British spies in Irish parties, claims former British spooks

  • 4 January 2006
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MI5 has run spies and informants in Ireland throughout the Northern Ireland conflict and continues to do so, according to a former British intelligence officer. By Colm Heatley

'MI5 is running agents in the south of Ireland from all walks of life, the guards, the political parties, the public bodies, all of them are currently compromised by agents, you can be sure of that," says Martin Ingram, alias Jack Grantham (see note at the end of this article).

Ingram/Grantham is a former intelligence officer who spent ten years operating in Ireland as a 'handler' in one of the most clandestine branches of the British secret service. He was a senior member of the Force Research Unit, a small, well resourced and extremely controversial branch of British Military Intelligence.

It was the single most important branch of the British Government's security policy for most of the 1980's and 1990's, running agents such as Brian Nelson and, allegedly, Freddie Scappaticci, alias 'Steaknife'. Ingram has claimed he was one of Scappaticci's handlers.

Ingram, who now lives in Ireland after "exposing" Freddie Scappaticci as a British Agent in 2003 says British Intelligence successfully targeted the southern political establishment.

"The Irish political system was targeted by MI5 100 percent. The British government spends a huge amount of money on M15 and there is no point in them sitting around on very expensive chairs chewing gum. The Irish government is viewed as a target, then and now, and any information is welcome on any part of the system. A lot of people who work for the state in the south have secrets to hide."

Ingram says that because of the conflict in Northern Ireland there was always a focus on gaining intelligence from whatever sources were available. State borders were not recognised by those who controlled MI5.

Although political parties in Northern Ireland, particularly Sinn Fein, were targeted, all active political and potentially influential bodies were regarded as legitimate targets, according to Ingram,.

"For politicians in the south the motivation to work for the British state was based on ideological or political beliefs. They would have regarded themselves as fighting against the IRA by helping the British, certainly money wouldn't have been a factor.

"Whether it was politicians or members of the Gardai who were informing they would have thought that by helping the British they were securing the integrity of the state," said Ingram.

If Ingram's claims are true it would mean that all of the political parties in Ireland are, to varying degrees, compromised by the British secret service.

In the 1980s Fred Holyrod, an MI6 whistle-blower claimed that his bosses ran an extensive network of agents across Ireland. He claimed that a number of Gardai been recruited by the British military during the 1970's. A Monaghan based detective, Detective Garda John McCoy, was later found to be a mole working on behalf of the British.

In 1972 the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch said he suspected British intelligence of involvement in a series of bombings in Dublin that year just as the Dail was debating anti-terrorism legislation.

In the early 1970's two brothers, the Littlejohns, who were arrested for bank-robbery in Dublin, were later exposed as MI5 agents. They said they had been told to carry out the robberies which their h a n d l e r s said would be blamed on the IRA. More recently one of the British Conservative Party's leading spokesmen on Northern Ireland is alleged to be a former M15 operative.

He is alleged to have acted as an intermediary between the Special Branch and an IRA informer who fled Ireland. An out-spoken critic of the peace process he has ties to most of the major political parties in the south.

Writing in Hot Press in June 2003, the Derry journalist, Eamon McCann, recalled that on 21 December 1972, a MI6 officer operating under the name "John Wyman" was arrested in a hotel in Dublin in the act of receiving a dossier of documents from garda sergeant Patrick Crinnion, private secretary to the head of the Special Branch, Chief Superintendent John P Fleming. The Irish government assessed the material as being 'of a critical nature'.

McCann observed the incident came at a tense time in Anglo-Irish relations, at the close of the worst year of the Troubles and just three weeks after two people had been killed and more than a hundred injured in bomb blasts in Dublin. The bomb attacks came as the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill, described by Justice Minister Des O'Malley as "draconian", was being debated in the Dail. Opposition to the measure instantly collapsed. It was widely speculated that British intelligence agents had had a hand in the attack. Now, a British agent had been captured in an act of subversion against the Irish State.

Two days later, Lynch told British Premier Edward Heath that the incident need have no effect on relations between the two countries. In a document dated 23 December and marked "Top Secret and Personal", Heath's private secretary, Robert Armstrong, recorded a meeting at Downing Street with the Irish ambassador to Britain, Donal O'Sullivan. It told that, "For public relations reasons his (O'Sullivan's) Government would have to oppose bail (for Wyman): but the strength with which they would do so was another matter." As for the possibility of a lengthy jail sentence: "He had the impression that this was unlikely: indeed he said there might be no sentences at all."

McCann wrote that at the Special Criminal Court on the following February 27th, Wyman and Crinnion were each sentenced to three months and immediately released. Neither has surfaced publicly since. Armstrong added that "Mr. Lynch was very anxious that his own relationship with the Prime Minister should not in any way suffer as a result of this incident.

Ingram claims that through necessity the British government maintains an extensive network of agents in Ireland.

"What you want is a whole series of people to be working for you."

"You want them to be reporting back telling you what is going on so that you can check how accurate the information is from other sources and build up a whole picture.

"For that reason these networks tend to be quite widespread."

Ingram also claims that most agents in the south would be run by M15 as their information would be of an explicitly political nature.

In the 1990's Ingram left British military intelligence and the notorious Force Research Unit after becoming disillusioned with how his superiors 'ran' agents.

He says that in too many cases informers were allowed to carry out multiple murders without any fear of prosecution.

In 2003 he helped expose the activities of Freddie Scappaticci, a British agent inside the IRA since the 1970's who Ingram believes killed more than a dozen people.

The former Force Research Unit (FRU) operative Jack Grantham – who uses the pseudonym "Martin Ingram" when dealing with the media – is reported to have fled the Republic of Ireland after two Garda Security Branch detectives called at his home in County Kerry. They wanted to discuss his plans to appear before the Irish government's inquiry into alleged Garda collusion with the Provisional IRA prior to the border assassination of two senior Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers: Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Supt.

Robert Buchanan. They were killed on 20 March 1989, near Jonesborough, County Armagh, while returning from a meeting with senior Garda officers at Dundalk, in the Irish Republic. The official inquiry into these allegations found no evidence of Garda collusion with the IRA in these murders and that the purveyors of this allegation were unreliable.?