Irish Republican Army (IRA)  MI5


MI5 & the IRA

Andrew G. Marshall


This report examines the role played by British intelligence and the British Army in collusion with the IRA and other paramilitary terrorist organizations in supplying weapons and explosives, allowing bombings to go forward, and even committing murder in the name of “fighting terror.”




The Original IRA

The original Irish Republican Army (IRA) was in existence from 1916 until 1923. It was created at a time when the Irish were demanding Home Rule. The Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1914, giving Royal Assent to a form of Irish provisional government. However, its implementation was postponed until after World War I.


The Easter Rising

The Easter Rising occurred in Dublin on April 24, 1916, where Irish rebels demanding independence fought for a week, ultimately surrendering. The British oppressed the rebellion with 15,000 troops, and roughly 500 people were killed, half of which were innocent bystanders.


The IRA and Sinn Féin

On October 27, 1917, the Irish Volunteers, who were defeated in the Easter Rising, held a convention coinciding with the Sinn Féin party conference. It was at this meeting that the IRA was officially formed, with many mutual members in the Sinn Féin party. Sinn Féin MPs elected in 1918 decided not to represent Ireland in Westminster, but instead created an “Assembly of Ireland.”


The Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War

Between 1919 and 1921, the IRA fought a guerilla war against the British in the Irish War of Independence, fighting the British military in Ireland.  In 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed between the Irish and British and concluded the conflict.  Under this treaty, the Irish Republic established in 1919 was abolished and Ireland became a dominion in the British Commonwealth.  The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 had broken Ireland into two home rule regions, Northern and Southern, and Northern Ireland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom.


The Anglo-Irish Treaty led to the Irish Civil War (1921-1923) between those who supported the treaty and those who did not. The Civil War has helped create great divisions between the North and South that are still present today.


The Provisional IRA

The Provisional IRA was a paramilitary organization created in 1969 with the aim of creating a United Ireland through both political and paramilitary efforts. In 1969, the IRA began to prepare for a military offensive action against the British occupation in Northern Ireland and to cause a collapse of the Northern Ireland government. Attacks were taken against British troops and economically significant targets were bombed.


Bloody Sunday

On January 30, 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland, 26 civil rights protesters were shot by the British during a civil rights march with over thirteen killed, seven of them teenagers.  All those shot were unarmed. The event was known as Bloody Sunday and led to a massive increase in IRA recruitment and support.


A ceasefire was reached in 1975, however it broke down in 1976 due to internal divisions within the IRA. Gerry Adams, who became leader of the IRA, then created a new strategy called the “Long War” which organized the IRA into small cells and increased use of the Sinn Féin as a political instrument in the “propaganda war.”



Between 1971 and 1994, the IRA especially targeted the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). A ceasefire was ultimately declared in 1994, temporarily breaking down between 1995 and 1997. The ceasefire was then re-instituted in 1997 and has lasted until present day, with the IRA giving up all its weapons and declaring an end to violent strategy in 2005.


The Stevens Report



In 1989, the first of three official British inquiries was launched by Sir John Stevens, at the time a Deputy Chief Constable at Cambridgeshire, to investigate British intelligence and army collusion with the IRA in carrying out acts of violence, bombings and murder. The inquiry concluded that, “the conflict in Northern Ireland was needlessly intensified and prolonged by the ‘disastrous’ activities of a core of army and police officers who colluded with the terrorists responsible for dozens of murders.” The collusion “ratcheted up the hatred and bitterness” between the Irish Catholics and Protestants. Particular focus was placed on looking into the covert British army outfit, the Force Research Unit (FRU), and FRU agent Brian Nelson, who “infiltrated and effectively ran the Ulster Defence Association, a loyalist terror group”.  He “was responsible for at least 30 murders, and…many of the victims he helped to identify were not involved in terrorism.”


