What are we to make of the expert opinion that British intelligence reports of the past are being withheld for reasons that are ” increasingly random?”

The Guardian’s expert on the history of intelligence Richard Norton Taylor writes the following in an article on intelligence withheld  or released.

Documents held back this year include files relating to the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair, a file on allegations of sexual abuse at the Kincora boys’ home in Belfast which the former army information officer Colin Wallace said were covered up by MI5, and a file on the late Brian Nelson, a British army informer in Northern Ireland eventually jailed for conspiring to kill Catholics.

The file also reveals that Thatcher and her successor, John Major, were concerned that a planned history of the army’s Intelligence Corps would reveal what the regiment had been up to in Northern Ireland. The Ministry of Defence told them not to worry as any reference to Northern Ireland would be “particularly anodyne”.

Already reported was gossip that Gerry Adams had set up the Loughgall IRA gang to be shot dead by the SAS,  a claim dismissed as ” utter nonsense” by Sinn Fein.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

  • Deirdre

    Of course we will all be reassured there’s nothing to see here Brian but for another take on it from the same paper –


    Hiding your past is attempting to hide the truth.

  • sJEsSs

    If the Ministry of Defence told them not to worry as any reference to Northern Ireland would be “particularly anodyne” then why are legal teams having to take it right to the supreme court and into Europe to gain access to documents
    Would it not be in everyone’s best interests to hand them over, especially in Ireland?
    Although if there is any truth that Gerry set people up for the SAS, it most certainly would not be “particularly anodyne”
    In hiding evidence of known collusion behind national security, the damage is already done

  • Donagh

    What’s the reasoning for including the Gerry Adams comment? That particular piece of “gossip” didn’t come from British papers, presumably the subject of this blog.

  • james

    Indeed. The idea of Adams having somebody killed is simply unbelievable.

  • An Saoi Saonta

    I thought his best trick was to get a load of them to commit suicide by starvation.

  • Balor

    transparency is a figment.
    why hide something if there is nothing to hide?

  • james

    Indeed. Might have done his bank balance a few favours as well.

  • Cory Kelly

    The problem with the state holding back or ‘mislaying’ documents is that it inevitably fuels the fires of suspicion and can encourage inquisitive minds to dig deeper rather than let an issue go. For so long as info is withheld, we here in this part of the world get pulled into divisive discussions of what might have happened rather than getting the opportunity to use historical recorded evidence on facts to bring closure. The open wound can only be healed with the appropriate treatment, leaving it to fester just deepens the pain and diminishes the chances of healing.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    Great contribution to the discussion.

  • Dramadrama

    What are we to make of it?
    They’ve got something to hide, that they’re ashamed of, or afraid of the consequences if they let it be known.
    It’s that simple. If I ask my kids where their school report is, and they ‘can’t find it’, it’s invariably for one of these reasons. People continue the same traits when they grow older.

    The truth is, that other than the general populace and particularly the victims, most of the main players don’t want a truth commission.
    Many Sf members currently in power, would have to admit to so many things that most of us would find distasteful or disgusting. Gerry would have to admit he was high up in the RA.
    The loyalists would have to admit their many shameful acts.
    Many Unionist politicians would have to admit their links to loyalists.
    And the British army and RUC would have to admit that they were riddled with loyalist paramilitaries and ran spies on both sides who committed abominable acts.

    No longer seen in the heat of the moment, but after 20 years of peace, most of us would have to admit, that our side did despicable things, that we may have mentally condoned in some way years ago, but now know are unjustifiable.

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    Exactly, I would love to see the papers on the Hunger Strikes

    It could prove Gerry Adams let them die

    “O’Rawe makes it abundantly clear that Danny Morrison of Sinn Fein told Bik McFarlane, the IRA leader in the prison, the terms of a British offer to end the hunger strike and that McFarlane then told O’Rawe and that both of them agreed that the offer was good. However, he points out that the hunger strikers themselves were never consulted on the terms of this “good offer”. He argues strongly that Adams and a committee of leading republicans, for self-interested political reasons, refused this “good offer” from the British Government in early July 1981 and when it was repeated again on July 21, 1981.”


  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    I personally suspect that McGuinness and Adams were agents of the state.

    They were too well protected, and ultimately handed the IRA weapons over in a surrender in all but name.

    We will never know the full details of what went on for a very long time I would imagine and, but I am fine with that.

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    When I think of Bobby Sands starving to death and then Picture Martin McGuinness scoffing scones with the Queen, one can’t help but laugh at the irony of it all.

