The Secret War that Brought the Secret to Peace

George Brock reviews Ed Moloney’s new book Paisley, Steve Bruce’s new book Paisley along with the second edition of Ed Moloney’s Secret History of the IRA while also looking at Kenneth Bloomfield’s A Tragedy of Errors, and concludes the real thanks for peace go to the spooks and spies that made it possible. It’s a fascinating read.

By 1987, when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were already in secret, deniable communication with London, the securocrats were well enough informed to nudge matters along. Adams’s interest in turning the Provos into a political force was longstanding: he first mentioned it in 1979. But his withdrawal from the pretence that killing could push Britain out of Northern Ireland had to be very gradual. A grim kind of balance between armed force and elections had been achieved with the “ballot box and Armalite” strategy. As Provisional Sinn Féin started to experiment politically in the late 1980s, the IRA also started to rearm. But Adams knew that the Armalite half of the equation was not working: the hit rate might occasionally rise but the failure rate was rising faster. The British knew that Adams knew. For besides Scappaticci, for twenty years they were running one of Adams’s inner circle, Denis Donaldson. Those two were only the stars among a network of spies that must have gone wider.

Adams was meeting internal opposition on both political and paramilitary fronts. One of the most intriguing puzzles to be solved by his biographers is this: when and to what extent was Adams aware that the havoc being wreaked by spies in the IRA was helping his cause? At any rate the British government was in a position to post a devastating warning to his opponents. Nowhere was the opposition inside the IRA likely to be tougher than in Tyrone. In 1987, at Loughgall in East Tyrone, the SAS ambushed and killed an eight-man IRA unit attempting to demolish a police station, killing more “volunteers” in a single incident than at any time since 1921. Up to the year 2000, the IRA in Tyrone had lost fifty-three people; but twenty-eight of those died between 1987 and 1992.

In other words, after Loughgall, they were being killed five times faster. This acceleration could be a coincidence, but that hardly seems possible. Despite appalling headline atrocities, the numbers revealed that the Provisionals were nearly finished everywhere they operated. In the summer of 1988, they killed soldiers at twice their average rate. In 1989, they killed twenty-four; the total halved in each of the next two years.

This sequence of events is important for an understanding of the long last act of the drama. Many accounts of the “peace process” suggest that Adams turned the IRA towards elections; many leave his exact motives for this switch mysterious. Somehow the hard man softened.

Read more: Who really brought peace to Belfast?

Correction, the Paisley book being reviewed is Steve Bruce’s, not Ed Moloney’s – thanks, John (below, #6).

  • Richard English wrote very much the best subjective history of the IRA.

  • Garibaldy

    The theory put forward here – it was the spies what won it by forcing the Provos along the political path – seems to me mistaken. For the simple reason it denies agency to those within the Provos who wanted the shift to greater power that came with electoral success. It was neither the spies, nor the loyalists, but the Provos themselves who were responsible for the decision to change tack.

  • Rusty Nail.

    Erm…? ”

    “Many accounts of the “peace process” suggest that Adams turned the IRA towards elections; many leave his exact motives for this switch mysterious. Somehow the hard man softened”.

    If this is some sort of thinly veiled way of implying that Adams himself may have been an informer, then it is surely Sunday World style juvenile journalism at it’s worst. Surely a lead contributor on this site should be above such such drivel…

  • Jo

    “Nowhere was the opposition inside the IRA likely to be tougher than in Tyrone.”

    ..not south Armagh, then?

    Or was that where the forcefulness was all bluff?

  • Paul

    Jo

    “Nowhere was the opposition inside the IRA likely to be tougher than in Tyrone.”

    It’s easy to say that as it fits nicely with what happened in Loughgall.

    The IRA and Sinn Fein were coralled ?

    Hmmmm makes you wonder why the Brits let Canary Wharf happen using that logic.

  • Rusty,

    You’re a bit off there. It’s Steve Bruce’s biography of Paisley that Brock reviews, not Moloney’s. He does, as you mention, include Moloney’s Secret History of the IRA (2nd Edition) in the review.

  • macswiney:
    “If this is some sort of thinly veiled way of implying that Adams himself may have been an informer,”

    I actually read “Adams turned the IRA towards elections; many leave his exact motives for this switch mysterious.”, in the context of the above post, as questioning whether Adams felt that the IRA were running out of options and/or puff rather than questioning his allegiance. Perhaps that was naivety on my part.

  • Jo

    Motive is notoriously an extremely difficult thing to prove in court…

  • Dec

    Despite appalling headline atrocities, the numbers revealed that the Provisionals were nearly finished everywhere they operated. In the summer of 1988, they killed soldiers at twice their average rate. In 1989, they killed twenty-four; the total halved in each of the next two years.

    Nothing to do with the British army deploying better body armour and the IRA’s aging arsenal of automatic weapons becoming increasingly outdated or indeed a change of tactics (see below).

    At any rate the British government was in a position to post a devastating warning to his opponents.

    Similarly, the IRA was able to post it’s own devastating warnings (Bishopsgate, Baltic exchange, Canary Wharf and Manchester bombings which caused over £2.3 Billion worth of damage) to its opponents.

  • Jo

    ..there was also the series of one-shot Barrett attacks carried out by Mr Caraher.

  • perci

    who is going to bring peace to SA? because according to the locals it aint happening (Quinns)

  • Beano,

    I think it was naivety to be honest. Adams has been quoted in several interviews since the original ceasefire as saying that the IRA (i.e. in 1996) felt that they could have perpetuated their campaign indefinitely. Rusty Nail’s comments were actually a (nauseous) attempt to imply that Adams himself had draqmatically changed his political path for somewaht ‘mysterious’ reasons.

    It’s exactly the same sort of bull that the Sunday World put out 2 years ago when they ran a lead article implying that Martin McGuiness was MI5’S number one spy in the North. Typical politically-motivated fantasy from Messrs McDowell and Campbell whose main circulation seems to derive from the more socially-deprived aress of loyalist Greater Belfast.

  • Rusty Nail

    Macswiney:

    You will have to take the phrasing up with George Brock of the Times Literary Supplement, as he wrote the phrase you differ with, not I.

    In addition, I read it as suggesting not that Adams was or is an informer but that the level of informers and agents in the IRA so compromised its military capabilities that it forced Adams’ hand as it were, and was perhaps an over-riding aspect of what prodded him into the direction of politics and therefore is what accounts for the change in direction or as he puts it, what softened the hard men.

  • Rusty Nail,

    It was actually you who decided that George Brock’s quote was worth inclusion in your thread, therefore for you to now distance yourself from his comments, seems to me to be somewhat disengenuous.

    Furthermore, you admit that the general ‘steer’ of your lead thread was related to the alleged fear of informers which you say that both governed and informed Adams subsequent decision-making.

    Your overall analysis also seems particularly naive, bearing in mind that Adams had been often quoted (in the decade before) about his aim to ultimately pursue a political path towards Irish Unity. Your definition of Adams (at that time) as being one of the ‘hard men’ of Republicanism also seems particularly out-of-touch as he is widely credited with being the main influence in turning the actual ‘hard-men’ towards the political path which ultimately changed the entire situation on the island.

  • steve

    The IRA has proved time and again a devastating ability to change weapons and tactics when the ones they have no longer work. To say that they were corralled is silly, they just hadnt found a new tactic and perhaps hadnt even looked for one before accepting the surrender of unionists via the british government

  • Mick Fealty

    mac,

    It’s the TLS for goodness sake! If I’d seen it, I would probably have blogged it too.

    In truth no one knows any of this stuff for sure. The IRA can’t go for full disclosure to put speculation out of play. In lieu of that, people can only speculate logically about what might or might not have been the case.

    In which case, I’d be looking for inconsistency or illogic if I were running a critical rule over the piece. So please, get stuck in (to the article, rather than the blogger);-))!!

  • Garibaldy

    Mac,

    You don’t think Adams was one of the hard men? How do you think he got where he was then? His charm and wit?

