29 May 2006

McGuinness British spy claims are 'nonsense'

Belfast Telegraph

Security sources rubbish reports

By Brian Rowan
29 May 2006

Some of the most senior political and policing sources in Northern Ireland today dismissed reports that Martin McGuinness was a British spy.

The claim was made in a Sunday newspaper and sourced to a former agent handler known as Martin Ingram, who worked for the Army's Force Research Unit.

The report also claimed that MI6 was the "driving force" behind the IRA's so-called human bomb attacks on military checkpoints, which pre-dated the 1994 ceasefire.

But senior political, police and other security sources who have spoken to this newspaper say they have no knowledge of McGuinness' alleged agent role.

"I believe it's nonsense," a former Northern Ireland Office security official told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I'm aware of some of the crimes he (McGuinness) was involved in.

"He did terrible things . . . dastardly things," the source continued.

"Even the most intrepid handler at a senior level wouldn't have touched him. I firmly believe it's not true."

As well as being Sinn Fein's chief negotiator in the peace process, Martin McGuinness has held leadership positions at the very top of the IRA - on its Army Council and Northern Command.

"I was working at the highest level and I never ever saw anything (to suggest McGuinness was an agent)," a former senior Special Branch officer told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I would be extremely surprised. He (McGuinness) has been so committed (to the IRA) for so long," the source added.

"If it were true, Martin Ingram wouldn't know," another source said.

"This would be a bigger scandal for the British Government than the IRA," he continued.

He means a bigger scandal because of the role McGuinness is alleged to have had in the IRA's violent campaign stretching across three decades.

"I just don't believe it," the source said.

According to security assessments, McGuinness still held an IRA leadership position at the time of the London Docklands and Thiepval Barracks bombs in 1996.

The Special Branch and the security services had no prior knowledge of the attacks.

There was certainly no evidence at that time to suggest that the British had a spy at the heart of the IRA leadership.

"That (having McGuinness as an agent) would be the jewel in the crown," a senior police source said.

Sinn Fein described the reports as "rubbish".

'Martin Ingram' produced what he said was a secret service document detailing a conversation between an agent labelled J118 and other people.

He claims J118 was Martin McGuinness.

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