Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Kincora abuse scandal: Now it's no longer merely a Northern Ireland nightmare

Dark secrets: Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast, where children were abused for years
Dark secrets: Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast, where children were abused for years

Like Marmite, Colin Wallace is the sort of person who evokes strong feelings in all who hear his story.

Some have dismissed him as a black propagandist and fantasist unworthy of belief. When he worked in information policy here he fed the Press a series of fantastic yarns designed to destabilise the IRA or loyalist politicians.

Wallace was behind the stories of blast incendiaries being set off by the nylon panties of IRA women who transported them into the city centre. He also had black magic paraphernalia placed in republican areas where the Army wished to site covert observation posts and then gave stories to the tabloids to discourage locals from investigating the sites.

He also spread stories about Ian Paisley to discredit him.

Journalists who met him knew from gems that he let slip that he had access to high levels of intelligence, but many weren't sure how much to believe. That was one reason why some of the accurate information he put out was not credited by the Press.

Over the years, though, Mr Wallace has tended to gain credibility as his central allegations have been put under more and more scrutiny. A manslaughter conviction against him collapsed after forensic evidence was found to have been unreliable and a series of other holes were kicked in it.

The first parliamentarian to come round to his point of view was Gerry Fitt of the SDLP. Since then his case has been championed by figures ranging from General Sir Peter Leng to the historian Robert Kee and MPs like Tam Dalyell and Ken Livingstone.

He takes us back to a vanished Northern Ireland when the Troubles were just getting under way and the Army controlled security policy. The intelligence agencies were looking for a quick victory and believed that propaganda and having a hold over people might be as effective as violence.

There was no better way to have a hold than through knowledge of sexual secrets. This was a buttoned-up society in which adult male homosexuality was illegal, never mind paedophilia, and exposure could mean jail and disgrace.

Not all members of Tara were involved, but within its ranks there operated a ring of outwardly respectable and born again Christians who were also child abusers. They were ripe for exploitation by intelligence agencies and William McGrath, the leader of Tara, often boasted to other members of his links to the intelligence service.

Previous inquiries into Kincora have never put all this properly to the test. Two probes, the Terry Inquiry and the Hughes Inquiry, excluded consideration of an intelligence role in concealing child abuse. Yet now English police are revealing how MI5 went around removing their files on influential suspects like the MP Cyril Smith and never returning them. That lends plausibility to Wallace's claim that something similar may have happened in the mayhem of Northern Ireland in the early 1970s.

"I have been trying to expose this for 40 years now and Government inquiries have come and gone. I suppose you get more and more frustrated because the official account has never been fully challenged by Parliament." he said.

Mr Wallace, who is from Randalstown but lives in England, believes that abuse in Northern Ireland has in the past been dismissed by the British establishment and he is incensed that the intelligence community in which he worked covered it up for their own reasons.

"Now suddenly there is this great piece of excitement because these allegations relate more to England than to Northern Ireland," he said. "I think the sad fact is that people couldn't be bothered when it seemed to be only happening in Northern Ireland. It is as simple as that."

He added: "My belief is that no State can justify the sexual abuse of children and young people within its own borders. Surely that can't be a controversial view."

Further reading

Kincora: MI5 knew about it but did nothing, that much is certain 

Full story of Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast yet to be told, says child sex abuse victim

Kincora: Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt joins calls for inquiry into abuse at boys' home

Baroness's brother 'tried to limit probe into Kincora'

Kincora: MI5 'must hand over files on abuse at east Belfast boys' home' 

Editor's viewpoint: We must know truth of Kincora

Child abuse inquiry must look at Kincora Boys' Home, says Amnesty International

MI5 'blocked exposure of Kincora sex abuse scandal'

Kincora Boy's Home scandal: South African intelligence 'secretly backed loyalist paramilitary group Tara'

Kincora Boys' Home scandal: journalist Peter McKenna dies

State papers: The perjury that allowed Kincora suspect preacher to walk

Westminster’s dark secret: abuse of children, adultery, homosexuality and sadomasochism were all seemingly lumped together

Civil servant Mark Sedwill admits Home Office ‘probably’ destroyed paedophile dossiers 

Westminster child abuse dossier: Geoffrey Dickens also gave copy of file to top prosecutor Sir Thomas Hetherington - so why did DPP fail to act on evidence of paedophile ring? 

Historic child abuse files missing

Tory peer Lord Brittan defends handling of 1980s sex abuse dossier

Abuse claims police matter - Clegg

Abuse probe 'into soul of society'

From the archives

Kincora: Sex racket at children's home (Irish Independent, 1980)