I can verify Kathryn Johnston’s account of an IRA plot to kill her husband, Liam Clarke in 1988 which she described in an article published in the Daily Mail yesterday. Several months after Clarke learned of the plot and left Belfast with his family, I was told about the plot by a senior Loyalist paramilitary leader who had himself been told about it by a senior figure in the RUC Special Branch.
In her article, Kathryn Johnston raised serious questions about the possible role in the plot played by Clarke’s then line manager in The Sunday Times, Roy Greenslade who has recently admitted being a secret supporter of the IRA and its armed campaign as early as 1972, more than a decade before the threat to Clarke.
She asked Greenslade to answer the following questions: ‘Did he know in advance about the IRA threat to kill my husband in 1988? Does he agree that by concealing his allegiance to the IRA he was lacking in his duty of care to a colleague who risked his life covering the Troubles and the Peace Process? And why, in 1995, did he accuse Liam of involvement with British intelligence and endanger him and his family?’
Johnston wrote that the drama surrounding her husband began with an anonymous phone call warning him not to keep an appointment with a source arranged for the following day: ‘Liam told me he had been tipped off about a plot to kill him the next day. The plan was to lure him to a crowded bar in Belfast to meet a source, abduct him, shoot him in the head, then dump his body.’
The family fled to London where they stayed until they felt it safe to return to Ireland and decided to settle in Coleraine.
I was told about the plot to kill Liam Clarke by the late Shankill Road UDA leader Tommy Lyttle who told me that Clarke had arranged to meet a republican source in Maddens Bar in Berry Street at the bottom of Divis Street and this would provide the IRA with the opportunity to attack him.
Then, as now, Maddens was a popular haunt for Irish music fans but was regarded as being vulnerable to Loyalist attacks and so was avoided by heavy duty IRA types who preferred the more inaccessible Kelly’s Cellars around the corner, or drinking clubs deeper in west Belfast.
The version of events offered by the UDA chief differed in one major respect from the plot described by Clarke’s widow in the Daily Mail; in her version, her husband was to be abducted, shot dead and his remains ‘dumped’. In Tommy Lyttle’s telling, Clarke was to be shot dead in Maddens. The gunman would be the IRA’s then Belfast Brigade commander who was said to be especially irked by Clarke’s journalism.
Tommy Lyttle’s source was an RUC Special Branch man who called himself ‘Bertie Scott’, a figure who appears to have had a semi-advisory role in the UDA’s upper reaches. Lyttle inherited him when the South East Antrim Brigadier died and he is believed to have played a crucial role in persuading the UDA’s Inner Council to press the West Belfast UDA to abandon a well advanced plan to kill Gerry Adams by attaching a limpet mine to his car. The British Army spy, Brian Nelson was also privy to the plot. ‘Bertie Scott’s’ existence raises the darkest of questions about the RUC’s relationship with the North’s largest and most violent Loyalist group.
You can read Kathryn Johnston’s Daily Mail article here.