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.

  • elfinto

    It is quite likely that the long-term strategy of the British intelligence services is to smooth the path to Irish re-unification.

  • Henry94

    Anthony McIntyre operates on a single simple idea which is that Gerry Adams is the bad guy. Everthing that happens is then shoe-horned into that theory.

  • I’ve read a lot of Anthony Mcintyre’s work but I still dont get any clearer a picture of what Anthony is all about. It is clear why he fell out with mainstream Republicanism, however his opinions and outlook seem to be all over the place at times. He has criticised certain dissident elements whom he originally appeared to give some tacit support to. His vehement and aggressive support of the McCartneys campaign seemed to be more motivated by his own dislike of the SF leadership than any moral abhorrance on his own part. I also wonder how much real value that his “insights” have today. It is now many years since Anthony left “the fold” so to speak so his opinions can surely be very limited and based mainly on conjecture. I would be interested to haer Anthony giving clear and concise details of whatever HIS own actual beliefs actually are. Have they changed? Where does he stand on the main issues and what does he see as the way forward…?

  • BogExile

    ‘long-term strategy of the British intelligence services is to smooth the path to Irish re-unification’

    In which case stand by for a few more centuries of partition.

    When facing two possible drivers for British policy in Northern Ireland – cock up or conspiracy, cock-up is a very safe bet.

    Nobody is in control of this shambles, the only game in town is a fight over the entrails to maximise political advantage.

    Sinn Fein is completely infiltrated, as is unionism. Probably a few post-Blair security wonks parachuted into MI5 above their intellect and competence have been responsible for a disastrous shambles.

    The problem with any western monolithic ideology like militant republicanism is that it simply cannot handle the normal human flaws and failures which leave it open to compromise.

    There are probably all sorts of people within Sinn Fein that hold all sorts of ambivalent and possibly contradictory views that the totalitarian leadership does not let them express in their obsession with the appearance of unity. Occasional dissenters are immediately silenced or expelled.

    Is it possible that this ‘enabling environment’ created fertile ground for the spooks to harvest a few informants.

  • crow

    Mcintyres analysis seems more than plausible.The end game far from being a united ireland is more likely the taming of SF to be just another political party just like anyother in the uk.

  • seabhac siulach

    All of these reports coming out at the moment that Sinn Fein are riddled with agents, that they were controlled by MI5, etc., are just attempts to put an opportunistic boot into Sinn Fein, when they are temporarily on the ropes. It is almost certainly all without foundation and is merely an attempt to sow dissention and distrust within the ‘ranks’, and to encourage dissatisfaction with the leadership to be (perhaps) voiced. Merely another humdrum attempt to damage Sinn Fein and the leadership…

    However, I find all the speculation intriguing. It is almost as if some (Mcintyre) are wistfully looking back and saying that the peace process was wrong because somehow (and this would require the brits to have superhuman abilities of mind control) it was all engineered in London. Are they suggesting that the alternative was better? If the British are working to an agenda that brings long-term stability to the 6 counties then so much the better. After all, it is their responsibility to do just that. The Provos have now decommissioned, in fact, completely disarmed. so we are all in a completely different situation than that of 3 years ago. That should be recognised. Sinn Fein is now much more like a regular political party. Perhaps there is another agent in Sinn Fein and perhaps not. It would not be the only political party in Ireland that contains MI5 dupes. SDLP take note! It is, however, largely now irrelevant due to the new political landscape.
    Come January and the next IMC report all of this will be quickly forgotten. It will certainly have no long term effect on the Sinn Fein vote, as in this case (in the publics mind) they seem more sinned against than sinners (or should that be more shinned against than shinners!)

    I am sure all of this is helpful anyway to the dwindling militarists within Sinn Fein and the IRA who may still wistfully look back to the armed struggle…are they to think that, but for a few informers the military option might have worked? This speculation gives dangerous ammunition to a younger generation unaccustomed to pre-ceasefire days. After all, a 7 year old at the time of the first ceasefire is now an impatient adult of 18 years…
    Further delays in the peace process and that adult may feel that there has been enough talking done.
    There is an imperative on all to bed down the institutions now. Further drift may prove fatal.

  • crow


    If i was a member of that party i would definately be thinking “who do i trust?”.I think that is a natural reaction to these agents who keep being uncovered/given up.

  • Pete Parish

    People don’t know who to believe in relation to many of these issues. The fact is Denis Donaldson was an agent for many many years. We need to question the role of the British in all of this particularly the role of M15. Gerry Adams is trying to give the British a by ball by saying this has nothing to do with Tony Blair. As thick as thieves the lot of them.

