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24 Apr 2012
NORTHERN IRELAND Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness authorised the killings of two RUC officers in March 1989, it was claimed at the Smithwick Tribunal yesterday.
Former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst – otherwise known as Martin Ingram – claimed the intention of the IRA operation in which the two RUC officers were killed, was to abduct them, interrogate them, remove papers they were expected to be carrying and to ultimately execute them.
Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush in south Armagh in March 1989, minutes after leaving a meeting in Dundalk Garda station in Co Louth. They were the most senior RUC officers to be killed in the Troubles.
The tribunal is inquiring into suggestions that members of the Garda in Dundalk colluded with the IRA in the killings.
Mr Hurst who has been given permission by the British Ministry of Defence to give evidence to the tribunal, asserted that the killings involved up to 60 IRA volunteers and supporters and the operation “was authorised at [the IRA’s] Northern command. Mr McGuinness was involved”.
He also said Mr McGuinness was “OC Northern command”, the senior IRA officer in Northern Ireland at the time.
He said he was given this information by his senior officer, known only as “Witness 82”, whose evidence is expected to also be read into the record this week.
Mr Hurst was a member of the British army’s intelligence service force research unit for three years from 1982, before he was transferred to the Ministry of Defence Middle East desk in London. While in the research unit he said he was aware of up to 10 military intelligence source reports which named Det Sgt Owen Corrigan of Dundalk Garda station as a man who had provided information to the IRA.
Some of this information was useful in organising the killings, according to the reports, he told the tribunal.
Mr Hurst also named former Sgt Leo Colton as another officer in Dundalk who was known to pass information to the IRA. He said both gardaí were described in intelligence reports as “rogue” gardaí.
He said Dundalk was referred to in Northern intelligence services as “Dodge City” and a “rat-infested hole” as it was a place where on-the-run republicans went for rest and recuperation. Others were Bundoran and Ballyshannon he said. Dundalk was also the place where the IRA’s internal security unit was based, he said.
Mr Hurst said he was aware of a call to his army unit late one evening from an RUC police officer who said he had in custody an “Alfredo Scappaticci” who had been involved in a drink-driving incident. Mr Hurst said Scappaticci was seeking the protection of the intelligence services, and used a code corresponding to the codename “Stakeknife”. He also said his superior, Witness 82, had subsequently confirmed that Stakeknife and Scappaticci were one and the same.
Mr Hurst asserted that information provided by Mr Corrigan to the IRA had been channelled through Scappaticci, who in turn channelled it to British intelligence through his own handler Witness 82. “Scappaticci was effectively the conduit for information, in other words as the handler of Mr Corrigan.”
Sinn Féin in a statement yesterday evening said: “Martin McGuinness totally rejects these allegations.”
A party spokesman questioned the bona fides of Mr Hurst. “Judge Smithwick has already been critical of the quality and nature of the evidence provided to his tribunal by the British state,” he said.
“This individual who uses a variety of names including Martin Ingram has no credibility. By his own admission he is part of a British security apparatus which played a very negative and malign role in the conflict, including widespread involvement in collusion,” he added.
25 Apr 2012
British intelligence services were operating all over Ireland and were receiving information from politicians, as well as members of the gardaí, the army and customs service, the Smithwick Tribunal has been told.
The claims were made by former British Army intelligence officer Ian Hurst during interviews with senior gardaí and in his own direct evidence.
The tribunal, which is investigating claims of collusion in the killing of two RUC officers in March 1989, heard today from retired Chief Supt Basil Walsh.
He said he met Mr Hurst twice in 2000 at his home in Carrick-on-Suir and in Waterford Garda Station.
During those meetings, Mr Hurst mentioned that a number of gardaí were passing information to the British intelligence services.
Mr Hurst said he had recruited a member of a garda task force in Donegal, who would come to Ballymena to pass on information, for which he would be paid £50 or £60.
He also said he was aware of a garda and a Senator talking to MI5.
However, the witness said Mr Hurst refused to name any of the individuals involved.
