Ed Moloney @ The Broken Elbow probes behind the Irish News revelation about yet another British agent within management structure of the Provisional IRA.
So, who leaked the Shankill bombing story to The Irish News, and more to the point, why?
The story claims that the RUC Special Branch was fully aware of the plan by the North Belfast IRA in October, 1993 to wipe out the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association as they met in their offices above Frizzel’s fishmongers shop on the Shankill Road, but did nothing to stop the attack.
The result was enormous loss of civilan life – the UDA leaders were not in situ when the bomb exploded – and a crisis in the peace process whose overall effect, by ratcheting up reprisal killings by Loyalists, was to strengthen pressure on the IRA and its political leadership to bring a halt to violence.
The story can be read here.
The obvious motive of the Special Branch, in unison with other branches of British intelligence, was to manipulate the IRA, via agents it controlled in its ranks, towards acceptance of a peace process which, at the time, was regarded sceptically by key elements in the organisation, not least in the Belfast Brigade, although embraced enthusiastically by political leaders such as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
The Irish News story claims that its information came from Special Branch documents stolen by the IRA from the Branch’s Castlereagh offices in 2002, a raid supposedly inspired by a former New York-based bar chef called Larry Zaitchek, who now runs a restaurant in Drogheda but who had secured a job in the RUC station in order to facilitate the raid.
But, t is widely believed that the real brains behind the raid was the then IRA intelligence chief Bobby Storey, who has a number of intelligence coups to his credit, at least allegedly, including the running of an intelligence ring at Stormont, the Northern Bank robbery and the bombing of the British Army’s HQ at Thiepval barracks, Lisburn.
However Storey is a loyal acolyte of the SF President Gerry Adams and it is inconceivable that if Storey is the leaker – which circumstances strongly suggest he probably is – he could or would have acted without the permission or indeed the instructions of the Provo leadership.
So, the most intriguing question is this: as the general election machinery gears up in the South what do Adams & Co. have to gain by making all this public? We will doubtless know soon enough.
A secondary consideration: perhaps Mr Adams and his colleagues should be careful what they wish for…..After all, a full discussion of what British agents did or did not do to advance the interests of the peace process might produce less than welcome results.