  • Harry Flashman

    I have to admit that when I read Maloney’s book and the particular emphasis he puts on the capture of the Eksund and the wiping out of East Tyrone PIRA I thought his implication was that Adams was the whistle blower, maybe I read it wrong but it certainly came across very strongly indeed.

  • Rusty Nail

    I am not distancing myself from his comments; I was clarifying that I did not write them as it appeared from your posts you were under the impression that I did.

    Adams has also claimed that he was never in the IRA, so that begs the question, in relation to your citing Adams’ claim [in “interviews since the original ceasefire”] “that the IRA (i.e. in 1996) felt that they could have perpetuated their campaign indefinitely”, how would he know? (which is of course disingenuous on my part as of course he was in the IRA, but goes to show that what Adams says is not exactly what Adams does).

    My “steer” (if any) was not about an alledged “fear” of informers. I am suggesting that if Adams’ key people (such as the IRA’s security department and members of his “think tank”) were British agents and informers, as it turns out they were, that accounts for his change in direction on two fronts: both the running down of the IRA’s military campaign, which would have been evident as its capabilities were reduced no matter what brave face Adams put on for the party faithful (the facts belie the spin); and the kitchen cabinet strategising being conducted amongst people who were working to a British agenda. If Adams was outnumbered in those strategy and policy meetings by British agents 4 to 2 that could not but have an effect on the direction the movement moved in and the influence on Adams’ political thinking, as would the IRA’s increasing inability to persecute an effective and sustained campaign.

    This ‘unseen hand’ as it were must be examined as a contributing factor towards the turning of a Titantic in the bathtub that Adams achieved in his leadership of the Provisional Republican Movement.

    Perhaps that may be a naive analysis, I am inclined to view it as cynical, and see a neat dovetail of interests between Adams’ desire for politics and the British government’s need to neutralise the IRA.

  • Ok then,

    If you want me to get stuck into the article, rather than the blogger, I will start (and finish) with:

    “the numbers revealed that the Provisonals were finished nearly everywhere they operated”.

    If this is deemed to be an informed crtical analysis, then revisionism is truly in full flow…

    As for the general insinuation that ‘spying’ was a one-way process, then surely such an assumption is spectacularly naive. It is generally acknowledged that the Republican movement also recruited many informers who passed information to them (both within the police and local government circles).

    This (I am quite sure) had no influence whatsoever on British Government Policy towards the North. So, why then should the reverse be deemed to be true??

  • Rusty Nail

    Here is the problem with the Provos recruiting informers. The people those informers were reporting to ended up being informers themselves, and if not them, a number of the people who the information was brought to and implemented into policy and strategy were working for the British. So in effect that rendered those informers useless and likely accounts for why, as you say, that had no influence on the British government’s policy towards the north. In fact, it could be argued that the British used that as a backdoor way to influence Provo policy and politics.

    As to why the reverse should be true, one need only look at the [alleged] informers surrounding Adams to understand.

    Adams’ bodyguards;
    Adams’ driver;
    Members of his think tank;
    Relatives of Adams;
    Key IRA personnel (for example the security department);

    You could imagine his day and realise a strong percentage of the people he had political and policy interaction with were [secretly] working to a British agenda.

    Given that we have been told that the numbers of informers and agents in the Provisional movement is enough to fill 10 filing cabinets with, and that is just what Eames & Bradley have been made privvy to (c.f. Brian Rowan), certainly not the full extent of the penetration, it should be easy to see how the British government could have a huge influence on Adams’ steerage of the Provisionals.

    A bit of a tangent:

    One can also certainly understand why the IRA baulked at meeting with Eames & Bradley. A more uncomfortable meeting could not be imagined: Agents and informers named in security force paperwork E & B and their team have examined which detailed some of what they got up to sitting across the E & B team in their role as an IRA representative – how on earth would they conduct themselves? And how would they proceed to ask E & B about what they know?

