Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Good Friday Agreement, One Or Two Thoughts

I see that The Irish Times has used up the best part of a Canadian boreal forest today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. A strange decision since the last time I looked the good old GFA was heading to the same resting place as the Sunningdale deal, Brian Faulkner’s Green Paper, Jim Prior’s rolling Assembly, Enoch Powell’s integration fantasy and Terence O’Neill’s crossroads speech.

Still, the Times is big on anniversaries, especially those which held out hope of finally sorting out the Northern mess, albeit briefly, and if there is a touch of whistling past the graveyard in today’s coverage, it is understandable.

There was a piece missing however. That’s the story which says that even if the GFA is headed to the ‘failed initiatives plot’ in whichever cemetery is deemed most appropriate – Milltown, Glasnevin or Roselawn – it doesn’t really matter. The Agreement did its job.

The job was to bring the IRA’s violence to an end in a way which made it next to impossible to revive. That has happened. The factory of grievances which fueled the IRA has been mostly dismantled and scores of IRA veterans these days spend their summer hols in Portuguese villas of which they are the nominal owners, or eat nice dinners in mysteriously acquired hotels – courtesy of the good old Northern Bank. Meanwhile tons of Libyan weapons and explosives are now no more.

Getting the two most antagonistic parties to share power up at Stormont on a long term basis would have been seen as a bonus but again there is a plus side to the collapse. The arrangement was intrinsically unnatural and thereby unstable; and it set sectarianism in concrete. How else was it possible in a place where the health service is a disgrace for an argument over the Irish language to dominate politics?

So the Good Friday Agreement achieved what it was invented for, to kill off the Provisional IRA and allow their Loyalist counterparts to retire to a life of officially tolerated graft and villainy. So wipe your eyes.

It is my guess that this is what the GFA will be remembered for but it is not what it should be.

What makes the GFA unique, or rather the peace process that underlay it, was that it was almost entirely a top-down operation in the two parties which emerged as top dogs when the dust finally settled. Both Sinn Fein and the DUP led from the top while misleading, i.e. lying to, their supporters.

And so the Shinner leadership told their people there would never be a ceasefire, or there would never be decommissioning while the DUP told their people they would never, ever go into government with SF.

They both dissembled and they both got away with it. I am not sure whether this says more about the respective leaderships or their followers. But either way it is what marks out the GFA as a really special deal.


Declassified FBI Files On Noraid, 1987 – ‘Noraid In A State Of Confusion….’

The last FBI file examined on this blog, for the year 1986, actually ended in July/August 1987 and this file continues the story until the end of 1987.

And it is the same story that characterised the previous six months or so, a file filled with FBI reports based on conversations with a growing number of Noraid spies ‘of proven or continuing value’ in most cases. But a new element enters the Noraid narrative in the latter part of 1987: ‘division and disarray’.

From this chapter in the Noraid story it is possible to construct or at least entertain a theory about such groups: when ideological divisions occur then treachery prospers.

The divisions had their origin in the November 1986 Sinn Fein ard-fheis and the more secret IRA Convention held beforehand, which dropped the organisation’s long-held opposition to taking seats, if elected, in the parliaments established by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, an agreement reviled as apostate by traditional Irish republicans because it accepted the partition of the country in defiance of the popular votes of 1918 and 1921.

I say parliaments but in fact the decision applied, initially at least, to just one parliament, the body in Dublin known to nearly everyone as Dail Eireann and to traditional republicans as Leinster House. The ban on taking seats at Stormont (a theoretical proscription in 1987 since no such body existed) was later dropped leaving only the prohibition on sitting at the Westminster parliament.

But once breached then arguably the principle became obsolete for all parliaments.

That was the response of the IRA old guard, in Ireland and in the United States. In Ireland, Sinn Fein split and at the ard-fheis held in Dublin in November 1986, Ruari O Bradaigh led a walkout of dissidents to set up Republican Sinn Fein and later, more secretly, the Continuity IRA. It was a repeat of the 1969 IRA split but this time the rebels would remain the minority.

In America, it took more than a year for the split to materialise when, led by Noraid founders like Michael Flannery, US republicans established the Irish Freedom Committee or Cumann na Saoirse.

The move was full of irony. When Gerry Adams, Ivor Bell and Martin McGuinness overthrew O Bradaigh and his allies in the late 1970’s, Flannery and his comrades threw their hats into the rebels’ ring, believing that the young militants were more trustworthy. Now they reached in to take their hats back.

From the FBI reports for 1987 and the early months of 1988 which I have covered in this and the previous post it appears that there was an increase in both the volume and quality of information coming to the US authorities in the wake of November 1986.

Was this a coincidence, or were some American supporters of Noraid giving expression to their disillusionment and anger, and at the same time making a few bucks on the side, by whispering into FBI ears? Or was one side in the approaching US split out to undermine the other?

Take for example this FBI report of August 31st, 1987, carried on pages 9 and 10. The source is described as being of ‘untested reliability’. That suggests he or she is a newcomer to such activity and what the new source had to tell the FBI at their meeting on August 8th that year points to a possible motive:

Asset advised that Noraid is in a state of confusion in the US at the current time. Asset advised that there is no clear leader of the organisation in the US and many of the individuals who are in leadership positions are no longer respected in Ireland. Asset advised that [name redacted] (NYFile 199F – 1999) no longer commands the respect which he has gotten in the past. This could be as a result of the fact that his main contact, JOE CAHILL, has lost his status and power in Ireland.

Divisions spawn rivalries and not a little dissembling (whatever Joe Cahill was telling people in Noraid, the truth was that he had supported the Adams’ leadership at the 1986 IRA Convention) and together they made fertile ground for the FBI.

Two weeks later came more evidence that the FBI had deeply infiltrated Noraid’s ranks, at least in New York, arguably the most important centre of the group’s activity.

On August 24th, 1987 the New York FBI office sends Washington a ten page report on the state of Noraid which is based on intelligence from sources identified only as NY T-1 through to NY T-8. From later entries in the report it appears that this may refer to three rather than eight sources. But that is not clear.

What the ‘T’ stands for is also unclear. A similar source in Detroit, known as DE-T1 is clearly a human source [see this post], but ‘T’ in this New York reference conceivably could stand for Technical, suggesting the intelligence was obtained via a telephone tap or a bug. If so, then the Noraid people involved had become very loose-lipped. All that the FBI report says about sources is this:

NY-T1 through NY-T3 is [redacted];

NY-T4 is [redacted];

NY-T5 through NY-T8 is [redacted]

And this, in one of the few unredacted pages in the report to survive the FBI censor, is what these sources told the FBI about morale inside Noraid:

In addition to the above detailed contacts many of the unknown sources listed above have reported that there is a recent rift in the national noraid leadership. Information has been received that the current true leadership in PSF in Dublin, ROI consists of younger PSF/PIRA members. These individuals are attempting to obtain total control of Noraid in the United States with younger Noraid members and PIRA supporters. Many of the current national US Noraid leadership that have been with the organization since its inception are extremely disenchanted with the current policies of PSF in regards to Noraid support. [Next two lines redacted] [Redacted name]….continues to be involved in Noraid activities, however, has expressed extreme dissatisfaction with PSF. Other longstanding Noraid leaders such [redaction] and Chicago leader Alex Murphy, are also disenchanted with PSF support of Noraid. Sources have reported that the PSF leadership are attempting to establish younger Noraid members and PIRA supporters in positions of leadership with the US Noraid organization. Ostensibly the purpose in this reorganization attempt is to facilitate a more vigorous stance, bothe publicly and financially, for PSF by Noraid.

On September 16th 1987, the FBI met with another ‘developing’ source in New York who proceeded to provide the agency with intelligence on people he or she believed to be in or close to Noraid, who were staunch supporters or contributors to Noraid or who gave jobs to illegal Irish. These included someone from Brooklyn suspected of being a money courier.

