Who exactly is working for MI5?

Anthony McIntyre has an op-ed in the Irish Times (subs needed) this morning. In the Donaldson episode he sees a bizarre Kafkaesque pantomime taking place, in which, he argues, Sinn Fein’s political interests are being protected by MI5.McIntyre argues that agents have “been central to British state attempts to shape the IRA and in particular nudge it towards a peace process”:

In 1983 the role of Bobby Lean was crucial. By turning supergrass and securing the temporary imprisonment of key IRA personnel, Lean changed the internal balance of power within the IRA and allowed Gerry Adams to consolidate his grip on the Provisional republican movement as a whole, opening the way for the current strategy and the abandonment of everything the Provisionals hitherto held dear.

In recent years the role of Freddie Scappaticci, a central player in the IRA’s internal security apparatus, came under sustained scrutiny. Scappaticci’s purpose as a senior British agent was to help render the IRA’s military option redundant, thus allowing the logic of a peace process to take root.

And he posits a second typology, the ‘agent of influence’:

Peter Taylor details in his book, Provos, how British military intelligence, working on the premise that “Gerry Adams would do almost anything to further his political career”, sought unsuccessfully to turn Derry republican Steven Lambert. His role would be “to pass on information of the mood within the party, attitudes of particular individuals to particular policies and to implement and push policies” devised by the British. Remarkably, those policies and the core tenets of the peace process are not dissimilar.

On the Donaldson outing:

Arguably, Donaldson was outed as a foil against further investigation. The “tout has now been exposed” dismissal “so let’s get on with the business of the peace process”, as Gerry Adams called for last week. In this perspective, the British give Sinn Féin wriggle room so that it maintains some of its ring craft rather than have it flail on the ropes, as well it might if another informer was to be exposed who, this time, was much more central in the public mind to the peace process than Donaldson ever was.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty