Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

I know two provos were RUC informers

Former police agent calls for investigation into IRA pair

By Kathy Johnston

Former Special Branch agent Martin McGartland believes that two members of the IRA's internal security unit were recruited as police informers after being secretly observed as they abducted him in August 1991.

Jim 'Boot' McCarthy and Paul 'Chico' Hamilton angrily denied being RUC informers last week after the PSNI contacted both men to warn them that they were about to be outed.

McGartland, who was forced to leave Northern Ireland after being unmasked as a police agent, said yesterday: "I believe that McCarthy and Hamilton were recruited as informers.

"I have no problem with that and, in fact, I would congratulate them. But I want to know why they were never prosecuted.

"They were caught on film and I wanted to give evidence against them in court. Indeed, I would give it today."

He added: "I have already lodged a complaint with the PSNI and I am writing to Al Hutchinson, the Police Ombudsman, to ask him to investigate."

Hamilton was nicknamed 'Budgie' after he 'sang' to the RUC when they arrested him in 1977 for the attempted murder of a major in the Gordon Highlanders.

He was later sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment.

McCarthy (51), now the West Belfast co-ordinator for Community Restorative Justice (CRJ), is known as 'Boot' after he 'squeaky booted' - the term given to conforming IRA prisoners who wore prison uniform and refused to join the blanket protest.

McCarthy, who was a prison orderly, received an IRA punishment shooting for taking the side of the authorities when he was released from prison. He received a five-year sentence in 1976 for possession of firearms.

McCarthy was the subject of a BBC Radio 4 programme last week where he was broadcast discussing the details of crime in west Belfast with a PSNI officer.

A photograph of him posing beside a mural of dead hunger striker Bobby Sands appeared on the BBC website.

Like Roy McShane, who was moved from Northern Ireland by the security services after being unmasked as a police informer, McCarthy was once a driver for senior Sinn Fein personnel including Gerry Adams, while 52-year-old Hamilton acted as bodyguard for Adams for eight years.

McGartland's case will be raised at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster on Wednesday by former senior RUC officer Raymond White.

White, who is chairman of the Retired Police Officers Association, was a uniformed commander at the time of McGartland's abduction, but later went on to become head of Special Branch.

White said yesterday: "I will be raising Martin McGartland's case along with that of other police informers at Westminster on Wednesday.

"These are very, very brave individuals and the long-term implications for them are grave.

"Their security must continue to be protected and other services such as counselling and vocational training provided."

McGartland's claims that the abduction was under covert surveillance by the RUC were corroborated by Detective Superintendent Ian Phoenix, who was in charge of the operation and who later died in the Chinook helicopter crash in June 1994.

In Phoenix, Policing the Shadows, a book compiled from his diaries and serialised in Sunday Life, Phoenix confirmed McGartland's account.

After observing McGartland being taken from Connolly House, the IRA team slipped the net at traffic lights.

The Police Service refused to comment on McGartland's complaint yesterday.

A spokesperson for Al Hutchinson said: "We have received a complaint that police provided false information when they advised a member of the public that he was due to be exposed as an informer and may be under threat.

"We are now making further inquiries in relation to that complaint."

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that the party "was happy to let Jim know that there was no evidence that he was to be outed as an informer".

Belfast Telegraph

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