    “So….tell me about British collusion and what you have found out….am I in there anywhere?…”

    yikes! No wonder they said no! (Or perhaps, were ordered to; imagine the poor chump sent to the meeting who then unwittingly finds out how many of his comrades and leaders are informers – that’s far too big a risk of exposure to take! Talk about CYA! Pull out the oul Republican rhetoric instead and hope no one notices…)

  • Rapunsel

    One thing on this . Loughall is not in East Tyrone but in Armagh. Find it hard to take things seriously when basic facts of geography are incorrect

  • steve

    Rusty Nail

    As for your tangent, why should the IRA be forthcoming with these 2 lackeys of the english government when the english government itself is not being honest or forthcoming with them

  • kensei

    both the running down of the IRA’s military campaign, which would have been evident as its capabilities were reduced no matter what brave face Adams put on for the party faithful (the facts belie the spin);

    If you check the cross tabulation on deaths at CAIN, there is a drop in the number of people killed by republicans after 1991, and the numbers of British security killed drops after 1989. It isn’t dramatic though and I think to suggest that the Provisonals were finished nearly everywhere they operated is either naivete or wishful thinking. It also doesn’t take into account potential advantages of technology or tactics either, and personally I’m glad we didn’t get to see what the IRA would come up with in an era of mobile phones and cheap technology.

    No doubt Adams used the difficulties and problems with informers to his advantage in getting the organisation to go where he wanted; but all leaderships try to take advantage of situations.

  • Peter Taylor’s “The Provos” was an early part of my politicicisation, particularly as one of the main protagonists was a college mate of mine at the time.. although I never forgave him for publicly humiliating me at a book signing in Hodges Figgis afterwards when as a poor student, I could just about afford the fiver door charge, and he refused to sign my scrappy folscap insisting I buy his new book “The Loyalists” instead..

    Tim Pat was much more avuncular buying me pints in Doyles as he signed my first and second edition “IRA” books..

    Anyway congrats to my fellow polblog nominee, best of luck and make sure to say hello on the night –
    What say we polbloggers get together beforehand, lobby drinks around 7??

    Drop me a line or comment back to confirm..?

  • Red Diesel

    Here’s an interesting question in the context of the relative power of military versus political thinking in the 1987-89 period. All the intelligence analyses suggest that the Libyan arms shipments amounted to several thousand AK47s and massive amounts of ammunition. A relatively low fraction of those was captured over the years, and it is generally assumed that the greater part of the shipments remained in centrally controlled dumps far to the south of the border. The appetite of the average border unit or brigade command for arms was absolutely insatiable – historically there has always been pressure from the bottom on HQ for more and better weapons. How was the PIRA leadership able to hold the line against such pressure? And indeed why? It is true that managing demand for weapons was a powerful instrument of discipline, so it is possible that the army leadership felt that it needed to hold tight to the weapons or power would slide downwards. But it seems much more likely that the primary motivation was political – the conviction that there would be no military outcome and that more weapons would mean more deaths, more captures, probably more indiscipline and no political gain. There must have been pretty solid support from this strategy even at brigade level fairly early, otherwise a heave against a leadership holding back on weaponry would have been more or less inevitable. There are other questions. If penetration was as deep and wide as suggested, how come more weapons were not captured? Unless of course the British had pretty solid assurances that the big dumps would not be opened. And is there any possibility that the East Tyrone Brigade did not accept the tight attitude to weapons distribution? Was that why they were targeted – because they were planning a heave?

  • “Peter Taylor’s “The Provos” was an early part of my politicicisation”

    Yes. An interesting book that. A book about the IRA that barely mentions any of their atrocities.

  • DC

    Rusty Nail, you say working to a ‘British agenda’.

    It would be wise to press that it wasn’t so much British as more multi-sovereign in its approach as what we have today is an acceptable and agreed peace. In terms of co-ordination a good show of this approach was delivered in 1985 via AIA so come 1988 onwards, much of the IRA decline as per the article, must have been part of a wider push to reconfigure politics to the tune of the two governments.

    Yes the Brits wanted to neutralise the IRA but that alone would only ever play a small part in a much wider political picture of inter-governmental negotiations that would in the end lead to success.

    Everyone, Republican or otherwise, has their own particular part to play. Indeed.

  • By 1987, when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were already in secret, deniable communication with London, the securocrats were well enough informed to nudge matters along.

    But were all the securocrats trying to nudge matters in the same direction:

    MI5 Director-General Stella Rimington was a hardliner who briefed Prime Minister John Major that McGuinness and Adams were IRA members and could not be trusted. Privately, senior MI6 officers accused their MI5 counterparts of being ‘a bunch of idiots’ whose efforts had sabotaged the process (MI6, Inside Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, by Stephen Dorril, p741)

    It doesn’t sound like Rimington felt she had Adams under the thumb, does it?

  • I think some people are misunderstanding the importance of the informers in the PIRA. The most important role they played was not to give up IRA operations, as bad as that was. What they achieved was to give absolute confidence to the British Cabinet when it came to negotiating with the Provisionals.

    Thus once the Adams leadership decided the war must end, [however they reached that decision] the British were able to make their subsequent judgement and decision on stone hard information. When the Adams negotiators lied the British side new it, when they told the truth the British new it. when they were bluffing the British new it, etc etc.

    Any one who has ever engaged in negotiations, whether as a trade unionist or businessperson will know the massive advantage this would give the British.

    For the Provos the war was going bad in the late 1980s, seasoned volunteers where being killed and captured men where going back into prison, often for the second time around, always a bad sign. Yes the Provos could have continued the war indefinitely and there would always be young Irish people willing to sacrifice their lives for the struggle. [one only has to look and the RIRA to understand this]

    But what all thinking Republicans understood was that bar some unforeseen circumstance, they could not win and gain from the British a declaration to withdraw. After 20 plus years of war it became obvious that the British state was prepared to hunker down and fight the Provos indefinitely, and as important the Unionist community was prepared to suffer what ever the Provos did rather than concede.

    The overwhelming majority of British informers were not agents of influence who were in positions to influence Provo strategy, although undoubtedly some were,[DD] they were informers, they provided information, which in war and politics is gold dust.

    Of course we will all express horror and shock when a senior member of SF is eventually revealed as a tout,as they undoubtedly will be, for those in leadership positions are just as liable to tout as rank and file people, but they and all the other touts put together are not the reason the war came to a close.

    Without going into fine detail there were flaws from the beginning in the long war strategy and the reason it failed was because it had run its cause without achieving its aims. I remember watching Adams carry yet another volunteers coffin back in the late 80s and thinking how many coffins is one man expected to carry.

    That the provos fought for four decades tells one just how solid the overwhelming majority of PIRA volunteers were, for they showed more stamina and steadfastness than all previous generation of Irish republicans put together, and that is saying something.

  • topdeckomnibus

    I liked the comment above that spying is not a one way process.

    In 1971 105 soviet diplomats were expelled. At that time there were individuals, in England, suspect listed as “IRA gaining information of use to the Soviet”

    One such in Suffolk appeared to be gaining information about Cobra Mist, RAF Wattisham and Marham, RN Submarines, Polish members of RAF seconded to listening post interpreter duties, USAF Bentwaters and Lakenheath and any activity at the HQ of the Sue Ryder charity (at the time charity founders Airey Neave and Sue Ryder were “Releasing” 1200 men from German postwar internment). He also socialized widely including in the Clement Freud social scene at Walberswick.

  • topdeckomnibus

    forgot to include Defence cuts affecting Army helicopter capability 1968 (when first mentioned) and 1970 (when defence cuts occurred).

  • topdeckomnibus

    The defence cuts involved a demob unit commanded by a Captain John Cornwell. Later captured by IRA and returned unharmed to British Army as more use to IRA left in situ !

    If I were to write a book of faction it would include a story of someone, who had cause to dislike an officer, planting his own disinformation on the suspect IRA asset in Suffolk and then laughing his socks off when an officer is seized and humiliated by being returned to service as more use to the IRA left in British Army.

