Independent Media Centre Ireland

Is Martin McGuinnes a British Agent? The new revelations considered.

category national | crime and justice | opinion/analysis author Monday February 06, 2006 08:27author by Brian

A look at the recent statements by the FRU source known as Martin Ingram who states that Martin McGuinness is a paid agent of the British government.

As I think everybody knows there has been an upsurge in revelations about British intelligence agency infiltration of (some would say control over) the IRA in recent weeks. This has culminated in a definitive statement from a former British army intelligence officer and handler that Martin McGuinness, widely considered the most powerful IRA figure of the last two decades, is a paid agent of the British government. It has come from a former warrant officer in the Force Research Unit who uses the pseudonym Martin Ingram. His real name is well known, he is personally also known and friendly with many Irish journalists so there is no real doubt about his identity or the fact that he really did serve in the British Army's Intelligence Corps in various places in Northern Ireland in the mid-80s. (The Force Research Unit is sort of a special Irish unit of that Intelligence Corps). In particular he served in Derry and was the handler for Frank Hegarty who infiltrated the Provisional IRA on his behalf during c.1984 and its the story of what happened to Hegarty that seems to confirm for Ingram that McGuinness is in fact a British agent. So basically he was told by his superiors to use Hegarty to get close to McGuinness and that is what happened the thing being that Hegarty rose suspiciously fast in the local IRA hierarchy even though he wasn't all that well known to McGuinness. In a space of only a few months he knew enough to pinpoint a huge arms dump held locally for example. So it seems that Ingram feels that Hegarty rose through the ranks so fast because he was an informer, in other words that McGuinness knew that and was systematically assisting the FRU in its task of infiltrating all ranks of the IRA. Hegarty after a while fled to the UK and was watched by FRU minders until he received word from McGuinness inviting him back to Ireland where he was ultimately to meet his death. The crucial point in this episode is that Ingram says that it was the commander of the FRU who "thought Frank to be a security concern and his depression was a potential problem for the FRU." So according to Ingram no great pains were expended in delaying him in the UK and his return and subsequent death seem to have been designed to solve that problem from the FRU's point of view.

So sure for most people its a conspiracy theory too far to say that McGuinness is a British government agent but the fact is that we now have a person in the know in the British intelligence community in Derry who is saying just that and his opinion must carry some weight. It is not the only reference that points this way and I thought I would point out a few more references for people to mull over before they dismiss this theory out of hand:

1) This is an account of a conversation between the former O/C of the Southern Command of the IRA (while being simultaneously a garda agent) Sean O'Callaghan, and Brendan Dowd, discussing the opinions of the senior IRA figure Brian Keenan while they were both held in Full Sutton prison in England:
" 'Does he [Brian Keenan] really think he was set up?' I asked Dowd. Dowd just smiled and said 'He thinks it was McGuinness.' 'He must be off his head,' I said, while at the same time being perfectly aware how Keenan came to such a conclusion. Keenan had been arrested at a security force roadblock just outside Banbridge in County Down, in March 1979. McGuinness was arrested at the same roadblock, but in a different car. Keenan maintained to Dowd that shortly before his arrest McGuinness, who was driving a car that may well have been known to the security forces, waved him down to tell him something that he, Keenan, regarded as unimportant. Keenan was adamant that the car he was in was clean and unknown to the security forces. He thought it possible that McGuinness, spotting that he himself was under surveillance, decided to take the opportunity to get rid of Keenan, who he knew was wanted on specific charges relating to the British bombing campaign. Waving down Keenan's car, he maintained, could have been McGuinness's way of pointing out to the police that there was another 'interesting' car in the area. Even Keenan, paranoid and untrusting as he was, couldn't really believe that McGuinness was an informer.....[goes on to say that the Marxist Keenan was against the Catholic Adams and McGuinness]...
Whether or not there is any substance in Keenan's belief that he was set up by a member of the Army Council, or in Dowd's allegation that Keenan blamed McGuinness in particular, it is certainly true that following Keenan's imprisonment Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness assumed a degree of control over the republican movement that they could not have dreamed of while Keenan was around.....
If Keenan really believed that he was set up by McGuinness, he has done nothing about it since he was released from prison four years ago. Was he simply speculating, thinking out loud ? But if that was the case why did he send such a definitive message out of the jail: 'I was set up by a member of the Army Council. I know who it is. Wait until I get out.' "(1)

2) I believe it was Andrew Hunter the then conservative MP who stated once in the Sunday Times that he had heard that one of the British army units stationed in Derry in the 70s was given strict instructions to leave McGuinness alone.

