Monthly Archives: September 2015

Kevin McGuigans’s Family Consoled: His Death Was Just ‘A Bump’

The British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, pictured below, extreme left, with Gerry Adams, said this to a conference in Dublin’s Mansion House yesterday:

“The grave developments in Northern Irish politics in recent weeks are a reminder that the road to normalisation there remains a long and windy one, with plenty of bumps”.


So, now Kevin McGuigan’s family can take consolation in this thought. The brutal death of their father, son, husband, uncle, nephew, grandson was just a ‘bump’. So, get over it.

Corbyn Moves To The Right – After Less Than A Week In Office

He has been leader of the British Labour Party for only five or six days but already the darling of the British left has softened or abandoned some pretty defining political positions.

Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to sing ‘God Save the Queen’, the British national anthem, was the first to go – and a very powerfully symbolic move it was.


An ardent English republican, Corbyn stood silent at a Battle of Britain remembrance ceremony while surrounded by RAF types and British military top brass and their wives. After fierce media and political condemnation from all the predictable quarters, led by The Daily Telegraph, his aides let it be known that from now on he would sing the anthem at such public ceremonies.

Next it was Europe. Known to be hostile to an entity the left regards as a neoliberal carve up, Corbyn was thought to be sympathetic to withdrawing from the EC, a possibility that had the lunatic Farage in a lather of excitement.

Now, again facing internal opposition, Corbyn has performed another U-turn, telling the British media he would not campaign for British withdrawal.

The most telling switch has been on the Trident nuclear missile programme, a submarine-borne system of mass destruction based in Scotland. This issue touches two left-wing nerves in Britain, one in Scotland where SNP opposition to Trident played no small part in the success of the independence referendum and the party’s general election performance which was also centred on ‘old-fashioned’ support for the NHS, social welfare and the like; and, of course, opposition to nuclear weapons was one of Old Labour’s defining issues. Remember CND and the Aldermarston marches, Michael Foot and Tony Benn?

Keeping Trident, or preserving any sort of nuclear weapon, was rightly regarded by the Right in Britain as meaning the country was still a world power, ready and able to join with the US and NATO in whatever imperial enterprise that was regarded as appropriate and timely – like invading Libya, bombing Syria and so on. For the same reasons the British Left opposed Trident and all nuclear weapons.

And so, Corbyn was anti-Trident. Until this week. Now he has announced to the media that if the Labour party does back Trident, he won’t resign as leader. In other words the issue is not so important to him now that on principle he can’t accept it.

I haven’t read much yet about Corbyn’s solidity or lack of it on Northern Ireland but he has been hammered over his perceived closeness to Gerry Adams and the IRA. So, I won’t be surprised, if the previous developments are any guide, to see some important distancing happening on that issue.

There are two things that leap out about these developments. The first is that they are all the result of pressure from Blairites in the Labour party or the general right wing out there in the media, the Tory party, the British establishment and elsewhere.

Corbyn has buckled so easily under the pressure that the message to the Right is simple. Keep pushing him and maybe he’ll buckle on other, even more important things, like opposition to austerity or to privatising the NHS.

The second is that this has all happened in the first week of his leadership. Where on earth is he going to be in a month at this rate?

The Corbyn revolution was great fun and had a lot of nasty, pompous and self-important people worried for a while. But I don’t think they are as worried this weekend as they were last.

It’s an old and familiar story for the British Left. High expectations and the Labour party are like oil and water.

The Liam Adams Trial: Barra McGrory And The Curious Case Of The Missing Gerry Adams File

There is growing disquiet in the North’s legal world over the failure of the N.I. Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC to disclose to the PSNI a file he had kept containing details of a legal consultation held with the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in February, 2007 concerning allegations that his brother, Liam Adams had sexually abused his daughter, Ainé.

Mr McGrory was Gerry Adams’ solicitor at the time. He was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions in succession to Sir Alastair Fraser in November 2011.

Barra McGrory - kept a file on a consultation with Gerry Adams but did not disclose it to PSNI or his own prosecution service

Barra McGrory – before he become the North’s DPP, he kept a file on a consultation with Gerry Adams but did not disclose it to PSNI or the North’s prosecution service, which he subsequently headed. Since the file dealt with law company business, it should have been on his law firm’s computer system but somehow made its way onto a home computer two years after he was made DPP. It therefore escaped a court order. How did that happen?

