garland, he declined to give evidence at the investigation and thus missed the opportunity to answer the inquiry’s criticisms, which ranged from there being no four-page MISR, of the sort he described, in military records; that he had just one meeting with Garland, not two; that Garland never mentioned Kincora in any report sourced to him or which he handed on to Ian Cameron.

Against that this is a story that is replete with missing documents, fading memories and some inconsistencies that Judge Hart fails to address, such as why Roy Garland would not raise Kincora with Gemmell since just a short time before he was so exercised by the possible fate of the Kincora boys that he made an anonymous phone call to the Confidential police hotline which was entirely about his fears regarding abuse at the home.

Not only that but the MI5 officer to whom Gemmell reported was never allowed to be quizzed by the RUC’s George Caskey and the truth or otherwise of his part in the Kincora scandal scrutinised by a professional inquisitor. Nor, thanks to that precedent, will any other alleged misdeeds by MI5 committed in the course of their trade be subjected to outside dissection.

If refusing to answer police questions about a crime was the thin end of the wedge, the thick end will see MI5 and presumably its cousins in MI6, committing the worst outrages in the book and getting away with them.

The spies have won.

Did The RUC Special Branch Cover Up The Kincora Scandal?

By James Kinchin-White & Ed Moloney

Just after three o’clock on the afternoon of May 23rd 1973, the Confidential Telephone in Belfast – number: 652155 – housed at RUC headquarters in Knock, East Belfast, rang, a switch automatically turned on a tape recorder and the caller, a man, began telling a story he hoped would bring an end to the sexual torture of dozens of boys and young men, many of them orphans, and expose a scandal that had, in different ways, been covered up by some of the most powerful figures in Northern Ireland’s Orange and Unionist power structure.

When the phone call was transcribed, the message ran to over 500 words and the duty Chief Superintendent who read the document, thought the contents so disturbing that he did two things. He sent a copy to Special Branch headquarters in Belfast and ordered a senior colleague, an Inspector, to personally check the information that had been phoned in.

And so began a series of events that could and should have ended the ordeal of boys then lodged at the home, but didn’t. Instead the hostel, whose name was Kincora, would continue to be the site for a further seven years of sexual abuse of young, vulnerable boys at the hands of the three men charged with safeguarding their physical and mental welfare.

Kincora would become a byword for sexual abuse and a metaphor for the weirder fringes of political Unionism and Orangeism, but that did not happen until seven years after the anonymous phone call to RUC headquarters. It was not until 1980 that the scandal was uncovered but it took much longer for the fuller story to be told and even then, many suspect that the story of who knew what, when and how much was covered up and most important of all, why the Kincora abuse was allowed to fester for so long, remains unexplained.

Four years ago, nearly two decades after abuse at Kincora was exposed, another lengthy and expensive inquiry came to the conclusion that most people suspected was the one the British state hoped for, a verdict that would, ideally, bring an end to the wild speculation about the role of the state’s intelligence agencies. The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry came to the conclusion that abuse at Kincora was solely the responsibility of the three wardens who ran the home. And that seemed to be an end to the matter.

Bored and made wary by decades of sometimes wild speculation about who knew what and when, the local media gave scant coverage to the report published by the inquiry’s chairman, former judge, Sir Anthony Hart in 2017. None appear to have examined the many documents that his inquiry had access to. Had they done so, they would have come across evidence that the intelligence agencies, particularly the RUC Special Branch knew much more about one of the key figures in the scandal than has ever been publicly admitted, enough to have asked the obvious questions about his work at Kincora. Unless, of course, they had reason to ask no questions at all.

The documents were part of a tranche of papers that were handed over to the HIA investigation by MI5, MI6, Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, and the PSNI, on behalf of the old RUC.

The documents, which reveal much about the murky world of intelligence work during the Troubles, were cited in Aaron Edwards recently published book, ‘Agents of Influence…‘ but for reasons best known to himself, the author was more interested in what the papers revealed about the recruitment and handling of confidential sources than what they had to say about the Kincora scandal.

Nor is the existence of the confidential phone call or the identity of the caller news. The phone call, the thrust of what was said and the identity of the caller were all revealed in Chris Moore’s seminal book, ‘The Kincora Scandal‘. The caller was Roy Garland, also known for a while as ‘Mr X’, who was an important source, along with former Free Presbyterian missionary, the late Valerie Shaw, for coverage of Kincora by myself and former colleague Andy Pollak in The Irish Times in 1980 and 1981.