When the reading of Mr Hurst’s direct evidence to the tribunal resumed, it emerged that he said British military intelligence services had members of the Irish Army, as well as many gardaí and members of the customs service, passing information to them.
They also had sources in the RUC and customs service in Northern Ireland.
The witness served in the secretive Force Research Unit, the intelligence wing of the British Army in the North.
He said they worked on an all-Ireland basis and had bases in Sligo and Donegal.
Mr Hurst is subject to British Ministry of Defence restrictions as a result of which his evidence was heard behind closed doors last week and is now being read into the record following the removal of parts of his evidence.
Mr Hurst also reiterated his allegations against Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
He said that Mr McGuinness did not leave the IRA in the early 1970s as he claimed.
Mr McGuinness controlled Northern Command for most of the time and was also on the IRA Army Council and had responsibility for controlling people such as Freddie Scappaticci.
Northern Command would have had to sanction operations such as the use of human bombs and the ambush in which Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan died and which is being investigated by the tribunal.
It has been alleged that Mr Scappaticci was the deputy head of the IRA’s internal security unit and the most important British Army agent in the organisation.
Mr Scappaticci and Mr McGuinness both deny the allegations.
Earlier, retired Chief Supt Walsh said he was aware of Mr Scappaticci and of his involvement in the IRA.
However, he disputed several claims made by Mr Hurst in his evidence.
He said there was no mention of Owen Corrigan during their meetings. Mr Corrigan is one of three gardaí being investigated by the tribunal and he denies the claims that he passed information to the IRA.
The witness also denied saying that gardaí had tried to remove Mr Corrigan but could not because of political pressure.
Former Chief Supt Walsh also said he could not have been present at a third meeting that Mr Hurst said he was because he had retired from the gardaí at that time.
25 Apr 2012
Sinn Fein rejected the allegations against Mr McGuinness
Martin McGuinness was involved in authorising “human bomb” attacks, an ex-intelligence officer has told the Smithwick Tribunal.
Ian Hurst – also known as Martin Ingram – told the tribunal that contrary to Mr McGuinness’ claims, he did not leave the IRA in the 1970s.
More evidence given in private last week has been read into the tribunal.
Similar allegations which emerged on Tuesday were rejected by Mr McGuinness.
A Sinn Fein spokesman said Mr Hurst’s claims were “more lies from an individual with a highly dubious track record”.
The tribunal was established in 2005 to investigate allegations of Garda collusion in the murders of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan.
According to evidence read at the tribunal on Wednesday, Mr Hurst claimed Mr McGuinness had still been officer commanding of the IRA’s northern command for “the vast majority of the time”.
Under cross-examination, Mr Hurst reiterated his belief that the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan by the South Armagh brigade of the IRA would have to have been authorised by the IRA’s Northern Command, becuase they would have needed “political cover”.
He told the tribunal that “human bombs (were) also authorised by Martin McGuinness… he controls northern command for the vast majority of the time.
“Contrary to what he’d have you believe that he left the IRA in the 70s, it’s not true. He was a member of northern command and the Provisional IRA Council responsible for controlling people like Mr Scappaticci,” he said.
Mr Hurst also claimed that Freddie Scappaticci was the Army agent within the IRA known as Stakeknife.
He said Mr Scappaticci may have been aware of the plan to kill the RUC officers in advance, but he had no evidence of this.
The tribunal also heard that British intelligence services collected information on a 32-county basis, and had sources in the Republic ranging from a senator to revenue and customs officials and members of the Irish army and gardai.
24 April 2012
DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has denied any involvement in the IRA sanctioning an operation to abduct, torture and murder two of the most senior RUC officers killed in the Troubles.
The Sinn Fein chief rejected allegations made at the Smithwick tribunal in Dublin by a British intelligence officer Ian Hurst – also known as Martin Ingram – who claimed to have inside knowledge of the 1989 terrorist border ambush.
The inquiry into IRA-Garda collusion in the Irish Republic was told Mr McGuinness was in the IRA’s northern command and “involved” when it sanctioned the killing of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.
