Belfast Telegraph

Special Branch officer told 'not to get caught' running agents in IRA

Legal clarity: Raymond White
Legal clarity: Raymond White
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

The late Margaret Thatcher told a top Special Branch officer "not to get caught" as he questioned the Prime Minister about measures the RUC was adopting in the fight against the IRA in the 1980s.

Raymond White told last night's Spotlight documentary series on the Troubles that in 1986 he personally asked Mrs Thatcher for "legal clarity" about running double agents in paramilitary organisations such as the IRA.

He added: "The message at the end of the day that I heard back was, more or less, 'carry on doing what you're doing - but don't get yourselves caught'."

The series producers also said they had obtained the findings of previously unseen reports into the controversial 'shoot to kill' deaths of republicans from more than 30 years ago by English policeman John Stalker and another officer.

"And it's easy to see why they've been kept secret for so long," said reporter Jennifer O'Leary.

"They portray a massive cover-up by the guardians of the law, one in which police officers were instructed to lie to detectives and prosecutors and in which senior police and MI5 officers destroyed evidence."

The aim she said was to protect an informer and other intelligence sources.

Spotlight said both reports recommended prosecutions of police and MI5 but the legal action was ruled out because it would run contrary to the interests of national security.

The documentary referred briefly to the IRA break-in at Castlereagh in 2002 when Special Branch files were stolen.

But the IRA never acted on the highly classified information they took.

Sir John Chilcot, who was permanent under-secretary of state at the Northern Ireland Office, speculated on Spotlight that the information might have been 'too hot to handle' for the IRA leadership.

Ms O'Leary said security and republican sources told the series that the break-in exposed so many agents that it posed an impossible question for the IRA - "how could they kill them all?"

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