Jennifer O’Leary On The Spies In The IRA

UPDATE – The Irish Times has been on to me to point out that Jennifer’s piece is actually on the webpage. It is in the ‘World News‘ section. Where? The ‘World News’ section, alongside bombs in Aleppo and Hungarian Trumpism! Why not the ‘Irish News’ section, where it should be?

SECOND UPDATE – I just noticed that while Jennifer O’Leary’s article has been consigned to ‘World News‘, it has also been tagged ‘UK‘. You couldn’t make it up. Honestly…..

I noticed this article by the BBC Spotlight reporter Jennifer O’Leary on The Irish Times website yesterday but couldn’t access it because my ‘free articles’ period had expired.

When I went to read it today, it had disappeared from the Times’ site. Now I am not the most talented surfer of websites but when I went to all the usual places on the paper’s internet page, Irish News, Opinion & Analysis sections and so on, places where you might expect it to be, there was no sign of it.

I had to go to the paper’s search facility to eventually dig it out. I’d be most happy to be proved wrong – and I welcome any reader doing just that – but I have a suspicion that someone in the Times may have decided that Ms O’Leary’s thesis, that the birth of the peace process may have been assisted by spies in the IRA’s ranks, was a tad too subversive for its readers and decided to quietly drop it from the webpage. Or maybe I am just too stupid to find it!

So, in the spirit of spreading knowledge (especially to those who cannot afford an Irish Times sub) and defying possible censorship, here is Jennifer O’Leary’s article, the central thrust of which I concur with entirely (in fact I would take it further to its next logical step).

Incidentally, a close reading of the article suggests that her source ‘Martin’ was the origin of the police operation which uncovered the IRA spying ring at Stormont and that careless words by Denis Donaldson in ‘Martin’s’ presence led not only to the ring being blown but also Donaldson’s cover and that ultimately this caused his death.

Jennifer O'Leary of BBC Spotlight

Jennifer O’Leary of BBC Spotlight

Did British spies force the IRA to renounce violence?

‘Spotlight’ journalist Jennifer O’Leary writes about infiltration at the IRA’s highest level

Jennifer O’Leary

I mostly listen to stories for a living. Stories that people are often reluctant to admit they know. They tell them to me in their homes, coffee shops, cars and parks and, more often than not, they are alone.

Several months ago, I was contacted by a man who said he had a story to tell.

His was among the most elusive I’ve come across, because “Martin” told me he was a spy who brought RUC special branch deep within the IRA and Sinn Féin.

Martin was paid to betray other people’s secrets. His very survival was premised on his ability to tell lies.

Over months, I listened to Martin, I never stopped asking him questions and I corroborated as much detail as possible without compromising him.
He cannot be identified because he fears for his safety, but he’s not anonymous to me.

In the course of one of our meetings, Martin opened up about the late Denis Donaldson, whom he had known when Donaldson was Sinn Féin’s head of administration in Stormont. Both men were supposed to be working to a republican agenda.

However, both were agents of the British state. And when Martin betrayed a boast made by Donaldson, it set off a chain of events which ultimately led to the unmasking of Donaldson as an agent of British intelligence.

When Donaldson later gave a press conference and confessed he was an agent within the IRA, the consequences went beyond the personal.

His admission went to the heart of the secret intelligence war between the IRA and the state, because Donaldson was an “agent of influence”.

His key value as an agent was not the secrets he disclosed, but the subtle influence he could bring to bear when key decisions were being taken by those at the top of the republican movement.

Security sources told Spotlight that, by 1994, a majority of the seven-person IRA army council were effectively compromised because of their proximity to high-level agents.

The council’s decisions were, they said, influenced by IRA insiders who were also secret British agents.

Informers and agents not only betrayed the IRA’s secrets, but some, such as Denis Donaldson, were used over decades, to influence its strategy at the highest level.

For republicans, the scale of infiltration within the IRA raises uncomfortable questions.

Was the IRA rendered ineffectual by many of its own members who were also informers and agents of the state?

Did the secret intelligence war force the IRA to renounce violence?

Did spies within its own ranks bring the IRA in from the cold?

Jennifer O’Leary is a reporter for BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme

2 responses to “Jennifer O’Leary On The Spies In The IRA

  1. Here’s an interesting article on the same subject which makes the point that small armed groups are very susceptible to this sort of penetration.

  2. Future suggestion,since you seem to mention it frequently; if you want to bypass The Irish Time’s paywall, google the relevant writer or topic, in this case ‘Jennifer O’Leary The Irish Times’. You can access the article even if you’ve passed the limit of free articles.And loath as I am to defend the newspaper, the difficulty in finding the article might be due to the overall shittiness of the website rather than the controversy of article.I couldn’t find Jim Mcguinness’s musings on the All-Ireland final, but probably not because it was purposely suppressed.

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