My readers would surely have noticed this report on alleged INLA involvement in brothel-keeping in the Belfast area. There have been expressions of both surprise and anger at the idea that republicans could be running such sordid establishments.
This is where the growing years and still active memory come in useful. There is absolutely nothing new in members of the INLA’s political tradition running whorehouses and therefore there should be nothing shocking either.
Back in the mid to late 1970’s the INLA’s political precursors, the Official IRA ran massage parlours in various parts of Belfast. In fact they ran some of them, especially those in so-called neutral areas like the University district, along with the UVF, sharing the spoils and goodness knows what else, e.g. blackmail intel on customers and so on.
The Loyalists had their own separate networks of course – a ‘secretary’ at the UDA’s headquarters on the Newtownards Road at one point was said to have been capable of creating rapture with a few spoonfuls of baby oil – and some believe that even the British Army got in on the act, setting up a massage parlour in North Belfast as an intelligence/blackmail source.
At the time of the November 1972, Four Square Laundry ambush, the IRA claimed to have raided the parlour where two undercover soldiers were killed. The brothel, on the Antrim Road was called the Gemini Health Studios.
The IRA claims were denied by the military and journalist Kevin Myers reported that he had visited the premises not long after the alleged shooting but found no evidence of a gun attack.
Anyway, the point of all this is that if the INLA has been running brothels they are only observing a long and sordid tradition.