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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

The Guardian continues its “battle” with Sinn Féin

The Guardian’s Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald has written two articles in the space of a week, which contain, at the very least, highly questionable statements with regard to Sinn Féin and the IRA in general and Martin McGuinness in particular. These statements are partly based on equally questionable evidence provided by a former corporal and then sergeant (McDonald describes him as an “officer”) in the British Army’s covert “Force Research Unit”. The articles serve to reinforce the unproven theory that a man called Freddie Scapaticci was a spy codenamed Stakeknife at the heart of the IRA.

Freddie Scapaticci - an increasingly blunt stakeknife

It is my contention that McDonald, who holds one of the most important journalistic posts in Ireland and Britain, often fails to observe the standards of reportage that are to be expected from a newspaper with the stature of the Guardian. Readers can look here for previous criticism in Cic Saor of his work: -

It is no surprise or secret that the Guardian’s Ireland correspondent sees himself as being involved in a “battle for Irish history”, he himself makes this clear in his latest book Gunsmoke and Mirrors (page 102 of the hardback version for example). What is more surprising is that the Guardian newspaper is happy to facilitate McDonald in his crusade and with such questionable reportage.

Put simply, McDonald is prone to writing what he wants to believe without adding the usual checks and balances that would ensure his reports could be accepted as fair comment. The evidence I provide for this below is not, in the first instance, Sinn Fein based but overall it is in the context of McDonald’s self confessed battle against Sinn Féin that the problem is most clearly defined.

Writing in the Observer (now effectively the Guardian’s Sunday edition) of October 23, 2005, and under a headline that says – Lawlor killed in red-light district with teenage prostitute
McDonald says, amongst other inaccurate things, the following:

“Disgraced politician Liam Lawlor, who died in a car crash in Russia yesterday morning, may have been travelling with a young prostitute it emerged last night [....] Asked about the relationship between Lawlor and the girl, the police spokesman said: ‘They were not close friends. She does not have a passport and appears to be Ukrainian. I can only assume that they met in the street.”

Of course, all Irish people now know that the “young prostitute” McDonald refers to was in fact, Julia Kushnir, an interpreter. Not a prostitute and not “young” or under age and most definitely not in a red light district. Ms Kushnir survived the accident, only to discover she had been turned into a teenage whore.

McDonald fails to warn his readers that this story is based on questionable copy and complete speculation emanating from Moscow and may in fact, be totally untrue. Not only that, McDonald went further than many other newspapers by claiming that Liam Lawlor was a regular user of prostitute services:

“It is known that, while on regular trips to Prague, Lawlor, the first Irish politician to be jailed for corruption, visited brothels and sex clubs in the Czech capital. Lawlor was married with children.”

The Observer subsequently admitted that it had no evidence to warrant McDonald’s unnecessary and hurtful extra allegations and of course McDonald’s article itself was very quickly pulled down from its website.

The fall out from this cringeworthy example of sleaze journalism (including a completely gratuitous reference to Lawlor's children) was discussed worldwide but what did not receive much attention was the Observer’s special investigation into how this reporting debacle came about.

Reader’s Editor at the Observer Stephen Pritchard published a damning verdict on McDonald’s Moscow story on Saturday 5 November 2005 and, given that we are apparently involved in a battle for the narrative of Irish history, it is important to quote Pritichard’s verdict on McDonald’s journalism at length. However, in essence he says that McDonald wrote what he wished was true:

Stephen Pritchard – Reader’s Editor on Henry McDonald’s Liam Lawlor article:

“This was a story that journalists wanted to believe. Here was a politician who, in the words of the Irish Times, 'took the business of making money out of politics to a new level'. He had fallen from grace not once but several times, and had been to jail on three occasions. This would appear to be a man with no reputation to lose.
Yet one phone call to his family - a difficult call, but a necessary one - might have established that there had indeed been a woman in the car and that it was Julia Kushnir, Mr Lawlor's 29-year-old translator, a person known to Mrs Lawlor and her family. Instead, we chose to follow a theory presented by an unnamed Moscow police source, and compound it with another uncorroborated rumour from an Irish source.”

Pritchard’s report can be read in full here:,8224,1635282,00.html

One phone call to Liam Lawlor’s family was all that was needed to stop the story in its tracks but, crucially, in his conclusion Pritchard recommends this -
“In my internal report I have made several recommendations for reforms in the way that we handle sensitive material in future - urging particularly caution over information supplied by single sources -“

In other words, in 2005 Henry McDonald is warned by the Observer in no uncertain terms to avoid relying on single sources for his evidence – yet six years later we find him doing the opposite of what he has been advised to do.

In the article written about the Smithwick Tribunal for the Guardian on Sunday 11th of September last, McDonald places all his Scapaticci eggs in one basket and quotes solely from former FRU desk clerk Ian Hurst (aka Martin Ingram) when placing Martin McGuinness as head of the IRA’s Northern Command throughout the whole of the Troubles and that British spy Freddie Scapaticci (the alleged Stakeknife) answered directly to Martin McGuinness. Thus, according to Hurst/Ingrams’s spook scenario, Scappaticci told McGuinness about the impending murders of two senior RUC officers (the murders that are the cause of the Smithwick inquiry).
The article can be read here:

Apart from a general background role for a former serving RUC officer, McDonald’s article simply provides a platform for Ian Hurst to spout his dubious allegations about McGuinness and Scapaticci There is no warning to Guardian readers that this account may be wrong (it is) or that Hurst/Ingram in general is a questionable witness (he is). What for example, if McDonald were to quote the Bloody Sunday Inquiry’s general verdict on this same so called intelligence officer?:

Report of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry – Volume III

147.270 – “......We are of the view that Martin Ingram to a substantial degree exaggerated the importance of his role at HQNI and his level of knowledge and access to intelligence.”

148.81 – “Martin Ingram gave confused accounts in the course of his evidence about the intelligence that he said he saw.”

148.84 – “We formed the view that Martin Ingram had, at best, an imperfect recollection of events and that it would be unwise to rely upon his evidence.”

Is McDonald’s editor aware of the above rubbishing of Ingram’s testimony? And is that same editor aware that Ingram very recently produced an alleged security document that showed Martin McGuinness to be a spy for MI6 and that this document has been widely declared to be fake. The document was offered to several news outlets but not even the Sunday Times (no friend of Martin McGuinness) would take it:
“Security experts discredit claim that McGuinness was M16 spy”

As with previous McDonald articles in the Guardian referring to Martin McGuinness, the deputy leader of the Northern Parliament was not, apparently, given any opportunity to reply to the “unreliable” Mr. Ingram in McDonald's Smithwick Tribunal article of Sunday last. Or at least there is no Guardian statement that McGuinness refused to comment.

The same applies in yesterday’s Guardian (Saturday, 17 September 2011) where McDonald uses Sinn Féin’s decision to stand Martin McGuinness as its candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections as a peg to more or less repeat what he said six days before:

“Hurt's testimony to the Smithwick Inquiry into alleged Garda-IRA collusion includes claims that British state agent Freddie Scappaticci was centrally involved in the plot and reported directly to McGuinness who was then on the IRA's council.”

The problem for McDonald, and for a surprising number of other journalists who have accepted Hurst/Ingram as a credible witness and the Scappaticci story as genuine, is that Freddie Scappaticci, whilst almost certainly being a British spy, did not play the role in the IRA that Hurst says he did and he was not in a position to influence the course of the IRA’s war in the way that has been described ad nauseam. He was not in a "nutting squad" and he was not consulted prior to major IRA operations.

It is also the case that almost all of the covert state forces operating in the North of Ireland were extremely hostile to the peace process, none more so than the Force Research Unit, and McGuinness more than anyone was a hate figure for them. Could this be the real reason why we are seeing these stories created by ex FRU members about Sinn Féin and the IRA being riddled with spies?

The Good Friday Sting
I believe that many journalists have been duped by Ian Hurst/Martin Ingram and whatever nexus of people is helping and encouraging him. They have been duped for a variety of reasons, but often because Hurst/Ingram's increasingly discredited evidence was what these journalists wanted to be true.

It may be time for them to review their position and admit that they have been taken in by what we might call a Good Friday Sting.
Cic Saor readers will be interested to hear that this blogger is presently writing a book with the same title where far more about this whole "Sting" will be revealed. Is it possible that the spooks are so active because the IRA (may God forbid) actually WON the war and that this truth must not be spoken nor Sinn Féin allowed to win the peace? * (see further remarks below)

Watch this space.

@ Paul Larkin
Baile Átha Cliath
Mí Meán Fómhair 2011

*This comment, understandably, has proven to be highly controversial and the fact that certain anti peace process elements have attempted to use it as a weapon against me is interesting to say the least. See for example -

However, I do share some of the blame for not explaining the background to my "IRA won the war " comment above. What I was trying to do was alert Cic Saor readers to the fact that the likes of Henry McDonald in the Guardian push the school playground argument that Sinn Féin and the IRA was defeated and he (and certain other journalists) will also quote frequently questionable evidence that the IRA was the victim of wholesale penetration by MIF/FRU elements, but this is not actually the view of many people in the British security services.

The line being peddled by usually low ranking spooks that the IRA was holed below the waterline by informers to the point where it could no longer operate is not borne out either by the facts or by the testimony of the security forces themselves. See Eamon McCann’s brilliant blog on top RUC man Norman Baxter here, which also illustrates my point.

It had been my intention in my controversial closing remark in the above blog to link to an article from the Sunday Herald, which presents a scenario that gets closer to what many former RUC people and military say – that the Provos got much of what they wanted when they should have been crushed. However, the link to the article has been "decommissioned" and a Google search for its headline simply takes the researcher to the Sunday Herald's present home page. So for the purposes of elucidating my point (and for posterity) I am pasting the article in full below.

For the record - I do NOT believe that the IRA won a complete victory on the basis of its stated aims BUT I believe history will record, whether we like it or not, that the organisation fought a successful campaign. I understand that this is a rather nuanced argument for those "analysts" who wear anti GFA blinkers and therefore find it difficult to see the full picture. Perhaps the article below will help them understand that the very people they say destroyed the IRA actually say the opposite.

It should also be noted that in the article below our favourite FRU spook Martin Ingram/Ian Hurst, as quoted, flatly contradicts his subsequent testimony that the IRA was decimated by spies, touts and agents.

Look at Ingram's quote:

“I think what this officer is saying is an honest appraisal. The nationalist community was unjustly treated and that led to the resurgence of the IRA, although I disagree with the IRA’s methodology.
What this man has said will be detrimental to his career , but there are those in senior positions in MI5 who would probably agree with him.”

@ Paul Larkin
Baile Átha Cliath
Mí Feabhra 2012

The missing Sunday Herald article:

Fury [or should that read honesty?] as MI5 describe IRA terror as ‘just’

Secret briefings enrage victims’ relatives
By Neil Mackay, Home Affairs Editor - 12June2004

MI5 has caused outrage after one of its spies stated publicly that the IRA “fought a just cause” and won a “successful campaign” during the 30-year Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Sunday Herald is unable to name the MI5 officer following a threat of legal action from the government . However, the spy’s comments have provoked fury from the victims of IRA violence and Ulster politicians.

The controversy centres on a briefing given by the MI5 officer, a former Royal Navy commander, at a maritime security conference on Orkney. Details have been given to the Sunday Herald by Mark Hirst, the former head of communications at Orkney Islands Council, who attended the seminar.

The conference was held by the Department of Transport (DoT) in Kirkwall. Delegates included representatives from the council, port authorities, ferry services, energy firms, the tourist board and police.
Hirst says the MI5 officer said the IRA was “the biggest threat to British national security”. But the officer then said “in our opinion they [the IRA] have fought a just cause”.

“The conclusion of MI5, according to this officer,” said Hirst, “was based on the fact there had been legitimate grievances among, and discrimination against, the nationalist community and this had sustained the IRA through the length of the campaign.”
The MI5 officer then added: “Has it been a successful campaign? The answer is yes.”
Hirst said: “He referred to the fact Sinn Fein had two ministers in power. What better success can you wish for, he said, than to have your people in positions of power in government.”
Hirst said the comments were “not off-the-cuff as they were supported by an official MI5 PowerPoint presentation, complete with the official crest”.
“Presumably this was sanctioned at some level,” he added.
The DoT confirmed that the briefing took place, adding: “This was part of a programme to ensure that security staff at UK ports were up to date with the terrorism threat they are countering. We are not prepared to comment further .”
Orkney Council declined to comment. However, William Frazer, who runs Fair (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives), a Northern Ireland support group for victims of paramilitary violence, was horrified .
Frazer’s father, a member of the security forces, was killed by the IRA, as were two uncles and two cousins. Five of his friends were also murdered, and his home was bombed five times.
He said the officer’s claims reinforced his belief that the government and intelligence agencies controlled the IRA campaign, using double-agents to manage republican violence. Frazer pointed to Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife, who was exposed by the Sunday Herald last year. Scappaticci, who worked for British intelligence, was also one of the IRA’s highest-ranking volunteers.
“The MI5 officer’s comments back up the fact there was no determination to beat the IRA,” said Frazer, who is now writing to the Prime Minister in protest. “It is a disgrace to the memory of victims. He is talking about the killing of innocent people .
“ This MI5 officer needs to be held to account. What this man is saying is treason – it shows the ‘dirty war’ really was dirty.”
A senior source in the intelligence services said: “I am staggered by these comments.”
But Kevin Fulton, a former double-agent who infiltrated the IRA, said he was not surprised by the MI5 officer’s comment. He said : “The insight I have leads me to ask ‘who was running this war?’. I believe it was run from London.”
Martin Ingram, a former intelligence officer in the army’s spying arm, the Force Research Unit, said: “I think what this officer is saying is an honest appraisal. The nationalist community was unjustly treated and that led to the resurgence of the IRA, although I disagree with the IRA’s methodology.
“What this man has said will be detrimental to his career , but there are those in senior positions in MI5 who would probably agree with him.”
Hardline unionist MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, said it was “totally out of order” for an MI5 officer to make such statements. “ How would MI5 explain this officer’s comments to people who lost loved ones in Enniskillen, La Mon House or the Shankill bombing? It is incredible that a man in his position would justify the slaughter of innocent civilians and the security forces.
“It is still an offence to be a traitor and this man’s comments are treacherous. He is betraying Britain. He should be removed immediately.”


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Title: The Guardian continues its “battle” with Sinn Féin
Date posted: 18 Sep '11 - 13:15
Filed under: General
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