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Thursday 8 December 2016

Ex-agent’s fear after fake politician Facebook page’s bid to find him

Suzanne Breen

Published 09/11/2016 | 20:11

The fake Facebook page
The fake Facebook page

A fake Facebook account, claiming to be that of First Minister Arlene Foster, contacted former Special Branch Agent, Martin McGartland, and asked him to reveal the secret identity under which he is living in England.

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A DUP spokesman last night confirmed that the account was "in no way connected to Arlene Foster or to our party" and described the messages to Mr McGartland, who is in hiding from the IRA, as "very concerning".

The fake profile boasted dozens of politicians, journalists, and ex-police officers as friends and was almost identical to the DUP leader's genuine Facebook account.

Mr McGartland, who has previously survived two IRA murder attempts, said he believed his life was once again under threat, and he urged the PSNI to investigate the matter immediately.

He said: "Whoever opened that account went to great lengths to make it appear as if it was the real Arlene Foster. Their motivation in contacting me, and asking for my personal details, can be nothing other than sinister. If they want that type of information from me, the only reason is to harm me."

The profile, in the name of Mrs Foster, had lifted personal photographs from the DUP leader's genuine Facebook page. It accurately listed her date of birth and other details, and posts date as far back as June 2014.

The fake account contacted Mr McGartland on Monday night asking him if he would like the First Minister's help in claiming a grant.

The former British agent, who has been engaged in a battle with the security services over his personal situation, replied that he would be most grateful for her assistance.

He explained that he is barred from claiming disability allowance even though he cannot work due to injuries he suffered when seriously wounded in an IRA gun attack in 1999.

The fake Arlene Foster profile then asked Mr McGartland to send her his real name, and also to forward details to a certain email address.

"Alarm bells started to go off in my head," the ex-agent said. "Had I revealed the identity under which I am now living, or emailed a message disclosing my IP address, I would have seriously endangered my own life. I had contacted Arlene Foster's office a few years ago, asking for assistance, and had spoken to her secretary.

"So I asked the person purporting to be Arlene Foster for details of that. There was no response and I was then blocked by the account."

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Foster immediately reported the fake account to Facebook which has since removed it. The DUP said it was pleased the social media giant had responded so swiftly.

In 1991, Mr McGartland escaped from an IRA unit, who were planning to kill him, by jumping 40ft out a bathroom window in Twinbrook where he was being held.

He was resettled in England under the name Martin Ashe.

In 1999, the Provos traced him to Whitley Bay, near Newcastle.

An IRA gunman shot him seven times but he survived. The former agent was moved again by the security services and now lives elsewhere in England under a new identity.

Belfast Telegraph

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