Much of this part of the report is redacted but it nonetheless clear that the source provided the FBI with a lot of information on Noraid supporters and members.

On September 28th, a Chicago Noraid source, ‘who has furnished relaible information in the past’, passed on the details of a visitor from Ireland who is scheduled to appear at a hearing of some sort. Full details of who paid for the trip, who will meet this person at the airport and where he or she will staying in Chicago were passed on to the FBI.

Following the meeting with the ‘developing’ source on September 16th, the FBI contacted a long time Noraid asset ‘of believed good reliability’ to check out the alleged Brooklyn courier. The answer was in the negative.

On October 27th, 1987 the FBI report returns to the brewing dissent in Noraid over the dropping of Dail abstentionism with intelligence from an asset ‘of good reliability’ that must have heartened the agency’s operatives:

Asset advised that Noraid is in a state of disarray in the US at the present time. Apparently a high level meeting occured in Ireland which was attended by [name redacted] (NYfile 199F-1999) and [name/s redacted]. This meeting was to discuss the current situation in Noraid in the US as well  to allow [name redacted] the opportunity to indicate that he [redacted] because of “personal problem”. Asset was unable to advise what these problems consisted of…..

On November 24th, 1987, almost a year to the day after Sinn Fein met to drop Dail abstentionism, the FBI in New York contacted ‘a source of good reliability’ on ‘various PIRA matters of interest to the New York Office’:

Asset advised that [name redacted] is over from Ireland, primarily, to speak at various Noraid, and Clann na Gael functions in the Northeastern US. Asset was not aware of any information to indicate that [name redacted] came to the US in an attempt to avoid security forces in Ireland. [name redacted] arrival corresponded closely with the departure of [name/s redacted] from the US. [name redacted] was in the country to sway Noraid supporters to Provisional Sinn Fein from Republican Sinn Fein. Therefore [name redacted] coming to the US would be to speak with these same individuals and undergird their support for the Republican Sinn…..

Some of what was written was crossed out and insertions made by pen. The word ‘undergird’ was partly written over and may not be ‘undergird’, which is my best guess.

On pages 86, 89, 91, 94 and 96 the report contains reports of contacts by the FBI with Noraid sources variously described as ‘recently developed’ or ‘good reliability’. Some, clearly, may be the same source visited several times.

By March 1988 some Noraid founders, like the late Michael Flannery had broken with Noraid and set up Cumann na Saoirse.

Finally there is this entry on page 71, unredacted in the midst of several pages of censored material:

The NYO (New York Office of the FBI) notes that Structure Tone Construction Company has been reported by various NYO sources to be utilized to provide employment to illegal Irish aliens and PIRA supporters in the NY area.

Here is the FBI file:

Trump’s America (continued)

March 28, 2018
By Niya Shahdad

At least 1.2 million people across the United States marched in the streets to protest the country’s lax gun-control laws. A former US senator suggested that participants in the protests, which were led by a group of students from a high school in Florida where 17 people were recently killed by a 19-year-old armed with an AR-15 rifle, should not look to “someone else to solve their problems” and should instead take “CPR classes.” US president Donald Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy who was living in England, and adult-film star Stormy Daniels claimed that she accepted $130,000 to keep silent about a sexual relationship with Trump because she was told to “forget the story” by an unidentified man who walked up to her and her infant daughter in a Las Vegas parking lot.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad appeared in a video wearing sunglasses and driving a silver Hyundai into Eastern Ghouta, where his government killed almost 1,500 civilians last month, to congratulate his forces for their victory. The United States launched its first-ever strike against Al Qaeda militants in southern Libya, and Trump appointed John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations who supports preemptive attacks on North Korea and Iran and who once said that if the UN building in Manhattan “lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of a difference,” as his third national security adviser.

The first nonstop flight from Australia to the United Kingdom was completed in about 17 hours and transported more than 21,000 individual items, including 330 peppermint tea bags and hundreds of chocolate biscuits; and more than 100 passengers traveling to Lisbon were left stranded in Germany after their flight’s copilot was found drunk. English soccer fans in Amsterdam hurled pints of beer at a group of tourists who sailed under a bridge; police in Wisconsin began their hunt for a woman who attacked a McDonald’s employee after being served the wrong breakfast sandwich; and a man dressed in a bull onesie was arrested for attempting to burn down his ex-lover’s house by leaving a pot of pasta sauce on the stove. Orange snow, a mixture of sand, snow, and rain, was spotted in parts of Eastern Europe, and a “pothole patching machine” was unveiled in Rome to fill 150 potholes a day.

Declassified FBI Files on Noraid, 1986 – Part Two, A Battalion Of Spies

I know that a lot of my readers, especially here in the United States, have enjoyed reading the series of articles on declassified FBI files on Noraid which were kindly donated to by telejournalist, Nate Lavey, who had sought them via an FOIA request from the DoJ in Washington.

Although heavily redacted, the files have nonetheless shed considerable light on the FBI’s attempts to penetrate and monitor the activities of American supporters of the Provisional movement during some of the most violent years of the Troubles.

My apologies then for the overlong interval between the last article on the files, which covered the year 1986, and featured an interesting British background paper on Noraid. The delay was caused entirely by the pressure of a lot of events and stories that demanded my immediate attention.

I now intend to resume coverage in this post of the 1986 FBI file, although part of it includes the early months of 1987; later this week I will write up the two files for 1987. More stories will follow when I open the later files.

The second part of the 1986 FBI file (which overlaps into 1987) tells us that by this stage of the agency’s surveillance of Noraid it was cultivating more and better sources of information inside the support group.

This section of the file suggests the FBI had up to six and maybe seven spies in or near Noraid – in Chicago, Detroit and New York – providing intelligence good enough to warrant an agency warning that any attempt to launch investigations as a result could endanger the source. That probably means the source would be blown as soon it became known to Noraid that certain activity had attracted official attention; in turn that could mean the source was very well placed.

The first spy, someone in New York, makes an appearance on January 20th, 1987 in a report from the FBI’s New York office to the Director’s office in Washington DC. Classified ‘Secret’ the report, which is completely redacted, is described as ‘a summary of significant information’.

It appears on page 37 of this file and ends with a health warning on the next page which reads:


Three pages on, on page 40, a spy in or near Noraid in Detroit, Michigan makes an appearance in a report from the local FBI office to the Director’s office in Washington. This is dated January 27th, 1987.

The source is offering information to the FBI about a possible visit to the United States of Provisional IRA members and while his or her name appears in the original report, it is redacted in the FOIA version which adds:

‘X is the confidential source in the LHM (Letterhead memorandum). This asset will be contacted periodically for dates of possible travel of (unnamed IRA vistors to the US)’.

Two pages further on and another New York FBI office report to Washington appears  which is entirely redacted but dated January 27th, 1987. It adds at the bottom:

This information is provided for the information of recipients and it is requested that the this information not be utilized to initiate any over investigation which might compromise (name redacted) a sensitive source of continuing value.

One page on, in a report dated February 13th, the New York office again reports to Washington about information from a ‘sensitive source’ and asks that no investigation be launched which might compromise the source, whose name is again redacted. Judging by the size of the redaction, this might be the same source quoted on January 27th.

The rest of the report is redacted.

Two pages on, and five days later, the New York office is reporting information from an apparently different source, at least judging by the size of the redacted name. Again the rest of the report, two pages long, is completely redacted and the same health warning is included.

Five days later, on February 23rd 1987, the New York office is again reporting to Washington on the basis of a Noraid source about sentiment towards Republican Sinn Fein, which was formed in the wake of the split over dropping abstentionism in the Dail the previous autumn.

The origin was:

‘…a confidential source of known reliability of continuing value…’

April 2nd, 1987 sees another report from ‘a source of continuing value’ from the New York office to Washington but there are no clues as to whether this is a new source or an existing one.

