04 June 2006

McGuinness in new spy claims

Sunday Times

June 04, 2006

Martin McGuinness denies spying for MI6. So how has he survived when those around him have been shot or jailed, asks Liam Clarke

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usRAYMOND GILMOUR, the “supergrass” who infiltrated the IRA in the early 1980s, used to wake up screaming following nightmares that Martin McGuinness was about to shoot him. But now he suspects his life was protected by his former IRA commander and that McGuinness, like him, was a British agent.

“I could never understand how I was allowed to run so long and do so much damage. Now I suspect that McGuinness was looking out for me,” said Gilmour, who penetrated the IRA and the smaller Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) between 1977 and 1982.

Gilmour isn’t alone in his suspicions. All over Northern Ireland people are reassessing McGuinness’s career in the wake of newspaper claims by Martin Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, that the man once regarded as an IRA hawk had been controlled by MI6 for at least two decades. A retired RUC special branch officer believes McGuinness was the MI5 agent code-named “Fisherman”, though others maintain that this agent may have been a person close to McGuinness.

Republican veterans point to the “charmed existence” enjoyed by McGuinness. He has held every senior position in the Provisional IRA since its inception, but has never been shot or injured nor served a serious prison sentence in the UK.

During the internment swoops he managed to avoid detention and travelled freely back and forth from Derry to his granny’s house in Donegal where he was nominally “on the run”. Statements by another supergrass, Robert Quigley, implicated McGuinness in organising IRA activity, but he was never charged.

While McGuinness remained beyond the law, his followers were jailed and killed. Now he has a holiday home in Donegal, writes poetry and enjoys fly-fishing.

Some links to MI6 were even approved by the IRA. McGuinness had a so-called “back channel” to Michael Oatley, a former head of MI6’s anti-terrorism operations.

Oatley negotiated an IRA ceasefire in 1974-75. After it broke down he left open a secret channel of communication with two intermediaries in Derry, Brendan Duddy and Denis Bradley. This allowed messages to be passed to the IRA and McGuinness.

Oatley did not meet McGuinness until February 1991, shortly before he retired. Then they talked for three hours in what proved to be a crucial meeting in the lead-up to the IRA ceasefire.

Another channel, this time one not sanctioned by the IRA leadership, existed for some years with the British Army in Derry. It operated through two Derry peace activists. They were forced to leave the city when they revealed that it had been used to wind down the local IRA campaign in parallel with reductions in military activity. McGuinness denied all knowledge of it though he had been involved.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFar from being the IRA hawk of legend, McGuinness wound down the IRA campaign in Derry far sooner than elsewhere. In an interview with Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA prisoner who is now a historian and commentator, Sean MacStiofain, the Provisional IRA’s first chief of staff, said that McGuinness had lobbied for a ceasefire as early as 1972.

IRA veterans agree with Gilmour that McGuinness often promoted suspected informers to positions where they could do most damage. One example was Frank Hegarty, an agent who worked for Martin Ingram. He was suspected of being an informer, but McGuinness personally put him in charge of hiding newly imported weaponry from Libya. As head of the IRA Northern Command, McGuinness put his trust in Freddie Scappaticci, the British army’s most prized agent, to handle internal security.

After the Libyan weapons were seized, Hegarty was offered a new life in England by his handlers but came home and was shot dead.

In 1979 Brian Keenan, who was running a ruthless bombing campaign in Britain and Northern Ireland, was arrested after being flagged down by McGuinness on the roadway where they had a brief conversation. When he was in jail Keenan asked that McGuinness be investigated by the IRA, but he did not pursue the matter after he was released.

In November 1994 a police investigation, Operation Taurus, found three witnesses to implicate McGuinness in directing terrorism. It was halted with the appearance of a letter asking prosecutors to bear in mind that McGuinness would shortly be in talks with the government about the future of Northern Ireland.

His political value, underlined by his hotline to a senior MI6 officer, may be sufficient to explain why McGuinness has often seemed a protected species.

However, the revelations that Denis Donaldson, Sinn Fein head of administration at Stormont, and Freddie Scappaticci, the IRA’s deputy head of security, were both in the pay of the British have left many grass- roots republicans prepared to believe the worst of their leadership.

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