Decrypted classified documents obtained by the Provisional IRA have shown that a state agent was behind one of the most notorious tragedies of the conflict, the Shankill Road bomb attack in 1993.
According to a report this morning, a former IRA ‘commander’ in Ardoyne has been exposed as an informer and double agent working for RUC Special Branch for more than a decade. Known to Special Branch as ‘AA’, he cannot be named for legal reasons.
According to the documents, the informer’s handlers were fully informed of the plan to target the offices used by loyalist death squad leader Johnny Adair and other UDA leadership figures.
For reasons still unknown the bomb exploded prematurely, killing eight civilians as well as IRA Volunteer Thomas Begley and injuring his comrade Sean Kelly. The outcry over the loss of life increased pressure on the Provisional IRA to call a ceasefire, which they did ten months later. It also brought about a wave of ‘reprisal’ attacks by loyalists such as the Greysteel massacre a week later.
The informer in question was identified after the IRA decoded information from documents taken from inside the Special Branch’s headquarters at Castlereagh on St Patrick’s Day in 2001. Calls made to his special branch handlers are logged throughout the documents, including the information that he carried out the scouting operations for the attack himself.
He was also involved in numerous other IRA actions at the time he was working for the RUC. He was quietly replaced by the Provisional Army Council in 2002, although no explanation was given to the Volunteers under his control, and continues to live in the Ardoyne area.
The British Crown forces have previously been accused of allowing other attacks to proceed for their own sinister agenda, such as the devasting ‘Real IRA’ attack in Omagh in 1998. Twenty-nine people died in that attack after telephoned bomb warnings failed to clear the area around the bomb. The public outcry led to the organisation calling a ceasefire three weeks later.
The Police Ombudsman has now been asked to investigate the evidence that the RUC “could have prevented” the Shankill bomb. The complaint has been made by a family member of one of the victims, and was lodged on Friday.