What is new in these disclosures is the full and extraordinarily revealing text of what Garland said in his confidential phone call, the inexcusable complacence and incompetence of the RUC officer tasked to investigate the call (and presumably his superiors) and the criminal dishonesty of the Special Branch which knew that much of Garland’s phone call was absolutely accurate but did nothing – presumably in the cause of preserving a source close to the leadership of Tara, the bizarrre and strange paramilitary body founded by McGrath.

But, first of all Roy Garland’s call to the Confidential Phone number and what he told the RUC about the man at the centre of the Kincora scandal, William McGrath, a figure whose influence over Northern Ireland’s two main Unionist parties and their leaders, and the course of Unionism before and during the early days of the Troubles, would be difficult to overstate.

Here is the text of Garland’s call to the confidential phone number as transcribed by the RUC:

So, as one would hope and expect, the duty Chief Superintendent assigned a senior officer to visit the Kincora hostel to establish what truth there was to these extraordinarily serious allegations. And so a month or so later the unnamed senior policeman, whose rank is revealed in the documents as an Inspector, visited the home and spoke to the senior worker on duty, a man by the name of Joseph Mains.

We now know, of course, that along with the third Kincora employee, Raymond Semple, Mains was involved with McGrath in sexually abusing boys at Kincora. All three pleaded guilty at their trials many years later, a course they took to avoid the salacious and scandalous details of their behaviour from becoming public.

The reproduction of the copy of the Inspector’s report to his superiors presented to the Hart inquiry is of such bad quality that it is only partly legible:

The important section is though partly legible on an iPad and reads:

“On 4.6.73, I spoke to Mr Mains, head house father at Kincora Boys Hostel, Upper Newtownards Road, regarding a social worker at the hostel William McGrath. Apparently McGrath has been employed since August 1971 and is 36……..According to Mr Mains, McGrath is a very decent type of man and has deep religious convictions and is high up in the Orange Order……Mr Mains is satisfied that this information came from some crank and that although McGrath is not popular with the boys at the hostel he is convinced no one there could be capable of this. Mr Mains has no idea of who might have passed this information on the phone.”

And this is precisely what was reported back to his superiors by the investigating Inspector on June 5, 1973:

This reads:

‘Reference attached copy of message received on Confidential Telephone line, enquiries reveal that the subject McGrath, is a decent type of person and there is nothing to indicate that he is engaged in the type of conduct alleged by the caller. It would appear from enquiries into this matter that the allegations are totally malicious and would not, in my opinion merit further investigation.’

A copy of this report was forwarded to RUC Special Branch, whose reaction upon receipt is not recorded. Ribald laughter would not have been out of order, however, in the light of the following report, received some two or so months before the RUC Inspector’s visit to Kincora took place.

Dated April 17, 1973, two months before Roy Garland made his call to the Confidential Phone, the document is a Special Branch report on Tara, originating in Newtwnards, which names McGrath as the ‘C.O.’ of Tara; Frankie Millar as his ‘assistant’ and Clifford Smyth, a senior figure in Paisley’s DUP as the ‘former intelligence officer. The Administration Officer was David Brown, deputy editor of Ian Paisley’s Protestant Telegraph.

Of McGrath’s sexual proclivities the Special Branch document reads: ‘McGrath is a reputed homosexual who is alleged to have kept members ensnared in the organisation by threatening to reveal homosexual activities which he had initiated.’

So, when Roy Garland used the Confidential Phone in an attempt to expose McGrath and save boys at Kincora from further abuse he was wasting his time. The Special Branch already knew about McGrath’s sexual tendencies and must have known where he worked and suspected that he was using his job to satisfy his sexual appetites.

When intelligence agencies know about or suspect criminality but do nothing, it is usually to protect sources. Did the Special Branch have an agent inside McGrath’s paramilitary group, Tara, feeding them intelligence on Paisley’s DUP, or the Ulster Volunteer Force which had infiltrated Tara after Gusty Spence’s imprisonment? Was that why they did nothing about Kincora?

How many young lives were blighted and destroyed as a result? The Special Branch knew who McGrath was, knew about his role as leader of Tara, knew about about who in the world of Loyalism he associated with, not least the leadership of the DUP and they knew about his sexuality. It stands to reason the Branch also knew that he worked in Kincora, and that the young charges under his control .were extraordinarily vulnerable and were ripe to satisfy his sexual appetite, yet they did nothing to protect them.