On April 1st, 1987 a Noraid source in Detroit whose name is redacted but described as ‘reliable’, gives information, passed on to Washington, about:

‘(Redacted) Alleged Activities With The Irish Northern Aid Committee And The Sinn Fein’

On April 28th, 1987 another message is sent to Washington from the FBI office in New York, apparently concerning Joe Cahill, the source again being someone whose name is redacted but described as being of ‘continuing value’.

On May 26th, 1987, the same source, judging by the size of the redaction, is the source of another report from New York to Washington, the subject and the text both redacted in full.

On July 23rd, 1987 the Detroit office of the FBI sent a report to Washington on the tour and speeches in the US of Martha McClelland, a Sinn Fein activist from Derry, whose activities were reported to the agency by an informer code-named DE T-1, described as being ‘of proven reliability’. DE T-1 reported that the hall in Detroit used by Mc McClelland ‘is the site for many pro-Communist political rallies’. This is on page 78 of the FBI report.

On pages 82 to 87, in a lengthy report dated August 13th, 1987 the Chicago office supplied FBI headquarters with a detailed run down of Noraid in the city which the report says was headed by ALEX MURPHY. The report, which is redacted in parts, describes Murphy as a friend of Joe Cahill and goes into some detail about his role in the Chicago Noraid and the activities of family members.

The FBI source for the report is described as having ‘furnished reliable information in the past’.

A dispassionate observer would surely conclude from all this that by the mid to late 1980’s Noraid had a significant informer problem, at least in New York, Chicago and Detroit.

Eamon Collins – More Voices From The Grave, Part Two

The leadership at Queens University, Belfast (QUB) was told that one of its law lecturers had met senior members of the Provisional IRA in Belfast just before the IRA launched a series of attacks in the early 1980’s, all of which involved the college’s law faculty, according to accounts of the period made available to

But the university apparently chose to do nothing about it even though the warning was followed by three IRA attacks on the campus in the next two years, according to Mick McGovern, the co-author of ‘Killing Rage‘, the life story of Eamon Collins, a senior member of the IRA’s spy-catching unit who was brutally killed by the organisation in 1999 for revealing its secrets.

Edgar Graham

The law lecturer went on the run and sought refuge in Dublin when Collins, the IRA figure who introduced him to the IRA, was arrested by the RUC and agreed to turn ‘supergrass’ against his former colleagues.

The IRA attacks resulted in the death of Edgar Graham, a 29-year old law lecturer and a rising Unionist politician, the serious wounding of an RUC Inspector and law student at the college, and the near death of the then Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Lowry who narrowly escaped a sniper’s bullets.

The warning to QUB came from David Trimble, then an academic in the Queen’s law faculty but later the First Minister in the first post-Good Friday Agreement administration which saw his party share power with both the SDLP and the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein.

Trimble revealed his role in a series of interviews and exchanges with McGovern before and after his book was published.

A young David Trimble

According to a legal note made in March 1996 by McGovern, Trimble’s claims, were then incorporated into a legal briefing presented to his publishers, Granta.

Mick McGovern has made his notes and the briefing available to, extracts of which are published below.

Andy Tyrie (r) with UDA colleague John McMichael

He wrote that Trimble had told him that the then UDA Supreme Commander, Andy Tyrie had phoned him to tell him that a law lecturer called David Ewins had been seen in the company of ‘senior republicans’ in Belfast. One of those he met was allegedly a member of the Army Council. How the UDA came across this information was not explained.

It is likely that Tyrie and Trimble knew each other from the early to mid-1970’s when Trimble, along with other Unionist politicians, worked with the UDA to oppose measures such as the Sunningdale power-sharing government.

According to the note:

‘Trimble said he had passed on the information to the university authorities but, so far as he knew, nothing had been done about it.’

Trimble told McGovern, according to the note (see below), that his warning had been given prior to the first IRA attack at the campus.

This means that even when the attacks began QUB seemingly failed to act on Trimble’s warning. The first IRA attack, on Lord Lowry was in March 1982 and the last, on Edgar Graham was in December 1983, a span of twenty-one months.

The law lecturer, an English academic called David Ewins, was later implicated by Eamon Collins in three IRA attacks on the QUB campus, one of which claimed the life of rising Unionist politician Edgar Graham, who was shot dead by a gunman on the pavement outside the law faculty at the university in December 1983.

The first attack was on then Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Lowry who was making his way into the Senior Common Room at QUB to take lunch with members of the law faculty when an IRA gunman opened fire, missing him but wounding an academic who was nearby. That shooting happened in March 1982.

Lord Chief Justice Robert Lowry

The second IRA attack happened in May 1982 when a gunman ambushed RUC Inspector William Fulton as he was about to sit one of his law exams. He was hit twice, including once in the head, but miraculously survived.

The third and last attack, in December 1983 claimed the life of Edgar Graham.

Dave Ewins was present for the two of the attacks, on Lord Lowry and Fulton. He was an invigilator at the exam that Inspector Fulton was supposed to sit and was scheduled to attend the lunch with Lowry. When Fulton re-sat the exam, Ewins marked it and gave him a high score.

When Eamon Collins was arrested in 1985 and agreed to become a ‘supergrass’, Ewins fled QUB and the North and settled in Dublin where he obtained work teaching law at a private college. Although Collins retracted his supergrass testimony and was later acquitted of terrorist charges, Ewins stayed in Dublin where he is out of the reach of British authorities.

Queen’s University Belfast

In the face of threats to sue for libel, McGovern’s publishers excluded the chapter on Ewins from the final version of the book. Ewins also threatened to sue Independent Newspapers and Carlton Television which had made a documentary based on Eamon Collins’ story. But after years of inaction the High Court in Dublin struck out Ewins case, while several years later Carlton settled out of court on terms that were not disclosed.

Following that court decision, Mick McGovern published the chapter on Ewins on his blog where it has sat without objection from Ewins for over a decade. It can be accessed here.

Ewins apparently still lives and works in Dublin. He settled in the north of the city, married an African student and has a family.

Here is the title page of the legal note prepared by Mick McGovern for his publisher:

The intro to the legal note prepare for the publisher Granta by Mick McGovern

Part of the note on McGovern’s interview with David Trimble:

Trump Shoots Himself In The Foot!

One of the main factors keeping Trump afloat, as elsewhere sex scandals multiply and Mr Mueller of the FBI circles menacingly, has been the booming stock market which has soared almost daily since he stepped into the Oval office. See here.

With one press conference today Trump has threatened to put all that into reverse gear. In a move that has rattled Wall Street, saw the Dow dip by some 700 points and unnerved all those middle class Americans whose flourishing stock portfolios distracted them from the more repellent aspects of a Trump White House, he has sparked a trade war that could well be his undoing.

A president with a modicum of sense would not have imposed trade tariffs on China and risked what could become a disastrous tit-for-tat conflict with the world’s rising economic power. He has brought closer the day when not just those on the left in America, and the rest of the world, yearn for Mr Mueller to deliver the knockout blow.

It may not now be long in coming.

Trump’s America (continued)

March 20, 2018
By Sharon J. Riley

In the United States, a country whose citizens make up 5 percent of the world’s population but possess 50 percent of all civilian-owned guns, tens of thousands of students walked out of their classrooms in the first of three major protests planned to protest gun violence in schools. Congress passed a bill to increase school security that included no gun-control measures, US president Donald Trump proposed arming teachers, a high-school teacher in California injured three students when he accidentally fired the Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun he had brought to his Administration of Justice class and caused pieces of the ceiling to fall on them, and a school resource officer mistakenly fired his gun at a middle school in Virginia. Trump’s personal assistant was fired following the emergence of evidence that he had committed “serious financial crimes” and then immediately hired as a senior adviser on Trump’s 2020 campaign, and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired for “lack of candor” two days before his scheduled retirement. “Who’s next?” said Trump, who once boasted that he had made $213,606,575 from a reality television show on which he fired people. Researchers in Canada found that pinching and burning a voodoo doll of a superior could help employees “lower feelings of injustice.”

