A long history of dirty tricks?

Danny Morrison does some fascinating digging in the past of Special Branch and recounts Peter Hain’s nasty brush with the South African Intelligence Services in the 1970’s.By Danny Morrison

Who’s next, has been the line adopted by gloating republican critics in the media and by Sinn Fein’s political opponents. As I look among them I’m thinking, well, that one’s probably in the Brits, that one is definitely a mouthpiece for the Brits, and that smartass former activist over there is probably an agent or a lunatic, given that his sole objective in life is to publicly undermine the republican struggle whereas Denis Donaldson’s objective was to do the same thing covertly.

I jest, of course. But wouldn’t I be justified in thinking that way? I mean, are agents only inside Sinn Fein or the IRA? I think not.

There is an old saying that all’s fair in love and war. However, the latter part of that proverb applies only to the extraordinary circumstances of war and conflict. In peacetime different standards are meant to apply. The open palm of a handshake is meant to show that you have no concealed weapon.

From around about 1992 I was of the private view that the republican leadership should consider a ceasefire but I was in jail and had no idea how the debate could begin (without debilitating the armed struggle) and how the transition could be smoothly made given how badly ceasefires had turned out in the past.

I was not a victim of subliminal suggestion by British intelligence. Like many others, inside and outside the jail, I reached that conclusion through my own reasoning and mainly because there was a military stalemate that conceivably could have lasted for twenty years or more without necessarily improving the negotiating muscle of the movement or the nationalist people. I was unaware – until 1993 when the Mayhew/Sinn Fein correspondence was revealed – that tentative contacts had been made between republicans and the British.

Since 1994 the peaceful moves of the Republican Movement have often divided its opponents. Albert Reynolds read the Sinn Fein position more accurately than most other leaders, next to John Hume. In the run-up to all-party talks David Trimble kept going on about Sinn Fein having “an exit strategy” when in fact Sinn Fein’s policy was one of engagement, negotiation and eventual compromise.

The continued existence of the IRA and actual or perceived IRA activity was used by opponents of the peace process to try and justify their scepticism or mask their outright opposition to a just settlement. For many reasons, but also because of the actions and tardiness of its opponents, it wasn’t easy for the IRA to reach the position it did earlier this year, announcing an end to armed struggle and a commitment to peaceful means of struggle.

A political agreement has not replaced conflict and is not within palpable reach. The only people to gain from this situation are those opposed to agreement – and they are not in the nationalist community.

The war, in fact, is still being fought, though on one side only.

From 1994 the frustration of the peace process by unionists and the Major government was aimed at undermining the leadership of Adams and McGuinness. The aim was to create a split in republicanism, provoke a reduced/divided IRA into a return to armed struggle and then smash it. Unfortunately for them the bulk of the Republican Movement did not join the Real IRA but stayed in the peace process.

There are those who doubt that British securocrats would have brought down the power-sharing executive.

This is what Martin McGuinness said: “It is now time for the British to answer questions about their agents, about their agencies, and about their approach to the process.”

This is what secretary of state Peter Hain had to say:

“If there were some giant political conspiracy, how would it have been that this political conspiracy would have robbed this office of its own information, of the most sensitive kind – this just beggars belief, it would be a complete fantasy.”

In 1974 Peter Hain was arrested and charged with a London bank robbery. He claimed that he had been set up by South African intelligence agents because of his anti-Apartheid work. His sceptics said that such a scenario beggared belief. He was imprisoned, the case went to trial in 1976 and he was acquitted because what sounded like a complete fantasy was actually true.

There are many things that seem complete fantasies and among the 2,083 pages of the unpublished Stephens Report into collusion there must be many things that beggar belief, including the probability of a paper trail leading to No 10 Downing Street.

What else once beggared belief when first mooted?

British agents re-organising, re-arming loyalists and directing them to kill nationalists and republicans and the solicitor Pat Finucane.

British involvement in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.

British intelligence agents burning down the offices of the Stephens’ inquiry team.

British intelligence running an agent or agents inside the IRA’s internal security unit and directing its chief agent, in order to aggrandize himself within the IRA, to select for execution informers who had outlived their usefulness to the Brits.

The Special Branch allowing its agents within the IRA to maintain their cover by killing British soldiers and police men.

The same Special Branch allowing its informers within the UVF and UDA to kill other loyalists and fellow Protestants.

The same Special Branch which is still operating within the PSNI.

Does Denis Donaldson being at the heart of Stormontgate at the prompting of his handlers really beggar belief?

Republican morale has been shaken by the actions of a traitor. I do not know the detail of what damage Donaldson did or his selfish motivation. Often financial reward is not top of the list and most touts usually act chiefly out of self-preservation (after being compromised), become increasingly ensnared by each successive piece of information they give, and then become perversely addicted to the excitement of their secret life.

An informer only admits being ashamed after being caught; then, in the words of Maxim Gorky, he begins living “the life of a useless man”.

Undoubtedly, the detail will emerge; Donaldson’s story will come out.

If Sinn Fein has got it wrong and Stormontgate was not a malicious securocrat operation to bring down the institutions then what of the other explanation that has been proffered? Did the Public Prosecutions Office collapse the Stormontgate trial to protect an agent or agents? And to keep secret the embarrassing details of ‘Operation Torsion’? This operation allegedly involved the Special Branch and MI5, months before the arrests of Donaldson and others in October 2002, breaking into an IRA dump which they had under surveillance, removing and photocopying documents and then replacing these documents in the hope that they would later catch senior IRA figures with them.

According to PSNI Chief Constable, the documents in question contained the names and addresses of hundreds of prison officers and PSNI officers. But they were not informed at the time that it was the Special Branch who handed their details back to the IRA!

No one in the media has asked the Chief Constable or Peter Hain or Tony Blair if this is really what happened – even though it, like the Brian Nelson affair and the burning of Stephens’ offices, beggars belief and sounds like a complete fantasy.

Published in Daily Ireland, Wednesday 21 December 2005

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

  • kate

    This is good. It tackles some questions not posed before. However, its not enough to say look at all the things that were done by securicrats. Don’t they all beggar belief? Yes they do. But doesn’t it beggar belief that an organisation set up to protect nationalists/republicans can be infiltrated for so long, and so high up? And not for the first time either. Firstly it makes them look like a bunch of slow learners-have they been led by the nose towards this peace strategy? How could they not have been influenced? Aren’t SFs electorate entitled to know who they are voting for?

    As for the critics of republicans. How can it say they are all gloating and pass it off as no consequence? Is this all about gloating, or are people entitled to some answers. I remember a banner going up over city hall ‘Ulster says NO’ Paisley was Mr NO. They tried to side line him as of no relevance-but distrust ousted the biggest Unionist party and replaced them with a stronger more hardline DUP. SF needs to take note. There is an issue of trust that will not go away until it is addressed.

  • topdeckomnibus

    Danny here is a site


    It makes the point about “fantasy”, in the imaginary garden don’t fail to seek the real toad. And there is a story of pseudo military cadet groups led by apparent military fantasist adult leaders (who somehow “harmlessly” had semtex and police issued firearms certs for personal possession of two calibres of high velocity rifle and 9 mm pistol with unlimited ammo holding and round refill equipment)

    The “fantasy” continues to one of the men belonging to a group called “Unison” and having some undetermined relationship with Colonel Robert Butler (Airey Neave’s paramilitary recruiter).

    The “fantasy” continues to their being arrested but not charged for unlawful military missions into Eire and Ulster.

    The “fantasy” continues with the Pat Finucane Human Rights Centre apparently sharing the Kent Police view that the matter is best “left on the backburner”

    The fantasy continues right up to April 18th 2005 when a certain Tony Blair wrote to me, the day of the failure of Maidstone Hospital backup generator. Blairm that ray during the election campaign, had ordered that reports about sabotage of backup generators be copied to the Northern Ireland Office.

    The fantasy continues that the alleged saboteur of backup generators consistent with Stage Three Garland Plan (against whom Kent Police have been refusing to record crime complaint since 1987) was/is an associate of one of the military fantasist armed insurgents into Eire mentioned above.

    The fantasy continues that the pseudo cadet leader and armed insurgent not only served at Templar barracks Ashford in territorial army (then HQ Army Intelligence)but was an associate of the alleged saboteur. (The more things converge the less likely that the explanation is coincidence)

    The fantasy continues that another associate of the Templar Barracks pseudo cadet leader armed insurgent man, became a civilian security guard at the later bombed Deal Royal Marines School of Music. He featured in breach of security warnings given to police by worried members of the public. These warnings included the history of having approached Kent miners to try to obtain mining explosives. (The sort of thing a fantasist might do)

    Undoubtedly some of the history is fantasy world but maybe deliberately so

    here is the link again (it is on another thread)


    At one time it was an absurd fantasy to suggest that Leonard Cheshire VC was actually a wartime traitor (betraying bomber streams by IFF radar signals to Luftwaffe) and at one time it was a fantasy to suggest that the care homes he founded were an MI6 (or other intelligence) asset. And that GP death registration malpractice in the care homes may have been the means by which nazi war criminals were given bona fide UK identities

    Now it seems that impeccable intellligence sources are briefing specialist reporters that they had similar suspicions.

    And at one time it was a fantasy to suggest that the avowedly Marxist OIRA had assets in England spying for the Soviets ?

    If you then take the date of Kim Philby defection and relate that to the Operation Paperclip and Horst Kopkow matters, then that is a date when for certainty MI6 became aware of its cock up and maybe began watching the watchers or even infiltrating or collabaorating with the watchers on the basis that questions are more revealing than answers ?

    My interest is justice for Mary McGill. She died, had an inquest at which police physically excluded would be witnesses, was cremated all before her kin were told the circumstances of her death or that the inquest had sat and the body cremated. Too late for independent autopsy or legal representation at inquest.

    That is power to corrupt, and it was (small world) wielded to protect the care homes founded by Airey Neave, Harry Sporborg, Lord Denning, Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder.

    If you consider the McGill death … apparently found “Not naked not clad not barefoot not shod not ashore not afloat not indoor not outdoor” … the potential was built into that scenario to send the investigator off an a Masonic conspiracy fantasy ??

    Or if the investigator did not go off on one he could be sure to be swamped with mail from informed anti masonic members of the public ?

    Well this happened in the Gwendoline Marshall and Hilda Murrell murders.

    There is method in some fantasy.

  • topdeckomnibus

    Thank you for the interest the above contribution attracted.

    To “Bouncer” at the Northern Ireland Office perhaps you would now see to it that the promise, made on behalf of Paul Murphy after General De Chasterlain submitted a report of concern beyond his terms of reference concerning sabotage consistent with Stage Three of the Garland Plan, is kep ? Ie That Sec of State NI gives a position why sabotage was not included as a declarable waepom system in the Good Friday Agreement.

    To the human rights specialists checking out the above sites I would give you this link


    Then you should take the link to the Final Prayer of John Allen.

    I drew it up to act as a summary of remedies sought in ECHR.

    As expected I hit inadmissibility as UK was not signatory to Minnesota Protocol in 1972 when Mary McGill died.

    But you may notice that the remedy concerning ending Chief constable power to veto complaint investigation aganst officers came into force in April 2004.

    Also that to his credit Gen de Chasterlain clarified his terms of reference. This was about sabotage and about whether he could deploy to Kent to investigate Kent Police arming of paramilitaries. The Govt appears to be having it both ways. That the paramilitaries should be exempt De Chasterlain’s inquiries because they were Territorial Army. But the Unlawful Drilling Act 1819 (the law by which they were arrested in 1987 although not charged) would suggest to me that they were not acting as TA soldiers and hence should not enjoy exemption from De Chasterlain’s investigation.

    I suppose that makes the case that Tony Blair, a signatory to Good Friday Agreement, has both betrayed his duty to defend the realm (omitting sabotage from declaration and amnesty) and breached his signatory obligation to cooperate with Dr Chasterlain.

    This would mean he is bound to resign all elected offices ??


    The trouble with Dannys article is that it seems to argue that since something may have happened in the past that was considered fantastical , it follows through that any outlandish claims being made today are almost certainly true.

    It doesn’t quite work like that, but this hasn’t stopped the usual suspects from adopting the line that since Donaldson admitted to being an informant, it logically follows that he was an agent provocateur who carried out a spyring all by himself.

    Carl Sagan once said that Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof
    A nod and a wink are probably enough for those who want to be convinced, but they aren’t going to cut it for the rest of us.

  • martin ingram

    Danny is not being entirely honest here.He states clearly and boldly that he was not the victim of a British subliminal operation. What Danny does not say and he knows it to be true is that he was betrayed by other fellow IRA members. The reason that he was in Jail contemplating his life and the future of the RM was because he himself had become a victim of a number of informers within his organisation ( PIRA). He makes the point within his piece regarding Freddy Scappaticci yet fails to inform the reader that he too was one of his victims.A couple of years ago Danny requested that I meet with his solicitor and to establish whether he had a means of securing a annulment of his criminal conviction in relation to the abduction of RUC Agent Sandy Lynch. This entrapment was facilitated by a number of Agents one of whom was Mr Scappaticci.It was made clear that Danny was not surprised by the exposure of Mr Scappaticci.

    Danny himself had plenty of opportunity during his prison term and had gone over his arrest a number of times in his mind and had rightly deduced that someone had set him up.He had worked it out to a number of individuals, that said he was not brave enough to stand up and say so .He even did not stand up to be counted the day after Freddy was exposed,that said today he is feeling brave because now that Freddy as fled and Adams finds it difficult to defend his friend like he did just after Freddy was exposed.That said Adams even today finds it difficult to openly admit Freddies role, I wonder why? .Danny details Mr Scappaticcis role in his piece accurately but a little late indeed over a decade late. His fellow comrades were let down by both him and his movement. Not feeling able to debate the presence of Informers within their ranks for fear of the heirachy is not good, that said from the Brits point of view it was utopia .This fear was well founded, the leadership who had recruited many of the Informers and had allowed them to stay at the very heart of the movement not for one or two years but decades and decades. Those who created that atmosphere knew very well what they were doing, the ability of a volunteer to register his or her belief to the Security Dept was not encouraged. People like Paddy Flood did have that bravery but ultimately paid for it with their life and at the hands of British Agents.

    Danny goes on to talk about the military stalemate. Danny knows that to be a lie, the RM also knows that to be a lie. The influence and advancements in electronic Intelligence coupled with the vast army of Informers ment the IRA was fighting a losing war. The other aspect of his analysis which is wrong is to put store upon the Peter Mayhew statemnt. Danny knows that the trail to that statement goes back to the 87 period when Adams and McGuinness contacted the Brits with a way to bring this conflict to a smooth landing. This contact was WITHOUT formal PIRA Army council knowledge.

    It is probable that sections of the PSNI used the PIRA/Sinn Fein spying at Stormont to bring down the assembly. That is wrong and I think Hugh Orde moved swiftly to remove Bill Lowry after the raid because it was clear to any experianced operator that there were many other means available than turning up mob handed with a sizeable press corps looking on to remove the odd file . I am though of the firm opinion that the IRA was spying at Stormont.

    Danny seems to suffer from selective amnesia when he writes,I hope that this condition was not caused by his stay at her Majesties pleasure.

    As for Martin McGuinness asking the British to come clean about its Agents in Ireland. That has to be the sickest joke of the year.Eh Martin why dont you tell us?

  • Questions remain

    Selective amensia is not the only thing Morrison seems to suffer from when he writes. He reads very under pressure in this article. Why not acknowledge the truth?

    Martin, thank you for your points. Is Morrison still suing over Scappaticci? He has never made that very public, has he?

  • martin ingram

    No,He did not mount any legal challenge for fear of upsetting certain individuals who were trying to paint Freddie from History.

    Danny does indeed write with one eye on the truth and the other watching his back.

  • Questions remain

    What is Morrison afraid of?

  • Tai Cody

    “An informer only admits being ashamed after being caught; then, in the words of Maxim Gorky, he begins living “the life of a useless man”.”

    How can he so sure that informers only admit to being ashamed after they are caught?

    And, as to “the life of a useless man” – well, yes,face down in a lane in South Armagh, was a pretty useless waste of life, not least, when they were being put there at the behest of Scap.

  • martin ingram

    The Truth.

  • Shore Road Resident

    If I was Danny Morrison, I wouldn’t be raising the issue of usefulness in the first place.

    I see Raymond McCord Snr told Peter Hain the names of the top UVF and Shinner informers, then gave the News Letter an interview saying he’d done so, including some priceless observations on the colour Hain’s face went and the fact that “he knows rightly” who both are.

    This can’t stay quiet much longer. Like the Donaldson case, somebody is going to leak the names as a damage limitation exercise for their own faction and/or agency. Surely?

  • Shore Road Resident

    PS: Oh, that interview was actually in the Irish News. Strange times indeed!

  • SF’s cries of ‘touts’ back to haunt it

    For many years Sinn Fein and its supporters have demonised opponents with insinuations that they are informers, the lowest of the low in Irish society.

    How many Sinn Fein autocrats have we heard utter ‘these micro groups are infiltrated by spies’.

    Prior to that it was the official Republican movement, the Sticks are compromising our operations giving information to the police etc.

    Hoods are branded £10 touts, all of them, no exceptions. The SDLP are ‘stoops’, Gerry Fitt was ‘Fitt the Brit’ – people not be trusted in their eyes.

    They’re now quite good at getting individuals ostracised and mistrusted among their own gullible supporters.

    ‘Watch out for him, he’s a hairy bear’ (dodgy character). They eye those unfortunate enough to be in their hate list suspiciously.

    Well it looks like what goes around has come around for these paranoid androids.

    Maybe the ordinary Joe in the street should now point at them – ‘I wonder whether he is another Freddie or Dennis?’

    If I was a shinner I’d forget about the traditional Christmas dinner this year, Brussel Spouts (touts), no thanks!

    Turkey? There’s enough of them running around in Armani suits.



  • Yoda

    Hi Martin,

    Your post seems to out McGuinness as an agent. Yes or no?

    Why makes you believe that the IRA was spying?

  • Yoda

    Fupping lack of edit function:

    What makes you believe the IRA was spying?

  • martin ingram

    Hi Yoda.

    Well in regards to the Spying.

    The Ombudsman ( Lady) has confirmed that the Police acted in good faith ie A PIRA operation was ongoing. My contacts also support that understanding. I understand that all three individuals that were arrested had fingerprints upon the documents.

    Without seeing sight of the documents , it would be difficult to be 100% ie did these documents come into Sinn Fein possession through the normal course of business. If these documents were classified then wiithout going back to the originator it would be illegal to photocopy without written permission and a record made of said document.

    My Gut feeling is the Ombudsman is right. The way to clear these issues up and to give confidence back to Society is to have a Independant inquiry chaired by a International Judge trusted by both sides CORRY?.That said you have more chance of seeing Hugh Orde running naked down the falls being chased by a naked Barbara De Bruin.

    As regards Mr McGuinness. I think my post is clear and I stand by it.


  • kate

    What you are saying is that the RM was defeated and it had no other choice but to go political. Between the lines that is what you are saying. Yet it was Morrison that coined the phrase ‘the armalite and the ballot box’, therefore why entrap him to take him out? The lynch operation was the end for Danny, it effectly removed him from the inner circles. That doesn’t make sense. Surely if he was of a political mind as both he and you agree on, then like Donaldson he would have been more use on the inside??

  • martin ingram


    In regards to the RM and whether it was defeated. It was not defeated in the sense that it could not operate at some level, it had the capability to attack one off prestige targets like London etc although it was unable to maintain a long sustained campaign. That said it had reached a point were Volunteers were unwilling to engage operations for fear of compromise and of course the knowledge that corruption was rife was also not good for morale.

    I think you are a little confused regarding Danny, in respect to his political and his military roles.

