UK secret state: past Irish shenanigans

Michael Keaney michael.keaney at
Thu Nov 28 02:42:58 MST 2002

Private Eye

No. 1067, 15-28 November 2002

In The Back:
Barron's Fraught

Many millions of pounds have been spent on the Bloody Sunday inquiry into
what happened in Londonderry on 30 January 1972 when 13 people died. Rather
less effort has gone into inquiries about the terrorist bombings in Dublin
and Monaghan in May 1974 which killed 33 people.

No one has been accused let alone convicted of these atrocities. But we do
know tha within 72 hours of the bombs going off, both the Gardai and Royal
Ulster Constabulary had drawn up almost identical lists of suspects.
Nevertheless, no arrest was ever made. An organisation inspired by the
families of those killed -- Justice for The Forgotten -- strove for years to
get at the truth and at last, in 1999, the Irish government set up an
official inquiry, now chaired by a judge, Henry Barron.

Two media investigations into the bombings have been closely scrutinised by
the inquiry. The first is an article in the Sunday Business Post on 11 July
1993 by Lt Col John Morgan, former head of security and military
intelligence at army HQ in Dublin. Morgan wrote that he had retired from the
army in 1986 and had started his own inquiries into the Dublin/Monaghan
bombings in 1987.

He went on: "Within a year I had come to definite conclusions. In broad
outline these were that the bombings were conducted under the aegis of
British intelligence members in Northern Ireland, that the military planning
for them was done by an officer in the British Army and that British Special
Forces operatives were involved." He had, he wrote, initially believed that
MI6 was responsible but later took the view that the organisation chiefly
responsible was MI5.

The second media item that interested the Barron inquiry was a programme
broadcast simultaneously by Yorkshire Television's First Tuesday team. The
theme of this programme was summarised in Eye 824 -- "that the British army
and security services were up to their necks in the worst terrorist atrocity
since the war."

A third piece of evidence about the bombings is an affadavit signed in 1999
by a former police sergeant in Northern Ireland, John Weir, who was himself
convicted of the sectarian murder of a Catholic chemist. Weir disclosed that
the bombings were the work of loyalist paramilitaries whose equipment and
intelligence were provided by the army and the police. These revelations
fitted closely with other evidence -- notably the power and force of the
explosives used, the facts about where they came from and where they had
been stored, and the political priorities of the army and the intelligence
services at that time.

The central aim of the Protestant ultras at that time was to destabilise the
political situation in the north and wreck the power-sharing executive set
up by the British Tory government in 1973. This destabilisation was the
purpose of the Ulster Workers Council strike (which started three days
before the Dublin bombings). The effect of the destabilisation of the
political situation by the strike and the bombings became quite clear when,
at the end of May 1974, the power-sharing executive of Northern Ireland was
disbanded by the British government.

Naturally lawyers for the bereaved families and the Barron inquiry are
anxious to probe these allegations. Successive politicians at the Northern
Ireland office, first minister of state Adam Ingram and then secretary of
state John Reid, were asked to provide relevant documents about the
investigation. Some security files were finally handed over in March 2002,
two years after the first request for cooperation had been made. Information
in them was sketchy so the lawyers asked for more documents.

Eventually the families' lawyers decided to take matters into their own
hands. They wrote to the homes of a number of people who at the time were
employed by the British army and MI5, asking for information about the work
of their units at the time of the bombings. These letters caused a furore in
the ministry of defence, whose home secretariat -- the department
responsible for sensitive political issues -- wrote back to the lawyers.
This letter went by second class post, was addressed in a child-like
handwriting and signed by an indecipherable squiggle. It concluded: "The
individuals that you have contacted have been advised not to provide a
personal response to your request."

The Eye asked the MoD several questions about this letter. The MoD
explained, to our surprise, that all its letters go by second-class post. On
the question of the identity of the author and how many MoD employees past
or present he/she purported to be representing, the ministry refused to

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