A spokesman for the Deputy First Minister said: “Martin McGuinness totally rejects these allegations.”
Dramatic revelations in phone call posted on internet
20 Apr 2012
**Now tell us something we don’t know already…
A former commander of UK Land Forces has confirmed that Britain’s most valuable spy in the IRA was, indeed, Freddie Scappaticci — a member of the IRA’s feared internal security team codenamed ‘Stakeknife’.
Scappaticci denied being a British agent before leaving Northern Ireland in 2003, although he admitted to being an “active republican”.
“He was our most important secret,” said General Sir John Wilsey, who was Army commander in Northern Ireland from 1990 to 1993.
Sir John added: “He was a golden egg, something that was very important to the Army. We were terribly cagey about Fred.”
He made the admission in a telephone conversation with Ian Hurst, a military intelligence whistleblower, which has since been posted on the internet.
Hurst called Sir John’s home twice, last Saturday and Sunday, claiming to be a Channel 4 researcher and giving the name ‘Jeremy Chiles’. However, the former soldier’s voice is clearly recognisable.
Yesterday Hurst said: “I can’t comment on who it was, but I think another call is going up [online] tomorrow.
The calls were made as Hurst prepared to give evidence at the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin, which is examining the IRA murders of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan at Jonesborough, Armagh in 1989.
In the course of the conversation, Sir John describes two contacts with the agent, whom he refers to both as Stakeknife and Mr Scappaticci.
The first meeting came during the inquiry into collusion between the security forces and paramilitaries carried out by Sir John (now Lord) Stevens, the former head of the Metropolitan Police.
“The head of intelligence in Northern Ireland came to see me and said Stevens was burrowing around and that Fred Scappaticci was unsettled and would I go and see him and reassure him of the value of his work,” said Sir John. “That’s what I did.”
He named the head of intelligence as Colonel Colin Parr.
Stakeknife was then a senior member of the IRA’s internal security section, which was responsible for uncovering police and Army informants.
At the meeting in south Belfast, Sir John told Stakeknife that if he ever had any problems he could contact him personally.
This happened after Scappaticci had left Northern Ireland and wanted legal assistance.
Sir John Wilsey passed the request on to “the proper quarters” and he believes the agent was helped.
Sir John also revealed that Stakeknife was recruited as an agent in 1976 and that his first handler was a soldier named Peter Jones.
In 1984, a specialist agent-handling unit called the Force Research Unit (FRU) was set up and both Jones and Scappaticci were attached to it. Hurst also served in the FRU.
Sir John said that RUC Special Branch “was trying to get him [Stakeknife] off us. They wanted him themselves.
“Fred didn’t want to go with the police, because he thought they were sectarian.”
However, there was a compromise. “The FRU worked for MI5 and the RUC and all the [intelligence] went to them.
“I was responsible only for administering them and promoting them. They were a force unit, not my unit. Not operationally,” Sir John said.
Story so far
The Smithwick Inquiry was set up under Judge Peter Smithwick to investigate the murders of the two most senior policemen murdered during the Troubles.
After a year of negotiations with the Ministry of Defence, Judge Smithwick secured the appearance of former Army intelligence handler Ian Hurst.
In his evidence, Hurst suggested that up to four members of the IRA gang that murdered the officers could have been agents of one of other of the intelligence services active in Northern Ireland.
Hurst suggested Freddie Scappaticci was one of these agents.
18 Apr 2012
THE SMITHWICK tribunal is expected to continue to close the doors to the media and the public and hear in camera evidence from British intelligence agent Ian Hurst, also known as Martin Ingram, today.
At the resumption of tribunal hearings following the Easter break yesterday, Mary Laverty SC, for the tribunal, applied to Judge Peter Smithwick for an order to exclude press and public.
Ms Laverty said this was necessary because of the potential threat to “life and limb” of those who might be identified or exposed during Mr Hurst’s evidence.
The Smithwick tribunal is inquiring into allegations that members of the Garda colluded with the IRA in the murder of two senior RUC officers in March 1989.
The tribunal has previously been told that senior RUC and British intelligence officers had expressed concern about members of the Garda in Dundalk.
Ms Laverty said Mr Hurst had a career with British army intelligence between 1980 to 1991, three years of which were spent with the army’s Force Research Unit.
She told Judge Smithwick that the Force Research Unit was a “core unit” in the British army and was involved in “the recruiting, developing and controlling of the army’s human intelligence assets”.
The unit was later renamed the Joint Services Group.
Mr Hurst has already made a statement to the tribunal based on information he acquired during his time as an intelligence agent.
However, Ms Laverty said that, in line with previous sensitive evidence, there was a danger to those who might be identified, “a concern to either life or limb or indeed to State security”.
She therefore wished to apply for an order to exclude members of the public.
Ms Laverty said she noted the presence of “a legal representative of the MoD [ministry of defence] in London”, Lieut Col Paul Hockley, who she said was there to assist Judge Smithwick in identifying matters which may be sensitive.
The judge said he proposed to grant the order to exclude members of the public, with the exception of Lieut Col Hockley, who he welcomed and who, he said, would be of great assistance in assessing which parts of the transcript may need to be redacted before publication.
17 Apr 2012
The press and public have been excluded from a Dublin tribunal while it hears evidence from a former British Army intelligence agent.
Ian Hurst, also known as Martin Ingram, is giving evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal, which is investigating the IRA murders of two RUC officers.
Senior counsel for the tribunal, Mary Laverty, said the move was necessary to protect “life, limb or state security”.
A redacted transcript of the evidence will be made public at a later date.
The tribunal was established in 2005 to investigate allegations of Irish state collusion in the murders of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan.
The police officers were shot dead in an IRA ambush near the County Armagh border as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station.
Ms Laverty said Mr Hurst was a member of FRU, the force research unit, “a British Army core unit in Northen Ireland, recruiting, developing and controlling army human intelligence assets”.
He spent three years in the intelligence unit from 1980 to 1991.
The unit was later renamed the Joint Services Group.
She said Mr Hurst had given a statement to the tribunal based on information he acquired during the course of his work as an intelligence agent.
She added that due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence, a private session was necessary to enable the witness to give evidence freely and for a free cross-examination to take place.
Ms Laverty also noted the presence of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hockley, senior legal adviser for the Ministry of Defence, who is attending to offer assistance to the tribunal.
Judge Peter Smithwick said he would refer to Lt Col Hockley as to what redactions may be necessary, but that he would make the deletions needed “to protect people’s lives”.
By Liam Clarke
21 December 2011
Half of all senior IRA members in the Troubles were working for intelligence services, a secret dossier of evidence into the murder of two RUC men has claimed.
The remarkable document has laid bare a startling series of claims about the infiltration of both the police and terror groups during the ‘Dirty War’.
Whistleblower Ian Hurst
It claims the IRA ran agents in the RUC and also that Dundalk Garda station was regarded by British intelligence as “a nest of vipers”, with at least two officers actively assisting the Provos.
The information is contained in a secret 24-page document in the name of Ian Hurst — a British intelligence whistleblower — which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph.
The sensational claims are due to be made to Justice Peter Smithwick’s Dublin tribunal of inquiry into the murder of two senior RUC officers in 1989.
The victims, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan, died in a hail of IRA gunfire as they crossed the border following an intelligence exchange with the Garda in Dundalk.
The dossier also claims:
• The shadowy Force Research Unit (FRU) had a file on suspected rogue gardai prepared to pass information to the IRA and act as its agents. MI5 also had a network of agents with the Garda.
• The IRA had a network of informants in public agencies such as social security offices and vehicle licensing departments.
• One in four IRA members was an agent, rising to one in two among senior members.
• Martin McGuinness was involved in all strategic military decisions taken by the IRA.
At the centre of the web of intrigue sat the IRA’s head of internal security, the agent known as Stakeknife, who took information from rogue gardai while himself working for British intelligence.