    Danny was used extensively to pass judgement upon court marshals on behalf of the PIRA Army Council.Danny was the messenger for ” Bad News” and by his own admission he was not in the inner sanctum of those who wished to seek the political solution. His entrapment was not only successful in relation to removing Danny for years but also Anto Murray a prolific IRA man. The affect upon morale within the RM when you remove an Household name like Danny was immense.I believe the arrest of Morrison hastened the stampede to a ceasefire.

    Why Danny had is career ended is an interesting matter, that you must ask him about sometime. I suppose the same semi retirement also affected Tom Hartley?

    Now why would you work towards removing an individual. I think you can work that out yourself.


  • WOW

    Ooohhh Martin, if you are saying what I think you are saying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111

  • kate

    ‘something I must ask him about sometime’.

    Now that would be a wasted effort. As for your self, you have tried to engage Danny on his own board, and invited him to engage on the Republican Board, and now he could engage you here, but he won’t. To do that Danny would need to explain himself and he won’t do that because it would involve facts, and the RM don’t want facts to emerge. He’s not stupid.

    I don’t think that makes me confused about his military vs his political career. Politically he was of the same mind set as Donaldson.

    Can you elaborate a little as to why certain individuals would have been upset had Danny mounted a legal challenge. Are you giving him a clean bill of health as regards to working for the British. If he was a victim of Scap and others inside the movement-then he was hardly in league with them. Right.

  • W

    Wouldn’t have been the first time Scap gassed one of his own.

  • martin ingram


    The Adams camp have a vested interest in the Scappaticci case, I know Danny felt uncomfortable highlighting British collusion with IRA members.

    It is a shame that Republicans and people like Hugh Orde wont engage in a real public debate, the poodles that interview them are not doing anything for an informed society . These poodles just allow a party political speech and avoid asking those very searching questions which the average Republican /Loyalist/ Nationalist would like to be asked.

    As regards being a victim of Scaps. Joe Fenton was a victim of Scaps, he was also an Agent of the State just like Freddy. Scap has killed other Agents who had passed their sell by date, this man was a Harold shipman in a balaclava.

    As regards being in league . I suppose it depends on what your ultimate goals are?


  • While Martin Ingram says some good things about Morrison’s poor piece, Ingram should say some more about the touts, besides Freddie apparently, who outed Morrison in January 1990, and he is almost certainly wrong to imply that the Provos’s former “Lord Chief Justice” may have been somehow turned by HGM somewhere along the way.

    I would suggest that the leading tout was the person Hayward described as having helped set him up here on a drug smuggling charge – whose physical description I quoted on another thread.

    This double agent, who apparently agreed to stopping the Eksund and allowing the cull at Loughgall to go ahead in return for Hayward’s imprisonment for his various assassinations, went most sour after the cull at The Rock, making the Army Council most eager to get to the bottom of its betrayals, particularly after the flying column’s attack at Roslea, and the Brits most eager to pacify the tout who knew that he too had now been betrayed.

    Morrison was to get to the bottom of the betrayals, especially Joe Fenton’s rushed questioning and execution, but he was quickly sidelined in the Sandy Lynch affair.

    While in prison, Morrison, apparently unaided, decided that the military campaign was simply a can of worms that he no longer wanted to have anything to do with – leaving the ‘Steakknife’ issue unresolved and where it remains today.

  • Crasher

    The shinners have spent their lives whinning about all the Brits are doing to disguise their own duplicity. They have betrayed the people they claim to “protect”. The local hard men strut around subjugating their own people. Honest men like Gerry Fitt were vilified because they truely wanted to free the Catholic (and Protestant) working class people from the abuse of power by the upper classes. SF/IRA merely wanted to replace the overlords with their own henchmen and continue to make life a misery for the majority of ordinary people. They were suseptible to moles because they are devoid of honour and dignity.

    Armies always use spies and “dirty tricks” in war. If you play the game you have to accept the rules.

    the fear would be that the Britsih Government are in control of both Adams and McGuinness and are directing this sham of a peace process and going to leave the people of Ireland to the despotic fascist control of the Shinners.