McGuinness calls on Britain to open files on Shankill bombing

Martin McGuinness says it is naive to believe security services don’t try to recruit people

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called on the British government to open its files on  the Shankill bombing. Photograph: AP

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called on the British government to open its files on the Shankill bombing. Photograph: AP

 

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called on the British government to open its files on events such as the Shankill bombing amid reports that the IRA commander who planned the bombing was an RUC informant who warned the police about the attack.

According to The Irish News, classified documents stolen during a break in at Castlereagh RUC Station in March 2002 show the Ardoyne IRA leader at the time was a police informant who tipped off his handlers about the planned bombing on the Shankill Road on October 23rd, 1993

The IRA intended assassinating the leaders of the UDA who were meeting in a room above Frizzell’s Fish Shop but the bomb went off prematurely, killing eight civilians along with a member of the UDA as well as one of the two IRA members planting the bomb.

According to The Irish News, the former ‘blanketman’, now aged in his late 50s, was known as ‘Agent AA’ and calls to his RUC Special Branch handlers are logged throughout the documents stolen by the IRA during the raid at the RUC Special Branch offices in 2002.

The North Belfast man was ‘stood down’ by the IRA’s ruling army council in 2002 after IRA members decoded the encrypted documents and discovered the IRA commander had been working as a double agent for almost a decade, according to The Irish News.

Mr McGuinness said he didn’t know whether The Irish News story was accurate or not but it would be naive to think that in conflict situations such as The Troubles that state security agencies did not try to recruit informants from all sides of the conflict.

“We already have had the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton contradict that Irish News story but I don’t know what the validity of that story is except to say that in the Fresh Start Agreement there is a huge onus on all of us to find a way forward on the issue of legacy,” he said.

“You can pluck out any number of issues from the past, they all need to be dealt with and I think we made huge progress in the talks in terms of agreeing the mechanisms and the structures that we would use.

“The only difficulty is the British government’s refusal thus far to face up to the demands of many victims groups around disclosure and the use of this phrase ‘National Security’ which they see as an attempt to prevent disclosure.”

Mr McGuinness said that Sinn Féin had kept in very close contact with the groups representing the victims and their families throughout the Fresh Start Agreement talks and he believed that British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers recognises that a way forward has to be found.

“To be honest the only way forward that I want to see is one that satisfies the relatives, it isn’t one that satisfies Sinn Fein. and hopefully there will be an outcome from deliberations to try and resolve that issue but it has to satisfy the relatives - if they are satisfied with it, we will go with it.”

Mr McGuinness said that any student of rebellions and conflicts anywhere in the world would acknowledge that governments and establishments such as the British military did recruit and use people from all sides as informants. “It would be very naive to suggest that it didn’t happen,” he said.