Perhaps the most shocking claim is that a rogue Garda Sergeant leaked intelligence to Stakeknife. Stakeknife has been identified as Freddie Scappaticci, a veteran Belfast republican.
Scappaticci has strongly denied working for British intelligence and said he had cut his links with the IRA in 1990. He is legally represented at the Smitwick Tribunal and is now considering giving evidence in person.
Last night Mr Hurst refused to comment on the document.
He said: “I believe that this was made public to mess me about. I cannot comment on it because of an injunction preventing me from giving details of my career in special forces.”
Mr Hurst worked in military intelligence between 1981 and 1990, spending most of that time in the FRU, responsible for handling agents and informants in Irish paramilitary groups. The injunction has been varied to allow him to give evidence to Smithwick in Dublin.
However tribunal lawyers are insisting that he give his testimony in closed session, something he suspects is part of a deal with the British authorities to limit potentially embarrassing disclosures.
One of the alleged rogue officers in Dundalk has already been indentified. Owen Corrigan, a detective sergeant, was named by Jeffrey Donaldson under Parliamentary privilege. Mr Corrigan, now retired, has always denied the allegation and appeared at the tribunal to reject them. He is one of three gardai, two based in Dundalk and one in Donegal, named in the document.
In the document Mr Hurst says “the fact that a Garda was passing information to the IRA did not bother me anymore or any less than in the same way members of the RUC/UDR/BA (British Army) occasionally passed information to the IRA and regularly to members of various loyalist paramilitaries.”
Mr Hurst assisted John Stevens’ inquiry into security force collusion with terrorists in Northern Ireland.
The document states Lord Stevens told him that of 210 terrorist suspects he arrested, only three were not security force agents, and some worked for several agencies.
The Smithwick Tribunal is examining claims that members of the Irish police or other employees of the Irish State colluded in the murders of the two most senior RUC officers to die in the Troubles. Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan were shot dead while returning from a meeting at Dundalk Garda station in the Republic. The tribunal has so far heard evidence from a number of witnesses, some of whom have alleged that members of the Garda passed information to the IRA.
A MAN FROM THE DARK CORNER OF MILITARY INTELLIGENCE
Doubts about Ian Hurst’s reliability were dispelled after I published stories based on his information back in 1999.
The first, an unlikely sounding tale claiming military intelligence had doctored bullets used to shoot Gerry Adams, was immediately confirmed by the Defence Advisory Committee. After that he was arrested, and I was questioned under caution.
For a time I gave him the pseudonym Martin Ingram to obscure his identity, but now that alias has been dropped.
He was the first member of the Force Research Unit (FRU) — the dark corner of military intelligence which ran agents in terrorist groups — to speak publicly.
He had two tours of duty in Northern Ireland. Between 1982 and 1990 he was in Londonderry handling agents like Frank Hegarty, an IRA quartermaster later murdered for betraying a cache of Libyan weapons, and Willie Carlin, who got out just ahead of the execution squad.
A second tour was in Enniskillen between 1990 and 1991. There he met his wife, from a Donegal republican family. That affected his vetting and he bought himself out of the Army in 2003.
Penetration of the Provisionals
Mr Hurst was responsible for handling agents in the IRA and for a time had enhanced access to other agents’ reports, though not their names, on military intelligence computers. He has painted a picture of an organisation penetrated at almost every level and with its head of security, Stakeknife, working for the other side. The document says: “As a rough guide you should expect one in four PIRA volunteers to be agents of one agency or another.” Lord Stevens (above), the former Met chief, is quoted as
saying that only three out of 210 terrorist suspects he arrested in a collusion probe in Northern Ireland were not working for either the RUC, MI5 or the Army. The document claims that Hurst secretly taped a conversation with RAF Air Vice Marshal Andrew Vallance, who was quoted as telling him that the most sensitive matter was the identity of Stakeknife and his role as a British agent.
