According to P O’Neill (the blogger, not the IRA) the accusation that Martin McGuinness was a spy first emerged officially through Commons previlege. It has of course been a topic of conversation here on Slugger since ‘Martin Ingram‘ floated it about the time of the outing of Donaldson as a British spy before Christmas. It’s clear he is still out to ‘get’ McGuinness. However, investigative journo Michael Smith has an interesting line on Ingram’s theory:He goes back to Ted Heath:
It was Heath who sent the experienced MI6 officer Frank Steele into Northern Ireland in early 1971 to “talk to the street communities” – a euphemism for contacting the terrorists and finding a way out of the deteriorating situation.
Why an MI6 officer? Well during the retreat from empire, MI6 became expert at “parallel diplomacy”, setting up secret backchannels to the terrorists/liberation movements who were attempting to secure independence from Britain.
Then he quotes a senior MI6 officer from his own book, The Spying Game on the subject of back channels:
“Firstly, if you have an undeclared back-channel, which carries with it the kind of trust which a front channel of politicians meeting openly in order to move one step forward in negotiations can’t possibly carry – because each knows the other has his own agenda – it is easy to develop that to the point where you can have some basis for trusting what the other person’s telling you. Because they’re not completely committed to it. If they say, ‘Look, this is the way it’s going to be as far as our party’s concerned. I’m telling you this off the record. There is no comeback on me if it doesn’t turn out as well,’ then it’s much easier to develop a concept of both sides going a little further than it is possible to go in an open negotiation. Secondly, you can verify what is being said because you have got the intelligence. So when you are in quasi-negotiation with the other side in fact you are also running intelligence sources into them and penetrating them, and when they say, ‘This is the situation,’ you also have some means of judging whether or not they’re telling you something that isn’t a lie. It makes it a little more solid foundation to help to resolve conflicts.”
He goes on to argue that McGuinness remained in contact with MI6 from the failed the Cheyne Walk talks right up to the early nineties, despite the scepticism of other branches of the Intelligence world. It is this closeness, he argues, that has nurtured rumours throughout the years of McGuinness working for the British.
However, Gail Walker in the Belfast Telegraph goes further in reading around the known (and unknown) facts:
…all the arguments SF have mustered over the years to protect McGuinness from the accusation that he was a member of the IRA only appear to fuel the suspicion now that he was a double agent. The security forces never had evidence that he was even a member of the IRA. He never did time for membership in Northern Ireland. Was never formally connected with any murder, bombing, kidnap, robbery, or anything more serious than scowling. Clean as a whistle, in fact.
How could that be? Especially when everyone knew exactly how lofty his position was within the paramilitary group. Republicans have made much of alleged collusion between the security forces and loyalist murderers. But they have been less sprightly when it comes to exposing collusion between the security forces and their very own republican murderers.
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