Female FRU operative named
BY LAURA FRIEL
A female Force Research Unit operative at the centre of the Pat
Finucane controversay and only known previously as ``Mags'' has
been named on the Internet. An American-based Web site which
specialises in releasing intelligence information, ``Cryptome'',
named the British Intelligence officer as Captain Margaret
As the Web site Cryptome points out, Mags' main `achievement' lay
in the deployment of loyalist death squads to target and
assassinate Irish republicans and nationalists in what can only
be decribed as state killing by proxy
``Although any British newspaper editor who publishes her name is
threatened with imprisonment, she is openly listed in the current
offical British government publication, the `Army List',''
according to the Web site article.
The Web site also confirms that the FRU, far from being
disbanded, is still operating and running agents in Ireland but
under a different name. ``Since it has become controversial, it
has adopted a new cover name. This is JCU (Joint Collection
The JCU works directly with MI5 and has offices and technical
teams on the ground in the Six Counties, says the Cryptome site.
``To confuse the many British journalists who are now
investigating the activities of the FRU, another intelligence
unit was renamed FIU. This is the Force Intelligence Unit, which
runs more orthodox intelligence activities.''
According to the Web site compiler, John Young, British
Intelligence illegally hacked into his site to find out who was
accessing the material. The MoD admitted as much when they
contested a decision by their own D Notice Committee which
initally gave British newspapers the go ahead to name Walshaw.
When the British government had to decide between preserving the
status quo and putting up with some uppity Catholic lawyer, the
choice was simple: the lawyer had to go.
- Michael Finucane
The Glasgow-based Sunday Herald, the Sunday Times and Sunday
People had been tipped off that Mags' identity had been revealed
on a US Web site last week and immediately notified the secretary
of the MoD's D Notice Committee, the body which decides whether
or not to gag the press on grounds of national security.
Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson told the press they were free to
publish the identify of the FRU operative after he established
that the information was already within the public domain. But in
an unprecedented move, the MoD ignored the committee's ruling and
threatened the media with injunctions if they named names.
According to the Sunday Herald, the newspaper was contacted by
Treasury Solicitor Roland Philips who ``made it clear that unless
we issued him with an undertaking that we would not publish her
name, he was instructed to seek an immedate interdict (a Scotish
injunction) to prevent us naming her''.
The MoD did not accept that the operative's identity was already
within the public domain, because only 230 people had accessed
the Internet document, the Herald had been told by Philips.
According to Cryptome's editor, such information could only be
accessed by the British MoD by illegally hacking into the
American Web site. Furthermore, Young says, the MoD's figures are
wrong and reflect only a portion of access within one day.
To protect visitors to the Web site from scrutiny, Cryptome
routinely deletes log files, daily and twice daily when
necessary. Within a few days of posting, over 3,000 people had
accessed the document, says Young.
On the Web site, Cryptome not only names Walshaw but also reveals
that since leaving the Six Counties, the former FRU operative has
been promoted and awarded a medal.
``At the time she ran agent Brian Nelson and supervised his
murderous activities, she was a non commissioned officer
(sergeant) in Britain's Intelligence Corps,'' say the Web site.
``On 1 April 1998, Sergeant Walshaw was promoted from the ranks to
become an officer. She has also been awarded the `British Empire
Medal' for her achievements.''
As Cryptome points out, Mags' main `achievement' lay in the
deployment of loyalist death squads to target and assassinate
Irish republicans and nationalists in what can only be decribed
as state killing by proxy.
Between 1986 and 1990, Mags and a second FRU operative known only
as ``Geoff'' were the principal handlers of Brian Nelson, a former
member of the Black Watch regiment of the British Army recruited
by the FRU and acting as a chief intelligence officer for the
Mags was directly accountable to FRU commander Colonel ``J'',
recently named as Gordon Kerr, now a Brigadier and serving as
British military attache in Beijing. A covert unit within British
Military intelligence, the FRU was funded through British Army
headquarters in Thiepval Barracks, County Antrim.
The chain of command, through the Joint Security Committee,
stretched to the British Cabinet, where the then Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher is known to have taken personal interest in the
covert actions of her military forces.
On the ground, Mags facilitated the UDA's deadly campaign of
terror by producing maps, photographs, details of routes to the
scene of the assassinations and information regarding the
target's routine.The female operative has been linked to at least
14 deaths including five sectarian killings.
A secret FRU document dated 3 May 1988 records that Nelson,
identified as `6137', ``wants the UDA only to attack legitimate
targets and not innocent Catholics. Since 6137 took up his
position as intelligence officer, the targeting has developed and
is now more professional.''
other document, dated 6 February 1989, says: ``6137 initiates
most of the targeting. Of late, 6137 has been more organised and
he is currently running an operation against selected republican
But even the summary execution of ``selected republican targets''
did not always satisfy the agenda of the FRU. When it suited
British Military Intelligence or their political masters,
ordinary Catholics or even effective defence lawyers were
deliberately targeted and killed as part of a wider campaign of
In September 1987 Francisco Notorantonio, a retired Catholic taxi
driver, was shot dead in his bed when masked gunmen smashed their
way into his Ballymurphy home. A British Army map was discovered
at the scene after the killing and one of gunmen was wearing
British Army issue boots.