The file was eventually disclosed by Mr McGrory but not until February 2015, eighteen months after Liam Adams was tried and convicted on charges that he had sexually abused his daughter and almost exactly eight years after the consultation had taken place. This was only days before Liam Adams began an appeal against his conviction.

The senior Crown counsel involved in the case then ‘advised’ the PSNI to question Mr McGrory about what he knew about Gerry Adams’ knowledge of the abuse allegations. He could have ‘instructed’ the PSNI to do this but chose to ‘advise’ instead.

The PSNI chose not to follow this ‘advice’. Had they been ‘instructed’ to question him, they would have had no choice and Northern Ireland would have witnessed, albeit second hand, the spectacle of the Director of Public Prosecutions being questioned by police about allegations that he may have withheld evidence about a crime involving the most famous IRA-linked family in Ireland.

Liam Adams, pictured around the time of his trial

Liam Adams, pictured around the time of his trial

Instead, Mr McGrory’s response came in an unsigned statement on two A4 size sheets of paper which Mr McGrory’s solicitor sent to the Public Prosecution Service – which is headed by Mr McGrory, but who had recused himself from the Liam Adams’ case.

The contents of that explanation, which were passed on to the Liam Adams’ legal team, cannot be revealed because of a condition attached to its disclosure which said that it could only be used or revealed in legal proceedings.

Others present at the consultation were another Adams’ brother, Patrick, better known as Paddy Adams – who is a former Belfast Commander of the IRA – and the Sinn Fein president’s personal aide and press officer, Richard McAuley. Paddy Adams was a member of an IRA firing party at the funeral of hunger striker Joe McDonnell in 1981; he was shot and wounded and arrested by British troops.

Richard McAuley, inseparable press aide to Gerry Adams outside Downing Street

Richard McAuley, inseparable press aide to Gerry Adams speaking to reporters during the peace process negotiations

The consultation took place just after Liam Adams had been arrested – on February 15th, 2007 – and questioned by PSNI detectives. Liam Adams’ daughter, Ainé had just revived a complaint she had first lodged in 1987, but had then withdrawn, and his arrest was leaked, apparently by the police, to The Sunday World newspaper. Liam Adams was not named in the report which instead referred to the arrest of a relative of a high-ranking republican.

Six years later, Aine Adams told The Belfast Telegraph that in 2007, Gerry Adams attempted to persuade her to seek a court injunction which would ban publicity about the scandal:

“He frantically phoned me about twenty times”, she told the newspaper, when he heard about the planned story. “He said he needed to make sure it didn’t get into the press to protect me. Looking back, he was buttering me up.”

According to sources familiar with the file, it also describes how Mr McGrory agreed to arrange a meeting between then PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Peter Sheridon and Gerry Adams.

Former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan - has 'no recollection' of meeting Adams before he gave his PSNI statement

Former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan – has ‘no recollection’ of meeting Adams before he gave his statement to  PSNI detectives investigating allegations that Liam Adams had abused his daughter.

Allegedly, the document – or ‘minute’, as it is officially described – details that Mr Sheridan agreed to meet Mr Adams before he gave a statement in June 2007 to PSNI detectives investigating claims from Ainé Adams that she had been sexually assaulted by her father as a young child.

Contacted for comment by, Mr Sheridan, who quit the PSNI in 2008 and now heads Co-operation Ireland, said that he had “no recollection” of meeting Gerry Adams.:

“I would have had no reason to, I was not part of the investigation team”, he said.

Contrary to what the ‘Gerry Adams’ file says, Mr Sheridan maintains that the leak about Liam Adams’ arrest did not come from the PSNI but from the republican community.

The question of Gerry Adams’ 2007 statement to the PSNI would later assume special significance, for in that statement he made no mention of any admission to him from Liam Adams that he had sexually abused his daughter Ainé.

However, eighteen months later, in 2009, he remembered that Liam had made an admission, allegedly during ‘a walk in the rain in Dundalk’, and included this in a fresh statement made to the PSNI.

