By David Burke.
The Arms Trial opened fifty years ago later this month, 22 September. It has since become clear that the prosecution was one of the most tainted episodes in modern Irish legal history and that, more than anyone else, the former Taoiseach Jack Lynch was responsible for the sham. The prosecution which was sanctioned by Lynch’s cabinet against legal advice was driven from start to finish by State-sponsored perjury, concealment of evidence and even forgery. The driving force behind the dirty tricks was Peter Berry of the Department of Justice. After the acquittal of the accused, the British Secret Service tried to exploit the mountain of lies that had been told during the trial to further their interests in Ireland. They had many dupes and a few allies who helped them along the way.
A section from a smear document manufactured by the Information Research Department (IRD) of the Foreign Office is reproduced later in this article. The IRD worked with the British Secret Service and was run by a team of professional liars and forgers. It is the only known wing of British Intelligence that was shut down by politicians on account of its deplorable behaviour.
The IRD was involved in the MI6-CIA coup which toppled Mohammad Mosaddegh, the moderate secular and democratically elected prime minister of Iran. That short-term success turned into a long-term nightmare. The IRD aggravated hatred in Indonesia and helped provoke the slaughter of 500,000 people. Sir Andrew Gilchrist was a pivotal figure in the inflammatory propaganda that sparked the Indonesian massacre. He served as British ambassador to Ireland 1967-1970. His successor, John Peck was a former Head of the IRD. Sir John Rennie, the Chief of MI6, 1968-73, was yet another former head of the IRD.
It should be borne in mind that the IRD and MI6 were both departments of the Foreign Office and often worked together. To all intents and purposes, the IRD was the black-propaganda wing of MI6.
I intend to publish a book in time for the 50th anniversary of the Arms Trial later this month. While the role of the British Secret Service, MI6, during the events leading up to the crisis is covered in it, as well as some of their machinations afterwards, there was not enough room to explore the sordid role the IRD played in the misrepresentation of these events after the event, but I will broach the subject here.
In his recent book on the Arms Crisis Michael Heney cites at least 30 instances where Lynch lied or distorted the truth about the arms-importation operation. I will be adding some additional charges to that list in my book as well as revealing the role of ‘The Deceiver’, a sinister individual who was more manipulative, cunning and deceitful than any other single figure involved in the scandal. His name has hardly featured in the literature on the event, until now.
It is impossible to understand the IRD-MI6 black-propaganda campaign involving the Arms Crisis without an appreciation of:
- the lies circulated by an extreme loyalist called William McGrath;
- the deceit of Jim Gibbons and Jack Lynch, and;
- the machinations of Official Sinn Féin (later the Workers Party) in the early 1970s.
The picture will also become a lot clearer when the role of The Deceiver is finally dragged into the light of day.
MI6’s DRAGON LADY
Baroness Daphne Park, who worked for MI6 and later became the joint chair of the British-Irish Association, told the BBC’s Panorama in 1993 how MI6 operated thus:
“Once you get really good inside intelligence about any group, you are able to learn where the levers of power are, and what one man fears of another… You set people discreetly against one another… They destroy each other, we [in MI6] don’t destroy them”.
MI6 was able to exploit the tensions between an array of interests in Ireland in the 1970s (and beyond). I have already described the Officials’ attempts to put their contentious version of the Arms Crisis across to the public in two publications which they circulated, one in 1971, the other in 1973. MI6 would make much hay from them. That article can be found at: Motley crew rewrote history. How the truth about Ireland’s Arms Crisis was corrupted by a bunch of mainly reprobates including NI paedophiles, a dissembling Taoiseach, Private Eye magazine in London, some British Intelligence black propagandists and an Irish Times reporter who was an ally of the Official IRA..
There were plenty of other sources of tensions in political circles in the Republic. The most evident were those in Fianna Fail, many of which sprang from the Arms Crisis and its sequel, the Arms Trial.
