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The Official IRA planned the murders of journalists Ed Moloney and Vincent Browne.

An Irish Times insider passed a spiked Ed Moloney article about the Official IRA to its commanders, who spread a rumour he was a terrorist, expecting the UDA would murder him. The material was later published by Vincent Browne inspiring plans by the Official IRA to murder him.

By David Burke.

Ed Moloney


Davy Payne

Shortly after the February 1982 general election, Ed Moloney of the Irish Times found himself standing in a room “in the office of Andy Tyrie at the UDA’s HQ in Gawn Street on the Newtownards Road” with three senior UDA leaders.

The trio included John McMichael, a member of the UDA’s Inner Council and Commander of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), the name the UDA used when it perpetrated assassination, torture and other acts of violence. The name was used so that the UDA itself would not be proscribed. No-one was fooled, least of all the British government and its security services.

The second individual was “a very senior member of the Inner Council who is still alive”. Ed Moloney does not want to name him.

The third man was Davy Payne, one of the UDA’s most feared killers and torturers. Like the other two, he was a member of its ‘elite’ Inner Council.

John McMichael

Moloney still recalls how “Payne was to my left. The other two were to my right. Their presence lent considerable authority to what Payne told me, since these three were the UDA’s main military men on the Inner Council”.

Ed Moloney survived his encounter with these men. He continued to work as the Northern Editor of the Irish Times and went on to be voted Irish journalist of the year in 1999. Before the encounter with the UDA, he had worked for  Hibernia and Magill. After his time at the Irish Times, he went to work at the Sunday Tribune. He now lives in New York and publishes a blog, ‘The Broken Elbow’. He has contributed to Village. He is also the author of a string of acclaimed books about the Troubles.


During the course of Moloney’s work he had gathered ample evidence that the Official IRA (OIRA) was still in existence despite claims by its political wing, Sinn Féin the Workers Party (SFWP), to the contrary; and, moreover, that it was engaged in a wide range of criminality including bank robberies and extortion.

After SFWP won three seats in the February 1982 general election, the party found itself holding the balance of power. The new SFWP TDs voted for Charles Haughey as Taoiseach in a stark choice between him and Garret FitzGerald of Fine Gael. Dick Walsh of the Irish Times, who was an ally of Cathal Goulding, chief of staff of the Official IRA, was appalled by his party’s support for Haughey. He described the development as a “Hitler-Stalin pact of sorts” in the Irish Times. The pact was never destined to last and Haughey’s government would collapse eight months later when the SFWP deputies withdrew their support.

After the February 1982 election, Moloney wrote two pieces for the Northern Notebook of  the Irish Times. He has explained to Village  that one part of the series “dealt with the political journey SFWP had taken to power in the South. That part duly appeared on the Saturday as all Northern Notebooks did”.

He submitted a second piece which was not published. It  “dealt with the continued existence of the SFWP’s military wing and the various criminal activities it was involved in, including racketeering and paramilitary activity”. This part “never appeared and I was never officially informed nor given any explanation by the Irish Times.  I cannot even say whether my copy was even shown above the level of sub-editor”.

Moloney believes that “the real SFWP/OIRA influence was wielded at sub-editor level where stories could be changed and challenged without senior figures even knowing”.

Shockingly, someone in the Irish Times – position unknown – passed the article to the Officials behind Moloney’s back.

Moloney subsequently handed the research over to Magill, then edited by Vincent Browne, who published a two-part series on SFWP in March and April 1982. The magazine flew off the shelves and sold out completely. This was egregiously embarrassing for SFWP. It later changed its name to the Workers Party (WP) in an effort to distance itself from the whiff of sulphur that clung to the Sinn Féin part of its old name.

Vincent Browne (left); Cathal Goulding on the cover of one of the two 1982 Magill articles which incensed the Official IRA; Ed Moloney (right)

As Moloney has confirmed to Village, “I certainly gave Vincent the material I had gathered over the years, including material the IT had refused to publish”.


That the OIRA tried to set Moloney up for murder is not in doubt. The only issue is whether they did so after the publication of the Magill articles, or before. If it was before, it means that the murder attempt was designed to prevent the information he had gathered from reaching the public. If after, it was an act of revenge and a possible attempt to prevent further revelations.

The plot was deeply Machiavellian: two Sinn Féin the Workers Party members told the UDA that Moloney was in the INLA.