He gave that statement a few weeks before being interviewed for a UTV documentary during which both Ainé and her mother claimed they had told Gerry Adams all about the sexual abuse. That led Liam Adams’ barrister, Eilis McDermott QC to accuse him of remembering the incident, ‘to save his political skin’.

Barra McGrory’s failure to hand over the 2007 file meant that the PSNI were not able to interview possibly important witnesses, including Paddy Adams, Richard McAuley and Peter Sheridan, about Gerry Adams’ knowledge of the sexual abuse allegations at that time. Nor was Liam Adams’ legal team able to question them in court.

The file, marked ‘Gerry Adams’, was found on Mr McGrory’s home computer. Liam Adams’ legal team had, before the first trial in April 2013, made a third party disclosure application for all relevant files kept by Mr McGrory’s then legal firm, PJ McGrory & Co dealing with Gerry Adams and the child sexual abuse allegations against Liam Adams.

His father, the late Paddy McGrory, had founded the firm and was one of the North’s ablest and best known criminal lawyers. He also was Gerry Adams’ lawyer and Barra McGrory inherited the SF leader as a client,  along with other prominent republicans – Bobby Storey was one – when his father died. (Full disclosure: he was also a friend of this writer and is dearly missed.)

Paddy McGrory - a friend of the author and father to Barra McGrory

Paddy McGrory – a friend of the author and father to Barra McGrory

The ‘Gerry Adams’ file was not amongst the documents handed over. The questions thus arise: was the file ever on the PJ McGrory computer system and if so, how and when did it make its way to Mr McGrory’s home computer?

A letter from the Public Prosecution Service to Liam Adams’ lawyers in February 15th, 2015, claimed that the minute:

“….only came to light last month when he was tidying up data stored on different computers held by him. This minute was contained in a folder relating to Gerard Adams. Mr McGrory was completely unaware of the minute when he made his police statement in connection with the trial of Liam Adams.”

The first trial of Liam Adams in April 2013 collapsed when it emerged that the trial judge, Corinne Philpott had neglected to hand over a prosecution file to the defence team. A second trial was held in September 2013 and in October, Liam Adams was found guilty on ten counts of sexual abuse.

His lawyers then launched an appeal which began on 25th March 2015. A month or so before the appeal began the Public Prosecution Service handed over to them the ‘Gerry Adams’ file discovered on Barra McGrory’s computer.

By this stage the file was of little use to Liam Adams’ lawyers. Not only had the first trial collapsed but Gerry Adams had been withdrawn from the witness list for the second trial after the defence had threatened to make a ‘bad character evidence’ application.

This meant that the defence was not able to summon Mr McGrory as a witness during the second trial and ask him about significant discrepancies between the undisclosed ‘Gerry Adams’ file and the statement he gave PSNI detectives. Nor were they able to call Paddy Adams, Richard McAuley or Peter Sheridan of the PSNI.

Because Gerry Adams did not figure in the trial, his dealings with Barra McGrory, his lawyer, also could not figure in the appeal.

According to sources familiar with both documents there is no reference at all in Mr McGrory’s 2012 PSNI statement to the consultation he had with Gerry Adams. In fact the two accounts are impossible to reconcile.

Said one source who has seen the recently rediscovered ‘Gerry Adams’ document:

In the ‘Gerry Adams’ document, Barra McGrory states that he had a consultation with Gerry Adams MP, who was accompanied by Patrick Adams and Richard McAuley in his office in February 2007. They discussed the case and the leaking of information to the press by the PSNI. Barra McGrory then contacted ACC Peter Sheridon who agreed that there had been a leak to the press by the PSNI and he said he would meet Gerry Adams voluntarily, before he made any statement to the PSNI.

In contrast, Mr McGrory’s statement to the PSNI, made on August 28th, 2012, reads in part:

Sometime in May or June 2007, I was contacted by the police and was informed they were seeking Gerry Adams’ co-operation in an investigation….I duly contacted Gerry Adams and arranged to consult. A consultation took place. I do not have a minute or record of that consultation….Following this consultation I contacted police and facilitated a meeting between them and Gerry Adams during which time he gave them a statement. I was present on June 20th, 2007 when that statement was made. The only notes I have to my involvement in this matter are those already disclosed consisting of 2 separate pages. The first note headed ‘meeting 1987’ was a consultation note I made during the interview with Constable Corrigan and Cartmill. The second note beginning ‘calls to Insp Black and Ivan Anderson…’ was made in 2009 after I was requested by Gerry Adams to ascertain who was now in charge of the investigation.