It is time the real truth about Kincora was told and the filing cabinets opened. In fact, beyond time. It is the least that is owed to the boys and young men whose lives were blighted by Britain’s spooks. Here is the RUC Special Branch report on McGrath and Tara, logged two months before Roy Garland dialed the confidential phone number at RUC HQ:

On McGrath

The Workers Party Splits Again, And Again, And Again…….Yawn

You can read about it here: https://workersparty.ie/statement-on-the-recent-split-from-the-workers-party/

Trump, Biden & Afghanistan – US Media Bias On Show

Great piece here which reveals the inherent bias in the US media……the time will come when it will really matter.

Brainless British, Irish & International Media Responsible For Belfast ‘Riots’

The recent riots in Belfast, or minor street disturbances to be precise, are the direct result of a spineless media consensus, fed by cynical politicians, that Brexit would create circumstances which would re-ignite the Troubles, unless they were counteracted.

Here is the story the bulk of the media would not write:

The fulcrum of the Troubles was Belfast, especially the Catholic ghettos of Short Strand in east Belfast, the lower Falls, Ballymurphy, Andersonstown in the west, and, in north Belfast, Ardoyne. Now it is pretty hard to imagine how ordinary folk in these areas, relieved that the daily violence which scarred their lives for so many years had gone, would get so exercised over (mostly foreign) lorry drivers for huge multinationals being pestered by having to fill forms at or near the Border, many miles away, would throw their hands up in the air and declare in gruff, angry voices, ‘time to get pikes down from the thatch again’!

But that was precisely argument that southern political leaders like Leo Varadkar took to Brussels and Strasbourg and persuaded the well-fed bureaucrats that instead of a so-called ‘hard Border’, the protection of the precious peace process was better served by positioning it somewhere out in the Irish Sea.

And so was born the most extraordinary piece of nonsense since Lewis Carrolls’ allegedly LSD induced fantasy ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

The international and domestic media gobbled up this nonsense with breathtaking eagerness. I forget how many interviews I gave to foreign journalists at the time, arguing that what caused the Troubles, what drove ordinary, normal people into a viciously violent outfit like the Provos was something much more intimate than a ‘hard’ Border many miles from their homes. It was the daily experience of state violence, meted out by soldiers who spoke in foreign accents and sided with their longtime enemies that did that.

I don’t want to exaggerate the number of calls I got but I do remember how they went. Would a hard border re-ignite the violence, came the first question: ‘I don’t think so’, came my reply, the disappointment at the other end almost tangible. Only one reporter showed interest as I explained why, a Norwegian if my memory serves, but even so he buried my reply deep in his copy.

That was the only reporter who gave space to these thoughts. The rest ran away and filed stories that were indistinguishable from their colleagues and thus gave the most foolproof defence against incompetence and cowardice: “Well everyone else was filing the same!’ And so they retained their handsome salaries and expenses.

The result is that Varadkar and his like-minded colleagues got their way, with a Border that, theoretically, is on the same longitude as the Isle of Man. All to solve a problem that never existed except in the cynical minds of the Irish government of the day, the idiots in Downing Street and the likeminded fools in Brussels and Strasbourg. So together, they solved a non-existent problem only to create a real one.

And still the stupid, cynical, incompetent and unprincipled media can’t, or won’t, get the story right.

Sinn Fein And The British Royals

I cannot, for the life of me, make sense of the politics behind Sinn Fein’s response to the death of Prince Philip. Michelle O’Neill’s homage to a man whose politics and social attitudes were near neanderthal, followed not far behind that made public by Alex Maskey, who these days straddles the Speaker’s chair at Stormont were just, to put it mildly, unnecessarily over the top:

While many republicans, aside from those who have not imbibed the kool-aid, will be and have been appalled, Unionists, I suspect, will not have been impressed, accustomed as they are to regard everything the Provos do and say with the utmost scepticism and suspicion.

The only people who will greet SF’s expressions of sympathy for the Royals with undisguised pleasure are the two governments, in London and Dublin. I suspect the word ‘house-trained’ might figure in their conversations.

Northern Ireland: Memories of 1977 and a 'terribly tense' royal visitor |  The Independent | The Independent
The more traditional Provo response to British royalty – a West Belfast protest to mark a royal visit during the Queen’s 25th year jubiliee in 1977