A former police office who investigated the abuse of children from Kincora Boys’ Home has revealed that police never got the chance to question the MI5 officer responsible for an intelligence gathering operation at the home.
The ex-RUC man has told Sunday Life that detectives were never given access to the MI5 officer to find out what he knew about the exploitation of children placed at the east Belfast home.
He also revealed how police interviewed a number of politicians in Northern Ireland including then DUP leader Ian Paisley. Mr Paisley was not a suspect and was only interviewed as he knew Kincora housemaster and abuser William McGrath.
Investigating officers even had to ask Dr Paisley if he was gay — a question which provoked a roar of laughter from the fiery preacher who founded the Free Presbyterian Church.
The officer said that the Kincora investigating team was given the opportunity to speak to an MI5 officer in Lisburn but was told that the officer who had direct responsibility for the intelligence gathering operation at Kincora was not available.
“We were given a name but told that the particular officer was now based in the USA and was not available.
“Nobody from MI5 ever appeared to give any detail of what had happened inside Kincora or any detail about the intelligence operation and what they knew,” the former officer said.
The RUC probe was launched following the death of a teenager who took his own life by jumping off the Liverpool to Belfast ferry.
When a story appeared in a newspaper claiming that he had taken his life because of the sexual abuse he had endured at Kincora a criminal investigation was ordered by the then Chief Constable Sir Jack Hermon. It resulted in the convictions of leading Orangeman William McGrath who is believed to have been an MI5 ‘asset’ and wardens Joe Mains and Raymond Semple in 1981.
The former detective, who wished to remain anonymous, said that it was clear from early police interviews that child rapist McGrath would not yield any information.
“McGrath was cold and never admitted anything. Whether McGrath was an MI5 asset, we were never told, but we never got to speak to the man who might have been his handler.”
Ex-army intelligence officer Brian Gemmell claimed that he was ordered to cease inquiring about sex abuse allegations at the home because McGrath worked for MI5. He also claimed that the then Red Hand Commando leader John McKeague became an MI5 agent after he was filmed engaging in a homosexual act.
As part of the police investigation detectives interviewed a number of unionist political figures including Councillor Joss Cardwell who subsequently took his own life and Ian Paisley snr to ask them if they had ever visited the home and if they ever had any contact with McGrath.
Within the CID unit it was recalled that the final question put to Ian Paisley during his interview was ‘Are you a homosexual?’
“The boys were ready to bolt for the door expecting an explosion of anger from Dr Paisley but he just erupted into that huge belly laugh he had and that was taken as an emphatic no response,” the former officer said.