  • joeCanuck

    I don’t remember ever reading any “true” book on spy rings without the case of double agents arising.
    Were there no IRA double agents? Why did some “outed” people get murdered and others didn’t?
    Similarly, there had to be numerous people on the British side who had Irish republican sympathies. Did none of them pass on information?
    Then, of course, there were the purveyors of disinformation (ding ding) who tried to sow suspicion.
    Murky business. Take any or all of it with a pinch of salt.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Mick

    >>Of course we will all express horror and shock when a senior member of SF is eventually revealed as a tout,as they undoubtedly will be, for those in leadership positions are just as liable to tout as rank and file people<

  • joeCanuck

    We now know that secret talks went on between the British Government and senior IRA figures for quite a long while.
    By the very nature of these things, information exchange has to occur for matters to progress.
    When, if ever, does such information exchange become “touting”?
    The people involved, Adams and McGuiness, took considerable risks with their own side that they could have the finger of suspicion pointed (ding ding).
    It has been, and since it is impossible to prove a negative proposition, there will always be some doubt in some people’s minds.

  • When the Adams negotiators lied the British side new it, when they told the truth the British new it. when they were bluffing the British new it, etc.

    If that is so why were there such sharply differing interpretations within the British intelligence agencies.

    I can’t help wondering who benefits from this picture of the British state as an omniscient, omnipotent monolith.

    Surely any realistic consideration of republican options has to include an analysis of the nuances and the debates on the other side.

    There is plenty of evidence of quite profound differences throughout the Troubles, and indeed remarkably similar divisions about the war on terror today.

  • ingram

    Joey,

    No disinformation mate and like Father Faul said in his final passing moment ….He is a TOUT

    Like Eamon McCann said on American radio when asked about why Martin re-introduced an already exposed British agent back into the IRA and to be the sole custodian of a major cache of IRA munitions.

    I accept we all knew Franko was a tout and why McGuinness asked him to return against the wishes of Derry Brigade commanders will always remain a puzzle!

    Unquote

    Then again Martin and Freddy did make a good team LOL

    And to nail the most prolonged killing machine ( Freddy) gives me immense pleasure futher, to have Sir John Stevens agree with me six months after I wrote in the Irish News about quote institutionalised collusion unquote also brings great personal satisfaction.

    The book Stakeknife just added icing to the cake..

    Sit back and wait for the great Smithwick Tribunal LOL

    Ding Ding a Ling

    Marty

  • perci

    not at the conference martin 😉

  • susan

    Ingram, the only direct quotes I’m aware of by Monsignor Faul on his deathbed concerned a last plea for anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of the bodies of the Disappeared to take responsibility and share that information. That was certainly in character and in keeping with his final years.

    To attribute dying last words to an individual without attributing a source seems less than gallant — disrespectful to the life and death of the deceased.

  • pol kent

    We may get an insight when Mickey McKevitt releases his book. Does anyone know if the legal issues on the book have been sorted out yet??

  • Mark McGregor

    Woohoo. Black ops are back on. Seems SF didn’t even get a deal on that from St Andrew’s

  • To attribute dying last words to an individual without attributing a source seems less than gallant— disrespectful to the life and death of the deceased.

    It’s a well-known propaganda technique:

    In Elizabethan England, to weaken the opponents of Protestant religious reform, one of the queen’s councillors authored a “report” from an English Catholic to the Spanish Court that intentionally exaggerated English military strength and English Catholic antipathy to the pope. The ostensible author, an English Catholic who had not been executed, was not in a position to deny its authenticity.

    The above quote is from the discussion of forgery as a black propaganda technique on page 155 of Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: US Covert Action and Counterintelligence by Iran-Contra veteran Roy Godson.

    As it happens, Roy’s younger brother Dean Godson is the only source I know for the claim that Fr Faul suggested McGuinness was an agent, a claim that I have analysed at length here.

  • Doh! Obviously, the above should read:

    The ostensible author, an English Catholic who had been executed, was not in a position to deny its authenticity.

  • I can’t help wondering who benefits from this picture of the British state as an omniscient, omnipotent monolith.

    Tom G,

    I never said the British State was an omniscient, omnipotent monolith, indeed I pointed out that for decades it was nothing of the sort, and of course during the first decade and more there were debates on the British side around what strategy they should pursue, indeed in a Times book review that Rusty Nail posted up earlier on Slugger, a leading northern civil servant says as much.