A CAULDRON OF DECEIT
On 22 September 1970 Charles Haughey TD, Captain James Kelly, John Kelly from Belfast and Albert Luykx, were put on trial for attempting to import arms illegally. One of the few witnesses to emerge from the cauldron of deceit at the Four Courts with his reputation intact was Colonel Michael Hefferon, the Director of Irish Military Intelligence, G2. Hefferon spent the early morning of the trial in a church contemplating the evidence he would give. When he reached the Four Courts, he told the solicitor acting for Captain James Kelly, who had served under his command at G2, that he was not going to commit perjury on behalf of the State. The testimony he provided later holed the prosecution beneath the waterline.
The trial soon collapsed. Cynically, the State decided not to call the colonel when a fresh one began in October 1970. After a legal wrangle, however, the judge in the second trial called Colonel Hefferon as a ‘bench witness’. The evidence he provided helped to convince the jury that the defendants were not guilty.
The truth of the matter is that they had attempted to import arms legally with the participation of Jim Gibbons. Gibbons was serving as Lynch’s minister for defence at the relevant time.
The truth of the matter is that they had attempted to import arms legally with the participation of Jim Gibbons. Gibbons was serving as Lynch’s minister for defence at the relevant time. Lynch knew what was going on because Gibbons was keeping him informed of developments but then ordered him to lie when the operation became public knowledge.
After the jury returned its verdict, Lynch’s Tánaiste, Erskine Childers, went to the British ambassador (the ex-IRD chief Peck) and told him that to his certain knowledge each and every member of the jury had been intimidated by an associate of Haughey who he named. Since no such thing happened – and that according to former jury members interviewed by Michael Heney – there is no escaping the conclusion that Childers lied, and did so knowingly. He later became President of Ireland. Childers’ assertions can only have served to colour Britain’s perspective of what had happened, fed propaganda-ammunition to the IRD and damaged Anglo-Irish relations.
In a development unique in the annals of Irish legal history, the senior counsel who led the prosecution against Captain Kelly and the other defendants came to realise much later that he had been handed a tainted brief and sought the permission of the Bar Council to state that he had been unaware of the alteration of a key witness statement. He was an entirely honourable man. See also: Dishonest Jack. A new book on the Arms Crisis of 1970 demolishes the reputation of a former Taoiseach
Garret FitzGerald alleged that the verdict was “perverse” and landed an Irish publisher with a libel bill for £70,000 payable to Captain Kelly and probably another £20,000 for the publisher’s own defence team.
Official Sinn Féin (later the Workers Party) spent years trying to convince the public that Haughey was really guilty; moreover, that Fianna Fáil had set up the Provisional IRA.
Official Sinn Féin (later the Workers Party) spent years trying to convince the public that Haughey was really guilty; moreover, that Fianna Fáil had set up the Provisional IRA. Let there be no mistake about it: the Officials were claiming – ludicrously – that Jack Lynch, Des O’Malley, Patrick Hillery and Erskine Childers, along with the rest of Cabinet, set up the Provisional IRA and that later Taoisigh including Haughey, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern, kept the plot ticking over by exerting control over the Provisional IRA.
While they were tilting at these windmills, the Official IRA, led by Cathal Goulding and Sean Garland, was also engaged in a campaign of robbery, extortion and murder. Notoriously, they murdered Ranger Best and a group of kitchen staff at a military base in London while also setting up protection rackets and engaging in murderous feuds with the Provos and INLA. After the slaughter of the kitchen staff, Goulding’s propagandists claimed that a string of British soldiers had been killed but spirited away to deny them credit for their attack. That claim was a total lie. It was typical of the untruths Goulding and his associates spouted at will. I touched upon some of this in more detail in an earlier article on the Arms Crisis: How the Irish Times got its biggest story of the last 50 years wrong.
An indication of the moral depravity of the Official IRA is that they later attempted to have the journalist Ed Moloney murdered by the UDA for researching aspects of their criminal empire including bank robbery and building site protection rackets. See: The Official IRA planned the murders of journalists Ed Moloney and Vincent Browne.
When it came to spreading lies about the Arms Crisis, the Officials were developing the fantasies of William McGrath, one of Ian Paisley’s key supporters in the 1960s and 1970s. McGrath had been claiming that FF was in an alliance with the IRA even before the Troubles began. After 1971 McGrath rarely failed to attend a unionist meeting without a copy of one of the publications produced by the Officials – or republished by the IRD – to support the fantasy that FF created the Provos. McGrath later achieved infamy for the rape of the teenage residents at Kincora Boys’ Home. He told one of them that his favourite age for anal sex with a boy was ten. McGrath became known as ‘the Beast’ to the RUC officers who investigated him.
By the mid-1970s, many assumed that Haughey had indeed attempted to import guns for the Provisionals. This was especially so among Fine Gael and Labour Party supporters whose political prejudices predisposed them to believe the worst of a man who was also beset with allegations of corruption. The dominant Lynch-Colley-O’Malley faction of Fianna Fáil also beat the same drum.
HER MAJESTY’s SMEARMEISTERS
An early ploy used by MI6 to get at Haughey was to hijack the FF-IRA bandwagon-conspiracy theory dreamt up by McGrath, fuelled by the lies of Gibbons and Lynch, and polished by Official Sinn Féin. The IRD reproduced two Official Sinn Féin publications with dramatic amendments which portrayed Haughey as the puppet master of the Provisional IRA.
The man in overall control of the anti-FF smear campaign was Sir Maurice Oldfield who served as Deputy Chief of MI6, 1965-1973, and Chief, 1973-78. He ran Irish affairs although his boss, Sir John Rennie, was no slouch either when it came to black propaganda dirty tricks. Rennie was a former Head of the IRD. Oldfield was not a paragon of virtue. He joked to colleagues about having tortured Jews in Palestine, abused rent boys and had one of his own agents killed by poison.
As indicated above, another key figure was the British Ambassador Sir John Peck, also a former Head of the IRD. During his tenure at the British Embassy he was in receipt of gossip from Irish politicians such as Erskine Childers, Conor Cruise O’Brien and Garret FitzGerald. One of the reasons Childers was friendly with the embassy was because his wife Rita had worked at it during and after World War 2. During the war she had been appointed as an assistant to John Betjeman (the famous poet). During his time in Ireland Betjeman had been targeted by the IRA for gathering gossip and spreading British propaganda around various hostelries in Dublin. Declassified British files confirm Betjeman was a propagandist.
THE TOP SECRET MEETING OF BRITISH SPIES AT STORMONT CASTLE THAT GAVE THE ORDER TO GO AFTER HAUGHEY
Captain Colin Wallace worked for yet another wing of Britain’s sprawling intelligence community, the Information Policy Unit (IPU), a psychological operations (‘PSYOPS’) unit based at British Army HQNI in Lisburn. It was part of a web of deception which worked with British military intelligence, MI5, MI6 and the IRD. According to Wallace, a meeting of Britain’s top propagandists was called at Stormont Castle to discuss mounting a campaign against Haughey.
Wallace recalls: “In 1972 there was a meeting at the NIO between Cliff Hill, Hugh Mooney of the IRD, Colonel Tugwell and Chris Herbert, a senior MI5 officer who came from the Irish Republic and, like Mooney, went to Trinity College. I was not at that meeting, but I was aware that it discussed an alleged plot by the Irish Government back in 1969 to send the Irish Army across the Border and secure and hold – with the help of the IRA – several towns under the guise that the operation was to protect the Nationalist population. It was alleged that the Irish Government would then call on the UN to send troops to N. Ireland to replace the Irish Army. The plan apparently involved Haughey. The problem was that by 1972 the British Government needed Jack Lynch’s help to obtain entry into the Common Market and he had established a good relationship with the British prime minister. The NIO meeting was about how to target Haughey and others in Fianna Fail from taking over from Lynch. I believe there were also rumours that back in 1970 the Irish Army had plotted to provide members of the Nationalist communities in the Border towns with Army weapons”.
