‘Top securocrat’ backs plans to release secret records early…

IF – as has been claimed by Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty Joe Pilling was indeed Britain’s “top securocrat” in Stormont, then the NIO needs to review its employment procedures. We already know that Pilling helped secure the release of paramilitary prisoners in advance of IRA decommissioning. Now it transpires that the former Permanent Secretary was also on an official review panel which has recommended that confidential records from the National Archives be published after just 15 years, instead of 30 as at present. To play catch-up, the panel proposed releasing an additional year’s records each year from 2010. If accepted, this would mean that next year we’d get the records for 1980, as well as ’79. This would (hopefully) give an insight into Government discussions on ‘special category status’ for paramilitary prisoners, the Kincora paedophile scandal that enveloped the security services, some background on Government proposals for future political arrangements, British thinking on the 1980 hunger strike and Thatcher’s talks with Haughey. And that’s just year one. If the paranoids in SF are right, then Pilling must be the worst spook ever.

  • picador

    And the year after we would get the records for 1981, which are otherwise due for release in 2011.

    Should make for interesting reading.

  • cynic

    “If the paranoids in SF are right, then Pilling must be the worst spook ever.”

    Sorry, I just don’t follow the logic. Pilling was Permanent Secretary in the NIO – a career civil servant.

    The Shinners just labelled everyone a Securocrat to give the impression of them battling some devious machine from which, through Irish guile, they wrung concession after concession.

    In truth the machine was carefully clearing a path for them, leading them on at every single stage from the late 80’s onward. We have already seen Powell’s Book and the revelations that by the end he was even writing the Great Leader’s speeches for the Ard Feis. They didn’t call it all ‘the choreography’ for nothing.

    So the early release of all these papers may be fun. I wonder will we soon get the truth about the Brits offer to the Hunger Strikers that the leadership deny was ever made?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Of course there’s no logic. It’s an argument made by paranoids. Perhaps ‘spook’ was a poor choice of description by me, but SF certainly regarded some civil servants in that way.

  • cynic

    … but it didn’t stop them working with them!

    Weren’t the first communication channels to PIRA/ PSF opened up by MI5?

    Didn’t the Shinners know all along exactly who they were dealing with and what the game plan was?

  • whoknows

    ‘the Kincora paedophile scandal that enveloped the security services’

    Does anyone, anyone, seriously think the full ‘truth’ re Kincora will ever see the light of day?

    What were, and are, the allegations?
    Who were the alleged perpetrators?
    Who were the alleged benefactors?
    What was the political agenda pursued?
    Who were the beneficiaries of that agenda?
    To date, what have been the findings of any relevant investigations?

    In 2009, what/who political party’s/players gives a fuck?

    If there ever was a full, comprehensive, inquiry, with the right of subpoena and associated powers, what would be the outcome of that exercise?

    Perhaps, just perhaps, Kincora was before its time. Did it set a precedent that grossly offensive behaviours and actions could be plausibly denied?

    To date, has the response to the Kincora affair affirmed the dogged truth seeking determination or the convienent complacency and cynicism of the indigenous political class?

    The continued embrace of the ‘higher’ and expedient lie(s) will assure that the circumstances and pain of one or some or many human beings is not considered in the higher, or lower, political calculus.

    … but that is the deal. And that has been cut and agreed.

    In 2009, what/who political party’s/players would give a fuck enough to rock their comfortable lifeboat and empathise with those who have travel steerage?

  • Belfast Gonzo


    Lines of communication were opened by MI5 (through intermediaries, IIRC, though Oatley was MI6 and may have got to Derry first), but this is not really unusual, either for the UK or any two sides in a conflict. There are usually deniable back channels to send messages to each other, eg in Afghanistan, there are diplomats talking to the Taliban.

    As for the game plan, greed, ambition and the desire for power combined with high infiltration levels and a healthy dose of what can be realistically changed with limited resources obviously had some effect on the republican leadership.

  • Dave

    “The Shinners just labelled everyone a Securocrat to give the impression of them battling some devious machine from which, through Irish guile, they wrung concession after concession.”

    More importantly, to give the bogus impression to their gullible supporters that the leadership was autonomous, furthering an Irish nationalist agenda rather that controlled by the intelligence services to further a British constitutional agenda.

    One of the roles of the intelligence services is to defend the state by any neutralising threats to its territory integrity. That objective was successful: northern nationalists were led by their own leadership to endorse the legitimacy of British sovereignty. That is something that the British state has demanded from them since partition.

    Because people are best led by their own leaders, it is of paramount importance that those leaders are seen to be operating in the interests of their followers. If they were seen by their followers in any degree as puppets of the state, then they would lose credibility among their followers and that would render them less useful to the puppet masters in that it would reduce their control of their followers and allow other splinter groups to claim ‘purity of purpose.’

    So, the effect of the Shinner leadership hyping the ‘securocrat’ bogeyman narrative during the talks process was calculated to reassure their supporters the process was not directed by the intelligence services but that it was directed by the leadership against the interests and will of those intelligence services.

  • Dave

    Typo: “…by neutralising any threats to its territorial integrity.”

  • cynic

    My point precisely, Dave.

    Now what’s the Irish for “Baa”?

  • “any two sides in a conflict”

    That scenario doesn’t fit here. There were so many ‘sides’, so many ‘alliances’, that it’s probably impossible in many instances to link cause and effect. Also, many players were acting on perceptions and prejudices as well as facts. My/their enemy’s enemy could well have been my/their enemy too.