3) One book that some claim has spurred a lot of the new thinking on British government control over the IRA is 'The Secret History of the IRA' by the experienced local journalist Ed Moloney. Here are a few quotes from a review of this book in the Telegraph (Oct 12 2002 p.3) by Toby Harnden:
"Is Martin McGuinness a high-level informer who has been working for the British for the past two decades? .....[This is one of] the tantalising questions raised by this important and compelling work, which slices through many of the convenient untruths that have been peddled by the political elites of Belfast, Dublin and London.
Moloney also offers remarkable insights into such men as Martin McGuinness, who he says held nearly every senior IRA rank but did much to undermine the organisation.
Although the book does not name the high-level informer who was apparently working for the British, there is a strong implication that McGuinness is the most likely "tout" . As with a good mafia thriller, the reader is soon guessing which of the protagonists is wearing a wire for the Feds. If Moloney knows, he is not saying. But when he writes that "no one ever suggested Martin McGuinness or any other senior figures at his level were passing on information to the British", one suspects that this was not meant to be taken at face value."

Yet if this was true I respectfully submit that the accepted interpretation of the troubles has to go out the window. Basically its obvious then that the Republican paramilitary groups were just as much in the pocket of the British intelligence agencies as the loyalist groups and yet if that is the case then clearly those agencies, and indeed the occupying British army, had to be there for some other reason than the suppression of terrorism because the 'terrorism' was all along their carefully nurtured baby. My tuppence worth on that question is that the troubles were an Irish version of the Italian 'strategy of tension'. This strategy was so called by the Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and describes the reason why the Italian intelligence agencies, in alliance with those of the US and the UK, sponsored terrorism in Italy in the 70s and 80s. Basically they wanted to scare people into supporting those agencies and accompanying draconian security legislation etc. Again the story unfolded for the Italian public in much the same way that it has for us here in that first people began to realise that the right wing groups were really just the security agencies out of uniform and then they were later to find out that the left wing Red Brigades, ostensibly the latter's enemy, were also run by the security forces in alliance with the CIA and the P-2 masonic lodge.(2)

But I think furthermore that this revelation, if it is true, that McGuinness is a British agent must in fact also make people think about the whole structure of Irish civil society and not just the paramilitaries. What I mean is that the same intelligence agencies from the UK and the US (and working no doubt through domestic agencies as well, North and South) obviously also attempt to control political parties, media outlets, trade unions, police forces and judiciary etc and the question is have they had as much luck controlling those entities as they have the paramilitaries? Bear in mind they bring a lot of power and money to the table to do this. Ingram says that in the mid 80s he knew of one offer of 50,000 cash being offered to an IRA figure as an initial sweetener to persuade him to inform. If Tom Gilmartin's revelations about some Irish politicians are anything to go by then you have to wonder what you could buy with that kind of money in those circles. Of course those agencies also have huge information sources that they can use to blackmail people with as well and in fact Ingram says that Denis Donaldson was blackmailed when the RUC Special Branch found out that he had been caught stealing on a covert Marks and Spencers security camera. (3) Just look at the recent leadership contest in the Lib-Dem party in Britain and imagine how you could manipulate that race if you had access to the sort of information that modern agencies have access to by electronic and other means.(4)
Ingram provides a glimpse of that kind of infiltration of civil society when he talks about RUC Special Branch running senior agents within the Official and Democratic Unionist Parties where "they could and would be able and willing to exert influence." He says likewise that as regards the UK intel agencies' relationship with Irish government ministers and the gardai that "the level of penetration was high including Gardai commissioners." So maybe its sensible for Irish people to ask some hard questions sometimes about the various elements of Irish civil society and without being paranoid maybe we should be cautious if there is too cozy a consensus between this 'establishment' and the policies of the UK or US governments. I include the US because its obviously the home of the most powerful of those agencies as this reference in the Guardian to the CIA's role in the UK illustrates:

"Indeed, in 1991 journalist Richard Norton-Taylor revealed the existence of a list of something like 500 prominent Britons, including around 90 in the media, who were in the employ of the CIA, and paid through the old friend of the intelligence services, the BCCI."
( Guardian May 5 2004)

There are a lot of rumours out there of course and for example the Phoenix has this to say about Minister for Justice Michael McDowell who is particularly distinguished in criticising the Republican movement including McGuinness:

"In the present climate of dirty tricks, the Stormont controversy and other manoeuvres by shadowy people in Britain Intelligence, one is entitled to ask if the same people are pulling [Lord] Laird's strings - as well as McDowell's."
(The Phoenix Dec 16 2005)

Without adding or detracting from the obvious implication of the Phoenix's remarks you cannot help thinking that if this was true, taken together with the story on McGuinness, it implies that much of Irish political discourse is a kind of Punch and Judy show with the participants no doubt sharing a great joke at the gullibility of the Irish public as they wait for their checks from the one 'puppetmaster' !

Martin Ingram's recent revelations are contained in an article at cryptome (, an interview with Radio Free Eireann in New York ( and a long discussion at the slugger o'toole website ( ).

1. Sean O'Callaghan 'The Informer' (London, 1998) p.264 .

2. You can read a more elaborate discussion of the strategy of tension in the Irish context at . This is revised at with more international comparisons in the Appendix.

3. He was working as a security guard on contract for them at the time.

4. Even Tony Blair was an agent of MI5 before he became PM: which is the Bristol 'Evening Post' of 13 September 2005. This is from David Shayler who reviewed his MI5 file, see .

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