The legacy of Chris Ryder, the former Sunday Times (ST) journalist who passed away last Friday, is not one to be proud of: he was one of a number of journalists who helped MI5 and the RUC’s Special Branch cover up the rape of children who had fallen into the grip of a paedophile gang that revolved around Kincora Boys’ Home. Some of them were as young as 10-years of age. He did not understand that there was a difference between a person being a homosexual and a paedophile. He once described the abuse of children at Kincora as ‘homosexual high-jinks’.
One of the abusers at Kincora was William McGrath. McGrath once described his sexual preference for ten-year-old boys. He was a prolific rapist. His victims did not think they were participating in ‘high-jinks’ rather excruciatingly painful rape and humiliation, something that destroyed their lives. Some of the victims of the Kincora rape gang later committed suicide.
Ryder’s negligence also nearly led to the death of a British agent in the IRA called Louis Hammond in 1973. The Hammond fiasco appears to have acted as a catalyst which led to Ryder becoming one of MI5’s many assets in the Irish media.
By 1977 he was sending the following type of reports on his colleagues in the media to British Army HQ at Lisburn where MI5 had a station.
THE JOURNALIST DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH
Ryder became a frequent visitor to the private dining (and drinking) area at the RUC’s Knocknagoney HQ where he rubbed shoulders with his friends in the RUC Special Branch and MI5.
When Ryder appeared at the Smithwick Tribunal he denied suggestions that he had worked for MI5. “That is what people of a Republican disposition have said against me – I did not know a soul in MI5.”
He also said that at “one point a person did approach me but I was not interested.” Even if we are to take this denial at face value, it still raises the question: why did MI5 think he might work for them?
Surely the person who made the ‘approach’ to him would have been from MI5 or a similar organisation such as MI6? It was hardly someone from the NI Roads Authority.
Readers can make up their own minds if they believe Ryder never met anyone from MI5.
RYDER AND THE BRITISH-IRISH ASSOCIATION
Ryder was also a regular guest at the British-Irish Association (BIA) which was heavily infiltrated by MI5.
Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey forbade his ministers from attending the BIA in the 1980s on the basis it was an MI5 front.
Surely Ryder met many British intelligence officers and assets at it such as Dame Daphne Park (senior MI6 officer) and David Astor (MI6 media asset)?
RYDER AND HAMMOND
Ryder’s path crossed with that of Louis Hammond in 1973 courtesy of British Intelligence.
On May 13 1972 the British Army arrested Hammond, a Royal Irish Ranger deserter, at a barricade in the Slievegallion area of Andersonstown, West Belfast. Hammond had been born in 1954 and had grown up in Andersonstown.
Having joined the Army in 1970 , he had disappeared after a visit home in 1972. He opted to become a Military Reaction Force (MRF) spy instead of facing charges for desertion and IRA membership. The MRF had been set up by Brigadier Frank Kitson before he left NI in 1972. It was based at Palace Barracks, Holywood. It ran a network of informers and agents who identified IRA members who were then sought out by MRF assassination units.
After two other MRF agents, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, were lifted by the IRA (and later ‘disappeared’), Hammond was spirited to Liverpool.
That should have been the end of his entanglement with the intelligence services. However, the Psychological Operations [PSYOPS] unit at British Army HQ in Lisburn was engaged in an operation to sow dissent inside the Provisional IRA by planting stories that certain IRA members were embezzling the proceeds of robberies.
A document was prepared which was made to look like it had been written by a senior IRA member being held in Long Kesh. The plan was to pretend it had been intercepted by the security forces. It was addressed to the IRA’s Belfast Commander, Seamus Twomey, and named IRA members who had allegedly misappropriated funds.
It would not appear that Ryder was an asset of Her Majesty at this stage as an elaborate ruse was mounted to convince him that the Long Kesh forgery was genuine. The forgery was passed to Ryder who alerted The Sunday Times in London. The ST delegated Ryder and Paul Eddy, another journalist, to investigate the story.
The teenage Hammond was now brought back into play. He was ordered to contact Ryder and reveal he had been the Intelligence Officer of the Provisional IRA’s E Company in Riverdale and was prepared to sell him information about IRA embezzlement. To Ryder, it appeared that Hammond was corroborating what was in the Long Kesh document.