  • topdeckomnibus

    seabach siulach is probably right. Before trying to work out what MI5 have been up to. First they probably do not know themselves. Second is the exercise worth the effort.

    Here is a reference to as sinister abuse of secret service power as you might ever encounter ? And what are the spooks saying 60 years into the history ? They always thought something was going on but are not aure who was doing it in their name.

    Here you go:

    These threads often feature erudite “Ever on the touchline never on the pitch” commentary analysing strategy.

    My approach is maybe not so intellectual. It is the Musashi idea “From little know much”

    That the Security Service, Special Branch etc has protected certain people from inquiry is a situation which intriguingly seems to have extended from the cold war warriors (Unison Group) like Neave, Cheshire, Ryder, Berthoud and Sporborg through to their dabbles into the Irish security situation and on to alleged IRA activity on the mainland.

    Sporborg and Co (as you may be aware) formed their own intelligence organisation.

    It appears now that MI6 (or impeccable sources from within the Intelligence community) have begun briefing specialist journalsists after this year’s PRO releases concerning Vera Atkins and the nazi war criminal Horst Kopkow.

    It appears that MI6 (if that is the source) is saying that they too had their suspicions about GP death registration malpractice being a vehicle by which nazi war criminals smuggled to UK were issued bona fide UK identities (Leonard Cheshire Homes network)

    You may notice that apart from being the first UK organisation to set up in Moscow post cold war the other useful activity of the charity is “Post conflict recovery” … IE the caring face of UK charity going into exactly the areas where MI6 might want an intelligence gathering capability.

    Perhaps worried that Leonard Cheshire is getting “Blown” … it may be ironic that another charity (with no sainted apprenticeship claims) is now nudging into the same area of post conflict recovery … see Aegis.

    here is a link to a strange case


    If the Catholics now elevate Cheshire to the sainthood will he still be MI6 (or A N OTHER’s copycat organisation’s)mole.

  • Crataegus

    Not one of Antony’s better insights. Take a few facts and add a sprinkling of supposition and hi presto you have a full blown plumb pudding which fits an old and favoured recipe. But who knows given the fog anything could be true.

    When someone is working for the Security Services are they technically government employees or are they still members of whatever organisation they are spying on? Always puzzled me this sort of thing, rights to pensions etc.

    BogExile is probably closer to the mark, but if cock up who initiated it, who knew, who authorised and what exactly was their intention?

  • boynamedsu

    The constant implication that follows these stories is that either Adams or McGuinness is a tout. I suspect a more accurate interpretation is that the IRA leadership and the UK government have worked together sporadically, and have found their agendas converging more and more in recent years.

    Hain’s implication that a public enquiry would not be in the public interest is probably correct. Although I’m very interested in what it might find out.

  • crow


    “alleged IRA activity on the mainland.”.Alleged?

  • Crataegus

    Sorry Anthony’s (above)

    Remember read before you click, write 100 times.

  • J Kelly

    I have to agree with Henry, Mackers looks at every issue in how he can blame Gerry Adams and co. Lets look at this seriously how many republican activists have never come into contact with an informer, i would say very few. So to blame Gerry Adams and his leadership for this is crazy. Secondly there may be more but so what it will not deter republicans from continuing to struggle. Informers and agents are part of the struggle that all republicans know of from day one so Denis Donaldson may be a bit embarrassing because of his profile but he was not the first and probably not the last. An old joke in Derry during the supergrass days was I knew Raymond Gilmore but thank f*** he didn’t know me. The exposing of Denis Donaldson will in the long term not make one bit of difference to republicans he will be viewed like many before him and it will not deter anyone from continuing.

  • seannaboy

    Denis who?

  • crow


    They are not Government employees they are paid informers.

  • elfinto

    Someone please remind me. Why does the British government want to rule over part of Ireland? My personal view is that they are stuck with it due to the circumstances of history.

  • crow


    Expain why would the British Government want to give up part of the uk?

  • disgusted poleglass housewife

    sinn fein should change its name to the pantomine party, then we could all shout .he is behind you

  • elfinto

    For the £5,000,000,000 a year which it costs to keep Norn Iron on life support the UK could get itself a first class education system, health service, transport system and still afford to give money back to the tax payers. As money from North Sea oil revenues is about to try up the Treasury would love to get this money back.

    In return for this massive subvention the British PM gets to meet a bunch of squabbling politicians every few weeks.