Ainé Adams

Ainé Adams

Mr McGrory’s failure to disclose the February 2007 statement to the PSNI is now the subject of a complaint lodged with the Northern Ireland Bar Council, alleging that the Director of Public Prosecutions broke the barristers’ code of conduct.

The complaint was lodged by Liam Adams’ wife, Brona Adams. A spokeperson for the Bar Council’s Professional Conduct Committee confirmed that the complaint had been received and is being considered:

“…however no decision or determination has yet been made”, she added.

Liam Adams’ solicitor, Philip Breen has also written to the chairman of the Stormont Justice Committee, which recently questioned Mr McGrory at a public hearing, taking issue with comments made by the DPP in relation to his handling of the Liam Adams case.

He told the chairman, Alastair Ross that a claim made to the committee by Mr McGrory that he was ‘of no value’ to Liam Adams’ defence team who had chosen not to call him as a witness was incorrect. “This is simply not the case”, he wrote.

He continued:

We still sought to interview Mr McGrory ourselves and it was only after the Public Prosecution Service informed the Court that they were no longer relying on Mr Gerry Adams as a witness in the Trial of our client that the pursuit of Mr McGrory ceased.

However please note that if the Defence had been informed at the time that Senior Crown Counsel had advised that police should take a statement from Mr McGrory we certainly would not have given up our pursuit of trying to interview him ourselves or indeed calling him as a witness.

Alastair Ross has failed to respond to invitations to comment from

The Liam Adams Trial: Why Gerry Adams Did Not Testify At Second Hearing

Although the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams made a lengthy and controversial appearance as a prosecution witness at the April 2013 trial of his brother Liam, on charges that he had sexually abused his daughter Ainé, there has always been a mystery surrounding his failure to appear as a witness at the second trial in September 2013.

Gerry and Liam Adams in earlier and happier days

Gerry and Liam Adams in earlier and happier days

The first trial, which lasted three weeks, was abandoned when it was discovered that the judge, Corinne Philpott had failed to make a file available to the defence and so the jury was discharged and a date then set for a second hearing.

The file contained social service and medical reports dealing with Ainé Adams, but the judge withheld the file, only passing it on to the defence legal team well into the second week and as Liam Adams’ lawyers were about to start their closing submissions.

When the defence team told the judge that they thought the file should have been handed over at the start of the trial, she decided to halt proceedings, discharge the jury and order a new trial, which took place some five months later.

Although the media then gathered at the courthouse in the expectation that Gerry Adams would make a second appearance as a prosecution witness they were to be disappointed. He failed to appear and although the jury in the second trial did, after they retired to consider the verdict, ask the judge why Gerry Adams had not testified this time, her answer to them was not made public.

That answer can now be revealed.

Gerry Adams had been caught out in so many contradictions and factual errors during a bruising cross-examination by Eilis McDermott QC, that when the retrial was ordered, the defence legal team served notice on the Crown that they planned to make ‘a bad character application’ in relation to the Sinn Fein president.

Eilis McDermott, in a photo taken when she was a law student at QUB

Eilis McDermott, in a photo taken when she was a law student at QUB

One of the most controversial chapters explored by Ms McDermott in her cross-examination of Gerry Adams has become known as ‘the walking in the rain in Dundalk’ incident, so-called because of claim from Gerry Adams that in 2000, Liam had admitted to sexually abusing Ainé while the pair were walking through Dundalk during a downpour.

It was controversial because Gerry Adams failed to mention the incident when he made his first statement to the PSNI about his brother’s alleged sexual abuse in 2007, but did when he made a second statement in 2009. The second statement was made, however, a month before Gerry Adams was to be interviewed for a UTV programme during which both Ainé and her mother claimed they had told Gerry Adams all about the abuse allegations.

The exchange ended with Ms McDermott suggesting to Gerry Adams that he gone to the PSNI in 2009 with a fresh allegation against his brother, ‘….to save your political skin’.

