The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Spooks are not so easy to spring from their closets

Eamon McCann • Belfast Telegraph 22.05.03

TONY BLAIR "had the intelligence services give every member of the Cabinet a briefing on Iraq in order to bind his colleagues into supporting the war." Thus said Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer on Sunday.

He didn't elaborate, assuming readers would understand that while Cabinet Ministers might challenge the Premier, there's no way they'd break ranks once brought into the intelligence loop.When it comes to intelligence matters, the official truth is what the spooks say it is. This is key to understanding how the Stakeknife affair will be resolved. Or, if governments have their way, not. Even when seemingly at loggerheads, governments understand one another on this.

One of the few laughs in this saga came when Bertie Ahern told the Dail that he would demand answers from Blair but, sigh, sure he was never done asking Blair about the misdeeds of Brit spooks in Ireland but was never left any the wiser. Any more than the rest of us are the wiser for probing the machinations of Irish spooks in Ireland. I recall many years ago using an interview with the Tanaiste to press the case of Nicky Kelly, jailed for the 1976 Sallins mail train robbery.

The Tanaiste had, in Opposition, voiced concern about the case. But, I was told, he realised now his concern had been misplaced. Kelly had done it allright. The Tanaiste had used his position to put it directly to the most senior security official in the State: Was Kelly guilty? And had been told unequivocally, Yes. So, that was that. Protestations were brushed aside. "You can't go any higher." To go higher would have meant challenging the integrity of the security services themselves. Which would be to invite an appalling vista.

Secret papers from 1972 reveal the underlying camaraderie of governments in such matters. Just before Christmas 1972, MI6 operative John Wyman was charged in Dublin with inducing the private secretary to the head of the Garda Special Branch to pass on information which the Republic's Government assessed as being "of a critical nature."

It was a fraught period for Anglo-Irish relations, at the tail-end of the worst year of the Troubles. Three weeks earlier, on December 2, two people had been killed and more than a hundred injured in bomb blasts in Dublin just as the draconian Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill was being debated in the Dail. Opposition to the Bill instantly collapsed. It was widely speculated that British intelligence agents had had a hand in the deed. For days, the air around Leinster House trembled with outrage and feelings of foreboding.

Two days after Wyman's arrest, however, in a "top secret and personal" signal to Prime Minister Ted Heath at Chequers, Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong reported on a Downing Street meeting with Irish Ambassador Donal O'Sullivan: "For public relations reasons (Lynch's) Government would have to oppose bail: but the strength with which they would do so was another matter. You had expressed concern about the effects of a long sentence. He had the impression that this was unlikely: indeed... there might be no sentence at all."

At the Special Criminal Court two months later, Wyman was sentenced to three months and immediately released.

"I asked the Ambassador specifically whether we could take it that there was no intention that the contacts between the British and Irish security forces and other agencies... should be reduced or interfered with. The Ambassador assured me that this was the case... Lynch was very anxious that his own relationship with the Prime Minister should not in any way suffer as a result of this incident." Nor will Ahern press Blair too officiously for the truth about Stakeknife.

History tells us that we learn the truth about the spooks not through demands for inquiries nor by engaging the support of friendly governments but when the regimes which front for the spooks are finally overthrown.

Go figure.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

30 May 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Andersonstown News Moves to Censor The Blanket
Anthony McIntyre


Security Lapse Endangers Republican Prisoner

Martin Mulholland


Britain's Dirty War in Ireland

Irish Republican Information Bureau (IRIB)


Story with rusty British blade has Irish adherents
Adam O'Toole


Wishful Thinking

Liam Clarke


Shade of 1984
Kathryn Johnston


Stop Attacks on Bus Drivers

Sean Smyth


Spooks are not so easy to spring from their closets

Eamon McCann


23 May 2003


Lynch Pins
Eamon McCann


Send in the Sandbag
Anthony McIntyre


Trial By Media

British Irish Rights Watch


We Love the Andytout News Information Minister
Comical Livvy


The Letters page has been updated.




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