JIM CUSACK JUST before New Year, an article appeared on a website run by disgruntled ex-spies written by a former British Army intelligence officer who uses the cover-name, Martin Ingrams. The article contained remarkable allegations about the IRA leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
Under normal circumstances, few would pay much attention to the views of a man who spent much of his career recruiting and handling informers. However, 'Ingrams' is the man who named Freddy Scappaticci, former head of the IRA's internal security section, as an informer. Scappaticci, who has since moved to Italy, denied the allegations initially but then left Belfast and made no effort to rebut Ingrams's allegations.
The naming of Scappaticci as the British Army's high-ranking informer, code-named 'Stake Knife', sent shock waves through the IRA.
The most recent revelation that Denis Donaldson was another informer compounded the sense of shock within the 'Republican Movement' - as the IRA now terms itself. Donaldson was in charge of the IRA and Sinn Fein's 'international affairs department'.
Gerry Adams sent him to New York to re-organise Sinn Fein's fund-raising and PR operations there, sacking long-serving supporters and putting in new people. The FBI, who were handling Donaldson while he was on US soil, were simultaneously being fed information about every person coming into contact with Sinn Fein and the IRA in the US. That information, inevitably, was being fed back to their British intelligence counterparts.
Donaldson travelled extensively in the Seventies and Eighties on behalf of the Republican Movement and was the IRA and Sinn Fein's main contact with groups like Eta, the PLO and Hezbollah.
In latter years he ran the Sinn Fein offices at Stormont during the short-lived power-sharing Assembly. His involvement in the IRA spy-ring at Stormont precipitated the Assembly's collapse.
Two weeks after Donaldson was exposed, 'Martin Ingrams' - a figure with a proven track record in these matters - contributed an article to the on-line magazine, Cryptome, which is run by disgruntled former intelligence officers in the US and Europe.
Ingrams's latest allegation is that McGuinness and Adams were either completely naive in relation to the British Army and RUC's recruitment and use of informers at high-level in the IRA or knew about it and let it happen.
The allegation by the former British intelligence officer is not being dismissed by former senior IRA figures who now believe there was a conspiracy to bring down the IRA from within during the Eighties and into the Nineties. In some formerly hard-line republican areas of the North, there is now open criticism of - and hostility towards - Adams and McGuinness.
Among the areas where opinion is most bitter is in the former territory of the East Tyrone and Fermanagh brigades ranging from the Monaghan-Cavan Border area up to the north-eastern shores of Lough Neagh and across into Donegal. The East Tyrone IRA waged a near-genocidal campaign against local Protestant farmers who joined the part-time RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment. They carried out the Ballygawley bomb attack on a bus which killed eight soldiers and injured dozens of others in August 1988. The East Tyrone and Fermanagh IRA were both involved in the Enniskillen bombing on Remembrance Day 1987 when 12 civilians were killed.
It was well known that the East Tyrone IRA was opposed to any deal short of a British declaration of intent to withdraw from Northern Ireland. In the early Nineties, when secret talks were taking place between the Adams/McGuin-ness leadership and the British, the Tyrone IRA carried out the bomb attack which killed eight Protestant workmen leaving work on a building site at a local RUC station in January 1992 at Teebane.
East Tyrone, however, was suffering heavy casualties, and more than 20 were killed by the SAS or RUC in ambushes. In 1987 an entire unit of eight East Tyrone IRA bombers was wiped out by the SAS in an ambush at Loughgall. The dead included Jim Lynagh, the Co Monaghan IRA leader who was known to be implacably opposed to Gerry Adams's proposals to pursue an "unarmed strategy" to move the IRA away from terrorism towards subversive politics.
It is now known that the information that led to the infiltration and near annihilation of the East Tyrone leadership came from at least one source who was very close to the Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness leadership.
'Ingrams' now says that Adams and McGuinness, as effective joint leaders of the IRA at this time, must have been aware that the British and RUC intelligence services would be targeting what he terms the "vulnerable points" of the IRA. These, he says, were mainly IRA men who had already served prison terms and were in fear of a return to prison for long sentences. These were very easily recruited.
In order to counteract this, Ingrams says, the Adams and McGuinness leadership would have known it was necessary to have an effective internal security organisation that could target and exterminate informants. He points out that to avoid the danger of infiltration, it would have been necessary to rotate internal security personnel. Yet, this did not happen. Scappaticci and his boss, an ex-British soldier who had joined the IRA and has since died, were in charge of internal security for over 20 years, both passing information to the British Army and RUC. Ingrams wrote: "Now either Adams and McGuinness are the two unluckiest people on this planet or it was no accident."
Ingrams also claims that an RUC case against Martin McGuinness which could have led to his prosecution for taking part in the abduction and murder of a highly placed informer in the Derry IRA was dropped because, at the time, McGuinness and Adams were moving towards their secret talks with the British.
The case to which Ingrams refers is that of Frank Hegarty, an IRA man turned informer who fled Derry after being exposed. He returned, however, after his family was persuaded by McGuinness that Hegarty would not be killed. McGuinness met him at his family home and is believed to have overseen his removal to Donegal where Hegarty was later shot dead and dumped in a country lane.
McGuinness has publicly denied any involvement in the death of Frank Hegarty but Ingrams says the RUC case against McGuinness, which was dropped, contained statements by three witnesses.
Ingrams's theory is that there was high-level collusion in both the British security services and the IRA leadership to ensure that Adams and McGuinness were protected and that their opponents in the IRA were destroyed to ensure that the IRA campaign was brought to an end.
This theory is now also believed by other former senior IRA figures who have told the Sunday Independent they were not surprised that Denis Donaldson was working as an agent and that other senior figures close to Adams and McGuinness were also long-serving agents. They are now waiting for further revelations about moles who were working inside the IRA and possibly protected from within the IRA leadership.