Ryder published an article in the ST which quoted an unnamed “former Intelligence Officer from E Company” as the paper’s source. The IRA quickly realised it was Hammond and ascertained that he was back in Belfast. He was lured to a house in the Markets district and interrogated for three days after which he was shot three times in the head and once in the stomach. Yet he somehow managed to survive albeit partially paralysed and blind in one eye.
Ryder and the ST were clearly negligent in revealing that their information had come from a “former Intelligence Officer from E Company”.
Following the publication of the story, the IRA considered killing Ryder. Ed Moloney has revealed on his Broken Elbow blog that they were talked out of this by a journalist – still alive and therefore unnamed – who advised them this would backfire on them by alienating the media.
THE SPOOKS MOVE RYDER TO MANCHESTER
The intelligence services decided not to take any chance with Ryder’s safety and moved him and his family to a house at Butlins Holiday Camp in Bognor Regis temporarily. They were then taken to Manchester for a number of years from where he continued to report on Northern Ireland.
Surely Ryder got to known a number of MI5 officers after he moved to Manchester? MI5 is attached to the Home Office (MI6 to the Foreign Office). Are we really to believe that Ryder met no one from MI5, the organisation with the overall responsibility for resettling him in Manchester?
One of those who had been involved in the embezzlement story was Hugh Mooney, a black propaganda expert attached to the infamous Information Research Department (IRD). Mooney worked closely with MI5 and MI6. Ryder certainly did not mention him when he was claiming that he did not known a ‘soul’ in MI5 at the Smithwick Tribunal.
One of the reasons Mooney was pushed out of Northern Ireland by the Director and Co-ordinator of Intelligence (DCI) at the NIO was because of the Hammond fiasco. This happened despite his efforts then and later to distance himself from the debacle.
RYDER AND THE KINCORA COVER-UP
By the mid-1980s Ryder had become an instrument of the so-called ‘Ultra’ right-wing faction which was in control of MI5 and worked closely with the RUC Special Branch. One Garda observer who visited the RUC Special Branch HQ recalls that MI5 officers literally sat at the same table as RUC officers.
The Ultras despised the late Sir Maurice Oldfield, the former Chief of MI6 who had reported some of their excesses to the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Although Oldfield had died in 1981, they used Ryder to expose details about Oldfield’s homosexuality.
Ryder published a story on 26 April 1987 which claimed that a drunken Oldfield had been involved in “an incident” in the toilets of The Highwayman, a public house in Comber, Co. Down, in 1980 during his brief tenure as Margaret Thatcher’s Security Co-ordinator in Northern Ireland. It was alleged that the victim of his attention had complained about his behaviour. Ryder did not speak to a single person who had worked at the pub at the time. Bob Parker of Channel 4 News, however, tracked down each and every person who had and they all denied any knowledge of the alleged incident. The police at a local and national level also denied it had happened.
Ryder did not speak to a single person who had worked at the pub at the time. Bob Parker of Channel 4 News, however, tracked down each and every person who had and they all denied any knowledge of the alleged incident.
At the time MI5 was coming under pressure from some branches of the British media, such as Private Eye, about its involvement in the smearing, blackmail and exploitation of influential Loyalist figures who had been involved in the abuse of boys, some of whom had been residents at Kincora Boys’ Home.
The Ultras and many in the press knew that Oldfield was engaged in this sort of behaviour in London so the planting of a fictitious story about Northern Ireland must have had a purpose. The piece in the ST has all the appearance of a warning to MI6 that it was very much in its interest to deploy its political and media influence to suppress the scandal. At the time most of the focus was on MI5’s involvement in the scandal. The Ryder article had the added Machiavellian twist that if anyone looked at it hard – as Channel 4 did – it would not stand up to scrutiny. The underlying menace might have been that if MI6 did not row in behind MI5, the next story might be on a similar theme but far more accurate.
That Oldfield was involved in the Kincora scandal is no longer a secret. MI6 finally revealed that he was a friend of Joseph Mains, the Warden of Kincora, when it provided a limited amount of information about Oldfield to the Hart Inquiry in 2016. Curiously, Hart still concluded that MI6 knew nothing about Kincora.
The reporting of the Kincora scandal in Ryder’s 1989 book on the RUC, ‘A Force Under Fire’ was misleading and dishonest. For a start, he claimed that 300 of the 400 Kincora inmates had been traced and interviewed claiming that it was “an enquiry that required unusual discretion, for many of [the former residents], settled in jobs, married and with children, had put their unhappy memories behind them”. On the contrary, at least one boy, Richard Kerr, was assaulted by a highly ambitious RUC officer in Preston, England, and told that he would be arrested for homosexual offences if he returned to Belfast to testify during the trial of the Kincora staff. Kerr was one of the boys who had been abused by prominent figures. There were at least seven other boys in his circumstances. None of them were asked to give evidence. (Sadly, one of them, Steven Waring, had committed suicide in November 1977 by jumping from a ferry into the Irish Sea at night time. His body was never found.)
Ryder used his book to try to dismiss rumours of a wider scandal. He wrote: “Instead of settling the matter, the [1981 Kincora] court case gave rise to a series of sensational newspaper allegations that Kincora was the centre of the top people’s vice-ring, which included senior members of the British administration in Northern Ireland. They were said to have orchestrated an official cover-up to protect themselves because the alleged homosexual high-jinks were used by the British security services to blackmail prominent politicians for intelligence purposes”.
They were said to have orchestrated an official cover-up to protect themselves because the alleged homosexual high-jinks were used by the British security services to blackmail prominent politicians for intelligence purposes”.
Yet this is exactly what happened (except – obviously – that child rape was involved not ‘homosexual high-jinks‘).
Overall, Ryder’s interpretation of what happened at Kincora is disturbing. The phrase “homosexual high-jinks” was and remains deeply offensive to the homosexual community. Kincora involved the abuse of underage boys. Why Ryder tried to equate the rape of underage boys with homosexuality is deeply troubling. Some of McGrath’s non-Kincora victims were as young as 10.
Why Ryder tried to equate the rape of underage boys with homosexuality is deeply troubling.
A number of the boys who were raped later committed suicide. Yet, to read Ryder’s book about the RUC, one could come away with the impression that the survivors were gainfully employed and happily married with children.
Despite a mountain of evidence which had accumulated by the time Ryder published his book in 1989 he nonetheless claimed that “conclusive evidence to justify the most sensational of [the rumours] has still not emerged”.
Worse still, he gave his full support to the report furnished by Sir George Terry. At the time Terry furnished his report, it was immediately apparent that it was a cover-up. Despite the fact that Judge Anthony Hart was clearly out of his depth while conducting his Kincora enquiry, even he could not avoid the conclusion that Terry had lied and said as much in his error strewn 2017 report.
Ryder’s description of the Terry report is as follows: “In October 1983 Sir George Terry reported on his investigation. He said that no evidence of a top people’s vice-ring had been uncovered; that there were no grounds for any further prosecutions; and that the RUC had handled the earlier complaint satisfactorily”.
BUT WHAT ABOUT RYDER’S 5 DECEMBER 1982 REPORT?
Anyone reading Ryder’s 1989 book about the RUC would have been given the impression that there was nothing to the allegations that the State had known about the abuse of boys at Kincora, merely ‘sensational’ rumours. Curiously, this was not how Ryder had reported the scandal seven years earlier when he had begun a story entitled ‘Ulster: how homosexuals were used’. In that report he had stated as follows: “British intelligence officers in Ulster used homosexual loyalist politicians in the early 70s to gather information about extreme Protestants groups because they did not trust the integrity of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch. At that time male homosexuality was still a criminal offence in the province and the politicians were easily compromised. One politician used in this way was William McGrath, founder and leader of an extreme loyalist group called “Tara”. McGrath is now serving four years in jail for a series of homosexual assaults on boys in care while he was housemaster at Kincora boys home in East Belfast but, despite knowing of his homosexuality and his employment, the intelligence community attached to the Northern Ireland Office from the security service and military intelligence did not alert the welfare authorities or the RUC”.