  • lurker

    The disclosure of Denis Donaldson – who surely deserves a medal – shows that Sinn Fein does not function like a political party in a democracy. If it did, then the leader would be considering his position, having admitted the viper into the nest.
    The British project to lure Sinn Fein into ordinary politics has not succeeded sufficiently to allow for a healthy democracy within the party itself. This is bad for Sinn Fein. Is it a party or a personality cult? If a cult then it will whither away when the adored leader is gone. And if the leader’s credibility collapses before he goes then the whole party will suffer.
    If I was a member of Sinn Fein now I would walk away. What else could any responsible person with a concern for personal security, let alone democractic accountability do?
    But a good result for theparty would be for the leadership to accept responsibility for the infiltration and stand aside to allow for full internal reform.

  • disgusted poleglass housewife

    and there I was thinking brussels sprouts were just for Christmas, jasus the shinners have them all year round.

  • kate

    I agree with crow,
    ‘the end game far from being a united Ireland is more likely the taming of Sinn Fein’

    absolutely!! When the institutions go back up, most like this year at some stage, SF will be a different organisation as to what it was before. No guns no intelligence gathering no criminality, just squeaky clean democrats.

  • seabhac siulach

    “But a good result for theparty would be for the leadership to accept responsibility for the infiltration and stand aside to allow for full internal reform.”

    Do you not think that the leak of Donaldson’s name might have been done precisely to weaken Adams in advance of negotiations in the new year? To force his departure now, no matter his culpability would be to leave the party in chaos when it needs to concentrate on getting the best deal for Northern nationalists. Sinn Fein in this matter are behaving in the best traditions of a normal political party. Closing ranks, supporting the leadership, and getting ready to continue with the normal business of politics. If only others (the media, other parties, etc.) were so inclined…

    By the way, Sinn Fein is certainly not a ‘cult’. No more than Fianna Fail is with the beloved Bertie at their head. The majority of Ard Comhairle members are now from the 26 counties and it is likely that the next leader will also hail from there…

    So, all thoughts of Sinn Fein implosion are wishful thinking. A leftist party is desperately needed in Ireland today and Sinn Fein is the only one that comes closest to meeting that requirement. The people will continue to vote for it for this reason, irrespective of leadership ‘failures’ to spot a well-placed mole (shocker, the leaders are fallible!!).

  • crow


    I do not think anyone believes that sf will implode.I do not think the british government and its security agencies would want or allow this to happen (it may spawn a new and more unpredictable form of republicanism).

  • martin ingram


  • Seanno


    “This speculation gives dangerous ammunition to a younger generation unaccustomed to pre-ceasefire days. After all, a 7 year old at the time of the first ceasefire is now an impatient adult of 18 years… Further delays in the peace process and that adult may feel that there has been enough talking done. There is an imperative on all to bed down the institutions now. Further drift may prove fatal.”

    All Sinn Fein can do at the moment, is continue to take the blows. Regardless of their spin, they still look like the “fools”, and militaristic Republicans (young and old) are getting fed up with the subterfuge being displayed within their own ranks. As has been stated, all peace process strategies that forsee British concessions ass assured, that require gradual change, that promise tomorrow what cannot be offered today are SUSPECT!

    The Brits would only give way to Republican will deployed as physical force by the IRA. Without the reality or threat of physical force there was no reason for the British to deny themselves (spies, touts & informers), to accept their long Irish presence as wrong, not disinterested, or as injustice imposed by power.

    Now, without arms Britain will arrogantly continue to shape the compromises offered; when the IRA were armed the British would concede as much as Republicans could win. Those in Ireland who imagine otherwise simply do not want to pay the cost of a united Ireland.

  • martin ingram

    Hi , hope we enjoy some good debate.

  • elfinto

    Any new ‘IRA’ would also be penetrated with relative ease so all those ‘true republicans’ who condemn the current IRA for having being penetrated are bign disingenous.

    Just look at the state of the so-called ‘Real IRA’, Coninuity IRA, INLA, etc for ample proof of this. Physical force republicanism is a dead duck – not due to the activities of British intelligence – because the aim of unifying Ireland through armed struggle is unrealisable due to the unionist population.

    I have yet to hear anyone give a convincing explanation of why the British government wishes to continue running the basket case known as Norn Iron. Face facts – they want shot of it. Stop deluding yourselves. £5 billion quid a year for a sectarian cesspit. Yeah right!

  • elfinto is absolutely right when he says:
    “It is quite likely that the long-term strategy of the British intelligence services is to smooth the path to Irish re-unification”
    I understand the mistrust in the eyes of republicans.
    However remember the quote:
    “My enemies enemy is my best friend”
    Its clear that unionism is the enemy of the Brit Gov’t
    and therefore SF is the friend.
    Pincer movement. Join forces.
    Republicans need to wake up and smell the roses.