A ‘bad character application’ was made possible by the Criminal Justice Act of 2003 (CJA) which allowed courts to grant permission for evidence to be introduced relating to the character of witnesses as well as defendants, the admissibility of previous convictions and the propensity to commit other like offences and untruthfulness.

The application can be made by either the prosecution or the defence, although in practice it is mostly prosecutors who have availed themselves of this ploy.

Sections 100(1)(a) and (b) of the CJA give two formal grounds for introducing such evidence: “it is important explanatory evidence” and/or “it has substantial probative value in relation to a matter which (a) is a matter of issue in the proceedings and (b) is of substantial importance in the context of the case as a whole”.

Clearly an application under Section 100(1)(b) in the Liam Adams’ retrial would have been difficult for any judge to resist.

This would have enabled Liam Adams’ barrister, EIlis McDermott to cross-examine Gerry Adams about his alleged IRA career and his denials thereof, as well as to delve into some of the more controversial episodes with which he has been associated, including the IRA disappearance of a number of people in the 1970’s such as the widowed mother-of-ten Jean McConville.

The purpose of this would be to demonstrate a history and pattern of deception and untruthfulness by Gerry Adams which would make the allegations he made against his brother, Liam suspect and dubious.

The stage would have been set for an historic and sensational confrontation between one of the Belfast Bar’s most skilled inquisitors and arguably Ireland’s most politically acrobatic politician.

But it was not to be.

When the Liam Adams’ defence informed the Public Prosecutor’s office that they planned to apply for ‘bad character’ evidence in relation to his brother, Gerry, the prosecution service withdrew Gerry Adams as a witness, arguing that they did not have sufficient time to respond. The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) claimed that compiling the necessary material on Gerry Adams could cause a delay of up to two years in the retrial.

Although the defence argued back that since the Ainé Adams case had been started in 2006, when she re-activated a complaint first made in February 1987, the PPS had had plenty of time to compile information on one of its star witnesses, the decision to exclude the Sinn Fein leader from the roster of prosecution witnesses was final.

Ainé Adams

Ainé Adams

The PPS’ decision leaves the North’s prosecutors facing the charge that they dropped Gerry Adams as a witness to save him the ordeal and embarrassment of being grilled in a witness box about matters he normally was able to deal with in the comfort of a TV studio, often being questioned by friendlier interrogators and under conditions which sometimes gave him control of the subjects to be addressed.

If Gerry Adams had given evidence at the retrial and been quizzed by Ms McDermott about his controversial past, an obvious and intriguing question raises its head: would Crown prosecutors have stepped in to assist Mr Adams’ defence that he had never been in the IRA, much less was responsible for sending people to unmarked graves?

But the PPS’ most likely defence, which might well be that they dropped Mr Adams for fear of seeing one of their key witnesses destroyed and their prosecution fatally undermined, also suffers a major handicap.

If Mr Adams had so many credibility problems, why did the PPS decide to use him in the first place? And why hadn’t they anticipated this sort of problem cropping up?

The affair raises two very different and troubling questions. One concerns special treatment given to the Sinn Fein leader by the PPS. The other is about the level of competence in the prosecutors’ office.

Barra McGrory - the North's DPP and Gerry Adams' lawyer. Escaped scrutiny when Adams was dropped as a witness

Barra McGrory – the North’s DPP and Gerry Adams’ lawyer. Escaped scrutiny when Adams was dropped as a witness

As things turned out, the major beneficiary of the affair was the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, who was Gerry Adams’ lawyer before his elevation. The removal of Gerry Adams from the witness list for the second trial meant that Mr McGrory’s role in the affair has escaped a scrutiny that some of his legal colleagues suggest it deserves.


Memo To Martin: When In A Hole, Stop Digging!


Stormont Crisis: Here’s Why They Will Put Humpty-Dumpty Together Again

Stor1Storm2There are several pages just like the one below. You can access them all here, if you have the patience:


Stormont Crisis: The System Is Broken, A New IMC Cannot Fix It

A fascinating account of the origins of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) from its instigator, US-based consultant Michael McDowell (no relation to the former Irish Justice Minister), and an admission that the IMC “pulled some of its punches” to preserve the political deal at Stormont, an analysis thebrokenelbow has been echoing in the last few days. A new IMC will not solve this crisis, he says; only a thorough rethink will do.