IRA agents within the Garda
The document claims that the FRU had a file on suspected rogue gardai prepared to pass information to the IRA and act as its agents. It names three people who were allegedly on the list, two in Dundalk and one in Donegal. It quotes Basil Walsh, a senior Garda officer who Mr Hurst met in 1999, as saying he was aware of one named Garda who worked for the IRA. Mr Walsh allegedly told him “that every time something was done to try and eradicate the mess something happened to intervene”. The document also claims MI5 had a network of agents with the Garda. MP Jeffrey Donaldson has named retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan under Parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons in April 2000, as being a “rogue garda”. Mr Corrigan denies all allegations of collusion. Last week former agent Kevin Fulton claimed Corrigan was passing information to the IRA and was regarded as a “friend” of the group
Role of McGuinness in the IRA
MR Hurst once backed claims that Martin McGuinness reported to MI6, the British foreign intelligence agency. This was based on a document passed to him, and accepted by him in good faith, after he left the Army but which appears to have been a forgery. The document does not repeat that claim but it does put Mr McGuinness in a central role in the IRA. It states the IRA’s “security unit came under the operational command of Northern Command” and adds “the person in charge of that unit throughout the entire Troubles was PIRA member Mr James Martin McGuinness”. It accuses McGuinness of being “directly involved in matters of life and death for persons rightly or indeed wrongly suspected of informing on PIRA members. Mr McGuinness was also a key player in the long-term strategic strategies used by PIRA”. McGuinness has always denied such a leading role and stated that he left the IRA in the early 1970s.
Republican intelligence gathering
It is claimed that the IRA had a network of informants in public agencies such as social security offices and vehicle licensing, North and South. This echoes claims by Martin McGartland , a former RUC agent in the IRA. One section of the document reads: “PIRA was extensively penetrated at all levels, most sources of the information to PIRA were readily identified (by military intelligence) but seldom compromised.” To back up its claims that the intelligence services turned a blind eye to IRA intelligence sources, it claims that in the early 1990s a FRU agent was targeted by the IRA with the help of a social security employee who is still working in the same office. It claims that the IRA could informally “obtain information from driver licensing, social security, councils, utilities far quicker than the FRU”, especially in cross-border areas where red tape was involved in working through the RUC and Garda.
Stakeknife, the Army’s key agent
Stakeknife was a key military intelligence agent within the IRA, a man with a hotline of his own which gave him direct contact with dedicated handlers in an office known as the ‘rat hole’. When he called, he identified himself with a code number, but Mr Hurst learned his true identify by chance while manning the phone. Stakeknife had been caught drink-driving and gave uniformed police the hotline number in an effort to extricate himself. Hurst vouched for him, and it has been claimed that Stakeknife was Freddie Scappaticci, though Mr Scappaticci strongly denies this. The document expands on Stakeknife’s role as head of the IRA internal security. It claims he controlled IRA agents in the Garda. The most corrosive suggestion which Justice Peter Smithwick will have to consider is that officers Breen and Buchanan were allowed to die rather than risk compromising the Army’s most important agent in Ireland.
The web of collusion and spies
MR Hurst has frequently claimed some members of the RUC, UDR and Army colluded with terror groups. The statement portrays a wilderness of mirrors in which every organisation has the other penetrated to some degree and “all sources have a shelf life”. It talks of British agents in the Garda, Garda agents in Northern Ireland, IRA agents in the RUC and Garda and RUC agents in the IRA. It states “the fact that a Garda was passing information to the IRA did not bother me any more or any less than in the same way members of the RUC/UDR/BA (British Army) passed information to the IRA and members of various loyalist paramilitaries. It was a matter for HQNI and the RUC and way above my pay grade … in other words it was a strategic and not a tactical problem”. It concludes that none of this “registered massively on the Richter scale, it was just a fact of life, indeed it was well within the rules of our game!”
An ex-Army intelligence officer can give evidence openly in London but not in Dublin. Just what are the authorities afraid of? Henry McDonald reports
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
Two public inquiries on either side of the Irish Sea – the same witness speaking openly at one and being gagged at the other. This is the Kafkaesque scenario facing the former Army intelligence officer Ian Hurst.
