John McDonagh (JM) speaks to award winning journalist and author Ed Moloney (EM) via telephone about the BBC Spotlight NI programme, ‘A Spy in the IRA’. (begins time stamp ~ 44:19)
JM: And the next clip I’m going to play they’re interviewing another British agent who lo and behold! Is going by the name of ‘Martin’ – not that I want to equate with Martin McGuinness – just saying – but he’s using the same name, Martin, and this is the clip where everyone is saying that if Gerry Adams didn’t give, acknowledge the killing or condone the killing of Denis Donaldson then he should sue.
Audio: Portion of the BBC Spotlight NI programme ‘Spy in the IRA’ is played. The programme can be viewed here.
JM: And welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. And that statement there is the one that’s causing a political earthquake in Ireland with even Loyalists saying that Gerry Adams should sue the BBC Spotlight programme that aired on Tuesday for accusing him of being any way involved with the killing of Denis Donaldson. With us on the line is Ed Moloney, frequent guest here at Radio Free Éireann also the author of the book, A Secret History of the IRA, and Ed has been on this show for years and years talking about the infiltration of the IRA at almost every level within the organisation by British informants. Ed, what did you think of this documentary and do you think that Gerry Adams will sue the BBC Spotlight programme?
EM: Well to answer to the second part of your question first: No, he’s not going to sue. He’s always received advice from his lawyers that if he decided to sue he’d have to give evidence in court and the outcome and the whole trial would become about his credibility and there are just too many on the record episodes involving him and the IRA for him to persuade a jury that he wasn’t in this organisation so he would probably lose it and if he lost it then that would be a devastating blow to him because that would mean that the jury had decided that he was in the IRA and he was the leader – everything which he has denied over the last few years or so. As to whether this is true or not I have to say I mean I wrote a piece about it during the week and I started off by saying I don’t know whether it is true that A) The IRA killed him but I would believe that if they did kill him then clearly the political leadership would have to know and have to give their go-ahead to it so it wouldn’t surprise me that someone like Gerry Adams would have known about it and would have basically approved it or not objected to it. But as to whether they did it I think the jury’s out on that one. Obviously Jennifer is very confident in her – Jennifer O’Leary, the reporter for Spotlight – is obviously very confident in her sources and I haven’t got a source on this so I would say I would trust what she’s saying and that she’s not making it up and that there’s a basis for what she is saying but I don’t have independent proof of it.
JM: Well Ed, just watching this documentary, I mean from an Irish Republican point of view, it has to be very disappointing just to see how organised the British were in infiltrating the IRA and talking about every level of the movement was infiltrated and how they said if it was a ‘dirty war’ we could have arrested or shot dead anybody on the IRA Army Council but we let them in there so knew what was going on because we knew who they were and we had them compromised.
EM: Yeah, I mean I think it will go down in the annals of British intelligence as like a remarkable, unprecedented intelligence success – the defeat of the IRA – and that’s what we’re really talking about here at the end of the day. And as you know, John, I’ve been saying this for a long, long time that the infiltration, the British infiltration of the IRA, was very, very extensive and I’ve seen very credible statements from senior people in British intelligence saying that by the time of let’s say the first ceasefire in 1994 when the peace process was really getting serious by that stage seventy percent of IRA operations were being interdicted, in other words stopped because of informants, and that one out of every three members of the IRA was either working for the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) Special Branch, for Military Intelligence or for MI5 and when you have that level of penetration you’re able to determine you know who gets what job in the IRA – more than anything else you able to influence which political direction they go in. And you know, one of the questions that Jennifer O’Leary has asked in this Spotlight programme is a question that I’ve been putting in and asking for a long, long, long time which is that: Did the IRA go down the road of the peace process because the British intelligence edged them in that direction thereby producing a more complete end to the IRA’s campaign than would have been the case if they just locked everyone up?
They have taken a political road, the IRA, recognising the institutions and the political value, if you like, of the British link in a way that they would never have done had they just been defeated militarily. So it’s a very, very complete victory but there are other questions that come out of this which is: Now the IRA leadership is not stupid, they must have known how many of their operations were being stopped or betrayed or what have you and what did they do to try to stop the rot as it were? Or did they do something, did they change, for example, the personnel in the unit of the IRA that was designated as the spy-catcher, the Internal Security Unit (ISU)? The evidence is no, that they didn’t. People like Freddie Scappaticci , who was very senior in the Internal Security Unit believed to be working for British military intelligence for many, many years, when his cover was blown he was allowed quietly to retire and resign. But other people who must have come under suspicion in that unit were allowed to continue and therefore one has to ask and wonder what the motives of the leadership was in not taking the sort of action which they ordinarily would.
JM: Well Ed, thanks for coming on. We’re wrapping up here. And that was Ed Moloney, writer of A Secret History of the IRA. (ends time stamp ~ 54:12)