The Bobby Storey Arrest: The IMC Allowed IRA Intelligence Department To Survive


UPDATE – American academic, Peter Trumbore has a piece over on The Pensive Quill blog which has a member of the IMC implicitly admitting that the IRA had retained weaponry to counter threats from dissidents. This runs entirely counter to repeated assurances in the IMC’s reports.

He quotes from an interview he conducted with IMC member and former Alliance Party leader, John Alderdice in 2011 dealing with the issue of the dissident threat to the Provos. He quotes Alderdice thus:

They haven’t the guts to take the Provos on, because the Provos will put them to bed.

And Trumbore adds his interpretation of that phrase ‘put them to bed’:

What Alderdice seemed to be arguing back in 2011 was that the PIRA retained enough military capability to defend itself were it to be challenged directly by the dissidents.

What could Alderdice mean by ‘put them to bed’ that has a sense other than ‘take them out’, ‘kill them’, ‘shoot them up’, etc, etc? And how do you do that, other than with guns?

*                                           *                                           *

The arrest today of Bobby Storey on suspicion of involvement in the killing in August of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan, serves to focus attention on the IRA’s Intelligence Department which Storey headed for so long and in which capacity the West Belfast activist earned an unrivaled reputation as a skilled operator.

His arrest seems to suggest that the PSNI suspect that the IRA’s intelligence-gathering wing may have played a role in the McGuigan murder.

One useful and revealing source of information on the Intelligence Department is the series of reports on paramilitary activity compiled by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) during its seven years of existence, between 2004 and 2011.

Throughout the series of reports, the IMC’s attitude towards the IRA’s intelligence-gathering capacity amounted to one of benign tolerance – as long as the IRA did not gather information on British security force members and confined its activity to monitoring dissidents, informers, anti-social elements and drug-dealers, the IMC raised no objection and never once made the winding up of this activity a condition of its imprimatur, as it did with the IRA’s other functions.

Two questions thus arise: was the Intelligence Department involved in the IRA investigation of the ‘Jock’ Davison murder which in turn led to the killing of Kevin McGuigan? And what did the IMC think the IRA would do if its Intelligence Department uncovered information that suggested a threat existed to its members or leaders from armed opponents, such as dissidents or alienated former members?

The reports – twenty-seven of them in all – chronicle in some detail the run down of the Provisional IRA, especially after final decommissioning in September 2005. The key to the scale and integrity of the winding down of the IRA was, in the IMC’s view, the fate of the Army Council and the GHQ departments.

First an explanatory note to younger readers whose familiarity with IRA structures may be less than complete. At the top of the IRA sat the seven-man Army Council (and they were always men), selected by the  13-person IRA Executive which in turn was elected by an Army Convention, an IRA delegate conference where issues were debated and constitutional changes made.

The Chief of Staff was on the Army Council as of right and was one of the seven voting members. Two other senior figures, the Quarter-Master General (QMG), who was in charge of the IRA’s armaments and the Adjutant-General (AG), responsible for internal discipline and liaising with the grassroots, inter alia, also sat in on Army Council meetings but did not have a vote. So when the Army Council met, nine men were in the room (as well as a secretary, who was usually a woman) but only seven had a vote.

Although as military commander, the Chief of Staff had day-to-day control of the IRA, the Army Council could and did decide military policy and strategy.

The meetings were called to order and run by the Chairman of the Army Council who also represented the IRA in meetings with outsiders (like the British government) and in the final years of the campaign that position was filled by Martin McGuinness.

The Chief of Staff was the military commander of the IRA and he headed up something known as the GHQ, or General Headquarters Staff. The GHQ consisted of Departmental chiefs or Directors. Each Department on the GHQ had a specific function, such as intelligence, internal security, operations, training, engineering (explosives), finance, weapons procurement (quarter-master) and so on.

These departments were actually responsible for running the IRA and grassroots members’ immediate loyalty was often to the department they belonged to as much as, and even more than the region they operated in.

Without these departments the IRA would cease to exist as an army fighting the British. Accordingly the IMC’s chronicled the dismantling of the GHQ Departments as well as the Army Council and regarded these as the most compelling signs of an IRA that was withering away.

Incidentally, while the monitoring commission described the winding down of the Army Council, it had nothing to say about the IRA Executive, which technically has the power to revive the Army Council and thereby the GHQ as well. Since the IMC failed to record its dissolution, one is entitled to assume it still exists.

One department, though, was never dissolved. The Intelligence Department survived and did so with the unspoken approval of the IMC as long as its activities did not include gathering information on soldiers or policemen, what the IMC termed ‘terrorist’ intelligence-gathering.

The IMC may not have smiled on the intelligence department, but it certainly did not frown on it either, or ever seek its dissolution.

In as much as the Intelligence Department confined its spying and information gathering to dissidents, drug-dealers, criminals and political opponents of Sinn Fein and did not target the PSNI or the British Army, the IMC, it seems, was prepared to turn a blind eye.

Following the killing in Belfast last May of a senior IRA colleague, ‘Jock’ Davison, it would have been natural for the Intelligence Department to launch an investigation in an effort to discover who was responsible for the murder of their colleague and friend, whose violent death, if left unanswered, could encourage copy cat activity.

It is hard therefore not to conclude that the killing of Kevin McGuigan, whose alleged involvement in the murder of ‘Jock’ Davison put him into the category of ‘dissident’, at the least, may then have been facilitated by the Intelligence Department whose existence was tolerated by the Independent Monitoring Commission.

And, since the IMC knew that the IRA was monitoring and gathering intel on possibly violent opponents, what did it think the IRA would do if it felt it was under attack or the threat of attack from such quarters? Throw paper darts at them?

All of this serves to reinforce the suspicion that everyone – that is the British, the Irish, the Americans, SF’s partners in government – knew that unofficially the IRA needed to retain arms to counter threats from, allegedly, the likes of Kevin McGuigan.

Here are the relevant extracts from the IMC’s reports

1. October, 2005. Just a month after decommissioning its weapons the Intelligence Department was still functioning but with a new more political focus and targeting drug-dealers:


2. February, 2006. The Intelligence Department was still very active and was, with the approval and authorisation of the leadership, attempting to penetrate public institutions to obtain ‘sensitive information’. Although the intel gathering had a more political focus the Department targeted security force members, something that have the IMC cause for concern. It also targeted dissidents and drug-dealers:

Feb_063. April 2006. The Intelligence Department’s activity becomes more in line with the IRA’s commitment to end the armed struggle and the IMC concern evident in its February report abates. The intelligence gathering now focuses on political opponents and dissidents:


4. October 2006. The IMC declares that ‘terrorist’ intelligence gathering, i.e. focused on British security force members, has ceased and instead concentrates on information ‘that supports its political strategy’, loyalist paramilitaries, suspected informers and dissidents. The IMC also reports that the departments responsible for procurement of weapons, engineering and training have been stood down:


5. January 2007. The IMC reports that the IRA continues to gather information on suspected informer and dissidents but not for ‘paramilitary or other unlawful purposes’. There is no sign that the IMC is concerned at this:

Jan_07_1_Jan_07_2_6. May, 2008. The IMC believes the IRA is still gathering intelligence on dissidents, anti-social elements and suspected informers but not for ‘paramilitary activity’. i.e. attacks on security forces. Again the IMC does not judge this activity to be contrary to the IRA’s pledge to engage in only peaceful political activity:

May_087. September, 2008. In that month, the British and Irish government asked the IMC to devote an entire report to the IRA and specifically to answer the question: is the IRA committed to non-violence. The IMC’s conclusion was an emphatic yes. Senior IRA members had moved to political activity, while others had dropped out; it had abandoned and dissolved its ‘military’ departments, thus losing its ‘former terrorist capability’ and had ceased recruiting and training members. Most significant of all, the Army Council was no longer functioning (but nothing was said about the Executive) and the IMC concluded that this and ‘the standing down of the structures which engaged in the armed campaign’ was persuasive evidence that the armed campaign was over. But one structure was not dismantled and that was the IRA intelligence-gather ability and here the IMC became almost defensive of the IRA: ‘In so far as gathering information or  intelligence may continue in any limited way – not in itself improper if it does not involve illegal methods or intent – we believe that it is mainly for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of any threat from dissident republicans.’