    But once the Provos sued for an ending of the war, the surprising thing is just how few real difference there appears to have been on the UK side. Even Canary wharf etc never took them away for long from the negotiating table.

    I believe this is because the touts allowed them to understand the mindset of the Adams leadership. That the British governments aims and Adams aims, i e the ending of the war ran in parallel, is why they conceded the release of prisoners at such an early date in the negotiations.

    It is also why I said there was a fatal flaw in the long war strategy, for the longer the war went on, the more powerful side militarily/economically was always going to gain the upper hand. We are not talking about like with like here, so there is no shame in that. The fault line in the long war strategy was to believe, until it was to late that the war could be won militarily.

    Never the less only a fool would believe this ancient struggle is over and it is still far to soon to decide who will be the absolute victor, if any.

  • susan

    Tom, thank you for the links, both to Dean Godson’s piece, which I’d never read, and your own analysis. I need to read through both again — and shall, in the near future.

  • Prince Eoghan

    I am not saying there is a tout in the top rank of SF, just that it would not be surprising if there was one, for anyone could have become a tout if the British state had the means to pull their chain, and I mean anyone. Again the longer the war went on the more likelihood it was that at least one tout would end up in the top leadership.

    Anyone who believes, if the circumstance are right such a thing could never happen to them is a fool. human beings have love ones who can be threatened, human weaknesses, hates and dislikes that can be used to entrap. Never forget that the British sent thousands of people like ‘martin ingram’ across to Ireland to spend every waking hour to entice, entrap and corrupt people to betray their own.

    As the late Brendan Hughes once said, touts to are victims of the British in Ireland.

  • I never said the British State was an omniscient, omnipotent monolith, indeed I pointed out that for decades it was nothing of the sort, and of course during the first decade and more there were debates on the British side around what strategy they should pursue

    Fair enough, but perhaps the point is that debate was resolved in favour of the hardliners, at a time when Britain was moving sharply to the right. Indeed, with Ulsterisation, perhaps Britain moved to its own long war strategy first.

  • Fair enough, but perhaps the point is that debate was resolved in favour of the hardliners, at a time when Britain was moving sharply to the right. Indeed, with Ulsterisation, perhaps Britain moved to its own long war strategy first.

    Tom Griffin

    Excellent point

  • Martin,

    Good to see you blogging again!

    Have you heard anything regarding a certain senior sf/pira operative from Kerry who might be the next to be outed? Another keen fisherman from what I have been told. Used to boats too! lol

  • susan

    Tom Griffith, reading your piece again, I was struck by a question you ask that often echoes around my head reading Ingram, “Fulton” and others. To quote you: “the most startling element of his allegations is the suggestion that MI6 was involved in planning attacks on the British security forces.”

    For awhile, notably while there was still a question mark over both whether and when power-sharing would be restored, there was so much of this — the Donaldson revelations, Ingram dinging ’round the clock, “Fulton” and his trips to NY to build better remote control bombs , etc. — I actually wondered if we were witnessing something of an orchestrated public relations war of attrition — revelations so sure to anger republicans, nationalists, unionists, army veterans, and even the most casual admirer of the rule of law that the whole lot would bellow for a deal on a devolved government.

    I still don’t know what to make of it.

    Reading through Dean Godson’s obituary of Msgr. Faul more slowly I’m more rather than less puzzled by it — for example, I haven’t a clue what he means by this:

    “But too many of the chosen clerical partners of the British state in Ulster were far more Anglophobic and subversive than Faul.”

    Why is Godson simultaneously trying to lend credence to contemporary (contemporary to the time of Faul’s death) doubts about McGuinness, and at the same time to present Faul as almost an underutilised agent of the British himself? (And to those who would argue that Faul was an underutilised agent I would remind you of the scrupulously researched pamphlet Faul wrote and researched at the time of the fatal shooting of Majella O’Hare, a great deal of which is easily accessible on line through the CAIN site:

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/other/1976/murray76.htm#contents

  • Steve

    Susan

    Don’t worry ingram is a figment of his own imagination and an MI5 wet dream

  • I don’t think you can read too much into this, particularly given the number of people Godson talked to, but Denis Donaldson is mentioned in the acknowledgements of his book on Trimble.
    Also, according to an article, I can’t locate right now on The Times website, Bill Lowry was at the launch.