The United Kingdom announced it would expel 23 Russian diplomats after a former Russian spy living in England was poisoned using a Cold War-era nerve agent made only in Russia, and the Russian government called the UK “unfriendly” and a “circus show” and announced it would also expel 23 British diplomats. A federal election was held in Russia, where voting was encouraged through incentives including free tickets to a pop concert, cancer screenings, and bowls of skim-milk oatmeal with pine nuts; and Russian president Vladimir Putin, who did not participate in debates or release a campaign platform and whose main opponent was banned from running for office, was reelected to a fourth term. Trump made his first visit as president to California, where he spent four hours at the home of the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and posed for photos with guests who paid up to $250,000 to meet him. A lawyer who previously represented wrestler Hulk Hogan filed a lawsuit on behalf of Trump to seek $20 million in damages from adult-film star Stormy Daniels for violating a confidentiality agreement signed after she and Trump allegedly had a consensual relationship. The United States received its worst-ever ranking in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report; North Korea’s state-run television announced it would launch two new soap operas; and a woman from Maine named Jesus Christ endorsed Oprah Winfrey for president.

A French judge issued an arrest warrant for a Saudi Arabian princess after she instructed her bodyguard to punch her plumber; at least 12 people were arrested in Texas for taking part in an animal sacrifice in a garage, where police found the remains of goats and chickens; and a bag containing 54 human hands was found near the city of Khabarovsk, Russia. One hundred thousand dollars-worth of diamond jewelry was found in a landfill in Gainesville, Georgia, and Sherpas began collecting more than a thousand pounds of garbage from Mt. Everest. A sheriff in Alabama who reportedly pocketed $750,000 earmarked for inmates’ meals was found to have bought a $740,000 beach house. A fisherman found a giant plastic duck that had been reported missing off the coast of Australia, and scientists speculated that “rogue moons,” which float through space without planets to orbit, could be as numerous as stars. Stephen Hawking, a renowned theoretical physicist who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when he was 21 and given one year to live, passed away at his home in England at the age of 76, two weeks after completing a research paper titled “A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation.”

Trump’s America (cont’d)

March 13, 2018
By Niya Shahdad

US president Donald Trump, who once called North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un a fat “Rocket Man” with a small “nuclear button,” announced that he would meet and discuss nuclear weapons with Kim, who has threatened to fire missiles at the US territory of Guam and has referred to Trump as “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” “Congratulations to all!” tweeted Trump, who fired his secretary of state and said he would replace him with CIA director Mike Pompeo, who has expressed support for waterboarding and would be succeeded at the CIA by deputy director Gina Haspel, who reportedly oversaw the agency’s black site prison in Thailand and who later drafted a directive signed by her boss ordering the destruction of videotapes documenting the torture of inmates. Adult-film star Stormy Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump alleging that an agreement to keep silent about a previous sexual relationship she had with him in exchange for $130,000 was “void” because he did not sign it.

In the United States, where gun shops outnumber all Starbucks, McDonald’s, and grocery stores combined, the National Rifle Association sued Florida for passing a bill that would raise the minimum age for buying rifles from 18 to 21, ban bump stocks, and introduce a three-day waiting period for gun purchases within the state, where 17 people were recently killed in a school shooting carried out by a 19-year-old armed with an AR-15 rifle. Two couples in Ohio sued a Cleveland clinic where almost 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos were damaged by a storage-tank malfunction, and an 89-year-old nun in Los Angeles who was involved in a lawsuit trying to prevent pop star Katy Perry from purchasing a convent collapsed during her court appearance and died. “Katy,” said the nun, “please stop.”

The United Nations human rights chief said that Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who has ordered the country’s police to ignore all UN special rapporteurs investigating the deaths of as many as 7,000 people killed in his “war on drugs” and who once threatened to burn the UN down, should undergo a psychiatric evaluation. In China, the National People’s Congress voted 2,958 to 2 in favor of removing presidential term limits from the country’s constitution, which would allow President Xi Jinping to rule for life. In Mauritius, the country’s president was asked to step down after allegedly using a credit card issued by a charity to purchase clothes and jewelry worth tens of thousands of dollars. A study showed that it took a true statement about six times as long as a falsehood to be read by 1,500 people on Twitter, and a woman was arrested for complaining about her ex-husband on Facebook. A mega-colony of 1.5 million penguins was discovered near the Antarctic Peninsula, the world’s last male northern white rhino was reported to be battling a life-threatening illness, and a club in Miami was shut down after a woman rode a horse onto the dance floor.

The Great Lisburn Train Hold Up – Belfast’s Finest Take A Line To Shame

I am in Dublin at the moment and as one is wont to do in this city on a wet dreary weekday night I went out with a few friends for a bite to eat and a couple of glasses of Shiraz in a local hostelry. And a pleasant time was had by everyone, improved on my return home by the news that Chelsea had been dumped out of the Champions League.

But more delights awaited when I opened the lid of my Apple Mac to find in my email inbox, courtesy of a correspondent who had ensconced him- or herself behind a wall of anonymity, six uniquely unforgettable photographs and an outraged press statement from those good folk who transport the people of Belfast and Dublin to each other’s cities by rail.

First the press statement:

Now the text might be a bit small for many to read so here is what it says:

Tuesday, 13th March 2018. A Translink spokesperson said:

In the interests of the safety of our customers and staff, the PSNI were called to Lisburn station last night to remove a group of passengers engaging in anti-social behaviour from the Belfast-bound Enterprise train.

We view anti-social behaviour as completely unacceptable and offer a reward of up to £1,000 for information which leads to a successful conviction.

And now to those photographs. Here they are in the order in which they were sent and received. As you can see the pics are of people disembarking onto a railway platform which I am reliably informed is the platform of Lisburn station at or around the same time as the police had been called there to deal with anti-social elements.

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3

Pic 4

Pic 5

Pic 6

By the way you will see in Pic 3 a notice on a wall informing the public that Translink operates CCTV on the platform. Now that might make for interesting viewing.

And now to this morning’s quiz :

  1. Which Belfast newspapers do the people exiting the train work for? The Belfast Telegraph, The Sunday Life, or both?
  2. Extra marks for matching these names to the pictures: Ciaran Barnes, Ali Gordon, Paul Ferguson, Christopher Woodhouse?
  3. Which of the four above had just hosted a party in Dublin for colleagues to celebrate getting a job at the BBC in Belfast? And who is now going to be very lucky to keep that job?
  4. What will the management of the Bel Tel and Sunday Life do about all this? Nothing? Or nothing at all?
  5. What will the PSNI do about the affair? See 4. for clues.
  6. So, anyone out there interested in the £1,000 reward?

Eamon Collins – More Voices From The Grave, Part One

As anyone with half a brain can tell you by now, there is absolutely no chance that the powers-that-be in Northern Ireland will ever agree a credible truth-telling process dealing with the Troubles.

Too many vested interests are opposed: the British security forces, the Provo leadership, the Unionist establishment. None have any real interest in the truth about their behavior being told, none can afford to see the full truth of their behavior exposed and each would try to use the process against the other.

If a real and meaningful truth-telling process is ever going to happen, it is more likely to happen much further down the food chain and in a much more modest way. It will be the result of spontaneous, unplanned activity at ground level, involving people who feel compelled to record recollections of their lives in X or Y paramilitary group, A or B political party, P or Q government department and so on. Some of that is already happening.

Eamon Collins

It will be much smaller in scale than anything produced at Stormont but what it lacks in that department, it will make up in honesty and integrity.

Journalists also have a responsibility in this matter. Many are sitting on archives of material, notes of conversations and interviews for instance, which they could not or did not want to use in their entirety at the time, not least because to do so might reveal who their sources were. As time goes on, the argument to release such material strengthens.

