Giving CID A Snow Job

Book Review: Duplicity And Deception by Alan Simpson.
First published in Fortnight Magazine

Before he was ‘forced into early retirement due to ill-health’ in 1993 Alan Simpson had reached the rank of Superintendent in the RUC. In this memoir he sets himself the onerous task of defending not only the RUC but the role of CID within it, the section of the force he moved to in 1972. In his own words, the aim of Duplicity And Deception ‘is to throw some light onto the professionalism and fairness within the CID’ as well as ‘trying to claw back some credibility for the RUC’. Chutzpah or well meaning, the reader may decide.

His writing strategy is to flag up the deficiencies of Special Branch who he feels operated a cult of secrecy, treated their CID colleagues with disdain and generally behaved as a law onto themselves. Branch deception was brazenly exercised in the 1989 assassination of Pat Finucane, where, Simpson claimed, ‘they and FRU appeared to collude in the murder ... they and the FRU knew a great deal about the crime but failed to communicate any of it to me.’ If the British government announce in the New Year an inquiry into the hotly contested circumstances of the solicitor’s death, Simpson can put his money where his mouth is and communicate all he knows to it.

There are three main pillars used to stanchion the overall narrative in Duplicity And Deception; the killing of Pat Finucane; the kidnapping and eventual recovery of the body of Thomas Neidemeyer; and the life and crimes of UDA boss Jim Craig. Yet, the reader may wonder how much of its contents were actually put together from police files as distinct from contemporaneous tabloid journalism. Simpson has Brian Keenan as IRA Chief of Staff as far back as 1973, claiming to have ‘been well aware’ of the fact. But the fact that he was obviously not well aware of was that the IRA top spot was one that Keenan never held. CID would be expected to know this.

Keenan is the person blamed by Simpson for the kidnapping and subsequent disappearing of Neidermayer, a West German industrialist. The policy of disappearing people had been devised the year before by a Belfast IRA leader who, unlike Keenan, would go on to become chief of staff. Neidermayer was unfortunate because he had not crossed the IRA in any way but was considered a bargaining chip in the organisation’s drive to force the British to release the Price sisters, Marian and Dolours, then on hunger strike in a British prison.

Keenan now deceased, who once gazed at Alan Simpson in Brixton prison with ‘venomous eyes’, was also alleged in the book to be the driving force behind the sectarian massacre of 10 Protestant workmen in January 1976.

The hunt for Neidermayer’s body takes up a sizeable chunk of this narrative. Yet it seems too much of a coincidence, not commented on by the author, that the discovery of the body should coincide with the release of one of the Price sisters. The second was released the following year. If it was a quid pro quo between the British and the IRA, Simpson does not portray it as such.

There was something of the voyeuristic when I read through the interrogation of men who I would later spend time in prison with, sent down for their involvement in the kidnapping and killing of West Germany’s honorary consul to the North. Their description, if accurate, of Neidermayer’s death and subsequent burial in a secret grave where he lay undiscovered for a further seven years, is a chilling account which ranks alongside the narratives of similar actions that have emerged from Chile and Argentina.

Why the IRA ever resorted to the war crime of disappearing people - a propaganda nightmare - is still the subject of debate and a measure of angst amongst some of those who made up its ranks. Most see it as being a vindictive tactic designed more to cover failures on the part of some leading figures than as a measure of the organisation’s success. It was a dirty war but as Camus reminds us ‘even in destruction there is a right way and a wrong way – and there are limits.’

Simpson concedes it was impossible for the war to be fought cleanly. But he does nothing to show the role of CID in the dirty war he refers to. Yet in October the Guardian reported that

a number of former RUC interrogators, men who worked at Castlereagh during the 70s, 80s and 90s, have recently told the Guardian that the beatings, the sleep deprivation and the other tortures were systematic, and were, at times, sanctioned at a very high level within the force.

All of this was carried out by the CID, led by Bill Mooney who died in 1995 and who is referred to glowingly in this book.

Without saying it directly Simpson implies that the IRA was penetrated to the hilt and that ‘many of their high ranking terrorists … were actually Special Branch agents.’ He appears to be the first bearer of former senior rank in the RUC to state that the prominent IRA figure, Brendan Davison, afforded full military honours at his funeral in 1988, was ‘a long standing Special Branch informant.’

While just about everybody that can read will find little objectionable in Simpson’s depiction of Jimmy Craig as an incorrigible thug it was the UDA gangster’s meetings with Provisional IRA leaders in Belfast under RUC surveillance that will raise most hackles. ‘They were meeting like a group of insurance brokers and were taking out policies not to target each other for assassination at their high level.’

While the grass roots combatants slogged it out with sledge hammers and Kalashnikovs the leaders could put their feet up.

Collusion how are you?

Duplicity And Deception by Alan Simpson. Brandon: IBSN 978-0-86322-416-4


  1. Anthony I,ll get that book for sure, but from your account if I,m reading it right,Alan Simpson is being very economical with the truth,I get the feeling he is withholding more than he is telling, for eg,.the Glenanne gang and the Dublin and Monagahan bombings,Mc Gurks bar,the Shankill butchers and of course the torture in Castlerea ,Armagh,Gough barracks,and Derry,s Strand rd,where many of us spent a very interesting time,mostly on the floor looking at Alans mates size nines,he tells us that the organisations were highly inflitrated ,tell us something we didnt know or suspect! the truth is out there and it needs to be set free before we can ever think of some sort of closure ,but I dont think mr Simpson is the man to release it.

  2. Mackers, (apologies)
    I don't think the part about Craig is entirely kosher.
    There is no doubt he was a thug and a seedy character. Albert, said he was jailed in the 70s for robbing a card school on the Shankill and recruited by the UDA in the Crum because of his reputation.
    Apparently, he enjoyed a very precarious relationship with both the UDA and UVF.
    Although he had a fearful reputation, he also had a considerable amount of enemies.
    He has been named on many occasions as being central in supplying information which led to the killings of Murphy and Mc Michael and other top loyalists.
    The whole scenario of the 'Disappeared' is a very tricky one. Hindisght is absolutely invaluable, its downside is the fact it follows the event.
    I don't anyone, even the architect could have forseen the horrendous consequences of such a plan.
    Allegedly designed to stike fear and uncertainity into a community, people were ferried away for trial and burial.
    All these years later however, as human remains were unearthed from the bogs and the sand the horror became all too apparent.
    Sadly, some of these people died for very very little, some for nothing at all.
    Even those reportedly guilty, how was their crimes measured and equally odious crimes covered up?
    Ironically, the Master planner denied all and told others they should be proud to take the blame.
    Madly, his understudy Mc Guinness has actively encouraged communities to inform, a crime that once was used as justification for being 'Disappeared.'

  3. Nuala,

    it may not be. Simpson does not seem to be entirely reliable as I suggested in the review. Against that there is knowledge of a 'top man's agreement' between the various sides which was broken when the Master was shot. After that it is said he was determined to get McMichael.

    Disappearing was an odious act. It becomes more odious with hindsight. For me it is hard to see it in any light other than that of a war crime.

    Marty if you get it second hand go for it but I wouldn't fork out the asking price. It is very readable but I always wondered about the reliability.

  4. Mackers,
    I don't doubt for a second there may have been a 'Top Man's Agreement' I just heard on many occasions that Craig was active in setting up top men from his own organisations.
    While it was never a all out strategy, people and military were 'Disappeared' in other IRA campaigns.
    Peelers dropped down manholes as well as the odd IRA Chief of Staff.
    I think what stinks this time round, was the main strategist behind the whole concept of disappearing people, actually covered up odious crimes within his own circle that he found intolerable and reprehensible in others.

  5. AM-

    The last ruc member's book that i
    read was the ian phoenix autobiography[ Ghost written ]
    policing the shadows- which i thought was an honest enough read

    Like alan simpson- phoenix had a hatred for other ruc members,
    usually his so called superior's
    seems like there was a lot of bitching in the ruc

    The ruc had their brit crown the
    money the resource's the media but they had not got and could never get the republican people- this would be there down-fall

    u.d.a meetings with Provisional IRA
    volunteers in belfast- under ruc
    surveillance- is that so- is anyone going to ask for these tapes
    to be made public then or is this another jackanory story

    The ruc were brit helpers who took the crowns pay-off and queenie paid
    up- she give them a medal also before she closed their door.

  6. Thats the beauty of libraries Anthony a cara,

  7. Marty,


    I don't use them as I have this habit of reading a book with a red pen and that can't be done with library books.

  8. Michaelhenry,

    I read the Phoenix one - Jack Holland wrote it with the widow of Phoenix. Holland got some insights from the notes of Phoenix about the penetration of the IRA in in Belfast that he did not reveal in the book.

    You don't need to rely on Simpson for evidence of those meetings. Just ask a few in the know in Belfast. As Nuala points out Jimmy Craig was an open secret. I guess at some point those who attended from both sides might be more forthcoming and allow us to get a feel for the extent of it.

  9. Anthony marking books with a pen ,thats a terrible thing to do,Mickeyboy will be hopping all over his attic, its nearly as bad as me tearing out the last two pages mmm!

  10. I read jigsaw Phoneix,s ghost written book to Mickeyboy, a bit that confused the f##k out of me was that he loved to sing Fields of Athenry,do you think the f##ker understood the words or meaning of it,if so why the f##k was he a member of the ruc and a devoted servant to?

  11. Marty-

    Are you that fcuk who rips the last few page's of libary books-
    I have swore vengeance lol


    Maybe not Ghost written- but that book was wrote about a Ghost

    alan simpson was luky to leave the
    ruc in 1993 other-wise he could have been on that same chinook as
    phoenix which ruined the beauty of the mull of kintyre

  12. Michaelhenry,

    not so sure about that. He was CID and if I am right the RUC on the flight were Special Branch.


    it is the way I read! I always mark it with a red pen for future reference. I started marking the one on Afghanistan I got for my daughter before I reined myself in. She commented to me that she had noticed it.

  13. Mickeyboy of course I dont rip the pages out of the books ,how awful is that, no mo cara I just superglue them together!

  14. Dispatches on ch4 looks interesting tomorrow night ,lessons on hate and violence

  15. michaelhenry,
    The Queen did not close the door on the RUC, a survey conducted prior to their massive compensation payout revealed that 71% of PSNI officers were former RUC.
    Oh dear a bit of a faux pas!
    Great when you know things!

  16. Fionnuala-

    I am sorry that you did not read the good friday agreement- but dont
    worry there was a few others who thought they were hardline also- we
    had to use the hardliners [ jokes ]
    for Ireland

    The queen stoped the ruc because they could not stop the Provo's-
    how many of your 71 per cent are with the crown free p.s.n.i today

    No- its sad when you dont know

  17. P.S- i dont hate you's

    Glad to read that robert is back

    he and his arguments were missed.

  18. Maybe Simpson was the 'nice' side of the coin which had Herman on the oposite side? Same agenda mildly different approach.

    In hinsight away from the fray it's very scary what was going on.

    Michaelhenry, every post has 'the crown' in it. The contributers here should consider a whip-round and buy you one, alleviate yer obsession. That's a friendly gesture, please dont read it as combative.

  19. michaelhenry,
    There are stiil 4500 former serving RUC in the ranks of the PSNI.
    In 2008, ten years after the 'Got Fcuk All Agreement', they still made up 71% of the PSNI.
    Did I read the GFA, michaelhenry? no I did not.
    I think the only people who read it, where people in padded cells or maybe they go ended up there when they finished it.

  20. her maj will be in oireland this year. maybe the crown will go on the Garda badge to reflect how big a balls-up that was made of independence and an apology to wee Lizzie for our stupidity and audacity??

  21. Anthony ordered that book in the libary yesterday, apparently I,ll recieve a copy fairly quickly ,as there is a lot of them in the system, that is unusual initself mo cara,