IRSP: Asking the Awkward Questions

Danielle Ni Dhighe danielle at
Mon Dec 2 15:20:15 MST 2002


1 November 2002
Irish Republican Socialist Party

Asking the Awkward Questions
By Terry Harkin, IRSP International Co-Secretary

Over the last few weeks assisting with the IRSP's effort to expose
the use - by an unreconstructed RUC - of child informers to spy on
their own people, I was struck with the lack of interest expressed by
the media, Policing Board and world in general. Here we were, a
legitimate political party with what by any standards was a major
story. It had all the elements - sleaze, child abuse, paramilitaries
and crooked cops.

The story as we see it was this: during August of this year an
RUC/PSNI patrol picked up a drunk, confused and very frightened 13
year old boy with learning difficulties. They arrested him on
suspicion of "going equipped to steal a car" and took him to the
nearest RUC/PSNI barracks. Once there he was interviewed illegally
without his parents or Social Services being informed. He was
threatened that he would be charged with offences if he did not spy
on his own community. A community that at that point in time
was under daily attack from armed loyalist thugs. The deal was
simple - agree to work for the RUC/PSNI, observing and reporting back
to his handlers on the movements and activities of those volunteers
of the Irish National Liberation Army suspected of involvement in the
by now 24 hour a day defence of North Belfast, go to prison, or
worse. He was a frightened, drunk, wee boy with a mental age of 8. He
was in the company of authority figures who abused him and played on
his disabilities to induce terror and break him to their will. And
they did - he cracked like a dropped plate.

These were the circumstances that led to the boy being released
without his parents or any statutory body being informed that he had
even been in custody, never mind interviewed. He'd been given the
number of an Orange mobile phone to call and a name (Johnny) to ask
for when he had information. And so it was that for the best part of
3 months this disabled child was exploited and exposed to the risk of
harm by those allegedly there to protect him. He was on an odyssey
that involved secret meetings on far away roads, being driven around
Nationalist North Belfast in an RUC/PSNI Landrover, pointing out
suspected INLA personnel and eventually giving away the location of a
weapon being used by those involved in the defence of his own area.
This in turn led to his unmasking by the INLA. It was then that the
INLA displayed a degree of empathy for this child that was sadly
lacking in the forces of the Crown. Instead of the execution the
RUC/PSNI would have expected for one of their unmasked agents, the
INLA treated the boy humanely, contacting the Church. And the
IRSP then referred the family an internationally respected human
rights lawyer.

As I said at the start, what a story! Or so you would think. The
Irish News was given the exclusive - they talked to the INLA, the
IRSP, and the priest, the boy and the family. They then buried the
story on the inside pages. The Guardian did better, two paragraphs on
page 14. The Andytown News said that the INLA were going to start
shooting children as informers. Amid the crying of the collective
babies, covered in dirty water, sitting on their collective sore bare
asses having just been thrown out with the bath water, two papers got
it right. Only the Derry News and North Belfast News caught the drift
of what the INLA had uncovered and what the IRSP is trying to expose.

This isn't just about one scared wee disabled kid from North Belfast.
This is a tactic. If it's in use in North Belfast, is it in use in
the West of the city? The East and South, Derry, Armagh, Strabane,
Dungannon? Are loyalist children being blackmailed in this way? Take
two steps back and look at the big picture. As part of the so-called
UK, the RUC/PSNI are trained by MI5 and the FBI. Is this tactic in
common use by other agencies of the British government? Are police
forces in England, Scotland and Wales using the children of Muslims
in Birmingham, Swansea and Glasgow to spy on their communities? What
of the miners in the 80's, the Turks and Kurdish, Scots, Welsh and
English Republicans, the firemen? Is North Belfast just the tip of
the iceberg, a ground zero for something that has ramifications
for all political activists and ethnic minorities deemed hostile or
subversive by the state?

But for now, all we can be sure of is this one scared child in
Belfast. The trail starts with him. The Orange phone number he was
given has been removed from Orange's database - that much has been
uncovered by the IRSP. It is our understanding that this phone was
not a "pay as you go", but rather had an account and as such must
have generated a bill. Who paid that bill and, more importantly, who
approached Orange to remove the number and who at Orange acted to
cover up this act of state sponsored child abuse?