And so I am particularly glad that one of those journalists has decided to open up part of his archive and sent me some unpublished material dealing with one of the most celebrated books produced by the Troubles, ‘Killing Rage’, the story of the life of Eamon Collins, the former IRA spyhunter, turned supergrass, turned public penitent.

The book was co-written by Mick McGovern, who now lives and works in Berlin as a translator, having abandoned the journalist’s trade for reasons that only he can explain. The book he and Collins put together was eventually published by Granta in the UK.

But one chapter was excised from the manuscript McGovern delivered. Granta’s lawyers trembled at its sight.

That chapter dealt with Collins’ friend and political swami, Dave Ewins, a QUB law lecturer, left-wing activist and, according to Collins, a secret collaborator with the Provisional IRA who was allegedly involved in setting up a series of killings and attacks – the IRA killing of up and coming Unionist politician Edgar Graham and the attempted assassinations of the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lowry and an RUC Inspector and law student at QUB.

Dave Ewins

When Collins was arrested and agreed to give ‘supergrass’ evidence against former colleagues, Ewins fled Belfast, quit his QUB post and moved to Dublin where he got a job teaching law at a private college. According to decade-old internet records, he settled in north Dublin, got married to one of his law students, a student from Africa, and raised a family.

Collins withdrew his ‘supergrass’ testimony, was charged with multiple IRA offences but beat the charges. However he remained a thorn in the IRA’s side, agreeing to give testimony for The Sunday Times in a libel suit brought by Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, the South Armagh IRA leader. Murphy lost.

Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy

He then co-operated with Mick McGovern in the writing of ‘Killing Rage‘, but it was evidently a difficult relationship and the two fell out. But they also made a TV documentary for Carlton Television called ‘Confession‘ which you can watch here. Confession predated the book, incidentally, an important detail in the subsequent timeline.

Collins’ enemies in the IRA bided their time. Foolishly, the former IRA activist chose to live in Newry, on the edge of ‘Slab’ Murphy’s domain, in a republican housing estate whose gable walls were soon daubed with threats to his life. Eventually, on January 27th, 1999, less than  a year after the Good Friday Agreement, IRA killers struck.

Collins’ body, disfigured by multiple blows and knife wounds, was found near his housing estate. He had been waylaid as he walked his dogs and viciously done to death; while no organisation admitted responsibility few doubted that the IRA was behind his brutal end.

Eamon Collins with graffiti painted on walls near his Newry home

The first part of the material from Mick McGovern is the chapter on Dave Ewins that was excised from the manuscript of ‘Killing Rage‘ by the publishers, a strange decision since Ewins’ role in Collins’ life had figured in the earlier TV documentary Confession.

McGovern actually posted a summary of the chapter in an article on his blog called ‘Crypto-Gentile‘ in 2008 where I stumbled upon it a few years ago. Subsequently, he sent me the original chapter in in its entirety. I published it on this blog last year.

Ewins had threatened to sue for libel at the outset of the telling of Eamon Collin’s story but while he issued writs, he never followed them up. The Crypto-Gentile post has been on the internet for nearly a decade but Ewins has taken no action against it.

The second part of the McGovern papers are extracts from some of his interview notes on the IRA assassination of Edgar Graham. Those interviewed include the Orange Order leader and ex-Unionist MP, the Rev Martin Smyth; the former Unionist leader and First Minister in the first post-GFA government at Stormont, David Trimble, who a friend and political ally of Graham, and the RUC detective who headed the Edgar Graham murder investigation.

He has also sent me a copy of the lengthy legal note which he prepared for his publishers in Granta – but more of that anon.

A third part is an email from Mick McGovern describing a conversation he had with Eamon Collins about why Dave Ewins never returned to the UK despite Collins’ decision to withdraw his supergrass evidence and his subsequent acquittal on the charges he had confessed to.


Sunday, 5 October 2008

Queen’s University Law Lecturer, Revolutionary Communist and IRA helpmate

 A blitz of spectacular attacks in and around Belfast’s Queen’s University convinced the police a terrorist mole had penetrated the campus.

No one suspected that the quiet, bespectacled law lecturer and Englishman David Ewins might be behind the murder and mayhem.
But Ewins’s mild-mannered middle-class exterior – and the Paddington Bear on his mantelpiece – hid his fanatical dedication to the ideals of Communist revolution.
His hero was the notorious English traitor and Soviet spy Kim Philby.One of Surrey-born Ewins’s former students – the IRA intelligence officer and future supergrass Eamon Collins – had seduced him into crossing the line dividing revolutionary rhetoric from terrorist murder.
Mick McGovern, who co-wrote Collins’s autobiography Killing Rage, tells the extraordinary story that Ewins fought for years to suppress. It is based on the bestselling book’s unpublished chapter.
Collins paid for the book with his life. The IRA murdered him in January 1999.
The Lord Chief Justice stepped from the safety of his armour-plated Rover and walked towards the law lecturers waiting to greet him.
His armed police bodyguards scanned the tree-lined street for danger. All seemed quiet near the Staff Common Room of Belfast’s Queen’s University – the venue for Lord Lowry’s secretly-planned lunch with law faculty staff.
But as the distinguished lord walked the few paces to his waiting hosts, a fusillade of shots whizzed past him, slamming into a tree – and the buttocks of a passing professor – but just missing Lowry himself.
Gun-toting policemen pushed Northern Ireland’s most senior legal figure to safety, scattering the waiting lecturers. Soldiers and police soon swamped the campus and stormed the house from where the terrorists had fired the shots. Unsurprisingly, the Provisional IRA team had long fled.
Only one academic seemed unfazed by the deadly drama. The bespectacled Englishman David Ewins, a shy intellectual with no Irish forbears, impressed his colleagues with the stiffness of his upper-lip.
Even botched, this IRA attack on March 3 1982 gave the terrorists a major propaganda coup. How had the IRA got wind of Lowry’s planned visit? What – or who – had caused the security lapse?
Only a handful of trusted people had known of the unadvertised lunch. Detectives called on each of that trusted handful, including the mild-mannered David Ewins, lecturer in Criminology and Legal Philosophy, whose well-spoken English accent suggested the prosperous middle-class Surrey background into which he had been born.
They told him they suspected a lecturer might unknowingly have let slip details to an IRA-sympathising student. They asked him if he knew any students who were ‘not loyal’.

The otherwise serious-minded Ewins, not known among his colleagues for his sense of humour, had laughed heartily at the officer’s ‘colonial phraseology’ when he later told this story to one of his former law students, Eamon Collins.

yFor Collins, despite his job working for the British Crown as a customs officer, was an IRA member – and the man who had over several years slowly seduced Ewins into the service of the Provos.

For eight years Ewins fought a legal battle to prevent this story being told. His writs stopped it appearing in Collins’s autobiography Killing Rage.

But – ten years after the book’s publication and eight years after Collins’s own murder by IRA members enraged by the book – a legal ruling has opened the way to telling one of the most remarkable stories of the Troubles.

The story told here, and the quotes from Eamon Collins, are taken from the chapter of Killing Rage that remained unpublished because of Ewins’s legal threats.

The attack on Lord Lowry was only the first of several IRA operations made possible by Ewins. His information led to at least two other ruthless, headline-grabbing attacks in and around the campus of Queen’s University.

And the law lecturer also came within striking distance of what would have been one of the IRA’s most spectacular attacks ever – the assassination of Britain’s Chief Security Co-ordinator for Northern Ireland, the former top spymaster Sir Maurice Oldfield, one-time head of M16.

Collins first met Ewins as a law student at Queen’s University in 1974, the year Ewins joined the staff. In 1978, several years after Collins had dropped out of his course, he met up with Ewins by chance at a march for republican prisoners. At that time Collins was not an IRA member, but was considering joining.

Collins said: ‘David was of average height with frizzy ginger hair. He had a baby face and always looked much younger than his years. He was no more than 30 when I met him again in 1978. His black-framed glasses made him look a bit like Woody Allen, though he lacked Allen’s sense of humour.’