While Wallace is undoubtedly accurate in his recollection that these were the type of things the propaganda team discussed at the NIO meeting, that is not to say they had actually happened. In particular, the Irish government did not plan an invasion of the North. Laughably, it would appear that British (Lack of) Intelligence was relying upon another stream of cockamamie conspiracy theories the Officials had fed to the Sunday Times Insight team at this time. While the Irish Army did develop an array of contingency plans after August 1969 to cross the border in the most extreme ‘Doomsday’ scenario, e.g. a pogrom, during that August the government did not plan to exploit the eruption of inter-communal violence to invade.
HAUGHEY’s HORSE AND THE HUSBAND WITH THE HURLING STICK
During the white heat of the Arms Crisis Charles Haughey had been in hospital. Wallace recalls that smears were later put into circulation that Haughey had been hit over the head with a hurling stick by the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair. The inspiration for this piece of dramatic gossip was a fall from a horse Haughey had suffered in 1970. The British did not instigate the rumour; various variations of it had been doing the rounds since May 1970. Yet, Haughey’s daughter has gone on record stating that she was present on the morning of his fall and saw for herself the condition her father was in directly thereafter.
Absurdly, Private Eye magazine in London had claimed that Haughey had been beaten up by Garda Special Branch in a fight in Dublin Castle.
Wallace, who was aware of the smear says that “I feel certain that this allegation arose at the time of the ‘Arms Scandal’ and was deployed later as part of a plan to draw public attention to Haughey’s alleged ‘lack of morality’.”
THE INFORMATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT (IRD) SMEAR PAMPHLET
The IRD reproduced the 1971 Official Sinn Féin (OSF) pamphlet entitled ‘Fianna Fail and the I.R.A.’ with a number of vicious alterations. Examine the paragraph below (bordered in red) for a moment. It is taken from the original OSF edition. Note how the paragraph begins with an indent as do all of the paragraphs in the publication.
Next, examine the MI6/IRD version (which is bordered in navy blue) and reproduced below. Note how the indent has disappeared and the width of the page is more expansive. Hence, the IRD forgers were able to compress the paragraph into five lines instead of the six in the OSF version and create space later on to add material to the pamphlet.
The IRD did not make any cuts from the original. Hence, all of the words which appeared in the original OSF version were reproduced in the MI6/IRD edition. Crucially, the additional space created by the compressed layout in the MI6-IRD version permitted the British propagandists to insert a whole new paragraph into page 19. It claimed that Haughey was creating the IRA – the Provisionals that is – as his own instrument “which he will almost certainly use to undermine Jack Lynch and thus open the door to him becoming Taoiseach”.
In addition, the IRD claimed, “Haughey is also said to be siphoning off huge sums of money donated by emotionally involved Americans and others who generously support the victims of the current pogroms in the North. It is estimated that for every dollar donated by well-meaning Americans, at least 50 cent goes into Haughey’s coffers”.
Hugh Mooney, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and a former sub-editor at the Irish Times, was now working as a black propagandist for the IRD. He had been present at the meeting about Haughey in Stormont Castle in 1972. He was almost certainly involved in the forgery, if not the author of the additional IRD paragraph.
MI6 and IRD also claimed that Haughey’s “skills as an accountant have enabled him to amass unexplained wealth by a network of corruption and by the misuse of government funds. Republicans must bear in mind that he will use the current crisis in the North to his own advantage, but abandon the Movement if and when he gains power”.
The British then deployed a line of assault with which the Officials had not bothered: Haughey’s “womanising”. The MI6/IRD paragraph described Haughey as a “an unashamed womaniser”. This obviously chimed with the hurling-stick rumours.
The claim that Haughey was collecting money in the US (a lie – he wasn’t) and pocketing half of it, was concocted with an eye to Irish-American politicians in Washington. Copies of the pamphlet were disseminated by British diplomats and agents in the US capital.
One of those who circulated the 1971 pamphlet in Northern Ireland was William McGrath, the paedophile and instigator of the Fianna Fáil-IRA smear. There is little doubt from the facts surrounding the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal that McGrath was a British agent. Hence, he was presumably supplied with copies of the MI6/IRD version for dissemination after 1972.
If the re-edited pamphlet was distributed around Washington and in Orange Order and other Unionist circles by McGrath, there is little doubt that it was also circulated in the Republic. A high priority target must have been the political correspondents in the media. Perhaps some readers might know who distributed the pamphlet in 1972 – not 1971 – in journalistic circles.
At this time William McGrath was also distributing propaganda materials linking left-wing British politicians to communism as well as the IRA. This was in furtherance of a parallel campaign Mooney was running to undermine the British Labour Party. I have seen smear documents which were annotated by Hugh Mooney referring to communism in the British Labour Party.
British Intelligence believed that Dick Walsh of the Irish Times was involved in the production of the original 1971 OSF pamphlet. Walsh’s clandestine support for Cathal Goulding, chief of staff of the Official IRA, while writing for the Irish Times has been discussed in earlier articles in this series. https://villagemagazine.ie/dw/ The fact that Walsh made his name writing about the Arms Crisis for the paper, makes it highly likely that the British spooks were right on this occasion.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER, SETTING THE PADDIES AT EACH OTHER’S THROATS
Dame Daphne Park’s dictum that one of MI6’s tactics was to identify “the levers of power” and set factions against each other could have been invented for Ireland where a split is often the first thing on the agenda. Lynch’s most ardent supporters such as Des O’Malley joined the misguided chorus of those denouncing Haughey as an IRA godfather. Lynch chose the young O’Malley (born February 1939) as Minister for Justice in 1970 instead of an experienced veteran despite the outbreak of violence on the island and he repaid him with unswerving loyalty.
Sadly for O’Malley, he became one of the more significant victims of the manipulative machinations of The Deceiver, the figure I have mentioned in the first section of this article. O’Malley’s life would have been far more enjoyable but for The Deceiver. If O’Malley has the stomach to examine the evidence that continues to emerge, he will be sickened to his core to learn that Lynch’s machinations combined with those of The Deceiver, determined much of the turbulent course he had to endure, especially in the 1980s. His career was one consumed by incessant heaves and internecine feuding with the Haughey faction of FF that culminated in his expulsion from the party. Bizarrely, he then set up the Progressive Democrats only to deploy them to keep Haughey in power until 1992. Whatever else might be said about the Haughey-O’Malley conflicts, the FF-PD coalition demonstrates that they largely shared the same political outlook. The root cause of the turmoil prior to the 1989 coalition was the toxic atmosphere which prevailed inside FF and had been created by the behaviour of The Deceiver, Gibbons and Lynch, all of which were exacerbated by the machinations of the Officials, McGrath and IRD-MI6 agents.
Dr. Martin O’Donoghue was another politician who got caught up in the crossfire. He became so determined to oust Haughey that in 1982 he offered the then Tánaiste, Ray MacSharry, £100,000 to withdraw his support for Haughey. He went to his grave without revealing who the paymaster for the £100,000 was but there is one strong candidate who heads the list of suspects by a furlong.
In addition, Minister Sean Doherty was offered the sum of £50,000 to abandon Haughey. The offers to MacSharry and Doherty were rejected out of hand. O’Donoghue later joined the Progressive Democrats but in a back room capacity.
One suspects Park of MI6 watched these developments with much amusement – and at very close quarter: in the 1980s she was co-chair of the British-Irish Association.
These offers of payments to politicians were not investigated by any tribunal despite the fact they dwarfed most of the sums involved in the tribunals which did take place.
MI6’s MASTER OF FICTION
Charles Haughey must shoulder at least a modicum of blame for his mischaracterisation as an IRA godfather for he once gave Freddie Forsyth, the author of ‘The Day of the Jackal’, the impression he had the Provisional IRA Army Council in the palm of his hand. Haughey and Forsyth had become friends while the international bestselling author was living in Ireland.
According to Forsyth:
“In the autumn of 1979 my wife developed an all-consuming fear that something might happen to our two babies. This was not an unrealistic fear at the time since the Wicklow home of their friends Galen Weston and his wife had been hit by the IRA, who had earlier kidnapped the Dutch businessman Tiede Herrema.
“So a kidnap attempt on one of the babies was not a complete fantasy at all. It was time to go, and it was my Irish-born wife who was the more adamant for a departure back to England. It seemed courteous to inform our friend the prime minister (Taoiseach). Without explaining why, I asked for an interview at his office in Kildare Street
“He greeted me warmly but somewhat puzzled. When the door was closed I explained that we were leaving and why. He was horrified and asked me to stay. I made clear the decision was made.”
Haughey tried to convince the writer to stay but failed.
“Accepting the reality he led me out of his office and then down the length of the long hall to the street door, his arm round my shoulders. Doors popped ajar as open-mouthed senior civil servants looked out to see their premier draped round a Britisher, never seen before or since.
“A few days later I had one last call from him. It was to give me his word that not a single IRA man in the country would dare raise his hand against me or my family. The only way he could have known that was if he had given a flat order to the army council of the IRA. Not many men could do that.”
Incredibly, Forsyth has since revealed that he was an asset of MI6. This tale undoubtedly reached the ears of MI6 who were probably sufficiently paranoid to believe Haughey could issue orders to the Army Council as described by Forsyth. Why did it not occur to Forsyth that Haughey had probably consulted with Garda intelligence? Forsyth’s assumption demonstrates a deeply held suspicion in Britain that Haughey was an IRA godfather.
Haughey had decades to outline his version of what had happened during the Arms Crisis, but never did. When his family opened his private safe after his death, while there were some interesting documents inside it, there was nothing about the Arms Crisis.
THE SILENCE OF THE LEFTIES
The campaign to link FF to the Provos was given a further boost by the IRD in 1973 when the IRD reproduced a 68-page booklet produced by OSF that same year. It expanded upon their 1971 pamphlet. It was distributed by IRD agents to a string of left-wing bookshops in the UK at the time. I possess an original copy of the booklet (in excellent condition). It was given to me decades ago by a journalist who had worked for The Sunday Times. It had been furnished to him by a senior figure in Official Sinn Féin.
Gerry Lawless was a Republican who worked as a journalist for the Sunday World in London in the 1970s. While he was in London he became convinced that there was an ‘MI6 connection’ to the booklet and communicted this opinion to other Irish journalists in London.
Is it conceivable that the Officials failed to notice that a forgery of their 1971 pamphlet had come into existence in 1972? Assuming they did, why did they not blow the whistle on the IRD?
And what about the 1973 booklet? Goulding and his acolytes never made any comment about how thousands of extra copies of it became available in shops across the UK, many of which were frequented by their socialist comrades.
I have often wondered how many Official Republicans or those close to them unwittingly disseminated copies of the IRD edition of these publications to colleagues.
The 1973 booklet touched upon Haughey’s unexplained wealth. Ironically, Goulding ended up living on Ailesbury Road in Donnybrook, deepest Dublin 4, one of the most expensive addresses in Ireland. The Russian, French and other ambassadors occupied mansions down the road from him. After the house was sold, refurbishments were carried out to it during which the floor boards were lifted and wads of cash were found stashed beneath them. The money undoubtedly emanated from Official IRA activities which included bank-robbery and building-site protection rackets run in co-operation with the UDA in the North. Those rackets were never investigated properly by the RUC. Predictably, the Provos believe this was a reward for the Official IRA’s co-operation with British Intelligence.
Another of Goulding’s close allies in the Official IRA was able to afford to drive a top of the range Mercedes while on a salary which could not conceivably have paid for the vehicle.
THE MYSTERIOUS PAYMENT OF £10,000 TO THE CONVICTED PAEDOPHILE WHO WAS THE AUTHOR OF THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF FF-IRA CONSPIRACY THEORY
William McGrath, the ‘Beast of Kincora’ and British agent, invented the original FF-IRA conspiracy theory. He was sent to prison in December 1981 but released a few years later. He received a mysterious payment upon his return to society. It enabled him to purchase a new house. He never denied receipt of the sum – approximately £10,000 (sterling) – and it is hard not to suspect that it was a reward from MI5 and MI6 for keeping his mouth shut about the dirty tricks he carried out for them, one of which was the promotion of the anti-FF campaign.