7th Jan 2017
So, is that it, then? There will be no more inquiries, or investigations, into the Kincora scandal following Sir Anthony Hart’s final report for the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry. Yes, the under-pressure Royal Ulster Constabulary was “inept”, according to Sir Anthony, in relation to the force investigating claims of child sexual abuse at the east Belfast care home in the 1970s. In addition, the RUC and the authorities were guilty of a “catalogue of failures” in dealing with the allegations swirling around about Kincora, the report found.
Crucially, however, the report did not find any evidence that the intelligence services, both MI5 and the Army, were aware of a paedophile ring operating at the home; or that the “spooks” were blackmailing the abusers to spy on fellow hardline Ulster loyalists in the first decade of the Troubles.
Sir Anthony said the idea that Kincora was a homosexual “brothel”, used by the security services as a “honeypot” to extract information about leading loyalists was without foundation.
In his report, the judge said: “There is no credible evidence to support any of these allegations.” He also insisted that the abuse did not extend beyond the three guilty staff members.
Finally, Sir Anthony was bitterly critical of the original Kincora whistleblowers – in particular, former Army intelligence officer Colin Wallace – for refusing to give evidence to the inquiry, held at Banbridge Courthouse.
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The judge did not mention that Wallace and others with alleged information about Kincora refused to take part in the inquiry because they believed the inquiry’s remit was too restricted.
Moreover, in the case of Wallace, in particular, he was outraged that Kincora was not also included into the national Westminster inquiry into allegations of paedophile rings at the heart of the British Establishment.
It is worth mentioning that Wallace did provide the Banbridge-based inquiry with 265 pages of comment, including documents supporting the claims made by former residents of Kincora.
In his statement released after the report, Wallace made the point that key intelligence files relating to Kincora housemaster and child abuser William McGrath have gone missing.
Wallace has emphasised that he was authorised as far back as 1973 by Army intelligence to brief the Ulster Press corps about McGrath’s activities. The former Army intelligence officer (who doubled as a Press officer at military headquarters in Lisburn) has made the point that an MI5 officer who tried to rubbish his claims was the same operative who allegedly ordered his colleague, Captain Brian Gemmell, to stop investigating McGrath and his perverted activities.
Most disturbing of all among Wallace’s allegations contained in the HIA final report is that there were documents in the hands of the Ministry of Defence and other governments for many years. He claims that this material was kept from the inquiry and that all of the information he supplied to the ‘Clockwork Orange’ military intelligence operations in the 1970s (designed to discredit major figures within Ulster loyalism) have not been handed over, either.
He is not on his own in terms of cynicism about the report’s analysis of the Kincora scandal. Former loyalist activist and writer Roy Garland, who was a former disciple of William McGrath, later broke with him in 1971 and sided, instead, with the Ulster Volunteer Force, which had originally infiltrated the weird Tara group McGrath founded.
Garland has made the point previously that Tara and McGrath were used by British intelligence to spread black propaganda against the likes of the UVF, accusing the terror group of being crypto-communist and in league with the likes of the Marxist Official IRA in the early to mid-1970s.
Most observers of the Kincora scandal, including the journalist Chris Moore, who wrote a book on the controversial care home, agree that there was no paedophile prostitution ring there. It was not a “honeypot”, providing young victims for sexually depraved members of the British Establishment, which some more lurid accounts of Kincora have claimed.
The smear tactics, however, of McGrath and Tara were very real and the brainchild of different sections of British intelligence.
To suggest that MI5 and military intelligence operatives did not know what “assets” like McGrath were up to in the home appears incredible.
In a sense, the allegations concerning a prostitution racket emanating from Kincora is an example of how far-out conspiracy theories can eclipse the true nature at the heart of a scandal.
The central question, which is raised by, among others, the loyalist blog ‘Balaclava Street’, is: did MI5 tip off William McGrath that Roy Garland had been telling people, including the Belfast UVF leadership, about the Tara founder’s sexual habits? This question was not properly investigated during the HIA inquiry and raises the possibility of a new investigation into Kincora.
When it comes to Ulster loyalism, in particular, there are more unfounded conspiracy theories than actual real scenarios. Republicans, of late, have been good at spinning the line that loyalist violence was never autonomous, or organic; that all the major pro-Union terror groups were controlled and directed by various branches of the security forces.
Such blanket theories can be contradicted by facts, such as the high rate of convictions for loyalist activists, or the fact that, if the UVF and UDA were so centrally controlled by an all seeing, semi-omnipotent British intelligence operation, then why were there not more members of the IRA killed, compared to the actual majority of the loyalist paramilitaries’ victims – politically uninvolved Catholic civilians?
Yet none of the above is to suggest that there weren’t individual acts of collusion between police officers, or Army intelligence agents, and the loyalist terror groups. (Although collusion itself is much more complicated than first imagined).
Take, for example, the scandal over Brian Nelson, the Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) agent inside the UDA, who steered killers to murder an old IRA veteran in Ballymurphy in order to deflect them from their original target, an active IRA member, who, unknown to the UDA, was also an important British agent.
Kincora may not have been a “meat market” for Establishment paedophiles on both sides of the Irish Sea, yet the claims of Wallace, Garland and others that MI5 and others knew about what McGrath and his cohorts were up to remains a scandal without a just end.
Kincora: it hasn’t gone away, you know.