Via the Pensive Quill. In this transcript of a discussion on Radio Free Éireann in New York, with John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG), veteran journalist Ed Moloney (EM) has some “stupid” questions for the leadership of Sinn Féin, British Intelligence Services, and the local media. From the transcript
EM: There’s a whole untold story of the peace process in the latter years of the IRA’s existence in relation to the influence of British intelligence – to what extent that was exercising any sort of influence in the direction that they were taking: Were they assisting? Were they initiating? You know all these questions are quite legitimate questions in the face of the knowledge that I have learned about the level of infiltration of the IRA during the early years, up to the early years of the peace process and my understanding is that British intelligence’s own estimate of the degree of infiltration of the IRA by the early 1990’s was that one out of every three members of the IRA was working either for the Special Branch, RUC Special Branch, for British military intelligence or for MI5…
JM: …Same, the The Guards in The South.
EM: Well, leave that aside. I’m just taking about the British bit, alright, and you’re quite right – there would be a Garda influence over certainly southern sections of the IRA, the Engineering Department, QM’s department in particular. Now if that’s true, and I suspect it is true, then I think it’s legitimate to ask the question: Like who’s really running the show? Is it the IRA? Or is it the British? Or is it possible that the British are, unconsciously or consciously, who knows, assisting certain developments within the organisation, assisting it on its journey knowing that where it’s going to end up is somewhere where they could never, by themselves, achieve? The IRA delivering itself up, decommissioning its own weapons. I mean this would be like fantasy land for MI5 – you know, something that they could never achieve no matter – how much they had infiltrated the IRA – but here’s the opportunity for the IRA to do this! To what extent did they assist and help that process?
That’s one of the big, big questions. I don’t know what the answer to it is. I suspect they probably did. I mean, common sense tells me that they would have been stupid not to have done that – it would have been against their interest- knowing that there were plans and ideas within the leadership of the organisation to go down this particular road.– Wow! They’re actually going to go down that road we should give them a hand down that way. I think that’s fairly obvious. But these are things that are not being discussed in the media back in Ireland, these are forbidden subjects because they’re regarded as not being helpful to the peace process. Yet, they should be covered at this point because you know – the people who were involved are alive and the sources are there and in a few years time they won’t be there and it will be impossible to do this story.
MG: Ed, let me just make one observation and then just ask you a question just as a follow-up to what John said: Number One: Just what I told you, the first time – I’m not sure I met you but I saw you. I don’t want to mention any names – but it was at Kelly’s Cellars. I’m not sure where you were working, I think it was at Hibernia at that stage, but you were getting, I was told – I couldn’t sit there because you were getting a top-level, secret IRA briefing that no one else was getting because you were viewed as somebody who would cover Republican strategy and were trusted with that kind of briefing that other journalists were not. And you went from that to the point where no one trusts Ed Moloney just in a snap! But the thing I want to get at is: Denis Donaldson, as John mentioned, was out here for a year. He turned out to be a paid British agent. He was everything within Irish Northern Aid and Republicanism was open to him. We made numerous complaints about him; about his bona fides and who he was working for. When Hugh Feeney, as John had mentioned, came out to replace him and started to undo a lot of the damage that Denis had done all of sudden Hugh Feeney was arrested (while John was at the Irish People office) who replaced him? Oh, Lo and Behold! Denis Donaldson. Again! He had no trouble getting out of the country. And what I’ve always wondered, just building on John’s question: Do you think that he was simply working for a Sinn Féin agenda or do you think that the British government, who he was a paid agent of, was really directing him to go after certain people because of vendettas and anger and the people who had been very strongly opponents of theirs in this country?
EM: Well again, it’s one of these questions that demands to be asked but how on Earth do you get the answers? You know, one can speculate about these things and clearly you look back at what someone like Denis Donaldson was doing over here, you would be in a better position than I to judge what he did, to what extent did that help or hinder the agenda that was being developed in Belfast in terms of the peace process?
MG: Well, he did a couple of things. Number One: He undermined – shook my faith – in what we were being told from Ireland to begin with. But he deliberately tried to undermine anybody who had a very strong Republican background and credentials and tried to promote people like the Niall O’Dowds and others from the outside who had been associated with Fianna Fáil and others like that and tried to give them, through relatives of his, a greater influence in term of the organisation, in terms of Republican organisations in the United States. And he worked on that very diligently and again we were told: Ack! It’s just personality conflicts. Try and work with him. He has impeccable credentials from Ireland – no matter how many complaints that we made about him.
EM: Well then, you see, that’s the sort of situation in which you would have the suspicion that his handlers were directing him to behave in a way which is going to help the agenda that had been developed back in Belfast. Clearly. And it makes sense. I mean you know if you were in charge of MI5 and you knew that this peace process was being developed at a certain level inside the IRA and you knew – and of course they did know by that stage there was so much that was going on that they could not but know – and that you knew that the end result of that would be things like Sinn Féin accepting the Principle of Consent, ie, that there would be no united Ireland until the Unionists say so, that the IRA would be basically wound down, that it will stop its attacks against the British, that maybe even it would be possible to decommissioning their weapons you would be, as head of British intelligence, you would be derelict in your duty if you did not do everything in your power to assist that process which meant that your handling of informers would be not just about putting people in [gaol] – in fact it may be the quite the opposite of that, it may be keeping some people out of [gaol] – it would instead be assisting the political direction that these people were intent on going down – you know? [added emphasis throughout]
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