The pensioner was targeted after the UDA was persuaded that he
was a ``top provo'' by the FRU. Mags deliberately falsified British
military intelligence documents in order to encourage the UDA to
target Notorantonio. The FRU claims it was a ploy to protect
another agent, allegedly within the IRA.
Nelson, as the first secret document says, may have preferred to
target republicans but the UDA could be just as effectively
deployed against ordinary Catholics when it suited the FRU. The
FRU used the same smokescreen two years later when an ``uppity
Catholic lawyer'' was proving difficult to neutralise.
Less than a week after the second document was written on
February 12 1989 Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane was shot
dead in front of his wife and children as the family sat at their
This week marks the twelveth anniversay of Finucane's death.
Finucane was not the only victim targeted by Mags and her FRU
colleagues but he has proved to be one of the most controversal,
evoking international condemnation which has refused to fall
silent over a decade later.
As Nelson's handler, Mags played a pivitol role in the plot to
kill Pat Finucane. But she was far from alone.
While the FRU targeted Finucane and provided his killers with a
clear run to and from the scene of the shooting, another British
agent, William Stobie, working as an informer for RUC Special
Branch, supplied and later disposed of the weaponry.
The gun which killed Finucane was from the locally recruited
British regiment the UDR, `stolen' from Palace Barracks. But even
before that a British minister had conveniently provided the
political cover in which the killing could proceed.
Just weeks before Finucane's death, a British Home Office
Minister Douglas Hogg had told the House of Commons that ``there
are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly
sympathetic to the cause of the IRA''.
These deliberately inflammatory remarks followed a secret
briefing by two RUC Special Branch officers who had spoken to
Hogg probably at the behest and certainly with the knowledge of
the then head of the RUC John Hermon.
A decade later Hermon claimed ``Pat Finucane was associated with
the IRA and he used his position as a lawyer to act as a contact
between suspects in custody and republicans outside.''
The scene has been set, in the run up to the killing, and
subsequently, the lie has been perpetuated that Pat Finucane was
targeted and killed because he was a republican, either in fact
or in perception. But in truth the real threat Finucane posed to
British occupation in Ireland was as an effective defence lawyer.
It was not, the mythical ``PIRA Officer'' claimed by the UDA and
like Notorantonio, manufactured by the FRU and RUC, but the real
solicitor willing and able to defend human rights that the
British had in their sights.
In his book ``The Irish War'', Tony Geraghty highlights the
importance British strategy placed on the manipulation of the
courts as a weapon against opposion to British rule in Ireland
during this period. Finucane was a thorn in the flesh of this
As a lawyer, Pat Finucane was courageous enough to pursue the
British Army and RUC when they broke the law, tenacious enough to
challenge the denial of defendents' rights in the non jury courts
of the North, persistent enough to hold the British government to
account in international courts of law, and finally smart enough
As his son Michael recently wrote in a British newspaper, ``to
dwell on the role of people like Brian Nelson and Martin Ingram
(another FRU operative) is to miss the point as to why Pat
Finucane was murdered. It happened because he was a determined
and innovative lawyer and not, as the RUC and others claim,
because he was involved in paramilitary activity.''
``When the British government had to decide between preserving the
status quo and putting up with some uppity Catholic lawyer, the
choice was simple: the lawyer had to go,'' says Michael.
The photograph passed by the FRU to the UDA showed Pat Finucane
coming out of a courthouse with a client, Pat McGeown. McGeown a
former Republican hunger striker and prominent member of Sinn
Féin had just been acquitted of murder charges relating to two
British Army corporals.
The two soldiers had been executed by the IRA after they attacked
a funeral cortege in West Belfast. It has been alleged that the
two corporals were members of the FRU. If this is true there was
an added incentive for the FRU to target Finucane.
Mags was a crucial player in this killing and in the FRU's wider
campaign of terror. She appears to have relished her role as
ruthless spymaster and purveyer of sudden death but she was never
a renegade British soldier. If she acted beyond the law it was
with the full knowledge of her commanding officers and complete
sanction of their political masters.
This is why the restricted remit of the Stevens investigation,
like the proposed investigation by the new Police Ombudsman's
office, can never hope to reveal the full truth behind the
The family's call for a fully independent international public
inquiry has gained support within Ireland, throughout Europe and
across the Atlantic, leaving the British government standing
alone in it's continuing denial.
d as Michael Finucane recently pointed out, the state machinery
that murdered his father was not established to kill one man.
``Others died too, and the question that has to be answered is,
``Many people who still live in the Northern Ireland were unaware
of how precarious their existence was, and did not realise that
for many years each of them was considered expendable. But they
are aware now and they want to know the truth.''