  • DK

    I too agree with Bogexile’s cockup theory.

    Anyone who has worked in large organisations knows that communication between departments can be hazy and lead to over-work or counter-work. This has happened with MI5 and PSNI. PSNI break a spy ring. Oops – MI5 realise their man (or men) will be unveiled if it goes to trial and get it dropped. They try to do this quietly and hope that SF will be happy going on about how the trial’s collapse proves their men’s innocence to probe too deeply.

    Unfortunately, SF have their suspicions as to why the trial was collapsed and start doing an internal audit. DD confesses (maybe after 20 years he was the key suspect anyway) & does a deal to keep his life or whatever whereby he sticks to the party line. Possibly DD was not the mole that MI5 were worried about, but the clear winners from the mess are SF who, although looking slightly silly having a mole for so long, have a fantastic new stick to beat the PSNI (and therefore the SDLP) with. The PSNI are the clear losers, and probably undeservedly.

  • realist


    Because a) it costs a fortune b) it’s a basket case, c) they’re all nutters there anyway d) “no one over here gives a toss wot dem f*****g Paddies do” so long as the Guiness keeps coming.

    Better to explain why any British politician with an ounce of sense and without an Empire fixation wouldn’t want to unload the North asap

  • realist
    almost but not entirely true.
    The Brits seek an honourable exit, and the Irish are much loved otherwise St.Paddy’s Day would not be such a hit in the UK. Ironically St.Pat’s day is loved everywhere except by the DUP.
    Who are the nutters?
    Paisley and his bunch of saddos dupes.

  • crow


    That is how you see it in your reality.In mine i do not think the “unloading” of the north on to south would be that welcome by “dem f*****g Paddies” (as you put it)in the south.

    You will not see a united ireland for generations if ever.

  • crow

    spirit level

    The irish are much loved around the world but respected?


    The cock up theory is the only one that fits.

    Having said that, I think the shinners are doing a pretty good job of managing the whole affair so far, given the seriousness of what has transpired.
    Sure, everyone outside of their electorate is laughing, but the shinners don’t give a toss about them.
    The point is that this has been spun as yet another cowardly attack by perfidious Albion.
    I reckon the shinners will do all right come election time, and ultimately, that is all that matters.


    Oh, and as for people criticising McIntyre for focusing on Adams?

    You can’t have it both ways.If the party uses the Gerry Adams “brand” as much as it does, both in Ireland and abroad, then he is fair game for being singled out as the target for criticism.

  • crow

    Yes i could sense some ill feelling towards him.

  • Kathy_C

    Harry Truman, a US president stated “the buck stops here” which meant he took responsibility for what happened. Gerry Adams hasn’t taken responsibility that it occured on his watch. There was an article in the Sunday Tribune by Suzanne Breen that stated Noraid had warned SF about Donalson about 15 years ago…. I find it troubling how SF has responded to the event. The DUP has demanded an inquriy…yet SF-through McGuinness doesn’t want one….the DUP state that the responsiblility and buck stops with Blair…SF-through Gerry Kelly give cover to the planers of the british spy ring and state it is faceless ‘securocrats” . Personally, I think the buck stops with Gerry Adams and he needs to take responsibility ….there needs to be an inquiry and those involved should be names….all of what I feel should be done….SF doesn’t….what and who are they hiding?

  • kate

    DK how can you say that the clear winners from this mess is Sinn Fein?? Their credibility on the streets is ailing. They have suffered a huge embarrassment. A lot of their own people are angry, if you saw todays front page of Daily Ireland you can read the hurt and confusion for yourself. There are rampant conspiracy theories about whether or not there is another agent/s inside SF, and speculation as to who they are.

    If this is what they have to do to get a new stick to beat the SDLP with, then NI may well walk away from good government.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    The buck stops with the people who infiltrated SF and ordered a spying operation against SF. As such that is the British Government and the PSNI (RUC. How exactly is that the fault of Adams. Also Mc Guinness has called an inquiry.

  • Kathy_C

    Mo Mowlam ordered that SF was spied upon…she’s wasn’t a faceless securocrat…but the northern Ireland secretary working for tony blair’s gov’t.
    So, the spying order can at least be traced at one point in time as high up as the leading british gov’t official for the crown gov’t.
    It is the fault of adams when he has not taking a ‘proactive’ approach to lay the blame where it belongs…not on the faceless nameless people…but to the head of the british gov’t. It seems the leadership of SF are more impressed with meetings with the PM than in actually laying the blame for allllll what has happened on his feet. THey give blair cover every chance they can by saying securocrats…. Funny how a political party could be so negative about one PM…thatcher and then so cosy with another…blair.