Irish questions over Tory tabloid hacks

A journalist who worked for the ‘News of the World’ has admitted the phone hacking practices used in the newspaper’s British operations were also used in researching some of the stories for its Irish edition.

Earlier this year, a BBC Panorama documentary reported that one of the authors of the ‘Stakeknife’ book (about a top level IRA informer) had his computer hacked at the request of the Irish News of the World’s former editor, Alex Marunchak.

The computer of a former member of an infamous undercover MI5 unit, the ‘Force Research Unit’ Ian Hurst (known as Martin Ingram) was illegally accessed by a former colleague in the FRU, it was claimed. Panorama reported that the illegal interception of emails happened in July 2006, when the British Prime Minister’s former media adviser Andy Coulson was editing the paper.

Coulson’s activities are now the source of significant controversy amid allegations that, despite his talk of ‘rogue journalists’, hacking was carried out systematically while he was editor. Most controversially, the illegal activity took place with apparent impunity from London police.

The tabloid’s telephone hacking practices saw even the phones of murder victims accessed and messages deleted. Amid a massive outcry this week, media mogul Rupert Murdoch has ordered the newspaper to shut down.

However, questions continue to mount. While most of the paper’s illegal activities appear to have been carried out for ‘scoops’ and profit, the tabloid’s undoubted links to the police and British intelligence -- which saw cash and information apparently flow in both directions -- remain unclear.

The use of tabloid journalists to front police or intelligence investigations has a long history in Ireland.

Paul McMullan, who worked for the Irish edition of the News of the World in the 1990s when he was based in Dublin, said the tactics used in Ireland on some stories were the same as the processes that took place in Britain.

He has since left journalism but has given a number of interviews about the phone hacking scandal that have forced the closure of the paper.

“We did a series of articles in the 1990’s in southern Ireland and, yeah to be honest, the kind of tactics we used, we didn’t just stop at national borders, you’d have carried them on,” he said.

He said of his time working in Ireland: “We had an Irish edition and they were well schooled in the grey arts, or the black arts, whatever the phrase is that people are using at the moment.”

“There would be no difference in the way we got stories there [in Ireland] or in the UK.”

The News of the World’s teams of journalists in Dublin and London are to be disbanded after the paper publishes its final edition on Sunday.

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