Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Army spy IRA McGartland 'living on borrowed time' after new threat

McGartland warned by police in England his life is in danger

By Suzanne Breen

Police have visited the home in England of a former British agent in the IRA and warned him that his life is in danger.

Martin McGartland, who has lived under a secret identity since fleeing Northern Ireland in 1991, was told of the threat on Friday night.

Police said his life would be under threat if he returned to Belfast, but then advised him to substantially increase security at the home in England, where he has lived safely for the past 18 years.

He was told to change his daily routine, to never walk alone, and to carry a mobile phone at all times. Officers also asked him to nominate someone they could contact on his behalf in the event of an emergency.

They also warned him against carrying weapons for self-defence and said that if he did so he would risk prosecution.

Mr McGartland (47) who has survived a previous IRA murder attempt in England, was warned that the threat was of the highest level.

"I'm very concerned about the safety of myself and my partner," he told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

"I believe the identity under which I now live and my address has been compromised through no fault of my own and that my life is in grave and immediate danger.

"I don't think the police want to admit this but they need to cover their back by giving me some sort of warning in case something happens to me."

The former British agent said that despite the threat he wouldn't be moving from his current home.

"When my cover was blown, I escaped from the IRA in west Belfast and built a new life in Whitley Bay (in Tyneside).

"After the IRA tried to murder me there, I was resettled in another location and had to build a new life for the second time.

"I believe I am living on borrowed time, but I am not moving again. The upheaval is just too big to go through."

Mr McGartland said the policemen who visited his home had told him he was at risk of an attack from "criminal elements in Northern Ireland" who viewed him as "a legitimate target".

He said he had challenged the police on who the threat was from. "I told them it was nonsense that ordinary criminals in Northern Ireland would do me any harm.

"Ordinary criminals don't refer to people as legitimate targets, that's a phrase used only by the Provisional IRA or dissidents. The police then admitted there could be a terrorist element to the threat," he added.

Mr McGartland said police had stated that the threat was linked to him returning to Northern Ireland. He hasn't been back to Belfast in over a decade and has no plans to return.

The officers then continued to warn him that while they could take "what steps we can to minimise the risk, we cannot protect you ... on a day to day, hour to hour basis".

They advised him to have alarms and a CCTV system in his house in England, to always be accompanied when he left his home, to change his daily routine, and to carry a mobile phone.

Mr McGartland revealed that in the past three years, police in the area in which he lives had "recklessly" disclosed his new identity and address to several hundred people by cross-referencing it with his birth name in documents and adding those details to different police systems.

"All it takes is for one of those people to pass that information - either innocently or deliberately, either directly or indirectly - to the wrong person in Northern Ireland and I will be murdered," he said.

"I'm asking for a meeting with the chief constable in the area where I now live to discuss the current threat and all issues relating to my security."

Mr McGartland was recruited as a Special Branch agent when he was 16. He worked for them for four years until his cover was blown in 1991.

He jumped from the window of a flat in west Belfast where he was being held by the Provisionals' internal security unit.

In 1999, he was ambushed by IRA gunmen outside his Tyneside home.

He was shot six times in the hand, chest and stomach. His life was saved by neighbours who used cling film to stop the blood flow from his wounds.

The attack left him with life-changing physical and psychological disabilities.

Mr McGartland's identity had been publicly revealed after he was caught speeding by Northumbria police and prosecuted for holding driving licences in his two names.

Earlier this year, he lodged a complaint with the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman claiming that the RUC, PSNI, and English police had failed to warn him of threats to his life, including one just before his 1999 shooting.

He is urging the ombudsman to investigate his case.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph