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Restrictions may hide details of former IRA members Freddie Scappaticci, known as Stakeknife, and Martin McGartland

Owen Bowcott and Henry McDonald
The Guardian
15 June 2014

Two partially secret court hearings involving Northern Ireland informers are due to take place in London and Belfast this week, as the government deploys fresh legal powers.

The applications for closed material procedures (CMPs) appear designed to prevent details emerging about the controversial roles of Freddie Scappaticci, the west Belfast man alleged to be the military informer codenamed Stakeknife, who ran the IRA’s internal security unit in the 1990s; and Martin McGartland, a former RUC agent who infiltrated the IRA. Lawyers allege the cloak of national security is being used to resist legitimate claims.

The coincidence of restrictions being imposed on both historic intelligence cases suggests Whitehall departments and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are determined to exploit the controversial procedure in domestic as well as international cases. Earlier this year, the Northern Ireland Office indicated it would also apply for a secret hearing in a third case involving a former dissident republican who was reimprisoned after his release on licence was revoked without the full reason being given.

CMPs allow the judge and one party to a civil dispute to see sensitive evidence but prevent claimants and the public from knowing precisely what is being alleged. They were introduced by the Justice and Security Act, which came into force late last year. Most of the arguments during the legislation’s passage through parliament focused on operations of the intelligence services in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The more commonly used public interest immunity (PII) certificates prevent evidence being used by either side in a court case. CMPs add a new legal weapon to the government’s armoury, permitting intelligence to be introduced into a case but withheld in full from a claimant. Supporters, including the cabinet minister Ken Clarke, who ushered the act through parliament, argue it enables the government to resist ill-founded claims. Critics say courtroom battles are no longer fought on a level playing field.

The Belfast case has been brought by Margaret Keeley – whose husband was the MI5 informer known by the pseudonym Kevin Fulton – against the Ministry of Defence, the PSNI and Scappaticci. She alleges she was wrongly arrested and falsely detained in 1994 to protect her husband.

Her solicitor, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, Belfast, told the Guardian: “In order to proceed with her claim against the British government for the violation of her human rights, Mrs Keeley requires disclosure of documents relating to her arrest and interrogation and the collusive role of the state in this.

“Both the MoD and PSNI have applied for such information only to be disclosed to the judge and a special advocate in a closed material hearing. This is a controversial procedure under the recent Justice and Security Act 2013, which means that Mrs Keeley will be excluded from the assessment of the material.

“[We] oppose these applications for CMPs. This procedure is not applicable to historical intelligence material which is no longer live and was never intended for use in proceedings relating to the conflict-related cases. The procedure is an offence to the principle of open justice.”

Scappaticci rose through the republican movement to head its internal security unit or “headhunters”. Their task was to unmask, interrogate and kill informers working inside the IRA. But at the same time as Scappaticci was overseeing the murder of state agents, he was providing RUC special branch and MI5 with high-grade intelligence on senior IRA figures and operations. At first he and Sinn Féin denied he was working as an informer but the republican leadership has since admitted Scappaticci was Stakeknife, although Scappaticci has always denied it.

Nogah Ofer, of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, who represents McGartland, said: “The claim is only to do with resettlement. There’s nothing in it that requires exploration of his work as an IRA informant.

“It’s purely that they failed to provide for psychiatric help for his injuries and failed to pay the disability benefits they had promised. He was shot by the IRA in 1999. There have been public statements by state bodies about him confirming his former role, including that he has given valuable service to the state.

“He was named in the Bloody Sunday inquiry so the government cannot rely on saying they ‘neither confirm nor deny’ his role when it[The government] has already confirmed publicly that he has been an agent. There’s no need for closed hearings. It’s part of a pattern of creeping secrecy.”

McGartland worked for the security services in Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1991 when his cover was blown. He was kidnapped by the IRA but managed to escape by jumping from a third-floor window.

He was moved to north-east England but was tracked down after his address was released during a trial. He was shot seven times but survived and now suffers from post-traumatic stress.


He saved 50 lives as an IRA double agent. Now Martin McGartland is training his sights on his former MI5 handlers. Henry McDonald reports

Henry McDonald
Belfast Telegraph
22 Feb 2012

On a freezing, miserable, dank evening back in January, Martin Mc Gartland emerged out of the shadows to meet me in a corner of eastern England. Furtive, alert and slightly concerned at staying in one spot for even a short period of time, he suggested we get into a car and drive.

So through the gloom and the mist we drove across the flatlands of East Anglia; past small villages and tiny hamlets which still twinkled with multi-coloured Christmas lights.

All the while, the hyperactive west Belfast man and former spy outlined his plans for a new battle – this time against the very people tasked with his ongoing personal protection.

McGartland, who escaped two IRA murder-bids, including interrogation at the hands of the Provisionals’ notorious ‘Head Hunters’, is taking on MI5.

He alleges that, when his personal security was handed over from British police forces to the Security Service, he was put at unnecessary risk and received no treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As regards the latter, McGartland certainly has good grounds to claim he suffers from PTSD. He was shot seven times in the second attempt to kill near his then home in Whitley Bay in 1999.

He is still recovering from the trauma of being beaten and submerged in water eight years earlier in a flat on the Twinbrook estate prior, presumably, to his planned ‘execution’ for informing.

Moreover, while the Provisional IRA campaign is over and the organisation has marched into history, the recurring IRAs of the Continuity and Real variety all pose a lifetime threat to the spy who infiltrated the Provos.

The former petty criminal was unique among those within the IRA who betrayed its secrets. The RUC persuaded him to infiltrate the IRA in west Belfast in the late-1980s.

The overwhelming majority of agents were already IRA members when they were recruited to work for Special Branch, MI5 or military intelligence, but McGartland was different: he was an outsider encouraged to go in and spy on the most dangerous terror group in the Western World.

During his five-year career in the Provisionals, McGartland betrayed dozens of IRA operations and is estimated to have saved up to 50 lives – hence the title of his first memoir Fifty Dead Men Walking. McGartland – ‘Agent Carol’ – was regarded as one of Special Branch’s best spies, but was compromised and unmasked as a traitor.

McGartland was taken to a flat by an IRA internal security unit who tortured him by plunging his head into a filled-up bath. When an Army foot-patrol passed by the flat, McGartland’s captors got nervous and untied their prisoner in case the soldiers raided the premises.

Once free, McGartland hurled himself through a window and fell two storeys onto the ground, landing on his head. After an ambulance was called, McGartland was taken to hospital and gave a nurse the contact of his RUC handler, known as ‘Felix’ (played by Ben Kingsley in the film of the agent’s life).

Ever since, he has been, in the words of the title of his second book, a Dead Man Running, living the remainder of his life in the knowledge that he could be shot and killed at any time.

Indeed, in 2008, the Real IRA issued a statement naming several informers from the Troubles they still regarded as targets.

McGartland was high up on their list.

“I had two near-death experiences at the hands of the IRA. I was shot nine times in their second bid to kill me. Yet I received no proper treatment for PTSD, or any rehabilitation,” he complained through our long journey into the night.

“After the shooting in Whitley Bay, there was a big gap where I never got any treatment for nearly five years and my condition got worse.

“I intend to produce medical evidence and psychiatric reports in court to prove that.”

As well as alleging he received little or no treatment for PTSD after 2001, when MI5 assumed full responsibility for the state agent, McGartland claims officers from the Security Service made a number of serious security gaffes that exposed where he was living in hiding. Although he declines to go into the details of how his personal security was compromised, the ex-agent says his legal team are preparing a case file which will be used in a landmark civil action against MI5 for negligence later this year.

In doing so, the agent-turned-author may be about to open the legal floodgates. Other agents – including a Russian national who worked for the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6 – have recently asked to be put in touch with McGartland and his lawyers. The Russian former agent also believes he was let down by MI6 after years of service to British Intelligence. The principal reason McGartland cites for suffering alleged neglect is that he broke his silence by detailing his incredible story in the book Fifty Dead Men Walking.

Whatever the veracity of that claim, the planned case against MI5 could, as a by-product, conjure up some fascinating ghosts from the past.

During our short journey together, McGartland indicated that he will, once again, name the names of the men who kidnapped and interrogated him and ask pointed questions as to why none of them was ever questioned about his abduction.

In addition, he will again raise the spectre of the disjunction between various branches of the security forces and the possibility that other state agents inside the IRA were protected from scrutiny – even though it almost led to him losing his life in 1991.

The potential therefore exists, via the McGartland case, for yet another fascinating insight into the dirty and shadowy war played out between paramilitaries and the security forces in the complex hinterland where expediency and source-protection often triumphed over morality and loyalty.

Martin McGartland, who infiltrated the IRA, claims security services compromised his safety and failed to provide care for post-traumatic stress disorder

Henry McDonald
16 Feb 2012

The London headquarters of MI5. Martin McGartland alleges that the organisation made a series of security gaffes that left him open to assassination. (Photograph: Frank Baron)

One of the most important agents to infiltrate the IRA is suing the intelligence services because he claims they compromised his security and failed to give him care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Martin McGartland, whose exploits as a spy within the IRA were made into a feature film, blames “years of neglect” by MI5 for leaving him traumatised and unable to work because of his secret life.

The west Belfast man, who escaped two IRA attempts on his life and was shot seven times, alleges that MI5 officers made a series of security gaffes that left him open to another assassination bid.

In an interview at a secret location in Britain, McGartland confirmed to the Guardian that his lawyers are preparing a legal case against MI5 – the first of its kind involving court action between an agent and his former employers in the domestic security services.

McGartland said he hoped the case would allow his legal team to raise the issue of why the security forces had him under surveillance on the day in August 1991 when the IRA “arrested” him at a Sinn Féin advice centre. He said he wants to find out why no one from the security forces intervened when he was taken to a flat and interrogated on the same estate where IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands grew up. McGartland only avoided death at the hands of the IRA interrogation squad by hurling himself out of an upstairs room in the apartment.

“At 42 years of age I am on the scrapheap,” he said. “I can’t get a job. I can’t even go to the supermarket without getting panic attacks. Even when I am driving my car if I spot another car behind me for a while I suspect they are up to something. I cannot have a normal life, especially after the IRA tracked me down to England. I will be obsessive about my personal security for the rest of my life.”

McGartland had a second escape in 1999 when an IRA hit team tracked him down to his home in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside. During a confrontation with an IRA gunman McGartland put his hands over the gun barrel and sustained injuries to prevent his attacker from firing into his upper body or head.

McGartland alleges that between 2001 and 2009 officers in the security services made numerous errors that could have exposed his new identity and address.

In addition, the former petty criminal, who is reckoned to have saved the lives of 50 police officers and soldiers in Northern Ireland from the intelligence he provided, claims he received no treatment for the trauma he endured after MI5 withdrew medical support for him during 2001-2009.

“I had two near-death experiences at the hands of the IRA. I was shot seven times in the second bid to kill me. Yet I received no proper treatment for PTSD or any rehabilitation between 2001 and 2009. After the shooting in Whitley Bay there was a big gap where I never got any treatment for eight years, and my condition got far worse as a direct result. I intend to produce medical evidence and psychiatric reports in court to prove that. The total lack of duty of care by MI5 has caused me very serious and permanent psychological damage,” said McGartland.

Asked why he thought the payments for his medical and psychiatric care had been stopped, McGartland replied: “I think it was a deliberate decision to punish me because I kept speaking out about my 1991 kidnapping and my 1999 shooting case and the police’s failures. And my continuing questions about why a surveillance team watching my abduction in 1991 did nothing. And because I had written two books [Fifty Dead Men Walking and Dead Man Running], they also wanted to pay me back.”

Ian Phoenix, the senior Royal Ulster Constabulary Sspecial branch officer killed in the 1994 Mull of Kintyre helicopter crash, confirmed before his death that security teams knew McGartland was about to be kidnapped by an IRA interrogation team who were tasked with killing him.

Although he declined to go into details, McGartland said MI5 “recklessly” gave out information on both his old and new cover names. “I have supplied all information about that and evidence to my solicitors to back this up,” he said.

“I am still a target today and probably for the rest of my life. In 2008 the Real IRA issued a death threat stating that they would take up where the Provos [Provisional IRA] left off and try to kill those they regard as traitors. The Real IRA named me as a prime target. In their statement they actually mentioned me along with others as targets.”

Describing himself as “the disposable agent” McGartland said he had recorded calls between himself and MI5 case officers. He said he wanted these conversations to be used as evidence in his court case against MI5.

“I lost my home, my family, my friends. My brother was badly beaten by the Provos just because he was my brother. I continue to be punished by MI5 because I would not be silenced,” he added.

The IRA is long gone, but the death threats to double agents still remain, says Henry McDonald

Henry McDonald
Belfast Telegraph
10 Jan 2012

Last Friday night the BBC screened ‘Fifty Dead Men Walking’ which was the first network outing for the biopic depicting the life and near death experiences of Martin McGartland.

Although the movie takes some poetic license it still contains the same kind of nerve-wrecking derring-do, morally ambiguous exploits as the real story of one of the most important agents ever to infiltrate the IRA.

In more ways than one McGartland is the exception to the rule when it comes to agents and informers in Northern Ireland. Indeed when you meet the west Belfast man he is at pains to stress he was never an informer at all, an assertion likely to be disputed by almost every republican on this island. Instead McGartland stresses that he was a willing agent who rather than being recruited from inside the organisation actually infiltrated it from the outside.

Another critical difference between McGartland and the other agents is that his life after he hurled himself out of the upstairs window of a flat on the Twinbrook estate in order to escape torture and two bullets in the head was almost as exciting as the one inside the IRA.

He continued to be a moving target while in exile in England and again almost lost his life when an IRA hit squad arrived in the north east to assassinate him.

His account, both in his sequel book Dead Man Running and in a series of interviews I have conducted with him over the years, reveals enough material for the subject of a follow-up movie, TV film, radio or stage play.

His own description of putting his hand over the gun barrel of his would-be assassin and wrestling with his potential killers is as dramatic and shocking as any thriller writer could conjure up.

His battles with police and the security services over his physical protection and mental well-being are as psychologically interesting in terms of the complex relations between spy and spymaster as any Cold War agent novel.

Yet for most of the former “pentiti” of the republican movement life after wartime is prosaic, often poverty stricken and dislocating.

Take the example of the IRA informer from Derry, Raymond Gilmour. In both his account of his time as an agent and in the book Shadows by Alan Barker (the memoir of a Special Branch agent) it became clear Gilmour inflicted serious damage on the IRA’s Derry Brigade in the late 1970s and 80s.

However, today Gilmour claims he has been cut off from his handlers and the state that recruited him, that he is virtually broke, in ill-health and isolated. From the testimony of others who worked in the shadows during the “war” risking arrest, torture and an OBE (one-behind-the-ear) life after they are either unmasked or have to run follows a similar pattern.

Again being the exception to the rule McGartland risked everything during the late 90s by stealing home to his native west Belfast for a few hours, even at one stage driving to his mother’s house for a quick hello, then hastily leaving before he was spotted, captured and killed.

But even he knows he can never come home properly even at a time when the IRA has long left the stage. Old grudges by old comrades against traitors never die as Eamon Collins and later Denis Donaldson found out. The fate of this pair only reinforces that life-long death sentence. Moreover a Real IRA threat to the agents and informers, which was issued in 2008 remains in place. For the dissidents to kill a “tout”, especially a high profile one, would be as prestigious for them as the targeting of Catholic police officers or off-duty British soldiers.

The post-conflict status of the agents and informers who survived and fled is not just relevant in terms of those fictionalising the Troubles past.

Today it has become once more highly apposite especially since the reintroduction of the supergrass system.

At present up to a dozen loyalists await to see if two brothers’ evidence will be enough to convict of a huge number of crimes up to and including murder. The Stewarts’ testimony is the hinge on which the entire case against the Mount Vernon UVF depends on.

But even if the judge rejected the validity of their evidence against former partners in loyalist crime there is an even more significant supergrass about to testify against senior members of the UVF.

No one knows what kind of deals beyond reduced sentences the state has promised the Stewarts or indeed the next supergrass, Gary Haggarty.

Have they been offered a new life and a new identity on the other side of the Irish Sea or even further afield?

Will they be confident they will not be cut adrift from their handlers and the security forces in general once they too become “disposable agents”?

Or will they end up, as one senior UDA man suggested to this author when a former colleague in the organisation who was once a member of Combined Loyalist Military Command disappeared, living in some squalid housing estate in Swindon?

By Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
23 December 2011

Martin McGartland, a former RUC Special Branch agent within the IRA, has confirmed claims that the Provisionals got co-operation from people working for the RUC.

It is claimed a honey trap involving one of the Provos’ very own Mata Hari was used to seriously compromise police security.

The disclosure comes just days after the Belfast Telegraph revealed details of a top secret document from an intelligence whistleblower which claims the IRA ran agents in the police.

The dossier of evidence from Ian Hurst, a former member of British military intelligence who also claims half of all senior IRA members were working for various intelligence services, was given to the Smithwick Tribunal investigating Garda collusion in the IRA murder of top RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan in 1989.

McGartland, who is now living in Britain under a new identity, revealed: “In early 1990 I couriered information which a police officer provided to IRA intelligence.”

The incident happened about a year before he escaped an IRA interrogation squad by jumping out of a fourth floor window in Twinbrook in west Belfast.

He had been asked by both his handlers and his IRA commander to work with Rosena Brown, an actress and Sinn Fein worker.

“Rosena was very well-spoken and pleasant to deal with, but she was old enough to be my mother,” he said, denying claims in the film Fifty Dead Men Walking, which portrayed them as having a romantic relationship.

“She took a package wrapped in clingfilm out of her mouth and told me to bring it to Davy Adams,” he added.

Davy Adams, a cousin of Sinn Fein president Gerry, was an IRA leader and friend of McGartland.

Adams opened the package and read the contents before asking McGartland to bring it to an IRA intelligence collator in Turf Lodge.

However, Adams didn’t take the normal IRA precaution of sealing the clingfilm with a lighter and this enabled McGartland to open and read it. “‘RUC’ was written at the top and the rest of the document was a list of about a dozen police officers,” he said. “It had their names, their full addresses, their post codes and car registrations and looked like it had been copied off a police database of some sort.”

McGartland had not time to copy the note, but as soon as he dropped it off he phoned ‘Felix’ and ‘Mo’, his police handlers, for an emergency meeting and told them what he could remember.

“When I next met them they told me they believed she (Brown) had formed a relationship with a police officer who was supplying her information,” he said.

As far as he knows, no action was taken. However, Brown was later dubbed the ‘IRA Mata Hari’ after being named in the trial of John Christopher Hanna, a prison officer, whose confidence she won by a mixture of blackmail, political argument and seduction.

In return he provided her with information on his colleagues, which, the court found, led to the 1988 murder of Brian Armour, a prison officer at the Maze.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile


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