This opening paragraph of the 1982 ST article is at odds with what he wrote in his book about the RUC in 1989. The implication that the RUC did not know about the Kincora scandal was a preposterous lie. It was reported to them on multiple occasions. On one occasion, files went missing. This was a well known fact long before 1989.
It is also absurd to suggest that British military intelligence did not know about the Kincora scandal. Village magazine has reported extensively (as have many others) about the report furnished by Capt Colin Wallace, a PSYOPs officer at Lisburn, who told the media about McGrath, Tara and Kincora. Indeed one of these was David Blundy a journalist with the ST. (If you return to the first document reproduced in this article, you will see that Blundy was the subject matter of the report that Ryder submitted to Lisburn in 1977.)
The depressing truth is that the Northern Ireland Office, British military intelligence, MI5, MI6 and the RUC (including its special branch) knew all about the Kincora scandal as it was happening. Indeed, one Kincora boy has reported how RUC officers were involved in trafficking him to a hotel in Belfast. So what was Ryder playing at?
It would seem that when push came to shove, Ryder was prepared to side with the RUC Special Branch over MI5. In December 1982 a lot of pressure had grown up around the Kincora scandal and there was an expectation that there would be a full judicial enquiry into it. (How that enquiry was stymied is a story for another day.) In 1982 the RUC was using Ryder to signal to the NIO and the various branches of British Intelligence and their overlords in Whitehall that the RUC was not going to allow itself be served up as a scapegoat. Put simply, if there was going to be a judicial inquiry, the RUC was going to spill the beans on MI5 and MI6.
By 1989 (when Ryder’s book on the RUC was published) there was no prospect of the a judicial inquiry into Kincora and Ryder was now fully prepared to do a u-turn on his 5 December 1982 report and protect all of his friends in the RUC Special Branch and their masters in MI5.
RYDER AND SHIFTY SHELDON
Another document in the possession of Village confirms that Bernard Sheldon, MI5’s lawyer, knew that a named RUC officer had fed the information in the 5 December 1982 article to Ryder. Yet, the RUC officer was not charged with any offence under the Official Secrets Act. In a sinister development, Sheldon instead tried to get Colin Wallace, a Kincora whistleblower, charged with a breach for talking to the press about McGrath, Tara and Kincora.
The dapper RUC officer was later honoured by Buckingham Palace with a prestigious award for his services to the Crown.
Ryder must be one of the few players in the Kincora cover-up who was not given an award by Her Majesty.
RYDER AND FRED HOLROYD
Also in the 1980s, Ryder was involved in an attempt to discredit Fred Holroyd. Holroyd was a former military intelligence officer who provided the media with details about British Intelligence dirty tricks in Northern Ireland.
He was one of those who blew the whistle about Robert Nairac.
He revealed how Nairac had been involved in the murder of John Green in the Republic of Ireland. Holroyd had evidence to back up his claim: a colour photograph of Green which Nairac had taken after his murder. Holroyd gave a copy of the photograph to the RUC which never returned it. Instead they circulated a black and white copy of Green’s corpse which had been taken by the Garda.
Ryder tried to discredit Holroyd by claiming that he had made up the story and that the photograph he had spoken about was in fact the black and white one taken by the Garda. Fortunately for the truth, another journalist called Barry Penrose, who had written many articles about Holroyd, managed to convince the ST that the piece was nothing more than “black propaganda” and it was not published.
RYDER AND GERRY FITT
Ryder wrote a biography of Gerry Fitt called ‘Fighting Fitt’ in 2006. Ryder reported that Fitt had not had anything to do with pleas by Northern Nationalists to the Irish government in Dublin for arms. On the contrary, Fitt had been to the forefront of those demanding guns from the Irish government.
Ryder is far from the only high-profile journalist who worked for MI5. He is certainly not the only one who deceived the public about aspects of the Kincora scandal.
Ryder’s true legacy is that he abused his position as a journalist and author to suppress the truth about an Anglo-Irish vice ring which brutally raped children. Some of the victims went on to commit suicide while the vice ring survived and people like Margaret Thatcher’s private secretary Sir Peter Morrison MP continued raping children for decades.
RYDER AS REPORTED IN THE PHOENIX
The latest edition of The Phoenix contains yet more information about Ryder’s journalistic past. This below from the 9 October 2020 edition: