Priest says boy was used as informer


The Northern Ireland police ombudsman launched an investigation yesterday into claims that detectives had recruited a 13- year-old north Belfast boy with special educational needs to inform on republican paramilitaries.

Ms Nuala O'Loan's office confirmed it had started an inquiry after receiving letters from the boy's family and Father Aidan Troy, their parish priest in Ardoyne.

Father Troy, who is also chairman of the board of governors at Holy Cross Catholic girls' primary school, where a loyalist protest was held last year, said a representative of the INLA, the Irish National Liberation Army, had approached him after Mass last Sunday.

"My immediate concern was for the child's safety," he said. "I spoke to him and his mother and, while I cannot prove the claims, I am certain he is basically telling the truth.

"The boy, who has perhaps the maturity level of a nine- or 10- year-old, attends a special needs school. He is terrified and deeply traumatised by what has happened."

Father Troy said the boy had told him that a few months ago the police picked him up with an older youth, suspecting they might have been about to steal a car.

When he was taken to the police station, his parents were not contacted. The boy said officers had told him the matter would not be pursued if he agreed to help them.

"Given that I have been encouraging people to move forward and put their confidence in the police service of Northern Ireland, if this is true it is a very worrying development indeed and undermines what I have been trying to do," Father Troy said.

A republican source said that suspicion had fallen on the boy about six weeks ago after police found weapons thought to belong to the INLA and he admitted his involvement with the security forces during questioning.

He said the paramilitary group had no intention of harming the boy but had decided to approach Father Troy as an intermediary.

"It became clear this young man was involved with the security forces, and the INLA took the decision to involve the church.

"Here is a young boy in one of the most vulnerable sections of society who was ruthlessly exploited by an unreconstructed police force . . . we urge all nationalists involved in the policing board to reconsider their involvement in light of this."

A police spokesman said he could not comment on the case under investigation by the ombudsman. - (Guardian service)