MI5 in US recruitment bid

British intelligence services tried to recruit him a Tyrone man to spy on the Real IRA while on a family holiday last month in the United States.

Shane Coleman from Ardboe, near Cookstown, told reporters that, as he travelled through Newark International Airport on March 22, two men who identified themselves as MI5 members had asked him to infiltrate the breakaway republican group.

The 29-year-old said he had been detained for more than two hours by two US officials who identified themselves as federal customs agents as he prepared to fly to Ireland after a two-week St Patrick’s break with his partner and small son.

Mr Coleman spoke out just hours after it emerged that the former British agent Denis Donaldson was gunned down in County Donegal.

The Tyrone man said his ordeal had begun on the day he was to fly home. A woman identifying herself as a US federal agent phoned the house where he was staying and told him to arrive early at Newark International Airport because he was required for a meeting, according to Mr Coleman. The two officials took him into a room after he had presented himself at the airport, he said.

“The woman told me that she was concerned about my visa and that I had ticked ‘no’ when asked if I had been convicted of a terrorist offence.

“She told me that I had been convicted of assaulting a police officer. I told her that wasn’t a terrorist conviction, and the incident arose as a result of me being harassed.

“Then she told me she had information that I was involved in the Real IRA. Then she said there was a couple of people who wanted to speak to me and brought two men into the room.

“One spoke with an English accent, and I asked him was he from Scotland Yard and he said he was MI5. The other man spoke with a Northern accent.

“They knew everything about me -- that I had been working as a courier, that I had quit my job recently, that I had a few financial difficulties. They said I had a few associates they were interested in and they asked me to infiltrate the Real IRA. I am not and never have been a member of any political or paramilitary organisation and this concerns me,” said Mr Coleman.

The Tyrone man said he had made clear that he was not interested in working for the men.

“They said money wasn’t an issue, that the pot was overflowing. They asked me if I wanted to come back to New York to talk about it or maybe we could go to Hawaii for a few days.

“They said it was in my interests and their interests to work together. They also said that they couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t end up in jail.

“They tried to give me a number and told me to ring them when I had time to think about it. I told them I didn’t need time to think about it. They said they might be able to help me, keep me out of trouble if I got into a tight spot, if I kept their number. I took it as a threat because the only way I’ll end up in jail is if they set me up.

“They told me to look at it as life insurance. I asked him: ‘What about Gareth O’Connor’s life insurance? How did that work out?’ He just went on as if I had said nothing.

“I would rather die in the street as a beggar than take their money. I told them their money was dirty. Look at Denis Donaldson. Look at how it worked out for him. If you work for them, they use you and discard you, and you end up dead,” said Mr Coleman.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News