Ewins seemed to be wearing the same clothes he had worn when Collins had first attended his lectures three years earlier – black trousers, black shoes and an open-necked shirt. Functional, if not fashionable. Only his duffle coat might once have been regarded as vaguely modish.

Ewins was selling the magazine Hands Off Ireland!, a publication of the tiny ultra-left Revolutionary Communist Group – one of the few British groups to give unconditional support to the IRA. Ewins told Collins he wrote for that magazine and its equally unambiguous, exclamation-marked sister publication, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

Collins was impressed by his former lecturer’s radicalism. They arranged to meet again and, over the following months, became close, spending countless hours discussing revolutionary politics.

Indeed, they discussed little else. Outwardly unexcitable, Ewins’s only passion was revolution. Collins said: ‘I would never dare to ask him about his private life: there was an almost asexual air about him……

‘All I came to know about his background was that he came from Richmond in Surrey, the son of an English father who was an executive in the electricity industry and of a Welsh mother who worked in the health service. He had taken a first-class honours degree in law at Edinburgh University.’

They often met in Ewins’s one-bed university flat, which was stuffed with revolutionary books, magazines and papers. The only frivolous object was a Paddington Bear. It sat forlornly on the mantelpiece. Collins thought the previous tenant had probably left it behind.

Collins admired Ewins’s intellect, but despaired of his social skills. Collins said: ‘One night early on in our friendship as we sat in a south Armagh pub with a group of republicans, I had to point out to David that, when sitting in a group, you were expected to buy a round if other people were buying you drinks.

‘He was certainly not miserly – in fact he was very generous – it was just that he had not been aware of this social convention. At that time the thought did cross my mind: “Where has he been all his life?”‘

He felt at times that Ewins was merely an observer watching the working class at play.

Collins confided in Ewins that he was thinking of joining the IRA, but had political and moral reservations about taking such a step.

Ewins supported his former student’s drift towards the Provos with intellectual justification for the IRA’s campaign.

He told him that Communists would always support revolutionary groups like the IRA, because revolutions were an important stage in the development towards a Communist society. He regarded the Provos as a force that might help spread revolution throughout western Europe.

Ewins felt the conflict had to be spread to working-class people in the south of Ireland to get them to seize the North. The people would then create a Socialist state like Nicaragua under the revolutionary Sandinistas which would have to be armed to the teeth by Russia in order to prevent an American intervention.

Collins said: ‘I was already moving firmly towards joining the Provos, but David’s moral support bolstered my resolve by helping me overcome the reservations I still had…..

‘I was grateful to him: his analysis meant that when I looked at the breadman and the postman and the customs officer who worked part-time for the Crown forces I did not see ordinary working people, I saw agents of imperialism, class enemies upholding a corrupt system. Marxism helped me to remove their apparent ordinariness and turn them into what I then regarded as legitimate targets…..

‘He said the enemies of revolution were capable of killing hundreds of thousands – even millions – in defence of capitalism, yet through their control of the media and the churches they were able to purvey a morality which left some people feeling guilty if they killed a mere handful of civilians by mistake.

‘His words were what I needed to hear. My Catholic morality had prevented me for years from joining the IRA by imbuing me with a horror of killing. David helped me overcome the moral strictures of my upbringing.’

Collins joined the IRA in early 1979 – around the time he became a British customs officer in the Newry area, near the border with the Irish Republic.

Collins’s position gave him access to invaluable intelligence. His IRA unit began operating with murderous effectiveness. He even organised the murder of his own boss in the customs, a part-time major in the Ulster Defence Regiment.

But Collins was also targeting Ewins as a possible IRA recruit. He felt that far-left English volunteers, practically invisible to the police, could help the IRA bring havoc to England.

They could provide safe-houses, and their English accents would be useful for hiring cars and carrying out other important logistical tasks.

Already Ewins would, from time to time, point Collins in the direction of specialist electronic magazines and obscure academic publications on counter-terrorism that he felt would be of interest to the IRA.

Collins eventually asked Ewins if he could persuade the Revolutionary Communist Group to help with a military campaign. Ewins flew to England and met with senior RCG members, but returned to Ireland disappointed. His RCG comrades refused to help the IRA in military rather than literary ways. Their unconditional support for the IRA came with the condition that their role remained as cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Ewins told Collins he felt their response was typical of the ‘spineless’ British Left.

Collins used Ewins’s embarrassment to set him thinking about his own revolutionary credentials. He wanted Ewins to look in the mirror and see another armchair revolutionary, hot on rhetoric, cold on action.

The strategy worked. Ewins resolved his personal doubts in a decisive way.

At Collins’s wedding in 1982 Ewins told him about Lord Lowry’s planned secret visit – and agreed to help the Belfast IRA set up an attack.

Collins, about to set off on honeymoon, used a messenger to pass the urgent information to senior IRA commanders. The messenger, a wedding guest, had been drunk when Collins instructed him. The messenger subsequently garbled the message and gave the intended target as ‘Lord Gowrie’, rather than ‘Lord Lowry’.

Lord Gowrie was then the Deputy Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He later became Minister for the Arts before retiring from the Cabinet in 1985 on the grounds that he could not live on his 33,000 pounds ministerial salary.

For some reason the IRA leadership regarded Lord Gowrie as ‘not a bad old skin’ – and declined to sanction his killing. The misunderstanding was not discovered until Collins returned from honeymoon. By then it seemed too late to mount an operation.

However, Ewins saved the day for the IRA. He discovered that Lord Lowry’s visit had been cancelled at short notice and re-arranged for a later date. The attack went ahead.

Collins later discovered another embarrassing postscript to the story. On the night of the wedding he had arranged a bed for Ewins in an IRA man’s house. Ewins had gone to bed early.

Collins heard that the drunken messenger had fancied his chances with one of the bridesmaids and woken up Ewins to ask him to vacate his bed for an hour to facilitate the liaison. Ewins had refused.

Before staggering off, the frustrated messenger had called him ‘a cunt’.

Collins took great pride in his new recruit. He knew he had delivered to the IRA someone with the potential for bringing mayhem into the vulnerable heart of what he saw as ‘the Establishment’.

The IRA regarded Ewins as so important that they appointed a high-ranking Belfast Provisional as his ‘handler’. This man, a member of the IRA’s so-called Army Council, told Collins delightedly: ‘I would like to wrap this man up in cotton wool.’

Even before Ewins helped the Provos target Lord Lowry, he had spotted an even bigger target – the former head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service MI6, spymaster Sir Maurice Oldfield. He had followed Sir Maurice- then the Chief Security Co-ordinator for Northern Ireland – as he walked unprotected along a beach in the supposedly safe seaside town of Bangor.

However, he could not provide enough information for the IRA to launch an attack which would have dealt a severe blow to the security forces.

He made up for his failure by helping the IRA assassinate one of his fellow law lecturers, the barrister and high-flying unionist politician, Edgar Graham.

Graham, only 29, was shot in the head at close range on December 7 1983 as he chatted to a friend in University Square on his way to give a lecture. Many, including the former Official Unionist leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble, felt the party had been robbed of a future leader.

But Ewins’s most ruthless act was to target one of his part-time Criminology students, William Fulton, then an inspector in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Fulton was attacked on May 26 1982 as he entered the exam hall to take the last paper of his law finals in Ewins’s subject, Criminology. A gunman came up behind him and shot him in the back of the head.

Amazingly, the bullet went around his brain and exited without causing him to lose consciousness. The gunman then fired a second bullet into his back. Fulton fell to the floor but managed to spin around and hurl a chair at his attacker. The chair deflected the third bullet, which exited through a window.

The gunman ran off and Fulton crawled to the front of the exam hall where the invigilator was standing. It was David Ewins.

‘Ewins did nothing. He just stood there,’ said Fulton, who miraculously survived. ‘I crawled towards him because he was the authority figure in the hall, but in fact it was other students who came to my aid. Someone stuck their finger in the hole in the back of my head to staunch the blood flow.’

