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MI5 officer rejects Kincora intelligence operation 'exploitation' claims

Published 01/07/2016

The former Kincora Boys' Home on the Upper Newtonards Road, Belfast
The former Kincora Boys' Home on the Upper Newtonards Road, Belfast

A high-ranking MI5 officer has rejected claims that child abuse at an infamous Belfast boys' home was exploited as part of an intelligence operation.

The anonymised deputy director, known only as 9004, also said the UK security service only became aware of abuse at Kincora in 1980, when allegations broke in the media.

He said: "I can certainly deny that we were ever involved in an operation to exploit abuse that was taking place at Kincora for intelligence purposes."

Officer 9004 was giving evidence via videolink from an undisclosed location to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry which is examining allegations a paedophile ring preyed on vulnerable young boys at the former east Belfast home during the 1970s.

It has long been alleged the security services knew about the abuse but did nothing, and instead used the information to blackmail the prominent people such as politicians, judges, civil servants and police officers who were the perpetrators.

Three senior care workers Joseph Mains, Raymond Semple and William McGrath were convicted for abusing boys at Kincora in 1980.

It was widely believed McGrath, who had links to the shadowy Protestant paramilitary organisation known as Tara, was working as an MI5 agent.

Although they did keep an eye on McGrath and the activities of Tara, the priorities for MI5 were the loyalist organisations engaged in murder, according to the officer.

He said: "We were focusing on the national security situation and threats to national stability at that time.

"It is obvious looking at the file he's not someone of pre-eminent importance to us. He's a relatively peripheral figure."

During an evidence session, which lasted some four hours, 9004 also denied suggestions MI5 had tried to stifle a police investigation on Kincora in the 1980s.

"We were not seeking to impede the inquiry but we were looking to limit the inquiry so that it didn't stray into the experience area that we were worried about," he added.

The deputy director, who has responsibility for Northern Irish related counter-terrorism, was instructed to engage with the HIA by Andrew Parker, head of MI5.

He was not serving as a member of the security service at the time in question and had no dealings with Kincora, but provided two witness statements totalling some 24 pages based o n the content of records which have not been computerised.

Joseph Aiken, counsel for the HIA, said they had been given unrestricted access to more than 300 relevant documents.

However, three files including an army intelligence document on Kincora dated 1982, cannot be found, it was revealed.

Mr Aiken said given the level of suspicion surrounding Kincora, any missing documents or files were a cause for concern.

But the officer replied: "If we were trying to hide something I am sure we would have gone about it in a better way."

The long-running HIA, chaired by retired High Court Judge Sir Anthony Hart, is examining allegations of child abuse in children's homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.

When asked by Sir Anthony whether looking for a "mis-filed" document was like trying to find a needle in a field full of haystacks, 9004 answered: "It can be, I am afraid."

The inquiry continues.

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