By Eamonn McCann (for the Irish Times)
The former British intelligence officer Colin Wallace told Radio Ulster last weekend that any inquiry into Kincora Boys’ Home will not be able to get to the truth if it doesn’t have access to evidence about the role of MI5. If that’s so, the chances of the truth coming out are near to nil. Wallace has been trying for 40 years to expose child sex abuse at the east Belfast home. He has been ridiculed, ignored, lied to and lied about, and, as Paul Foot demonstrated in “Who Framed Colin Wallace?” in 1989, fitted up for manslaughter. Peter Robinson has suggested the Belfast home be added to the remit of the UK Child Abuse Inquiry. Others want a dedicated Northern Ireland inquiry. It matters little. MI5’s interests will take precedence over the rights of raped children. In the early 1970s, Wallace was based in Lisburn, a member of an undercover “psychological warfare” unit which worked closely with MI5. He was involved in “Operation Clockwork Orange”, a MI5 plot to smear Labour prime minister Harold Wilson and “wets” in the Tory opposition.
In October 1974, Wallace told his superiors that he wanted out of Clockwork Orange. He then wrote a memo explaining in detail that destitute boys were being systematically sodomised by members of Kincora staff and were being supplied for abuse to prominent figures in unionist politics. The abusers - among them MPs, councillors, leading Orangemen and other influential individuals - became potentially important intelligence assets.
MI5 had come across Kincora through its interest in paedophile “housemaster” William McGrath, also leader of an eccentric loyalist organisation, Tara. The agency didn’t report the scandal, but allowed it to continue while monitoring the abusers. It wasn’t until an Irish Independent expose in 1980 that official notice was taken. An RUC investigation led to the imprisonment of McGrath and two other Kincora staff. Two inquiries were then established in succession by secretary of state James Prior. The first, under complaints commissioner Stephen McGonagle, collapsed on its first day when three of five panel members resigned upon being told they couldn’t delve into any matter which might be the subject of police investigation. The collapse of an inquiry after one half-day session may be a unique occurrence.
Prior pledged to the Commons that a second inquiry under retired judge William Hughes would investigate allegations of a cover-up involving state agents. But Hughes announced he would examine only “the administration of boys’ homes” and wouldn’t take evidence about “allegations [of] any cover-up”.
Roy Garland, who had briefly been McGrath’s second-in-command, had complained about Kincora in 1972 and identified McGrath as the main abuser. Hughes refused to call him. Robert McCartney QC, for the Kincora boys, expostulated: “Are my wits leaving me? A man who . . . put the finger on a man subsequently convicted for some of the most brutal acts of sodomy is not a relevant or material witness?”
Wallace’s offer to give evidence if allowed to deal with the role of security services was turned down. He sent a dossier to Mrs Thatcher, asking that it be passed to Hughes. It was not, and was later discovered to have been lost.
Hughes did have a document from Wallace showing that he had raised Kincora back in 1974, but rejected it because there was no evidence that it wasn’t a forgery. His report found no fault with MI5.
There were other bizarre events. Wallace supplied his dossier to Tory MP Teddy Taylor. It was stolen from a locked cupboard in a locked office at Westminster. MPs were furious at this encroachment on their rights. David Owen MP complained that even the Commons wasn’t safe from burglary. Some time later he opened his office in his Southend constituency and found the file on his desk. And so it goes on.
At a meeting in Downing Street in October 2011, David Cameron told the family of Pat Finucane that he couldn’t deliver a promised public inquiry into the murder of the solicitor in February 1989 by a UDA hit squad briefed by MI5.
Human rights campaigner Jane Winter, who was with the family, quoted Cameron saying, “Look, the last administration couldn’t deliver an inquiry . . . and neither can we, because there are people all around this place who won’t let it happen.” Ms Winter recalled that as he said this, Cameron raised a finger and made a circular motion in the air.
Much, much more on MI5’s Kincora role is contained in Foot’s meticulously researched account, as explosive a book as has appeared about the North. It was virtually ignored when published 25 years ago but it should now be urgently reprinted. Meantime, the surviving boys of Kincora can have no reason for confidence that the story of a British state agency facilitating certainly hundreds and likely thousands of child rapes will be told any time soon.