The Murder of Patrick Finucane

The inquiry’s main prerogative was investigating the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, whose death was attributed to “loyalist terrorists guided to him by [FRU agent Brian] Nelson.”[1] The inquiry further concluded that, “a branch of British army intelligence and some police officers in Northern Ireland actively and deliberately helped a loyalist paramilitary group to murder Catholics in the late 1980s.”[2]


Obstruction of Investigation

Collusion was defined in the inquiry as, “the failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, withholding of intelligence and evidence and the involvement of intelligence agents in murder.” The inquiry “faced obstruction from its very first day from members of the security forces opposed to the inquiry”, and there was a “possibility” of the withholding of evidence being sanctioned by some levels of government.[3]

The inquiry also reported on some of the efforts to obstruct its investigation. One of these took place the night before the planned arrest of Nelson and other senior loyalists, when “information was leaked to the loyalist paramilitaries and the press”, resulting in the mission being aborted.  Nelson’s FRU handlers had advised him to leave home the night before.  A new date was set for the arrest, however the night before this next operation, the inquiry’s “Incident room was destroyed by fire,” which was said to be “a deliberate act of arson.”[4]


The Murder of Brian Lambert

On November 9, 1987, a young Protestant student named Brian Lambert was shot and killed, “mistakenly targeted in revenge for the Remembrance Day bombing at Enniskillen the day before.” A Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) informant, William Stobie, “was recruited as an agent by RUC special branch in November 1987 following his arrest for the murder of Lambert for which he was released without charge.” In 2001, he was arrested by the Stevens Inquiry team for the murders of Finucane and Lambert and “two weeks later Stobie was shot dead.”[5]


The Force Research Unit (FRU)

A few months following the release of the Stevens Inquiry, it was reported that, “between 1969 and the IRA cease-fire of 1997, nearly 4,000 people were murdered in the course of ‘the Troubles,’ as the violent conflict in Northern Ireland is euphemistically called.”  Furthermore, the British “fought a very dirty war” as they “didn’t operate by due process. They allowed their agents on both sides, those who had infiltrated the IRA and the paramilitary groups, to engage in crimes to further their own ends.”


The FRU and the RUC had “police officers who operated under a policy through which details of suspected IRA members were passed along to Protestant paramilitary death squads, who then assassinated them.” The FRU, which was created in the 1980s, would “recruit and train double agents to work inside the paramilitary groups” and it “assisted Protestant terrorists in carrying out what were, in effect, proxy assassinations of Catholics.”[6]


The Omagh Bombing


The Bombing

On August 15, 1998, a car bombing took place in Omagh, Northern Ireland, killing 29 people and injuring roughly 220 others.  It was described as “Northern Ireland’s worst single terrorist atrocity.”[7] The attack was instantly blamed by the RUC on a group called the Real IRA (RIRA). Police had been clearing the area around the courthouse prior to the bombing, having received a “telephone tip off”, however “police were pushing everyone towards the bottom end of the town not knowing the bomb was there.”[8]


Double Agent

It was revealed in 2001 that David Rupert, an American double agent working for both the FBI and MI5 had “infiltrated the core of the organisation which planted the Omagh bomb.”[9]



Over the course of several years, a series of articles in the British and Irish press reported on stories told by Kevin Fulton, the pseudonym of a British double agent in the IRA. Fulton became a highly controversial whistleblower regarding collusion between the British Army and the IRA. In 2001, he spoke out about the Omagh bombing, saying that “security forces didn’t intercept the Real IRA’s Omagh bombing team because one of the terrorists was a British double-agent whose cover would have been blown as an informer if the operation was uncovered.”  Also, he “phoned a warning to his RUC handlers 48 hours before the Omagh bombing that the Real IRA was planning an attack and gave details of one of the bombing team and his car registration.”[10] In 2006 it was reported that “the British security service, MI5, withheld vital anti-terrorism intelligence just months before the Omagh bombing in 1998.”[11]


Collusion and Investigation

In 2003, senior officials in the Irish Police were “accused of ignoring a clear warning about the Omagh bomb atrocity to protect a Real IRA informer,” and “the bomb was allowed to ‘go through’ to preserve [the informer’s] role in the terrorist organization.”[12] A year prior, family members of the victims of the Omagh bombing attempted to set a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Bair regarding their concerns over the police investigations into the bombing, however, Blair “angered families of the Omagh bomb victims by refusing to meet them at 10 Downing Street.”[13]


Fulton and Thatcher

In 2002, Fulton spoke out regarding how “he was told by his military handlers that his collusion with paramilitaries was sanctioned by Margaret Thatcher herself.” Fulton had worked for the FRU while being a mole in the IRA. From 1981 until 1995, “Fulton remained on full army pay as he worked his way through the ranks of the IRA.” Fulton said that he helped mix explosives and “develop new types of bombs,” and “that some of the things [he] helped develop did kill.” He also stated that, “my handlers knew everything I did.” Fulton went on to become a member of the IRA’s torture unit, “which interrogated and executed suspected informers.”


