Red Action No. 72: Autumn/Winter 1995.
Though the Cold War is long over the intelligence services retain a significant influence over the British media. Given that their trade is lies falsification and propaganda it would be remiss of them not to do so. Irish Republicans have long suspected that in fact large sections of the free press are directly controlled by MI5/MI6. Now it appears that a large number of Irish and Irish based journalists agree with them. In an article in the Guardian (7/7/95) they finger not just a particular journalist but a whole paper as being part of a conspiracy to derail the peace process. Of course speculation as to the extent of M15 infiltration within the media is not new. Jon Snow anchorman for Channel Four News confirms that he was approached in the 70's with an offer to double his salary. He turned it down. But how many would have done so? According to Peter Wright, MI5 had always about twenty senior journalists working for it in the national press. "They were not employed directly by us", he explained "but we regarded them as agents because they were happy to be associated with us".
There has been disquieting evidence of MI5 intrigue before. Much surfaced during the Scargill/ Windsor/ Gadaffi affair. When The Cook Report who along with the Mirror made the sensational allegations of Moscow gold etc. in 1990 had hardly come off the air, when the rest of the media and whole sections of the establishment joined the fray clearly working off the same menu. Tory and Labour MP's, Scargill's opponents inside the NUM, the Fraud squad, the courts ,the government appointed Certification officer and Commissioner for Trade Union Rights, the UDM and the maverick right-wing electricians union, Cabinet ministers, the TUC the Inland Revenue etc. In his book Enemy Within Seamus Milne comments; "With the special exception of Britain's corrosive `security' role in the north of Ireland, there have been no clearer cases of covert action, of such comprehensive mobilisation of the normally submerged power centres of the Whitehall empire, than in the history of the secret war against the miners."
Thatcher herself had made the same connection in a slightly different context six years earlier, an analysis that set the tone for the subsequent events. "At one end of the spectrum are the terrorist gangs within our borders and the terrorist states which finance and arm them. At the other are the hard left operating inside our system, conspiring to use union power...to break, defy and subvert the law." This was a call for `a common front' against Scargill and the NUM. As the evidence shows the call was heeded. The apparent uniqueness of the campaign allowed those startled by it to find grounds for dismissing it from their minds, not by exploring the vast conspiracy against the NUM, but instead by focusing on former NUM officer Roger Windsor's role within it. Like the lone gunman theory liberals sought and found comfort in the idea of the `bad apple' rather than the rotten orchard.
One example of the `bad apple syndrome' that occurred during the ongoing Colin Wallace saga is indicative of the rot. Wallace who had been employed as a spook in the Six Counties in the early seventies subsequently made a number of allegations regarding MI5 attempts to destabilise the Labour Government of Harold Wilson. Serious attempts were made to discredit him until eventually he was convicted of the murder of a friend and jailed for ten years. On his release the opportunity, presented itself and he began to try and clear his name with some success. Immediately the counter allegations resurfaced. The most prominent being that he was a `Walter Mitty' type fantasist. David McKittrick the Irish correspondent for The Independent wrote a scathing article along those lines. He quoted as evidence the fact that Wallace photographed in the early seventies wearing a para Red Beret had claimed that he was in fact an ex-para. As proof he offered a cutting from a local paper in 1974 which carried a quote from Wallace claiming as much. The crusading journalist Paul Foot who had taken an interest in the affair asked McKittrick on television how it was he a journalist based in the north of Ireland had come to unearth such damning evidence- in Wales? `Damning evidence' that lay buried in an obscure local paper for 16 years? McKittrick offered no reply. Of course the other question that lay unanswered was who planted it?
