Northern Ireland news

MI5 records never disclosed to loyalist paramilitary collusion inquiries

Lord Stevens, speaking on the BBC series Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History.
Brendan Hughes

SECRET intelligence records held by MI5 were not disclosed to inquiries into Troubles collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

Documents have been discovered that were not made available to hundreds of reviews, investigations and inquiries into incidents that happened during the Northern Ireland conflict.

The new evidence of state secrecy is revealed in the final episode of the BBC documentary series Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History.

Lord Stevens, a former police chief who led three investigations into security force collusion with loyalists, said a "large cache" of documentation existed that they were never told about.

Spotlight reveals there are even more records of secret intelligence held by MI5 that were only partially disclosed or not shown at all to the Stevens Inquiry.

Lord Stevens, the former head of Scotland Yard, said his team held "something like a million documents – tons and tons of paper".

"But there was a large cache of intelligence and documentation elsewhere in Derbyshire which we had never seen. No-one has ever told us about it," he said.

"That may well take this story further. And if it does, it needs to be exposed."

The programme, which airs tonight, also explores the factors that brought the Troubles to a close.

Insiders describe how the military stalemate between security forces and the IRA – what Irish diplomat Séan Ó hUigínn calls "a groundhog day of violence again and again" – was broken by the peace process.

Spotlight journalist Darragh MacIntyre traces the battle for control of the IRA that played out at conventions in 1996 and 1997, the latter leading to a split and the creation of the dissident Real IRA.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were racing dissidents around Ireland to persuade IRA members to support the peace process.

He said the dissidents were "worrying us because they were working very hard and they were having success".

"They were a serious threat to the Martin and Gerry project at that stage. Credit has to be given to Martin and Gerry for keeping that on board," he said.

The 90-minute programme also looks at the disbandment of the Provisional IRA in 2005, 36 years after its formation and after claiming around 1,900 lives.

Dubliner Matt Treacy said he continued to recruit new IRA members until that summer when its Dublin brigade was called to a meeting.

"The person who was sent down was a prominent member – had been a prominent member of the IRA. He was on the Army Council as far as I know. (He) stated, 'That's it lads, it's over. It's finished. The IRA has been stood down. If you want to be involved in politics, join Sinn Féin. That's it.'

"People were nearly crying, and they were – 'what are we supposed to do?' He said, 'I just told you what to do – join Sinn Féin, get involved in your union, get involved in real politics. It's over, it's finished. There is no more IRA.'"

The episode will be broadcast tonight on BBC One NI and BBC Four at 8.30pm. A programme on the making of the seven-part series will be available afterwards on BBC iPlayer and aired on Thursday on BBC One NI at 9pm.

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