British Army Captain Fred Holroyd was met at the border near Dundalk by a joint Garda and military convoy and then escorted to Dublin. It was May 1975, and Holroyd - stationed in the six counties and intimately involved in counter-insurgency operations there – was on his way to a top-secret meeting. He was travelling to Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix park to meet Assistant Garda Commissioner Edmund Garvey.
Gardaí would later claim that the meeting simply did not take place, that they have no notes whatsoever of such a meeting, or any record of any Garda having arranged it. We know however that they either collectively forgot and then lost all the records, or they lied, as the Barron report found. Holroyd, along with his colleagues in British Military Intelligence at the time - Captain Robert Nairac, Warrent Officer Bernard ‘Bunny’ Dearsley and others - were in the business of recruiting and running agents. They were spies.
Why would Holroyd have been meeting with the most senior ranks of Gardaí in Dublin? On it’s face, it doesn’t make sense. Interviewed in 1984, he shone a light onto this question, which was supposed to remain forever hidden: He suggested that top level Gardaí essentially worked for the British Army, and that this is why he was in Dublin to meet them.
Commenting on his meeting with Assistant Commissioner Garvey in Garda HQ, he said “Oh yes, I am distinctly under the impression that they were working together as a team [Havery, and other Garda officers - McCoy, Heavin and Browne], we considered them on the British side as co-operating officers working together within the Garda system obviously with somebody’s authority”. Readers should note that the term ‘cooperating officer’ in the intelligence world means that they are agents, not that they are people with whom he merely had a cooperative relationship.
The network which MI6 spies Holroyd, Nairac and Dearsley ran on the northern side of the border, and which those ‘cooperating’ Garda officers were indirectly assisting, was known as the Glenanne Gang. Ostensibly a nickname for the UVF in Counties Armagh and Tyrone, in fact it was a British military operation from start to finish; at least 25 of it’s 40 known members were serving British army or RUC officers. They were responsible for about 120 murders, virtually all civilians with no links to the republican movement, killed at random to terrorize the population. The area in which they operated became known as the “murder triangle”.
It is important to consider that the Glenanne gang had also been bombing Dublin since the early 1970s, and the same people who employed them were also employing the upper echelons of the Gardaí who were supposed to be investigating those bombings. It is safe to say that significant investigations into these matters were never going to be on the cards, as they would reveal at least some of the collusion of the 26 county state in the murder of its own citizens by the British government.
Bombings in 1972-73 in Dublin left three people dead and 185 injured. The aim of these bombings was to pressure the Fine Gael government of the day to crack down on the republican movement, and in particular to influence the passage of a vote through the Dublin parliament of the Offences Against the State Act – in this, the British succeeded. However, the perception of continued strong public support for the republican movement in the 26 counties, and the perceived lack of a strong enough crackdown by state security forces, culminated in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
It was in the 26 county state’s reaction to this – the most deadly day of the conflict when British military agents Robert McConnell, Harris Boyle, Robin Jackson and others killed 34 people and injured 300 on the streets of Dublin and Monaghan – which the reader should find most instructive when considering how a former RUC officer with strong links to British intelligence is today in the position of Garda Commissioner.
In sharp contrast to their bitter condemnation of every major IRA attack throughout the conflict, the Fine Gael-Labour government ministers couldn’t bring themselves to directly denounce what had happened. Instead they obfuscated, appearing on television and radio to ascribe blame to the political climate in general, which they said the IRA were responsible for. They refused to hold a national day of mourning and initially announced that they would not even be flying the national flag at half mast (but quickly reversed the decision when they realised that it was a step too far).
Bizarrely, Fine Gael Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave went as close as one can imagine to excusing the motivation for the bombings, stating: “In our times, violence cannot be contained in neat compartments and justified in one case but not in another” – referring to public support for the IRA’s campaign. This incredible inability to simply blame those responsible for what had occurred was backed up by the Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch, who opined that “[Anyone involved in the IRA’s campaign] shares the guilt and the shame of the assassins who actually placed these bombs on the streets of Dublin and Monaghan last Friday”.
Meanwhile, the British Ambassador Arthur Galsworthy sent a memo back to his Government in London which reads like a UVF communique, essentially stating the bombings had been a success and a political triumph: “It is only now that the south has experienced violence that they are reacting in the way that the north has sought for so long... I think the Irish have taken the point”.
A mere two months after the bombings, in July 1974 the Garda investigation was suddenly halted, never to be reopened. The Garda / Dept of Justice documentation arising from that investigation is missing, presumed destroyed, the British government have, to this day, refused to release any information they have on the bombings, and successive Dublin governments have shown no appetite to investigate who was behind the attacks, presumably because they already know the answer, and to pursue it would bring to light – by commission and omission - the collusion between the Dublin Government, the Gardaí, British Military Intelligence and the UVF.
We can only assume that as Captain Fred Holroyd made his drive from the border to Garda HQ on that day in 1975, he was feeling very good about the job he had done in Ireland for his government. Not alone had he and his colleagues been directing a state-sanctioned bombing campaign against civilian targets in another EU member state, it had succeeded in its political aim of getting that state to fully align with British security policy, and because of the British Army’s direct and indirect influence, they had managed to stop the police of the State they had targeted from even investigating their bombings – and were now being invited to Dublin for tea and biscuits at Garda HQ to meet their agents there.
Today’s Ireland is a very different place than it was in 1975, however the reader should keep all of the aforementioned facts in mind when considering the following point: The current Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is not just any former RUC man.
Rising through the ranks since joining the force in 1983 during some of the worst years of the conflict, he went on to serve as the head of C3 – formally known as RUC Special Branch. At the bare minimum it can be asserted that to achieve such a posting, his allegiance to the British government would need to have been regarded as unwavering, and his relationship to British Military Intelligence and MI5 was excellent. How do we know this? Because Harris continued his assent in the PSNI, becoming Deputy Chief Constable and its “formal interface” with British Military Intelligence.
In this role he went to work covering up for his partners (and, no doubt, his employers) by fighting all attempts to release information about the crimes of the Glenanne gang, including the Miami Showband massacre which Captain Robert Nairac is alleged to have personally taken part in. As Garda Commissioner, Harris now has control over, and access to, any intelligence files that the Gardaí may have assembled over the years about the Glenanne gang, the British security forces and the republican movement, although as we have seen, it is likely that the British have had this level of access, at least at some points in time, since the mid 1970s.
To believe that Harris is not still in the employ of the Government which had placed him at the top levels of their intelligence apparatus in the six counties stretches credulity to the limit. It is no exaggeration to say that executive decision-making power over all policing in both the 6 and 26 county States is today directed by the British Security Service, and ultimately by the British cabinet.