Irish Republicans still talk to McKittrick so presumably he can't be all bad. One journalist they will not touch is Liam Clarke. Recently he has been the subject of a withering attack not by republicans, but by other Irish and British based journalists. He is accused of "bias and falsification of planting patently false stories". This is extraordinary enough but what's exceptional is that the same charge of "bias and falsification" is laid at the door of a whole paper The Sunday Times. Since the IRA cease-fire on August 31 last year, the ST has carried a series of stories questioning its sticking power. On October 16 the papers NI correspondent, Liam Clarke, wrote about Sinn Fein's difficulty in holding the IRA in check. Christmas, he claimed was the moment when the IRA "would review its cease-fire...and could abandon it". He added: "However , intelligence sources believe the cease-fire will be extended until Easter, when a final decision will be taken." A month later Clarke alleged that, "the IRA is on the brink of an internal war". A week after that, he wrote: "The danger period for the cease-fire will be the three months between Christmas and Easter."
A front page news story- headlined "Rebel IRA units threaten new war"- suggested the danger was already present. It claimed that a hard-line faction of more than 50 terrorists are preparing to split the IRA to begin a bombing campaign The breakaway group has given the IRA's army council an impossible deadline of next March to achieve the total surrender of the British Government in NI. All of this was attributed to,"senior security officials and later to senior RUC detectives". Most of these stories were published in the Irish edition but some appeared in a shorter version in Britain. It is evidence like this that convinces some journalistic critics "that the ST is hell bent on derailing the peace process". (This ignores the fact that other British papers have carried similar stories, Clarke is simply the most blatant). According to Roy Greenslade former Daily Mirror editor writing in the Guardian: "one phrase betrayed the writers [Clarke) agenda. The [breakaway] groups emergence confirms growing fears that the peace process is in serious jeopardy." Greenslade asks "Whose fears? The papers? The people's? The army's? Sinn Fein's?" As most off, these stories were published in the Irish edition only, it is safe to assume that it was intended for consumption in Ireland. And who in Ireland is likely to be most paranoid about the intentions of the IRA? Who in Ireland is likely to be most impressed by senior security officials and the RUC? It is not republicans as Greenslade tentatively suggests- it is loyalists. Indeed MP Ken Maginness is one Unionist leader, incidentally also thought to be close to MI5, who has repeated word for word the ST propaganda. In June he predicted that the IRA had planned "a rolling resumption of violence."
If for instance MI5 wanted to derail the peace process it would be necessary to prepare the ground in this fashion by constantly feeding the inherent suspicions in the loyalist and republican communities: the fear of capitulation to the IRA matched by a fear of capitulation by the IRA respectively. It would be necessary to keep the pot simmering, so that at an opportune moment the pot could be quickly brought to the boil. In the last couple of months prominent figures in both the INLA and the UVF; organisations shown to have been vulnerable to MI5 manipulation in the past, have been arrested either moving or attempting to procure weapons. In July there was also the emergence of a previously unknown loyalist grouping threatening to renew hostilities with nationalists. Similar claims had been made by a `pro-republican group the INRA' a few months earlier. In such a situation all that would be required is for `masked men' believed to be republican/loyalist to initiate some violent action against their political opponents.
The intention would be to provoke a response, real or imagined. tat...tat...tat- tit. Once that had occurred the situation would quickly escalate. As an anarchist called Malatesta once observed: "Organ and function are inseparable terms. Take away from an organ its function and either the organ dies or the function is re-established. Put an army in a country in which there are neither reasons for, nor fear of war...and it will provoke war ...a police force where there are no crimes to solve or criminals to apprehend will invent both or cease to exist." It is important to note here that such a strategy though devised by MI5, and in line with their thinking, may actually be counterpoised to the governments own agenda such as it is. The essential requirement is that a political vacuum exists to allow for that kind of manipulation. So while it is clear that at least a section of the establishment genuinely want to disengage; they must rely on MI5 etc. for advice on what is likely to prove the most advantageous and least damaging, circumstance. If they are advised that a surrender of some republican armoury is guaranteed - if - they take the hard line on decommissioning, `if they make Adams sweat' they might stall etc.
