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Colin Wallace, Ireland and MI5

John Simkin

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Nuala O'Loan is a lawyer and Northern Ireland's police ombudsman. Yesterday, she reported that Special Branch officers protected loyalist paramilitary informants and failed to stop them committing up to 15 murders. She added that there was clear evidence of collusion between members of the banned Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in north Belfast and police officers over a period of 12 years. There have been calls for the resignation of the former chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who is now head of the Inspectorate of Constabulary, with an overview of standards throughout policing. However, he is unlikely to go. What is more, Unionist politicians attempted to justify these murders, as part of the struggle against terrorism.

The Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Hain, ruled out a public inquiry, saying that £200m has already been spent on existing investigations. No doubt he is concerned what another investigation would discover.


As Beatrix Campbell pointed out:Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary, acknowledges that this is very embarrassing for the state. This is progress - when O'Loan published her heart-stopping chronicle of the RUC's disastrous role in the Omagh bombing of 1998 she was insulted by unionists, abused by the chief constable and abandoned by Downing Street. The ombudsman was being warned by No 10 that she was on her own.

At least this time Hain has accepted her critique. Even so, he consigns it to the past. But the past lives on - the ombudsman insisted yesterday that Ronnie Flanagan, the former chief constable, had responsibility for everything that happened in the police force he commanded, whatever he did or did not know. He has not been called to account before a public tribunal, and no one expects him to be now. Indeed, after his retirement he has been reincarnated with her majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Flanagan wasn't alone. He was part of an entire system. Who were the civil servants who staffed that security system in Northern Ireland during the Mount Vernon terror? Where are they now? What else were they doing to thwart justice while the state was investing in the Mount Vernon boys? What did these civil servants think they were doing? What did they tell the politicians sequestered in Hillsborough Castle? And the biggest question: what was the overarching agenda?

The Mount Vernon boys were state-sponsored assassins. Special branch ran their local leadership. We now know that British security services had penetrated all the paramilitary organisations. Was there ever an audit of all the murder, rape and pillage?


I was reminded of the Colin Wallace case. In 1969, Wallace was assigned to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, the headquarters of the British Army in Northern Ireland, as a public relations officer. As well as carrying out overt public relations work for the Army, Wallace was also covertly briefing journalists with disinformation aimed at the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Wallace alleges that in 1973 he was involved with right-wing members of the security forces in Clockwork Orange, a disinformation campaign aimed not at paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland, but at British MPs. Journalists from foreign news organisations would be given briefings and shown forged documents, which purported to show that these politicians were speaking at Irish Republican rallies or were receiving secret deposits in Swiss bank accounts.

People named by Wallace as having been briefed against in this manner include Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Merlyn Rees and Tony Benn.

Wallace resigned from the civil service in 1975 in order to avoid dismissal, ostensibly for privately briefing journalists with classified information. Wallace always claimed that this was consistent with his job duties and maintains that the real reasons for his dismissal were related to his resignation from the 'Clockwork Orange' project in October 1974 and his investigation of a child abuse scandal at the Kincora boy's home, which he claims was blocked because the leading perpetrator was an undercover agent for MI5.

In the 1980s, when trying to convince the press of these allegations, Wallace produced some documents, including a series of handwritten notes by himself which he claimed were taken at meetings with other members of the plot, including the M.P. Airey Neave. These were later subjected to a forensic examination by journalists, and the results were consistent with the notes having been taken contemporaneously.

In 1980, Wallace was convicted of the manslaughter of the husband of one of his work colleagues. The conviction was quashed in 1996, ten years after he was released from prison. The journalist Paul Foot, in his book 'Who framed Colin Wallace', suggested that Wallace may have been framed for the killing, possibly by members of the British security forces. The Nuala O'Loan report suggests that Colin Wallace was indeed framed by MI5 in 1980. This involved killing a completely innocent man.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Gary Loughran

Hi John,

I'm typing off the top of my head here, but as James Richards would say, Ronnie Flanagan deserves a closer look.

In the late 70's circa '78 he was Duty Inspector in charge of Castlereagh holding centre. This was the place where most terrorist suspect were brought for 'questioning' in NI. You must also bear in mind that in this period 1971 - 1980, approximately 70+% of Republican terrorist convictions were by way of confession obtained at Castlereagh. Go figure. The Bennett report into abuses at Castlereagh, covering Flanagan's tenure, determined 150 cases of injury to suspects which could not be self inflicted.

In the early 80's he headed a Special Branch team specifically designed to 'shoot to kill'. The objective to basically murder allegedly known Republicans whom they could not bring to justice. I think around 6-8 Republicans were murdered as a result of this. John Stalker's investigation of this, as so often was the case when someone attempts to highlight injustices, was taken off the case, after a series of dirty tricks campaigns by HMG security service in NI.

In the late 80's he was promoted and took full command of Special Branch, using informers etc. he was able to better target Republicans leading to the Loughall murder of 8 IRA men, by the SAS, under his strategic direction, and a passer-by in an ambush.

A lot of these policies were directed via MI5 and HMG. Sir Ronnie's participation cannot be underestimated. Remember Douglas Hogg's speech that paved the way for the murder of Pat Finucane by loyalists working under the auspices of British Army/Intelligence i.e FRU. Hogg was briefed by MI5 and Special Branch prior to that speech.

There's more in between, but ultimately Ronnie became head of the RUC. He was so at the time Raymond McCords son (A loyalist) was murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF yet denied any knowledge of informer information etc. at the time when questioned by Mr McCord.

O'Loan's report itself is, on the face of it, ludicrous. Statements like "informer 1 (known to be Mark Haddock) was not involved but states that informer 2 drove the car and informer 4 fired the gun." The whole bunch, like so many loyalist criminals, worked for the Branch.

Whilst dates might be out, I think (after revision) that this captures essence of what I was trying to say.

I don't tread in here (political conspiracies) often, but I'll try harder in the future.

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Castlereagh has, since 1790 or thereabouts been the home of torture in Ireland. Lord Castlereagh extracted confessions from members of the United Irishmen movement, a group made up of Catholics, Protestants and other religions, while they were attempting to secure assistance from the French Directory in the hopes of securing a French invasion force.

Details of the torture can be found in the book 'secret service under Pitt'.


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