  • joeCanuck

    Many apologies to all folks here for apparently having awoken van Winkle.

  • Danny

    Weren’t the top dogs in the East Tyrone IRA planning on breaking away around the time Loughgall happened?

  • susan

    Tom, thanks. I won’t read too much into it, as you say, but that is interesting about Lowry. Remarkable how often a relatively small cast of characters seemed to converge.

    I actually agreed with Jim Gibney’s point last week that
    “Informers should be seen not just in a military frame but also in a propaganda one.” What I did find specious was when Gibney went on to argue that the propaganda aim was to demoralise republicans and distract them from how swimmingly well everything is going. But clearly when informers are deliberately revealed it does distract the mainstream media from other matters, it puts any remaining informers and/or agents there may be under pressure to cooperate fully to protect their identies, and gives those most resistant to power-sharing with republicans some reassurance, through physical evidence of strings being pulled behind the scenes, that things are not what they seem.

    So Donaldson’s identity was revealed around the time the O’Loan report on collusion was expected to be finally published, and when clearly the goal of the central gov’t was to see a deal cut and the Assembly restored. A goal, it is important to remember now, that always meant more to the gov’t then to the rank and file of either of the two largest parties, the DUP and SF.

    Now again there’s pressure mounting to do a deal on policing and justice to the devolved gov’t. And coincidentally or now it is publically revealed that one of Adams’ drivers was an informer, there was another item Ingram linked indicating in turn one of Thatcher’s driver’s may have been a PIRA agent, and (again coincidentally or no, I’m sure Ingram will supply his own reasons) Ingram is returned to Slugger with a “dinging” in all our ears.

  • Actually, I think the aim of demoralising republicans would be consistent with Roy Godson’s writings on deception:

    The double agent’s handlers then have the option of sowing confusion in the adversary’s camp. By co-ordinating the tasking of several double agents, for example, they can add to the adversary’s doubts about the first double agent, that is, blow their own agent to create tension inside the service. If the double-agent handlers play their cards well, they may be able to take advantage of exposing one long-term double agent by using another long-term double-agent or penetration to do the exposing. Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards, p.220

  • susan

    That’s a good point, Tom. What I meant to post — but realise now I didn’t — was “What I did find specious was when Gibney went on to argue that the propaganda aim was to demoralise republicans in order to distract them from how swimmingly well everything is going.”

    Considering how very much the gov’t wanted an internal agreement on policing within republicanism, to clear the way for a deal on devolution, I’m not sure they would have considered the exposure of any further agents above Donaldson at all desirable.

  • Minx Maginn

    Ed Moloney’s book answered many questions for me. It left me, however, with one unanswered one: Ed Maloney himself. Why, I still want to know, does the short biographical blurb at the end of his book cover his life from 1978 only? Since the book itself covers, extensively, IRA-related events in Libya before 1978, shouldn’t Maloney have informed his readers that he himself was working in Libya during those years? Known to his colleagues in Libya as a “Stickie” (Official IRA supporter/member) Maloney ought surely to have informed his readers of his political leanings. The readers could then have made up their mind whether his political affiliation was relevant to the integrity of his book. Deprived of this fact its subsequent revelation can only affect his books integrity negatively.

  • Stupid Reader Now Englightened

    Minx, you are absolutely correct and I will immediately revise my opinion of his analysis forthwith. I cannot believe how much an impact that bit of forgotten tittle tattle has on his book and its thesis! Thank heavens you are here to put us right. I hope you will be able to stick around and whisper more tidbits and sweet nothings in our ears about other questionable characters so that we will have the straight story and be better equipped to judge (read: discard) what information comes out way. You are a saviour!

    Hugs and Kisses