“Since people like Andy Tyrie and John McMichael knew me and doubted the claim, the UDA stayed its hand. The allegation against me was apparently made to the UDA by two members of Sinn Féin the Workers Party”

Moloney has told Village that:

“I learned about the threat to my life from the late UDA North Belfast Commander Davy Payne who informed me one day that the UDA had been told that I was a member of the INLA but, since people like Andy Tyrie and John McMichael knew me and doubted the claim, the UDA stayed its hand. The allegation against me was apparently made to the UDA by two members of Sinn Féin the Workers Party from West Belfast…

The UDA did more research (where, I can only guess) and were satisfied that the claim was nonsense. That saved my life. The encounter with Payne is burned into my memory. He had a habit of coming up close, face to face, and it was impossible not to notice the concave hollow above his left eye, the result, it was said, of an encounter with a hammer wielded by an adversary”.

He had a habit of coming up close, face to face, and it was impossible not to notice the concave hollow above his left eye, the result, it was said, of an encounter with a hammer wielded by an adversary”.

The two individuals who spread the deadly smear were members of the OIRA as well as SFWP. In their public pronouncements both of them attacked the Provisionals for engaging in violence.


Moloney did not keep a record of the date of his brush with the Inner Council members. Nonetheless, his recollection is that he handed over the material to Magill  “some time after the encounter” with the UDA. That means the OIRA plot was designed to kill him and suppress the information after it had been spiked at the Irish Times. There is no reason to believe the plotters had anticipated that he had or was about to pass the information to Browne.

A sample of one of the two lengthy Magill articles on SFWP

Absurdly, the OIRA saw Browne and Tim Pat Coogan, editor of the Irish Press,  as people who gave favourable treatment to the Provisional IRA in their publications. The OIRA hated the Provisionals with whom they had feuded murderously, and the feeling was mutual.

The Magill articles and certain other events that took place at this time incensed the Officials. At one stage Browne received threatening phone calls and was placed under Garda protection. According to the book ‘The Lost Revolution’ by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, which was published in 2009, the OIRA in Belfast were told that Browne’s movements were being monitored and that he would be killed while on a boating trip. The murder was not to take place until after the public commotion over the Magill articles had died down in case it damaged the political prospects of SFWP.

In light of the new facts which have come to light about Moloney, the report in the ‘Lost Revolution’ merits further investigation.


Davy Payne, a sadist who enjoyed torturing random Catholics with knives, cigarettes and electric probes before murdering them.

What did the OIRA duo from West Belfast expect would happen after they had portrayed Moloney as an INLA member? To answer that it is appropriate to look at the record of the UDA figures to whom they furnished the deceitful information.

McMichael was commander of the armed wing of the organisation, the UFF. The second man was, as Moloney puts it, “a very senior” figure in the organisation. The third man with knowledge of the smear was Davy Payne who would undoubtedly have been assigned to investigate Moloney. There is little doubt that he would have interrogated him first with his usual viciousness and would then have murdered him.

Davy Payne was the man who stared into Moloney’s face with such menace, and that was just to tell him that the UDA Inner Council didn’t believe the smear. Payne was a former British paratrooper who was known as ‘The Psychopath’. He joined the UVF in the mid-1960s and worshipped at Ian Paisley’s church in Belfast. He later moved over to TARA, another Loyalist terror group run by a friend of Paisley called William McGrath. McGrath spotted his murderous instincts at an early stage. He asked him to kill the Deputy Leader of TARA, a man called Roy Garland. He may not have explained to Payne why he wanted Garland out of the way because the reason was utterly reprehensible: McGrath was abusing children and Garland was trying to put a halt to his abuse. McGrath was later convicted of child abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast. Happily, Garland survived. Payne left TARA and joined the UDA, becoming a North Belfast brigadier and member of the Inner Council.

He also became one of the most vicious killers of the Troubles, rivalled only in terms of his sadism by the Shankill Butchers.

In a normal society, Payne would have ended up in a mental institution. However, in the world occupied by the UVF/TARA/UDA/UFF, people like him were in demand to perform the stomach-churning work of a terrorist organisation: torture and murder.  

John White (left) with Johnny Adair (right) of the UDA

Payne, John White and others, set up the UFF as the murder arm of the UDA. According to White, “The feeling was that the UDA had got too big and that we needed to reorganise the real activists into small, streamlined units who could kill the IRA where it hurt most, by attacks on the communities which were not just making excuses for them but actively supporting them. It was simple and it was brutal, there is no point in denying that”. (‘Crimes of Loyalty’, History of the UDA by Ian S. Wood).