At every meeting the boy was given 80 pounds by his RUC/PSNI
handlers. Who signed for this money, who authorised its use and who
put it into the boy's hands?

Alan McQuillan, the deputy chief constable of the RUC/PSNI who would,
under law, need to approve the use of such a young and "vulnerable"
intelligence source has been quick to wash his hands in public over
this: "I would have to authorise something like this and I have not.
If an officer has done this it would be a serious breach," or words
to that effect.

I've been an Irp all my life and I've never seen a peeler so quick to
get his denial in first. Surprisingly he did not say, "I'm confident
the PSNI would never do such a thing", he just said, "I didn't do
it". A strange thing for a senior RUC/PSNI officer to say about his
force, or is it?

Let's take two steps forward and look again just at the North of
Ireland. It has been clear for sometime those elements within the
RUC/PSNI loyal to the old Ascendancy have been working with people
inside the media with a similar agenda to destabilise the Peace
Process. The raid on the Sinn Fein office was so media staged that it
turned out campier than a Whitehall farce. In the interviews outside
Stormont, Hugh Orde would only say that he knew the raid was going to
take place. No one in the press pack thought to ask why the warrant
was not executed at the same time as the homes of Sinn Fein employees
and supporters were raided. Sure any police force in the world would
know how to co-ordinate an operation like that.

They came for the press and the press dutifully bayed for the blood
of alleged spies. A democratically elected Assembly was brought down,
two peoples were disenfranchised.

Let's face it, the Assembly was a lame duck and a waste of money that
would have been better spent in pay raises in the public sector and
kidney machines. But, there is an unmissible parallel between these
two spy stories. In one, a police force abuses its power and brings
down a democratically elected body and the media don't ask questions.
In the other, that same force are exposed using a mentally under
developed child to spy for them. And still the media don't ask

There is no press pack hounding Orde and Mc Quillan. The Policing
Board took two weeks to get back to the IRSP when they tried to
contact them. Questions need to be asked about what happened to this
boy and no one seems to want to ask them or even consider the wider
ranging implications of what has been uncovered by the INLA. Why? Are
nationalist politicians and newspapers so wedded to this sectarian
agreement that they are willing to sacrifice the rights and welfare
of this child and who knows how many others on its altar? Are the
organs of the state, the BBC and ITN, so toothless that they turn a
blind eye while the State and/or Ascendancy blackmail and corrupt the
innocent? Of course they are, that's a given. Their only concern is
to spoon-feed the population drivel and sanitised versions of the
truth. A version that cannot be allowed to show that the Agreement
has not worked and will not work. How can it work when unionists
are still empowered with a built-in veto and the much vaunted reform
of the RUC cannot prevent a disabled boy from being abused and
debased for low grade intelligence work? The deafening silence that
surrounds the October 15th break in at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in
London and the fact that English MP's are forced to ask questions as
to why the writings of LVF murder victim, journalist Martin O'Hagan,
have yet to be returned to his family and publisher only serve to add
grist to this mill. What has changed? The only thing that I can see
that has changed is the unwillingness of the nationalist press to
take up any issue that is not rubber stamped by Sinn Fein or the

This has happened before of course, the media manipulation, the
covering up of dissent, control of perception, control of the
population by using their children to spy on them. I wonder where it

In closing, and at the risk of being sued by John Grisham, I would
like to pose a challenge to those of the nationalist press in Ireland
and the middle-Left broadsheets of Britain. Close your eyes, imagine
the terror of a 13 year old Irish boy with learning difficulties
lifted off the street at his most vulnerable, denied his basic human
and legal right to be seen by his family or by social services.
Alone, scared, with the police all around you, telling you that
you're going to prison if you don't sell the defenders of your
community for 80 pounds a time. Imagine the fear he then had to live
with, the stress the fear of exposure must have generated in his
young mind every time he left his home. Then forget that the boy is
Irish. Don't see him as Muslim or the son of some Lefty trade
unionist. Imagine it's your son. Then open your eyes, take your
fingers out of your backsides and drag this whole sordid mess out
into the public domain where it belongs.


Republican Socialist Publicity Bureau
392 Falls Road, Belfast, BT48 6DH, Ireland
Tel: 028 90 321024   Fax: 028 90 330786

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