  • Deirdre

    So you’ll obviously agree they deserve a George Cross then.

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    If you are referring to the RUC, then I believe they deserved so much more for their sacrifice over the years.

    Try and see the bigger picture Deirdre, yes there were a *FEW* rogue Policemen (as in EVERY organisation that employs thousands), but to tarnish the entire force is unwarranted.

    I know many friends and relations who served in the RUC (and sadly several who died), they were well educated, professional and didn’t have a sectarian bone in their body.

  • sJEsSs

    The hurt will never go away until everyone has a sufficient level of truth.
    No one should be protected
    I would support a truth commission where all documents were released in conjunction with pressure being applied on both the state and the IRA to give evidence, including Gerry Adams
    Would you support that?

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    “and the IRA to give evidence, including Gerry Adams”

    But Gerry Adams was never in the IRA ?

  • sJEsSs

    Why are you avoiding the question?
    Have you any interest at all in finding a solution?

  • sJEsSs

    The RUC and army reserves were training grounds for loyalist paramilitaries
    I know it was recommended before joining the UVF in mid ulster

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    I am asking you how someone who was never in the IRA speak for the IRA ?

    Martin McGuinness who was a self confessed terrorist, went to the grave without giving victims closure and refused to give evidence at Bloody Sunday.

    As far as I am concerned there is no solution, the IRA will never confess to their crimes.

    How do you think we should make them talk ? and what is this “pressure” you talk of being applied ?

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    I seem to remember a few IRA members being ex soldiers too, even recently as per the case in Larne, so I am not sure why you just mentioned loyalists ?

    Are you suggesting the RUC and Army were complicit in deliberately training paramilitaries ?

  • eamoncorbett

    Why then are Sinn Fein trying to dismantle the state in a political fashion if their leader is indeed an agent of the state ? That , to me is a total contradiction, it just doesn’t make sense.

  • sJEsSs

    I was told by a work colleague who was from a well known loyalist family that it was recommended to receive weapons training

    I would find it very difficult to swallow that the RUC and army were unaware. Probably helped recruit their informants too
    But then, the state allowed the UDA to hold on to and use their weapons so hardly surprising it was allowed

  • sJEsSs

    Martin McGuinness was a freedom fighter turned statesman in the mould of Nelson Mandela

    There will be no one sided solution as it will not have the community support needed to work, but unionism would rather forgo reconciliation to protect the state and maintain their own narrative

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    And Johnny Adair was Father Christmas.

    I prefer the more realistic narrative that Martin was about to be charged with several murders and turned into a tout.

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    “I was told by a work colleague who was from a well known loyalist family that it was recommended to receive weapons training”

    And I was told by a fairy that my computer runs on pixie dust.

  • ‘island man

    You can prefer in one hand and sh1te in the other and see which one fills up first.

  • Deirdre

    I’m sure there was lots of RUC officers as you say, probably the majority, but you and both know there was far more than a few bad apples. I don’t doubt the integrity of your family and friends who were RUC officers I’m sure they were professional and non sectarian but the fact is the whole truth has not emerged yet but from what we do know there are a lot more bad apples than you think.

    You claimed Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams were state agents and RUC officers are also state agents those two must have put their lives on the line every day and can you imagine what if Scap had of caught them another state agent believed to have murdered up to 50 people what would have happened there eh. Why no George cross for those state agents ?

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    “I am asking you how someone who was never in the IRA speak for the IRA ?”

    You never answered my question ?

    I wonder why ?

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    How do you “prefer in one hand” and what are the advantages/disadvantages of one hand filling up first as opposed to the other ?

  • Cuthbert Inglebert

    Well they can’t make it too obvious can they ?

  • Gary Da;ze;;

    Irish army gave weapons training to Republicans. A number of members of the Irish army helped terrorists, the Gardai looked the other way during many terrorist incursions along the border; therefore guilty of collusion with the IRA in the terms by which it is applied to the RUC as failing to take action.

  • Reader

    eamoncorbett: Why then are Sinn Fein trying to dismantle the state in a political fashion if their leader is indeed an agent of the state ?
    1) Well, they aren’t all agents of the state, are they?
    2) The project is way behind schedule, isn’t it?
    3) Maybe it was methods that were closed down, not objectives.
    I’m sure you can think of more alternatives if you approach your question in the right frame of mind.

  • immingle

    Regarding the last paragraph, it is a reasonable assumption that this indeed did take place.

    N.B. The majority of posting here are predicated on assumptions only.

  • immingle

    Many would regard that as progress.