In 1992, Fulton warned his handlers in both the FRU and MI5 that “his IRA mentor Blair was planning to use a horizontally- fired mortar for an attack on the police. His handlers did nothing. Within days, Blair fired the device at an armoured RUC Land Rover in Newry, in the process, killing policewoman Colleen McMurray. Another RUC officer lost both his legs.” Fulton split with the IRA and the FRU in the mid-90s and claimed to have been set up by the FRU to be discovered as a mole since he had “outlived his usefulness.” The idea was to have him discovered so that the IRA would “believe they were free of informers.” Meanwhile, “the army had secured a far more highly-placed mole within the IRA,” codenamed Stakeknife.[14]




In 2003, the British mole in the high ranks of the IRA, codenamed Stakeknife, was revealed to be Alfredo Scappaticci. He headed the internal security unit [the death squad] of the IRA, “was secretly paid £80,000 a year for his role,” and “[was] also suspected of involvement in more than 40 murders. Dozens of people may have been allowed to die in order to protect his cover.” Also, “Scappaticci, a close friend of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams since they were interned together in 1971, joined the IRA in the 1970s but became an informer after a brutal beating from a fellow Provo in 1978.”[15]

Interestingly, “Scappaticci has made millions in a taxpayer-funded resettlement package which was put in place after his cover was blown,” and “has also been given a new home, a new job, a new identity and a new face, thanks to plastic surgery,” as a result of help from MI5. Even the Sunday Herald, which reported this story, “was threatened with a court gagging order when MI5 was alerted that the paper planned to tell readers about Scappaticci’s new life.”[16]


Deadly Double Agents

In 2006, it surfaced that “Britain allowed two IRA informers to organise ‘human bomb’ attacks,” a tactic which “involved forcing civilians to drive vehicles laden with explosives into army checkpoints.”[17]


Kevin Fulton also spoke out about how “MI5 arranged a weapons-buying trip to America in which he obtained detonators, later used by terrorists to murder soldiers and police officers,” and that, “British intelligence co-operated with the FBI to ensure his trip to New York in the 1990s went ahead without incident so that his cover would not be blown.” Further, “the technology he obtained has been used in Northern Ireland and copied by terrorists in Iraq in roadside bombs that have killed British troops.”[18]


In 2003, it was reported that aside from Stakeknife, “four more senior Provisionals, including Stakeknife’s deputy, were double agents,” and that Stakeknife “is rated as only fifth in importance.”[19]


Another leader of the IRA’s internal security unit and Stakeknife’s deputy was John Joe Magee, “one of the most feared men inside the Provisional IRA” who was “trained as a member of Britain’s special forces. The IRA’s ‘torturer- in-chief’ was in reality one of the UK’s most elite soldiers,” and “most of those he investigated were usually executed.”[20]


The Sinn Féin and British Intelligence


Denis Donaldson, who headed the party’s administration office, “said he was a British agent for two decades.”[21] Shortly afterwards, he was expelled from the party, and less than four months later he was “found shot dead.”[22]


In 2008, it was revealed that the personal driver for Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Roy ‘The Rat’ McShane, “was an informer in the pay of MI5.” On top of this, Sean O’Callaghan, a member of Sinn Fein’s ruling council, also happened to be “working for the Irish police.”[23]


Bill Clinton and Gerry Adams

In 1998, a former US Ambassador to the UK claimed that the Clinton Administration “leaked British intelligence on Northern Ireland to the Irish Republican Army,” and that in 1994, “President Clinton approved the United States visa application of Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the I.R.A.’s political wing.”[24]


