In the article Bangers Babble which has so incensed you, I briefly outlined your role in blocking an honourable and satisfactory way out for the six hunger strikers whose one sure destination after you had deprived them of information was the grave. I was aware, given how often Richard O’Rawe had turned you inside out on the matter, that you would not bite. I therefore took the liberty in the closing lines of putting something else on the hook which I knew you were sensitive to, given that many years after the event you publicly flogged the people responsible for the Llewellyn killing in a bid to claim a moral high ground for yourself that you were clearly unwilling to allow to them. Don’t tell us you were not angrily confronted about it. You were. Nor should you feign denial of the contempt you are held in as a result of it.
Don’t worry about what you claim are suggestions of your own involvement in the ‘appalling killing of this innocent man who was brutally killed after a car bomb attack close to our Republican News offices.’ As the late volunteer Skeet Hamilton was fond of saying about you, it was a case of a ballot box in one hand and an armalite in somebody else’s. You argue that ‘the only possible reading of this –– unless Anthony has an explanation I haven’t thought of –– is that he is insinuating that I had something to do with the 1975 sectarian killing of Sammy Llewellyn, who was known as the Good Samaritan.’ You not having thought of something would hardly be an original or unique event. There is a very clear explanation, but then, as you concede, the thought would not have occurred to you. There is nothing in the comments in Bangers Babble to insinuate that you were part of or were even aware of the Llewellyn operation as it was happening. You were an accomplice after the fact. The question is to whom were you an accomplice? It was certainly not the IRA personnel involved in the operation.
Your role at the time was as editor of the Republican News which placed you in charge of the paper’s Belfast press office. It was from within your little office, through your time honoured practice of slandering and whispering, that the person chosen to carry the blame for the killing was, thanks to your efforts, deliberately hung out to dry in sections of the media. He was portrayed as a maverick of sorts so that the organisation he was a member of could avoid culpability. I noticed that almost 40 years after the event you could not bring yourself to state that the IRA carried out the ‘sectarian killing’, instead restricting yourself to comments that ‘republicans lost a lot of support after this innocent man’s killing.’
The killing took place on a Friday and by Saturday the identity of the person flung to the media wolves, thanks to your efforts and those of your press office minions, had travelled as far as Magilligan Prison in Co Derry, where I was then housed as a young IRA prisoner. In line with British military strategy outlined by Frank Kitson, who argued for the use of the law for the purpose of disposing of unwanted members of the public, this particular unwanted member of the public, inconvenient to you and those who gave you your orders, was conveniently demonised and forced to go on the run. He was later captured and stitched up. The evidence against him was a farce. Nevertheless, disposed of he was. We have since learned how you made the job of briefing journalists, researchers and academics against other unwanted republican members of the public a high art; your targets included – but were by no means confined to – myself and Brendan Hughes.
The offending lines in Bangers Babble are as follows:
‘more chance that he will raise Sammy Llewellyn from the dead. Pennies for your thoughts on what Sammy might tell.’
We know that people are not raised from the dead so the situation is purely hypothetical. But if he could be it is likely that Sammy Llewellyn might tell how one of the people later convicted of killing him was felon set by you and elements of your party press cabal. And now you have the chutzpah to fire accusations of felon setting at others.
Perhaps you were not consciously trying to get rid of, through imprisonment, the unwanted member of the public at the heart of this affair. Maybe you just wanted him exiled because of the embarrassment which you admit the operation caused you. But the effect was to isolate him and make him easy prey for the forces of the state. Either way you used your influence quite effectively.
Speaking of influence, it was from you in prison that I first learned of the term ‘agent of influence.’ You of course were pretending to be helpful, offering me fraternal advice not to be predicting ceasefires or a serious republican compromise. You said people would jump to the wrong conclusion and use it to smear me. I later realised that behind your smile was a snarl seeking to suppress debate. Years later I read in Peter Taylor’s book, Provos, of an approach that had been made to a Derry republican by the British intelligence services. What they wanted him to do was serve as an agent of influence and spread ideas that would ultimately move republicanism to where it is now. Clearly it was an intelligence driven strategy about which you knew more than me. At that point I recalled my conversation with you.
It seems clear that the role you ascribed to ‘agents of influence’ is one you have some familiarity with for whatever reason. Is it just coincidence that you helped steer republicans to the very position the British state long sought to take them? In the course of doing so you have abandoned every republican belief you claimed you held and worked feverishly to discredit any republican who publicly vented the view, correctly as it turned out, that the Republican Movement would end up in a place where it did not belong. That does not of course make you an agent of influence, just that you have ticked all the important boxes.
To put things very starkly, I do not trust you. Not just because I vehemently resent what you did to the hunger strikers. The notion has long been floated past me by others, some of whom you would know well, that you have been an agent of the British state. Although many republicans loathe Martin McGuinness for the political twists and turns he has executed very few will brook the allegation that he ever worked for the British. They insist it is simply not possible. When asked about you no defence is made whatsoever. Some have said they are convinced you are. They make a strong but not conclusive case. And there are questions for which you have never provided answers.
I like other republicans have been suspicious about your role for some time. My wariness, until recently, was admittedly not as robust or as well thought out as others. You are not oblivious to this. When in December 2005 you went on a rant in Kelly’s Cellars, shortly after the exposure of the British agent Denis Donaldson, you were told in no uncertain terms by a member of our company on the evening that the big money was on you as next in line to be outed as an agent. On the same evening when you took a call on your mobile as you walked up the bar and the cry went out from our company, ‘Thiepval to Danny, Thiepval to Danny’, you pretended not to have heard it, even though the body of the bar guffawed as one. You knew it wasn’t said in jest.
My apprehensions about you were stirred, slowly at first, when you covered for the British agent Freddie Scappaticci, better known in the media as Stakeknife. You knew he was an agent long before most others. In fact, if memory serves me right, it was you who moved in January 2003 to have the police ombudsman investigate your case on the basis of entrapment, some four months before Scappaticci became a household name. Yet when the man you wanted the ombudsman to believe had entrapped you was then exposed you poured cold water on the affair. Who or what exactly were you covering for?
When I met you after a debate at Oxford University not long after this and asked you to explain the cover up, your excuse was that you knew there were three agents involved in the case and there was no point in narrowing it down to Scappaticci. Would you mind now revealing the identities of the other two and in the course of doing so assure us that you are not one of them? And would you also assure us that in the sealed ‘confidential annexe’ which the appeal court agreed to suppress, your name did not figure as the real reason the appeal was upheld?
My unease has been further compounded by your current stance in relation to the Boston College oral history archives. Your role in this has been the sinister one of trying to prise an opening for the British police to gain access to the materials. You have yet to condemn the police action, reserving your bile exclusively for those associated with the oral history project. Without knowing what is in the tapes currently held, you have publicly stated that they ‘contain potentially incriminating taped evidence by Irish Republican Army volunteers about unresolved killings during the Irish conflict.’ Your intention seems clear enough: to give moral support to the British police as they set about their political policing. Even now you are seeking to have the inference drawn that there is something in the archives about the Llewellyn case that I have drawn upon: ‘could it be that his allegation is related to something that has been said in one of his Boston College research interviews which he is now inadvertently/subconsciously referring to?’ You do this for one reason: in the hope that it will reinforce and focus the attention of the PSNI.
I have never drawn on any embargoed material in the archive for any purpose. That confidentiality remains sealed. I will take it to the crematorium with me. Moreover, your depiction of those who participated in the oral history project as being of like mind to the ‘dissident republican’ who interviewed them is a further spur to the PSNI in that you are seeking to foster a public mood that those critical of Gerry Adams are the only people who agreed to be interviewed and that as such it will be no bad thing if their contribution to historical understanding is seized and turned into evidence against them. The term ‘agent of influence’ is a spectre that haunts your entire commentary. You might of course simply be daft rather than dangerous, but there are sufficient grounds on which to call your stance into question.
After reading your article a friend rang and told me that it struck him that you were seeking to be arrested by the HET. He was preaching to the converted. Neither you nor anyone else is likely to face arrest for aiding the British in demonising a republican activist that ultimately enabled the British judiciary to convict him on the basis of fresh air and then throw away the key.
An arrest however, would assist you, having yourself brought the matter to public attention, in amplifying your claims to be victim of evil ‘dissident republicans’ who you would further seek to accuse of touting, while at the same time deflecting attention away from the nature of the PSNI action.
Moreover, when you sought to label those including the late Brendan Hughes as informers responsible for ‘confessions/boasts/toutings’ for having taken part in the oral history project you were obviously being disingenuous not to mention malevolent. But we are used to that with you. That is why you are a novelist, the only thing you are capable of writing is fiction. When I carefully and after much consideration ended my Bangers Babble article with the reference to Samuel Llewellyn I confidently told people that you would bite and label me a tout. I knew you would do this for the same disingenuous reasons that you do almost everything else. It was a measured gamble but the prospect was worth facing as a means to draw you out. You can hardly claim it didn’t work. Your bandying about of the deeply pejorative term ‘tout’ against named individuals rather than anonymous figures in an institution in a bid to smear republicans as credible witnesses to historical events has freed me from a hesitancy to publicly air my misgivings about you. You can hardly cry foul play having liberally thrown the ‘tout’ label around at myself and others.
Maybe I am wide off the mark in relation to this. But, unlike you, being wide off the mark has not been a trait of my analysis over the past 15 years. When you were getting just about everything wrong I was heartened not to have been part of your company. Contrary to what you persistently imply we now have a good idea of how extensively the Provisional IRA was penetrated and compromised. Not in terms of individuals but in terms of ratio between agents and uncompromised activists.
We might never know exactly who, but would any of us aware of these matters confidently bet our house against the IRA being infiltrated not up to their black berets but right up to their big black hats? Fish and chips on Danny?