Conspiracy of silence that shields Tory Kincora paedophile a symptom of State's sordid double deals
The deadline for the Government to hand over its confidential files on the Kincora scandal to the Historical Abuse Inquiry expires at the end of the month. So what are the chances of justice and closure for the victims, asks Henry McDonald
Will we ever get to know the identity of the Tory MP who, during the 1970s, was a frequent visitor to the Kincora Boys' Home in Belfast?
With only a few days left before the deadline expires on confidential documents and other material relating to the Kincora scandal reaching the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, there is increasing doubt that we will ever find out the name of this alleged Conservative child-sex tourist.
Liam Clarke's exclusive - reported in the Belfast Telegraph last week and based on the testimony of two police officers who investigated Kincora - contained a number of intriguing and disturbing elements.
He revealed the deadline of January 31 as the cut-off point for all the files arriving on the desk of the inquiry's chairman, Sir Anthony Hart.
The report also raised the issue of the Tory parliamentarian - now dead - whom the authorities knew was paying visits to the home in east Belfast.
In relation to the Kincora material, this should include sensitive security material, including files marked 'Confidential'. Yet, even if a bulging pile of papers and buff-coloured files lands on Sir Anthony's desk early next week, it does not mean his inquiry team have full access to everything the State knew about Kincora.
For a start, the judge and his team might find that many of the memos, notes, intelligence briefings and so on are riddled with blacked-out redactions.
It will be fascinating to find out if, for instance, the Kincora material includes any "smoking gun" documents; ones which prove what many have suspected for decades - that the State knew about the paedophile ring there but did nothing to protect the boys from their tormentors.
Instead, of course, the security forces resorted to blackmailing the abusers in order that they spy on fellow hardline loyalists.
So, is there a toxic file hidden away somewhere like a malignant tumour growing in the dark that may contain lethal details about the State's guilt in all of this?
In the interest of truth and justice, we can only hope so - although the chances of it reaching Sir Anthony and his people must be remote.
After all, the current Government, and, in particular, Theresa May, did their utmost to keep Kincora out of the wider inquiry into paedophile rings operating at the heart of the Establishment, including at Westminster.
Would anything have been written back at the time so explicitly from the high command of MI5, the NIO, RUC, or even Westminster that the child victims should be conveniently forgotten about in this sordid blackmail plot?
One positive development over recent weeks has been the decision by the Attorney General for England and Wales, Sir Jeremy Wright, to allow any witnesses from the security forces to give evidence at Banbridge courthouse without the fear of being prosecuted for breaching the Official Secrets Act.
No one, whether they were a soldier, police officer, or MI5 agent during the Troubles, now has the excuse that they cannot come forward because they are still concerned they could face prosecution for breaking the oath to the State they signed when joining up.
In addition, these witnesses would undoubtedly be granted anonymity by the tribunal in order to protect them from being targeted today by violent republican dissidents.
The trouble is that, when it comes to controversial milestone cases involving covert intelligence and Northern Ireland, the State has a long record in holding back vital information, as well as spreading misinformation.
Even in situations where local political figures were compromised as a result of their sexual preferences, successive Governments ensured that these people were protected from public exposure in the wider interests of stability, political progress and even the peace process itself.
This writer knows of two cases in the late-1980s and 1990s in which two politicians were about be exposed by the tabloid Press, but the State then intervened to save their reputations.
In the late-1980s scandal, another Tory MP (not the one who visited Kincora in the 1970s) was thrown to the red-top wolves, while his good friend from Ulster was kept out of the paper - even though this individual was also alleged to be implicated in the scandal.
In the second instance, it took a call from 10 Downing Street to an editor to prevent another political sex scandal breaking at a critical period in our history (in both scenarios, it has to be stressed that the sexual shenanigans were consensual and adult-orientated and had nothing to do with the exploitation of children in care).
These days, of course, the powerful and famous, including politicians, can reach for the "super-injunction" to block any hint that they may have something to hide in their personal lives - especially those that preach faith and chastity in public, while behaving quite differently in private.
Nonetheless, these stories of quiet words in friendly editors' ears and offers of alternative "sacrificial lambs" for the feral beasts of Fleet Street illuminate how far administrations were willing to go to exploit, turn a blind eye to or cover up in the interests of realpolitik during the years of the conflict.
Aside from the witnesses from the security world and whatever sensitive files Sir Anthony will receive by the end of this week, there are other key players who should be called upon to give evidence in Banbridge when the inquiry finally gets round to the Kincora saga later this year.
It would be fascinating, for example, to hear the testimony of former leaders of the loyalist organisations and what they had heard, or even knew, about the blackmailed spies allowed to keep on abusing as long as they kept supplying the State with information.
Many of these loyalists were, indeed, the targets of the spying operation at the time, especially in the mid-1970s.
They may also be able to shed some light on how some of these compromised spies were still operating along the fringes of Ulster loyalism right up until the present, playing the role of "super Prod" agents-provocateurs, who emerged at various critical stages of the peace process predicting Armageddon - Doomsday scenarios for the Protestant people.
As for the question posed at the beginning of this article, perhaps the revelation of the dead Tory's name is not so significant in the wider context.
After all, he was a small bit-player in a much wider macro-scandal, which never appears to go away and which never should do until the child victims of Kincora finally get at least some truth and closure in relation to this sordid affair.