As a UDA/UFF killer, Payne became addicted to the use of knives to torture and mutilate the Catholics he snatched off the streets. Payne believed that any Catholic from a Nationalist community that fell into his hands was likely to have some knowledge about the IRA.

Payne was also an adept at torture inflicted through electric probes.

He invented the term ‘Romper Room’ to describe the human abattoirs where he, White and others carried out their gruesome work sometimes in front of an audience of UDA gang members and their girlfriends.


Davy Payne and Andy Tyrie, one-time Supreme Commander of the UDA, at the funeral of a colleague

On 22 July 1972 a UDA roadblock controlled by Payne and White halted a taxi containing Rose McCartney (27) and Patrick O’Neill (26), a Catholic couple who were taking a shortcut through the Shankill. They were taken to one of Payne’s ‘Romper Rooms’, a room above a Shankill Road pub where Payne conducted their ‘interrogation’ in a mask. The mask gave a victim in these circumstances some hope of release. Why the need for one if death was a foregone conclusion?

O’Neill was beaten viciously and tortured with lit cigarettes.

Ms McCartney was asked to identify the IRA figures in Iris Street in West Belfast where she lived. This was a pointless exercise – more a test – because Payne was aware that a prominent IRA figure lived a couple of doors away from her.

Kevin Myers, who was at the time a reporter for the Irish Times, spoke to one of those present and published a chilling account of this incident in that paper. Myers described how the “UDA had found a membership card for a traditional music club in [Rose McCartney’s] bag. Payne was fascinated. Was she really a singer, he asked. She was, aye. Prove it, he said. Go on prove it. How, she asked. By singing, he said”.

Davy Payne

Myers did not discover the name of the song she sang but ascertained that Payne’s gang “solemnly sat around in their masks, listening to her. They liked her voice and congratulated her on it. But it didn’t save her. Payne was the UDA commander in the area, and he insisted that she die, firstly because she hadn’t named the local IRA man, and secondly, because he’d never killed a woman”.

he insisted that she die, firstly because she hadn’t named the local IRA man, and secondly, because he’d never killed a woman.

It is also believed that one of the UDA thugs wanted to rape Ms McCartney but was overruled. Instead the couple were blindfolded and driven to the Glencairn estate where they were shot dead. Payne fired the first shot into the woman’s face, then another man – probably John White – fired the second shot and a third followed, from another of the gang.

One of those present at the ‘rompering’ told Myers “about the events of the night”.

The man who spoke to Myers was probably Tommy Lyttle. Lyttle was a brigadier in the UDA and was present at the depravity. Lyttle has revealed that Payne insisted that the pair should die for the reasons Myers outlined.

Myers also described how: “Davy Payne often liked to torture his victims before killing them. His speciality was to give victims repeated electrical shocks via a box-shaped device he had acquired, from which wires ran attached to electrodes. These would be fixed to sensitive parts of the victim’s body and a current created by turning a handle on the box”.


Irene Andrews and Senator Patrick Wilson

The following year Payne and White perpetrated one of the most infamous murders of the early Troubles, that of SDLP Senator Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews. Payne and White found them parked in a car on the Hightown Road in North Belfast. Wilson was stabbed in a frenzy 32 times, Andrews 16.


Kevin Myers while an Irish Times reporter in Northern Ireland

At the approximate time of the Wilson and Andrews murders, Myers “was visiting a garage owned by Joe, a Protestant convert to Catholicism – a deadly crime in loyalist eyes. He told me that a suspicious car had been cruising around, and was now parked up the road. I checked it, and sitting inside was Davy Payne. I told him I hoped he wasn’t targeting Joe. He asked me what the f— I was doing, messing around with a Protestant who’d thrown in his lot with the Taigs? Getting my car fixed, I told him. And now that I’d seen him, Davy Payne, checking Joe out, I said, he clearly couldn’t kill him”.

Myers recalled Payne’s reaction:

“’Mebbe not’ he sniffed. He slid his spectacles down on to the bridge of his nose, and peered menacingly over the rim at me – a characteristic gesture of his.

Then he said: ‘You know, I’ve never killed a journalist. Not yet, anyway'”.