Sept_08_1_Sept_08_2_Sept_08_3_8. November 2009. This report carries the last ever mention of the IRA’s intelligence-gathering capability and again the line is clear: it was being done to discourage the movement of members to dissident groups and that was, it seems okay by the IMC.


The Bobby Storey Arrest: New Caption Contest

The arrest by PSNI detectives investigating the Kevin McGuigan murder of former IRA intelligence chief and Northern chairman of Sinn Fein, Bobby Storey has highlighted the close relationship between the West Belfast activist and Gerry Adams.

Below they are pictured chatting at a public event in Belfast sometime in the recent past. The usual free lifetime subscription to to the reader who best imagines what they would be saying to each other if the picture had been taken today:


The McGuigan Killing: So, Just How Independent Was The Independent Monitoring Commission?


Vessels of Truth

It remains to be seen just how sham – as in Sham Fight at Scarva sham – the crisis over the Kevin McGuigan killing really is, but whatever the truth it seems inevitable that a new version of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), will be set up to tell us in soothing, re-assuring words that there really is nothing to worry about.

The argument for a new IMC is that the PSNI really screwed up their handling of the killing, starting with a warning to the media not to blame the IRA followed within hours by an admission that it was indeed IRA fingers on the trigger that dispatched Mr McGuigan to eternity.

Sizable credibility problems then for Big George and his Merry Men. Cue a bunch of retired political hacks, superannuated cops and a George Smiley or two – Brits and Yanks only need apply – and the problem will be solved, not to mention the handy holiday money, expense account dining for a few months and the mirage of once again seeming relevant despite the advancing years.

But just how ‘independent’ was the Independent Monitoring Commission? Where did it get its information from? Were its sources really any different from those that assured us that it would be dangerous to speculate about IRA responsibility for killing the unfortunate Kevin McGuigan.

Well, in its last report – its 26th and longest report, published in July 2011 – the IMC went into some detail about how it went about its work, who it talked to and where its intelligence and information came from.

I am sure it will come as no surprise to my more cynical readers that the IMC relied in the main on the PSNI and MI5 for official intel. In other words what we’ll get with the new IMC  is the same information that George Hamilton would give the public anyway, except now it will be filtered through a bunch of former pols, cops and spooks and packaged in a polished, professional and media-friendly fashion.

But guess who else the IMC chatted to, aside from the usual community leaders, priests, vicars and the like? Well, none other than the paramilitary leaders whose lack of activity the IMC was supposed to be monitoring! And why not? Vessels of truth, all of them!

So, bring on the new IMC!

Information and Access

  1. 8.9  It was clear from the beginning that to be effective we needed the fullest possible access to information from both official and other sources. There were two main aspects.
  2. 8.10  First, with the police and intelligence authorities North and South we needed to demonstrate we could handle material responsibly, drawing on it for our analysis but not putting things into the public domain in a way which compromised their work or the safety of individuals23. We believe that the way we handled this material in our First Report was key here. Fruitful relations with these authorities were established from very early on and we have been struck by how forthcoming they were with information and comment. However, we sought always to maintain a proper distance as well as a capacity to question, and in some cases to disagree, and our conclusions were always our own. While we relied on much more than just their material, theirs was an input without which it would not have been possible to produce reports of any depth and authority.
  3. 8.11  Second, it was essential that we had sources other than official ones and in our statement in March 2004 and subsequently we invited people to approach us in confidence. We needed personal and local perspectives and also information. We usually obtained it face to face on our premises or on visits around Northern Ireland. Though many approached us on their own initiative, we frequently took the initiative ourselves and asked to see people, individually or in groups, and believe it was important that we did so. We wanted to ask questions and to hear what it was like in local communities; what paramilitaries were up to in different areas and what the communities really felt about them; how real was the support or the fear; how the facts and views locally tallied with what we heard from official sources; what senior members of paramilitary groups themselves thought, and sometimes whether and how they were trying to manipulate us. Moreover, we wanted more than simply the grass roots view. We needed analysis and perspective as well, and found it in many conversations, including with senior figures and commentators in Ireland North and South.