By Jack Holland
Just when you thought he’d gone away, IRA intelligence chief Bobby Storey, a close confidant of Gerry Adams, has popped up in the ongoing investigation into the St. Patrick’s night break-in at the Castlereagh police complex. In what has been described as one of the most embarrassing security failures in the history of the conflict, three well-dressed men walked away with a stack of secret files from what was supposed to be one of the most tightly guarded places in the United Kingdom.
Storey is thought to have taken over as director of intelligence on the IRA general headquarters staff six months ago. Along with five others, including two women, he was brought in for questioning about the robbery during a series of raids in Belfast and Derry involving some 200 police officers searching for clues as to what became of the files, and who it is might have them. As of early this week, all but one had been released after questioning.
In the meantime, in the wake of the break-in, 250 Special Branch officers in Belfast have been told to change their contact telephone numbers, as it is believed that they were in the stolen files, along with the code names of the informers they were handling. Last week, informers in Belfast received calls from their police handlers assuring them that their identity had not been compromised. However, according to one police theory, it is the identity of one informer in particular, code-named Steak Knife, that the thieves were anxious to uncover. Steak Knife has achieved sort of mythological status as one of the highest-ranking informers working for the police within the Provisionals.
While the code names themselves would give no indication as to the real name of the source, his police handler’s station contact number might narrow down the area in which he is operating.
The latest developments have come as a surprise to most — including officers of the Belfast Special Branch in Castlereagh, many of whom are feeling disgruntled by the way their senior officers have been handling the case. A reliable source claims they were never briefed about the break-in. Nor were they informed of what the chief constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, meant last week when he said the robbery was an “inside job.” It was widely assumed that he was referring to the suspicion that the culprits were British military agents. However, it is now apparent that Flanagan probably referred to the suspicion that someone who worked in Castlereagh complex was involved. One of those questioned at the weekend was Kerry Lynas, a young woman who works in the canteen and who is suspected of giving information about the building to her boyfriend, John Harrison, a Protestant from Edenderry Village.
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The other woman questioned was Mary Ellen Campbell, part time secretary for Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein assembly member for North Belfast and former adjutant general of the Provisional IRA.
Declan Kearney described as close to Storey was also questioned.
This is the second time in three years that IRA veteran Storey has been under suspicion of IRA activity. He was alleged to have set up a special intelligence unit in 1995, the aim of which was to gather information about high-ranking police officers and judges living in areas not usually penetrated by the IRA, such as North Down. The unit is thought to have been responsible for helping the Provisionals breach the security surrounding British army headquarters in Lisburn in a bomb attack that killed a soldier in October 1996.
Storey likes to use “sleepers” and people with no IRA traces. One young woman who was part of the intelligence unit was a schoolteacher who struck up several close relationships with police officers.
Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey has described the arrests and allegations about IRA involvement in the Castlereagh robbery as “provocative” and “ridiculous.”