FRU Back in Action

In 2007, it was reported that the FRU had changed its name to the Joint Support Group (JSG) and was active in Iraq since the US-UK invasion in 2003. JSG agents “are trained to turn hardened terrorists into coalition spies using methods developed on the mean streets of Ulster during the Troubles, when the Army managed to infiltrate the IRA at almost every level. Since war broke out in Iraq in 2003, they have been responsible for running dozens of Iraqi double agents.”[25] Interestingly, in 2003, the former head of the FRU in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles, Brigadier Gordon Kerr, had “been sent to the Gulf to head up British spying activities in the Middle East”[26] and went on to head the JSG in Iraq after the occupation.[27]


The question must be asked: Are they doing the same thing in Iraq that they were doing in Northern Ireland? The evidence seems to point to a definitive answer.  Yes.[28] [29]


Andrew G. Marshall is a contributor to



[1]    Nick Hopkins and Rosie Cowan, Scandal of Ulster’s secret war. The Guardian: April 17, 2003:

[2]    BBC, Security forces aided loyalist murders. BBC News: April 17, 2003:

[3]    BBC, Stevens Inquiry: At a glance. BBC News: April 17, 2003:

[4]    Sir John Stevens, Stevens Inquiry: Overview and Recommendations. Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service: April 17, 2003: page 13

[5]    Edited text of the Stevens inquiry report, Collusion, murder and cover-up. The Guardian: April 18, 2003:

[6]    Michael Rose, Britain’s “Dirty War” with the IRA. Catholic World News: July 2003:

[7]    BBC, UK: Northern Ireland Bravery awards for bomb helpers. BBC News: November 17, 1999:

[8]    BBC, Omagh bombing kills 28. BBC News: August 16, 1998:

[9]    Sally Ledward, Real IRA ‘infiltrated by MI5 spy’. The Independent: April 8, 2001:

[10]    Neil MacKay, British double-agent was in Real IRA’s Omagh bomb team. The Sunday Herald: August 19, 2001:

[11]    RTE News, MI5 withheld intelligence ahead of Omagh. RTE News: February 24, 2006:

[12]    enry McDonald, Omagh agent claims Garda let bomb pass. The Guardian: October 19, 2003:

[13]    Henry McDonald, Fury as Blair snubs Omagh families. The Guardian: February 17, 2002:

[14]    Home Affairs, The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister’s Blessing… Then tried to kill me. The Sunday Herald: June 23, 2002:;col1

[15]    Rosie Cowan and Nick Hopkins, British army spy at heart of IRA death squad unmasked. The Guardian: May 12, 2003:

[16]    Neil MacKay, How the British security forces are helping a killer spy to rebuild his life. The Sunday Herald: July 2003:

[17]    Henry McDonald, UK agents ‘did have role in IRA bomb atrocities’. The Guardian: September 10, 2006:

[18]    Enda Leahy, MI5 ‘helped IRA buy bomb parts in US’. The Sunday Times: March 19, 2006:

[19]    Henry McDonald, Revealed: five British spies inside IRA. The Guardian: May 18, 2003:

[20]    Neil MacKay, IRA torturer was in the Royal Marines; Top republican terrorist. The Sunday Herald: December 15, 2002:

[21]    BBC, Sinn Fein man admits he was agent. BBC News: December 16, 2005:

[22]    BBC, Sinn Fein British agent shot dead. BBC News: April 4, 2006:

[23]    David Sharrock, Roy the Rat — driver for Gerry Adams, spy for MI5. The Times Inline: February 9, 2008:

[24]    Warren Hoge, U.S. Leaked British Intelligence to I.R.A., Ex-Envoy Says. The New York Times: January 19, 1998:

[25]    Sean Rayment, Top secret army cell breaks terrorists. The Telegraph: February 5, 2007:

[26]    Neil MacKay, ‘UDA collusion’ masterspy in top Iraq role. The Sunday Herald: February 23, 2003:

[27]    Chris Floyd, Ulster on the Euphrates: The Anglo-American Dirty War in Iraq. Information Clearing House: February 13, 2007:

[28]    Andrew G. Marshall, State-Sponsored Terror: British and American Black Ops in Iraq. Global Research: June 25, 2008:

[29]    Andrew G. Marshall, Breaking Iraq and Blaming Iran: British Black Ops and the Terror Campaign in Basra. Global Research: July 3, 2008: