"He wouldn't be tortured, there'd be nothing like that. He'd be taken away
in a car. In the old days, suspected touts would be tied up and put in the
boot but I'd be surprised if he was even blindfolded.
"They'd just make him sit in the back seat with his head down so he didn't
see where he was going. He'd be taken to a safe house for interrogation, "
says a veteran west Belfast republican with experience of IRA internal
He's talking about the prominent Sinn Féin and IRA figure in the northwest
reportedly questioned by the Provos earlier this week about allegations he
is a British spy. "There'd be no violence. He wouldn't be stripped or
Two or three interrogators would be in the room. He'd be told to sit in a
chair with his back to them so he couldn't see faces. Internal security
sometimes put a coin or bit of plastic in their mouths so their voices are
distorted and can't be recognised."
The republican movement is in turmoil. A prominent Belfast Sinn Féin
representative was reportedly questioned by internal security on Christmas
Eve and allegations are circulating about other Provisionals, including
leading household names.
If any of these figures admit to being informers, it's likely they'll be
sidelined instead of publicly named with the accompanying political
embarrassment for the Provos.
"Since Denis [Donaldson] was outed, nobody knows who to trust, " says
another west Belfast republican. "Wee suspicions about individuals that have
festered over the years are now huge."
An ex-prisoner acknowledges widespread "panic and disillusionment" but
thinks it pointless: "Everybody knew the Brits would try to infiltrate the
movement. People must remain calm. They shouldn't become paranoid about
those they've trusted all their lives. The media is using the Donaldson
episode against us."
The Provo leadership is attempting to divert attention from its internal
problems by saying other Irish parties and organisations are also likely to
Many grassroots republicans don't buy that argument. "What does it matter if
a British agent infiltrates the SDLP or Fianna Fail? Those parties weren't
at war with the Brits. Agents in their ranks couldn't do the damage they can
do in ours, " says one activist.
"The republican movement asks a hell of a lot more of its members than the
SDLP or Fianna Fail does, so trust in the leadership is essential. When you
join the IRA you're told you'll end up in jail or the graveyard. It's not
too much to in return expect that senior figures are clean."
The changed political environment means Sinn Féin/ IRA leaders under
suspicion are treated very differently from previous alleged informers.
"Internal security is generally more relaxed. People are told to be in a
certain place, picked up, and if another session is needed told to show up
at a set time the next day.
"Dissidents aren't abducted now either. They're ordered to be at Clonard
Monastery [in west Belfast] and then taken away. They wouldn't get the rough
treatment they once did, " says a west Belfast source.
Another west Belfast republican says there would still be lengthy and
rigorous questioning of suspected informers with the interrogators demanding
detailed answers about matters which had aroused suspicion. The suspect's
answers would be meticulously checked with other IRA and Sinn Féin members.
But some activists have lost faith in internal security. Its two previous
heads, an exBritish marine and Freddie Scappaticci, were informers.
"Everybody they appointed or promoted must be dubious, " says an
ex-prisoner. "Internal security are running around questioning people but
volunteers now wonder who internal security are?"
Another source claimed internal security weren't on top of their brief but
"desperately need to be seen to be doing something to appease grassroots".
Last week, a Sinn Féin press officer confirmed to The Sunday Times that
allegations had been made that Belfast councillor Tom Hartley and veteran
republican Dickie Glenholmes were British agents, but that both men had
denied the claims.
Hartley has no criminal convictions. It's not the first allegation about
Glenholmes who has a previous republican conviction and whose daughter
Evelyn was once the most wanted woman in Ireland.
Marian and Dolours Price were arrested in London for the 1973 Old Bailey
bombing. "The police had information about the operation that only myself,
Dolours and three people in Ireland had, " Marian Price told the Sunday
"We were able to rule out one person immediately. The second was Gerry
Adams, and we refused to believe he was an informer. The third person was
Dickie Glenholmes. Through an intermediary, we sent word of our suspicions
He rejected it like we were hysterical women who couldn't do our time, "
claims Price. When Price was released, she claims she raised the issue with
Adams again: "I wasn't looking for retribution, I was concerned because
Dickie had remained prominent in the movement. Gerry Adams said, 'Don't
worry, Dickie isn't in a position to do damage.' I felt I was being fobbed
"I'm not saying Dickie Glenholmes definitely is an informer. If anyone is
publicly saying so now, I'd suspect they're outing small fry to protect a
far bigger fish. But my concerns were never properly addressed and I'd like
to know why." Glenholmes' conviction occurred subsequent to Price's
Internal security's unprecedented access to information makes it the IRA's
most important department. It vets all new recruits and investigates every
IRA operation that goes wrong. It has the right to know the make-up of every
IRA unit, who was on what operation, and the location of safe houses.
Martin Ingram, a former British intelligence officer, is stunned the IRA
didn't rotate its security personnel regularly to disrupt any long-term
Denis Donaldson caused divisions among republicans in the US, sidelining
An ex-member of the Sean Savage Sinn Féin cumann in Kilkeel says he did the
same in south Down. "Donaldson's job was at Stormont but for some reason he
was never out of our area. He'd even visit a farm near Ballynahinch,
shooting birds and rabbits with his legally held firearm.
"He stuck his nose into everything. He'd tap his finger on the table, tell
us what to do, and there was no arguing. Anyone independent-minded, anyone
who even asked questions, was marginalised.
"Donaldson and his clique drove 40 people out of the party in south Down. He
ran a dictatorship and plenty of good people, including an ex-hungerstriker,
were treated very shabbily. Those he sponsored and promoted are now highly
Former councillor and Newry Institute lecturer, Martin Cunningham, joined
Sinn Féin 30 years ago. He'd helped build the party in loyalist Kilkeel.
Selected at a local convention as the South Down Assembly candidate, he was
later deselected by the leadership. "I'd taken risks for Sinn Féin but I was
replaced by Catriona Ruane who had just joined the party and didn't live in
the North, let alone the constituency. Donaldson came down to enforce the
Cunningham claims that Donaldson said, 'Take it from me, this is coming
right from the top.' "I'd clashed with him over Orange marches. Kilkeel
nationalists were tortured by parades every weekend night in summer.
Donaldson opposed me organising protests, " said Cunningham.
Another south Down republican accused the leadership of indifference to
security risks: "There was one boy we believed was a tout. He acted
suspiciously and had that many mobiles we called him 'three phones'. "When
we raised it with the leadership, we were asked what role we saw for him in
the movement. 'Suicide bomber' we said. He's still involved."
On informer scandals, the Provisional leadership's record, even to its own
members, isn't one of transparency. To save face, it provided cover for
Freddie Scappaticci, outed three years ago.
Martin McGuinness said then: "Mr Scappaticci is the only person with the
courage to go before the cameras and to issue a statement in his own name.
These stories are coming from nameless and faceless securocrats in British
intelligence. People have to judge who has the most credibility on all of
Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly made similar statements.
It's widely accepted by IRA grassroots that 'Scap' was an informer. He has
since fled the country. Sinn Féin had little to say when questioned by the
Sunday Tribune about 'Scap' on Friday. "I don't know what our position on
him is, " a spokesman said. "We don't discuss it. He is not a member of the
party." Over the years, 'Scap' was regularly photographed beside Sinn Féin
A west Belfast republican says the outing of 'Scap' and Donaldson raises
uncomfortable questions for grassroots: "Over the years, MI5 used Donaldson
to strengthen the Adams-McGuinness leadership and to weaken its critics.
"The British could have used 'Scap' as a state witness against Adams or
McGuinness, like MI5 and the FBI used Dave Rupert against Mickey McKevitt,
but they didn't. We have to ask ask ourselves why the British didn't want to
harm the leadership."