Republicans of course have their own different and distinct paranoia's. They are not concerned with the breakdown of the cease-fire but with the decommissioning of weapons, surrender, and betrayal. It is logical that these are catered for as well. A former editor of the Times, Simon Jenkins, maintains that there is no peace process, just peace - nothing but the truce.
Now consider these statements: "Sinn Fein is now compelled to put disarmament on the agenda: Adams will have to negotiate with the IRA on demilitarisation: In return for demilitarisation, Sinn Fein will push for an amnesty for Republican Prisoners: Sinn Fein will have to participate in any `power sharing' assembly: [the leadership] are prepared to hand over arms accumulated by the IRA provided that there is demilitarisation on the British side: To enter talks the IRA will be made to surrender much of its weaponry: Sinn Fein will argue that demilitarisation by the IRA is the price that must be paid for the release of prisoners, the reform of the RUC and the dismantling of Army observation posts: The barriers within the Republican movement against Adams implementing his side of the bargain are at the moment very weak. They consist of the republican hard-liners- the one third or so of the IRA army council that opposed the cease-fire and marginal elements like Republican Sinn Fein and Bernadette McAliskey."
Liam Clarke again? Nope. Wishful thinking by British analysts or the nightmare scenario outlined by hard line republicans? Neither actually. These statements were taken from Class Struggle no 24, the journal of the Irish Workers Group. Oh', you may think, the very hard left who are bitter about the betrayal of republican aspirations and the abandonment of the armed struggle? Yes and No. Yes, they are against the cease-fire. No, they do not, nor have they ever during a quarter century of resistance supported The armed struggle. So, during the war they condemned the armed struggle, and since then have condemned as petite bourgeois renegades those who suspended it? Yes. Bonkers in a nutshell (forgive the pun) yes.
There is however another explanation. For many republican POW's, the unsolicited gifts of Brit. Left propaganda is treated like refuse and despatched to the nearest bin- unread. As one explained: "It is designed to demoralise us." Designed is the key word here. There is a suspicion among republicans that like the British media much of the British Left is under the influence to one degree or another of the British state. Though the example provided would be of little significance on its own, the theme of republican capitulation and defeat is a thread common to almost the whole Anarchist and Trotskyist Left.
But why would they bother? The Brit. Left has no influence. Exactly. And whose fault is that? The American Left is hardly less feeble but that didn't stop the FBI placing agents in the Socialist Workers Party over there. These revolutionaries eventually settled for $7,000,000 in compensation ; on condition. That they in turn would not seek to have the provocateurs identified! According to former South African BOSS agent Gordon Winter MI5 like to boast that, "If there is a left wing movement in Britain bigger than a football team our man is a captain or vice captain or else he is the ref and can send any man off the field and call our man on any time he likes."So even to say that the `Left' has no influence is hardly correct. By maintaining a constant barrage of anti republican propaganda over a quarter of a century they have denied to the republican movement not only their own organisations and platforms but an invaluable political periphery and immediate access to tens of thousands of potential allies both here and in Ireland. An entirely negative influence from a republican point of view but an, impressive record in maiming minds nonetheless. During the war, the Brit Left poured scorn on nationalist, aspirations and unhesitatingly condemned the armed struggle. After August 31 alarmed by the possibility of finding themselves by, default on the same side as republicans for the first time in 25 years they immediately condemned the cease-fire and poured scorn on working class nationalist hopes in it. In preference to working with republicans in a united front against the `common enemy' their own ruling class, they castigated the IRA for `making deals with imperialism'. With weasel words they resumed their position as the radical wing of the `common front' sponsored by the ruling class against the IRA. An MI5 success story then? Even in this `badly lit hall of distorting mirrors' there cannot be a shadow of doubt. From an MI5 perspective it is hard to see how matters could be improved. Of course whether they are directly responsible or it happened in spite of them, who can tell. But it would be remiss of them not to have tried. Ultimately what's worse? Accepting the possibility that the Left's policy on Ireland may be influenced by MI5; or recognising that it probably doesn't have to be?