Kevin Myers


Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack, authors of ‘UDA, Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror’, described the terror Payne invoked. “Mutilation was taking place [in 1972] and Davy Payne, a psychopath, was torturer-in-chief”. In August of 1972 he and his gang were responsible for murdering Frank Wynne and Thomas Madden. The Madden murder is described in grisly detail in the book as follows: “The following night the gang kidnapped 48-year-old Thomas Madden, by all accounts a quiet man with no enemies, who lived with his mother, worked as nightwatchman and almost certainly knew nothing about the IRA. He was last seen leaving a pub in the city centre at around 8:45 p.m. to walk home. He was grabbed by the gang and taken to a lock-up [garage] off the Oldpark Road, believed to be the one where Frank Wynne was tortured and killed. Madden, it was later deduced from post-mortem examination, was tied by the wrists and strung up to a roof beam so that he had to stand on the tips of his toes – a recognised and agonising torture used by many brutal regimes. The UDA gang, eager in its work, also subjected their victims to a protracted and grotesque additional torture, inflicting shallow stab wounds all over his body. The pathologist counted some 110 punctures. People living in the Oldpark, near the lock-up, later told police they heard a man screaming “kill me, kill me” – Thomas Madden beseeching his tormentors to end his agony. Eventually they tired of torturing this innocent man and shot him in the head, dumping his body in a nearby doorway” (page 41).

McDonald and Cusack also described how Payne was “hated by his men, several of whom had received vicious beatings, torture – including the use of a blowtorch and electrocution with an infamous ‘black box’ – and humiliation”.


Brian Nelson served his time as an apprentice torturer to Payne. He later became the UDA’s intelligence chief and a confirmed agent of Force Research Unit (FRU) of British military intelligence

In 1973 before he became an agent, Nelson was arrested along with two other UDA members after they had tortured a Catholic called Gerry Higgins. The arrest took place as they were putting him into a car. He had been kidnapped earlier that day and tortured in a local drinking club with an electric torture device similar to Payne’s black box. Indeed, Payne may have been involved in the torture.

Brian Nelson of the UDA who used electricity as a tool of torture.


Davy Payne’s reputation was well understood by the Official IRA in Belfast and Dublin.

Goulding and the OIRA must have known that if the UDA had fallen for their ruse, the latter organisation was likely to abduct and torture Moloney before killing him. The obvious choice for the interrogation would have been Davy Payne.

Payne died following a period of illness in March 2003. For further information about him see


Moloney has “reason to suspect that the same organisation [i.e. the OIRA] set up the UDA assassinations, via intelligence, of John Turnley, Ronnie Bunting, Noel Lyttle and Miriam Daly”. These individuals were associated with the Irish Republican Socialist Party [IRSP] which had broken away from the Officials. The INLA was the military wing of the IRSP. The INLA and the OIRA had engaged in a murderous feud in the mid-1970s, during which Seamus Costello, the leader of the INLA, had been murdered by the OIRA.

Ronnie Bunting

If the OIRA engineered proxy assassinations after the end of the feud with the INLA, it means that the death toll attributed to the Official IRA exceeds that of the 54 normally ascribed to them. Turnley, Bunting, Lyttle and Daly were killed long after the OIRA-INLA feud was over.


There are a number of people alive who know about the OIRA murder plot.

The two OIRA members who told the UDA that Moloney was in the INLA are both still alive.

So too is the senior Inner Council member who was at the meeting with Moloney at the UDA’s HQ.

John White, who was very close to Davy Payne, is living in Britain and may know some of the facts.

The individual at the Irish Times who passed the spiked Moloney story to the OIRA may very well be alive too.

The British government should hold a detailed file on the affair because Payne’s Inner Council colleague, UDA brigadier Tommy Lyttle, was a self-confessed British agent. Since three members of the Inner Council knew about the OIRA plot, it is highly likely Lyttle learnt about it at some stage and informed his RUC Special Branch/MI5 handlers about it. One way or the other, the British government must hold a file on the conspiracy.

If the NIO knew in advance, no-one from the NIO or RUC Special Branch warned Moloney that his life was in danger, but then they may learnt quickly from Lyttle – or some other informant – that the UDA was not going to murder him.

The Irish Times  has never investigated the fact a leak from inside its building placed one of its journalists in danger of a gruesome death.

The Irish Times  has never investigated the fact that a leak from inside its building placed the life of one of its journalists in danger of a gruesome death. Such an investigation might not have been able to prove anything but it might have brought home the fact to senior management that it was dangerous to employ people whose real loyalties lay outside the building.


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‘Deception and Lies’: A thrilling history that confirms Lynch not Haughey as unprincipled and explains how a named IRA double agent deceived the nation and the record.

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