Fulton received a lot of get-well cards after the event, but none from David Ewins: ‘I thought that was a bit strange at the time, but I suppose he can’t be all bad, because he later gave me a very high mark when I retook the paper after my recovery.’

Fulton, who retired as a superintendent more than a decade after the attack, remembers Ewins as a man ‘without character’. He said: ‘He was completely nondescript. He would never talk to you about anything other than the subject. He never expressed any emotion whatsoever.’

After these attacks Ewins and Collins even went on holiday together to Soviet Russia, travelling separately in July 1984.

Ewins admired the Soviet Union and revered Lenin. He countered Collins’s reservations about the purges and the gulags by saying they had been necessary to defend the 1917 revolution.

The trip was not entirely pleasurable – at least not for Collins and his wife. Collins said: ‘We saw Lenin’s tomb, Lenin’s train, Lenin’s house, even Lenin’s car. My wife soon became bored with the unchanging focus of our days. She wanted to see more of Russia than dark museums and monuments to Communism. She also became resentful of the way in which David would not leave our side.

‘In Leningrad she had wanted to see the Natural History Museum which contained a long-tusked woolly mammoth which had been dug out of the ice in Siberia – discovered fortuitously by gulag prisoners digging for minerals. David was not keen on adding this visit to our itinerary, and somehow we managed not to find the museum, ending up instead at yet another series of monuments to Lenin.’

Collins was also not impressed by the Soviet system. He felt it had turned people into frightened, sombre, grey creatures.

He said: ‘The obvious repression that these people lived under did not bother David. He said that everyone had to make sacrifices for the revolution in the short-term: he felt that in the long-term little details like personal freedom would be sorted out. However, he said at one point: “I couldn’t live here. I’m too used to a privileged life.”‘

Ewins always refused to be officially inducted into the IRA (which would have involved taking an oath of allegiance). Collins suspected Ewins secretly looked down on the Provos, having an allegiance to something greater.

One of his revolutionary heroes was the upper middle class English traitor Kim Philby, who had spied for Soviet Russia. Collins came to feel that Ewins to some extent modelled himself on Philby. He had several books on the Cambridge spies and seemed to know everything about them.

Ewins told him that as a student he had spent so much time in Communist East Germany that once on his return to the West he had been taken in for questioning by the security services.

Ewins so enjoyed his two-week tour of Russia that he soon developed plans to visit another Communist paradise – Vietnam. Collins and his wife could not afford the trip, so Ewins lent them money for the tickets. The planned departure date was March 29 1985.

Collins said: ‘I met him towards the end of February. He said he planned to return to London at the end of his contract in September: he wanted me to have all of his left-wing books and papers, which included a full collection of Republican News.

‘I knew he was still in touch with his IRA handler: it was almost as if he was following orders, creating a new “clean” identity for himself before he returned home to England for who knew what.’

Collins suspected Ewins was being groomed by the IRA to supply the intelligence background for a spectacular IRA mainland campaign of high-profile bombings and assassinations.

But Ewins never got to Vietnam – or England. With a spectacular act of betrayal Collins brought his own IRA career – and Ewins’s potential helpfulness to the Provos – to a dramatic end.

The police swooped on Collins after the IRA’s most devastating attack ever on the RUC when they killed nine officers in a mortar attack on Newry Police Station on February 28 1985. It was the RUC’s single biggest loss of life during the Troubles.

After five days of intense interrogation Collins cracked. He told the police almost everything he knew, including the extraordinary story of David Ewins. He even agreed to become a supergrass. This would have involved his testifying in court against his former comrades.

Ewins fled before the police had a chance to arrest him. Republican sources had tipped him off that Collins was ‘talking’. He went to the Republic of Ireland, where he is believed to have remained ever since.
Collins later retracted his evidence, but, based on his own admissions, was charged with five murders and 45 other serious terrorist offences. Astonishingly – though everything he had told the police was true – he walked free from court after a judge accepted his claim that he had been mistreated in custody.
I first met Eamon Collins in 1994 as part of a Carlton Television team making a documentary about his life for ITV.
At that time I spoke to several of Ewins’s former colleagues at Queen’s University. Most of them did not want to be named.
Ewins had told Collins he regarded almost all his colleagues as ‘careerists’ and ‘Establishment fools’. Not surprisingly, no one described Ewins as popular. Quiet and intense, he hardly ever mixed socially with his fellow lecturers.
No one knew anything about his private life, and he was not known to have any friends – male or female. He did not encourage small-talk on any subject, and neither disclosed nor solicited private confidences. One lecturer said: ‘It took us five years to find out he was a Chelsea supporter.’
Another woman who knew him remembered sharing with him a coach journey of several hours in which he did not emit more than a handful of words, despite her frequent attempts to engage him in conversation.
Another colleague, an Englishman who spent some time in the law faculty before Ewins began helping the IRA, had felt sorry for what he perceived as his countryman’s social isolation. He tried to befriend Ewins and invited him to a number of social events.
The former lecturer said: ‘Nothing seemed to fizz with Dave. He was very even-tempered – never high, never low, always the same. You could have let off a grenade in Dave’s company and he would not have twitched.
‘He was in many ways an independent and resourceful character but in other ways, particularly socially, he was inadequate and lacked confidence. The only times we had an even vaguely personal conversation would be when he would talk about suicide. He was fascinated by the subject. He was not interested in suicide as an act you commit when you are depressed but rather as a legitimate individual act in response to the meaningless of life.’
He thought that Ewins’s involvement in republican politics was part of his search for meaning in what he saw as a meaningless existence. He remembered how once at a party a woman had launched a furious tirade at Ewins when she heard him support the occasional IRA tactic of planting no-warning bombs on public transport. Ewins did not flinch as she unleashed her fury.
At the time, this man wondered what Ewins was doing in the law faculty of Queen’s (which he described as being then a ‘very reactionary part of a very conservative society’), particularly given Ewins’s left-wing views.
Ewins did not involve himself in academic research. Over time this man suspected that Ewins had been attracted to Northern Ireland because of the ‘revolutionary situation.’
Everyone agrees that Ewins was gifted intellectually. He fulfilled his academic tasks with thoroughness and application. His courses were popular with students, if only because he took great pains to spoonfeed them, providing them with reams of his own notes.
Although Ewins was known to hold political views which put him on the far left, no one could believe that his republican sympathies had led him to become involved in political violence.
Former Official Unionist Party leader David Trimble, who was also a lecturer in the law faculty at the same time as Ewins, said: ‘We all knew that he was somewhere on the far left, but we just thought he was a slightly silly Englishman with potty views living in a fantasy world.
‘At the time of the incidents, there were fingers pointed at him, but everyone said, “Surely it can’t be him? Surely he wouldn’t have been so stupid as to set up operations for times when he would be at the scene?”‘
Rumours began circulating around Queen’s University after Ewins failed to turn up for the summer term in 1985.
The consensus was that Ewins might have become inadvertently caught up with republicans who had used him. The feeling was that he had panicked and fled once he knew he had blundered naively into a dangerous situation.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland refused to talk about David Ewins, but unofficial police sources have confirmed he was a suspect after the Lord Lowry attack. However, the extent of Ewins’s involvement came as a surprise to one of the investigating officers for the university attacks.
The officer, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It is one thing to suspect someone. It is another thing entirely to prove someone’s involvement. If we had ever had a case against Ewins, we would have charged him.’

However, one group which had suspected Ewins of involvement with the IRA prior to the attacks on the university campus was the now-banned loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association. The then leader of the UDA, Andy Tyrie, approached a senior worker at the university to tell him that the UDA had spotted a lecturer called David Ewins meeting senior republicans in Belfast.

The university worker passed on this information to the highest levels of Queen’s University, but, so far as he knew, Ewins was never asked to explain his actions.

For the 1995 Carlton Television documentary I tracked Ewins down to his workplace in Dublin’s Upper Mount Street, where the headquarters of Ireland’s two major political parties were based.

He was running a small private college which offered tuition to people seeking British law qualifications. Ewins was asked to comment on Collins’s allegations. He said nothing, then walked briskly out of the room, followed by our camera crew. He ran down several flights of stairs before hiding in a downstairs office we were not allowed to enter. He later had us ejected from the building.

In the subsequent documentary about Eamon Collins, broadcast by ITV in April 1995, we did not go into the Ewins story in detail. That did not stop Ewins suing for libel – but only in the Irish Republic. His fear of immediate arrest had possibly stopped him suing in the United Kingdom. He also sued – again only in Ireland – several newspapers that had reported the Carlton Television story.

However, we guessed that, even in Ireland, he had no intention of rushing into the witness box. We suspected his only plan was to stop the full story being published in Eamon’s autobiography, Killing Rage, which the programme advertised as a book in the pipeline.

In this, Ewins succeeded. The publisher decided the Ewins story was a risk too far for an already risky book. The chapter was cut.

Over the next eight years Ewins appeared in no hurry to defend his reputation in court. Then the Irish Supreme Court struck out one of Ewins’s libel writs on the grounds of his ‘inordinate and inexcusable’ delay in bringing the matter to court.

Ewins subsequently reached a settlement with Carlton Television and the other newspapers, the details of which are confidential.

Some of us were disappointed that Ewins had not managed to find his way into the witness box. He would have had a little difficulty in giving an innocent explanation for a lot of our unbroadcast evidence against him.

Ewins would also finally have discovered Collins’s last, and secret, betrayal.

In a solicitor’s letter before the documentary was broadcast Ewins claimed he had ‘not met or talked to Mr Collins since 1984’. But in 1988 Collins had met him in Dublin, ostensibly to apologise for forcing him to go on the run.

Unknown to Ewins, the meeting was being secretly filmed, with Collins’s connivance, by the producer who subsequently made the Carlton Television film.

Collins had been planning to make a documentary at that time, but pulled out through fears for his life. He felt he could only make a documentary and write a book once an IRA ceasefire was in place. And he had to wait until 1994 for that.

In January 1999 the IRA, on ceasefire, murdered him anyway.

A few years ago I spoke to a BBC journalist who’d met a member of the IRA team that had carried out the attack on Lord Lowry.

Only one person had been slightly wounded in that attack – Robert Perks, an openly gay Englishman who worked as a business studies professor at Queen’s University. A stray bullet had hit him in the buttocks, a fact which, he told me himself, had been viewed by some of his more strait-laced Presbyterian colleagues as a divine punishment for his lifestyle.

The journalist told me the IRA man had boasted mockingly of the botched operation’s one success: ‘Well,’ said the Provo, ‘at least we got a Brit.’

 These notes deal almost entirely with the December 1983 IRA murder of rising Unionist politician Edgar Graham (29), a lecturer in law at QUB, like Dave Ewins, who was shot dead by the IRA as he stood chatting to a colleague on the pavement not far from the law faculty building.

Edgar Graham

The immediate motive for the Graham killing were remarks he had made in the wake of British undercover security killings of two Co. Tyrone IRA members, 23-year old Colm McGirr and 19-year old Brian Campbell.The pair were ambushed as they made their way to an arms dump hidden in a field near Coalisland.
Responding to the ambush, Graham had remarked that ‘two swallows do not make a summer’ and anger at his words was the immediate reason for the IRA attack just three days later.
But there were deeper currents at work. The Belfast leadership was riven with doubt and distrust at the growing emphasis being placed on electoral politics by Sinn Fein, a tendency identified then as later with Gerry Adams, recently elected as MP for West Belfast.
The chief critic was his former friend and ally, Ivor Bell, then the IRA’s Chief of Staff. A number of incidents had happened which seemed deliberately designed to embarrass and undermine Sinn Fein’s electoral strategy, including killings and bombings whose effect was to attract dismay and criticism from potential Sinn Fein voters. Graham’s killing arguably fell into that category. It also invited Loyalist retaliation and there were no prizes for guessing who would be the prime target.
As things turned out Bell would lose his Chief of Staff job a year or so later when an IRA supergrass briefly offered to give testimony in court against him but then withdrew. He then attempted to convene an extraordinary IRA Convention with a view to reversing SF’s electoral drift but the plan was leaked from within the IRA Executive. Bell was court-martialed and dismissed from the organisation.

David Trimble, with Good Friday Agreement co-architects (l to r) Bill Clinton, Seamus Mallon and Tony Blair

Mick McGovern’s interview notes cover his dealings with three sources, the Rev Martin Smyth, then the MP for South Belfast; David Trimble. later MP for Upper Bann and First Minister in the post Good Friday Agreement Executive and thirdly, the retired RUC detective in charge of investigating two of the QUB/Dave Ewins-linked IRA attacks.
Since the detective asked for and was granted anonymity by Mick McGovern, this blog is not naming him. Nor are the names of Edgar Graham’s alleged killer and accomplice being revealed, those of another law lecturer accused of pro-IRA sympathies, a Unionist student who had to transfer to an English college because of threats, nor finally, the name of a lawyer who briefed Trimble about the IRA cell allegedly active at QUB. Michael Dolley’s name is preserved as he died in March 1983.
Even though the legal jeopardy facing Dave Ewins diminished enormously when Eamon Collins first withdrew his offer to be a supergrass for the British state and then was acquitted on charges based on his confession, the former law lecturer showed no inclination of wanting to leave Dublin.
Now there may have been many other reasons for wanting to stay south of the Border but Eamon Collins himself offered an intriguing motive that persuaded Ewins to stay and plant deeper roots in his new home.
Mich McGovern explained in an email he sent three weeks or so ago:

Re-reading that legal note I wrote on Ewins for Killing Rage – and which I sent you last year – my memory has just been jogged about another major, successful IRA operation that Ewins was almost certainly involved in, but which I’ve never mentioned before. It had slipped my mind, because I have no evidence for it other than Eamon’s speculation. However, it completely fits in to the relevant timeframe and it’s got Ewins’ fingerprints all over it.

In the legal note I wrote that when Eamon met up with Ewins in Dublin in 1988 – secretly filmed by Stephen Scott – he’d apologized to Ewins for forcing him to go on the run and for making it impossible for him to return to the UK without fear of arrest: “Ewins said that his inability to return to the UK was also in connection with ‘other things’ which he did not specify but which Eamon took to mean other IRA-related activities known to the RUC’.

I remember asking Eamon what he thought those activities might be. Eamon said he was pretty sure that Ewins had been involved in this incident in which three cops were killed.

This was the incident, as described in a pro-Unionist Facebook post:

4 November 1983:
John Brian Martin, 27-year-old Protestant, married with 2 children and an RUC police inspector died from an IRA bomb explosion in a lecture room at the Ulster Polytechnic at Jordanstown. SGT. Stephen Fyffe was also fatally wounded and died later that day. SGT. William McDonald was the 3rd officer that had been fatally wounded but died 9 months later. Insp. Martin was from Pinley Park, Banbridge. Of the more than 30 people who were caught up in the explosion, 4 of them were police officers who were seriously injured. The civilians caught up in the explosion were only slightly hurt. The policemen had been attending a criminology lecture as part of a Higher National Certificate course. Prior to the class, the room had been searched but nothing was found. The was fitted with a 12-hour timer and was placed in a ceiling panel and went undetected. Around 11:30AM, the bomb exploded. The inquest was told by the senior policeman in charge of the investigation that the “IRA’s intelligence for the operation had been very good”.. The coroner said he was completely lost for words. He said he was disgusted by an article in the Republican News which had the headline “RUC Taught a Lesson”. He said: “the IRA’s idea of teaching the RUC a lesson was to deprive 3 women of their husbands and 5 young children of their fathers”.