At the start of last week, Hurst gave open, public evidence in front of the Leveson inquiry in London, which is investigating press standards following the phone hacking scandals last summer.
The ex-member of the Army’s secretive Force Research Unit (FRU) had been the target of phone and computers hackers working for News International.
Hurst’s evidence concerned the hacking of his computer using a so-called ‘Trojan’ virus after he had been outed as a whistleblower.
Hurst is famous (or notorious) for providing critical information on two scandals involving the security forces during the Troubles: the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane and the exposé of the agent known as Stakeknife operating within the IRA.
Among others Hurst provided evidence of how most of the UDA unit involved in murdering Finucane in front of his family were working for one or more branch of the security forces at the time.
In relation to the revelation that Freddie Scappaticci – the IRA’s chief spy hunter – was himself a long-term British agent, Hurst played a central role in bringing this to light.
Given his background and knowledge of the undercover war against the IRA and loyalists (which often entailed the morally dubious practice of allowing state agents to commit crimes up to and including murder), Hurst became the focus of attention by the News of the World.
Essentially, this meant spying on Hurst, ironically using a former colleague in the now-disbanded FRU to infiltrate and read the ex-soldier’s email system – presumably to glean what he was saying to journalists, politicians, human rights organisations and campaign groups about the Stakeknife scandal.
During his testimony to Leveson Hurst repeated allegations aired a few months earlier in the BBC’s Panorama programme about how the Irish end of the News of the World had spied on him illegally.
Hurst is convinced that such practices – directed not only at himself, but also at the likes of former Labour Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain – posed a serious threat to both national security and the security of individuals working in the twilight world of intelligence.
For those in the Republic observing another tribunal currently running in Dublin, the contrast between Hurst speaking freely and unfettered was glaring.
Hurst wants to give evidence in person to the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin, which is exploring how the Provisional IRA killed RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan in 1989.
The inquiry is investigating allegations a garda mole provided the IRA with information to target the two police officers for murder. Yet Hurst has been told he can only deliver his testimony in Dublin behind closed doors, away from the media and the public.
Hurst claims to have evidence of Stakeknife’s role in the Breen/Buchanan killing and how the murder-plot was known to the highest-ranking members of the IRA and Sinn Fein at the time.
This he contends, is due to the fact that Stakeknife was also aware of the plan to ambush and kill the policemen on the Louth/south Armagh border.
In turn, Hurst has refused to go to Dublin unless he is allowed to speak in the open and under the scrutiny of the media like every other witness.
He has stated he believes the tribunal’s refusal to let him do so is politically motivated; that this reticence flows from the official policy of protecting key figures in the Northern Ireland peace process. There is a further contrast between the strictures the Smithwick Tribunal wishes to impose on Hurst and the way it treated other recent witnesses – no more so than the founder of the Real IRA, Michael McKevitt.
The inquiry even moved out of its usual location in Dublin’s Blackhall Place to another location close by to hear McKevitt’s evidence – the Republic’s heavily-guarded Special Criminal Court, where terrorist trials have been heard since the Troubles erupted.
McKevitt was the Provisional IRA’s so-called ‘quartermaster-general’ at the time of the Breen-Buchanan murders and lived in the north Louth area not far from Dundalk Garda Station.
He was a leading figure in the Provisionals in the late-1980s and would have had knowledge of many IRA operations in the border region.
Under the glare of the gathered media in open court, the convicted Real IRA member was cross-examined over allegations that he benefited from Garda tip-offs about raids on his home and that, implicitly, he and the local Provisionals had some ‘friendly’ police officers in the frontier zone.
The brother-in-law of the IRA icon Bobby Sands was afforded the opportunity to strongly deny such collusion existed which, of course, goes to the heart of Smithwick’s investigation.
However, an Army intelligence officer who ran operations to counter the activities of McKevitt and his ilk is offered no such opportunity to speak in public. This begs an important question in relation to the whole nature of the Troubles’ secret war: just what are the authorities in Dublin afraid of in regard to Hurst talking in public under privilege?