Category: Archive

Cops claim IRA spy ring broken

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The IRA’s position is still that it had no involvement in the Castlereagh break-in. The police made clear this week, however, they have no doubt that they have uncovered a widespread IRA plot. This involved not only republicans spying on political parties, including the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP, but also on the British government and its intentions, particularly on police reform.
The acting assistant chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Alan McQuillan, has revealed that a special team of 40 detectives is examining 79 computers, 19,000-plus pages of documents (some copied or stolen from government offices) and hundreds of hard or floppy discs.
He said there are more than 2,500 exhibits in total and that the police have also found a significant number of internal IRA documents, including a small number relating to agents working for the IRA in government.
McQuillan added, however, that he had no intelligence to suggest any “offensive intent” by the IRA nor any information that there was any intention to use the intelligence gleaned through the plot in the immediate future.
He said there appeared to be a small number of civil servants who had been approached by the IRA, but he denied that police would trawl through the records of all Catholic civil servants or that any witch-hunt would be conducted, as has been alleged by Sinn Fein.
This came four days after the police released, without charge, a Catholic civil servant, from west Belfast, whom they had been questioning about the alleged IRA spy ring at Stormont. He is now suspended on full pay pending further police inquiries.
Detectives detained the man at his workplace last Wednesday. He had worked previously for the first minister, David Trimble, and the deputy first minister, Mark Durkan, as a research assistant and diary organizer.
Trimble, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, said the arrest had “huge implications” for the peace process and led to “huge questions” about how the civil service vetted potential employees.
Durkan took a different view, however, saying the arrested man had done good work and had a good attitude. He advised caution before “rushing to judgment” over the man’s guilt or innocence.
When the man arrested was released without charge, 48 hours later, Durkan said he was vindicated. There was silence from Trimble — while Sinn Fein called for an apology from Trimble and the British prime minister, Tony Blair, who had spoken earlier of the grave implications of the arrest for the political process.
Meanwhile, the detective in overall day-to-day charge of the alleged spy ring operation, Chief Supt. Phil Wright, said he is now involved in passing on warnings to those listed in some of the documents. He said he had a team of 15 officers working on assessing the risk to more than 2,000 people who included forensic scientists, judges, prison officers, police officers, soldiers and loyalists.
A decision on a possible bid to extradite Larry Zaitchek, the U.S.-born former chef at Castlereagh, is expected before long. A 3,500-page document on his case has been sent to the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions, who will make a final decision on whether to proceed with an extradition request.
Sinn Fein has hit out at Monday’s police briefing. Its policing spokesman, Gerry Kelly, said PSNI was “clearly on the defensive in relation to these matters, hence Alan McQuillan’s decision to engage in so blatant an exercise in damage limitation.”
“[His] time would have been better spent explaining police inertia during the recent anti-Catholic pogroms in Belfast and the inability of the police to act when homes and property were damaged by loyalists and a number of young people murdered by loyalists,” Kelly said.
Meanwhile, the Irish and British governments are, later this week, expected to announce the venue, timing and agenda for multiparty talks to rescue the ailing peace process, hoping for some progress before the end of the year. Sinn F

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese