Ex Trinity student was CIA's Irish link, records show


A former Trinity College Dublin student was a US intelligence agent secretly linked with the Irish government as early as the 1950s, confidential files have disclosed.

Official government papers, just publicly released under the 30-year rule, show that ex-Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave set up formal relations with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The ex-Fine Gael leader was External Affairs Minister in 1955 when he forged the covert links between Washington and the Irish "Intelligence Service" - also known as G2.

After striking an agreement with then CIA director, Allen W Dulles, Cosgrave ordered the Irish Embassy in London to pass information between G2 and a US agent based in the city.

A man known as Mr Cram, an ex-officer of the US Navy who had studied at Trinity, was appointed by the CIA to deal with Ireland, according to the files just released into the National Archives.

Mr Cram's superior in London was a then 56-year-old former officer in the US Cavalry Division, called Daniel De Bardeleben.

It was agreed he would share information with a Colonel R Callanan, on the Irish side, with messages passed through then London Ambassador Frederick Henry Boland's secretary — a Miss Collins. In a letter to the Department of External Affairs in late 1955, Mr Boland explains how the covert operation will work.

"The modus operandi will be as follows. When Mr \[De] Bardeleben has something to send, it will be brought down here by special messenger and handed personally to Miss Collins," he writes. "It will be in an envelope addressed to Colonel Callanan. Miss Collins will put this in a covering envelope marked 'Secret' and addressed to you, and dispatch it in the bag the same evening."

Mr Boland adds: "Like Colonel Callanan, Mr \[De] Bardeleben doesn't expect the traffic to be heavy but he did mention that he hopes that Mr Cram will go over to Dublin every six months or so — so as to maintain personal contacts." It is also apparent from the papers that at least one other international channel of intelligence sharing had been already established by the Irish at that stage.

Mr Boland writes of his private secretary, Miss Collins: "She, like her predecessor, has always handled messages of a similar kind passing between Colonel Callanan and another governmental agency, and it seems to me better on the whole that knowledge of matters of this kind should be confined so far as possible to a single individual."

While little is divulged in the files about Cram, a short biography of De Bardeleben reveals he was a Tennessee-born bachelor, living in a flat at Charles Street, in London's West End.

He served as an officer in the US Cavalry Division (Horsed) up to 1937, when he retired on medical grounds. When Pearl Harbour was attacked he tried to re-enlist but was refused because of his medical history so he offered his services to American Office of Strategic Services, which was replaced by the CIA in 1947. De Bardeleben was a CIA agent in Britain for more than six years in 1955, according to the files.