PC Spooks? IV: The IRD in Northern Ireland

Several other interesting documents turned up in the 1971 file along with Information Policy and the Northern Ireland Situation.

Two of them concerned a man a man called Clifford Hill, who was briefly mentioned in Paul Foot’s book on Colin Wallace:

Immediately after internment, the IRA started to get the upper hand. And from that time on, the Foreign Office and the Intelligence people insisted on much more say in public relations. They sent a man over called Hugh Mooney – he was from a department of the Foreign Office called the Information Research Department (IRD). None of us ever knew what Mooney was about. Who he reported to or what he was entitled to. All we knew was that they gave him a big house to live in and freedom to move at will throughout the barracks and Stormont. There was another man called Clifford Hill – I always imagined that he had something to do with Intelligence. None of us knew precisely what he was up to either. (Tony Staughton interview by Paul Foot, Who Framed Colin Wallace?)

It seems clear from Sir Donald Maitland’s statement to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that Clifford Hill worked for the Information Research Department.

(For a good overview of British public relations/information policy/psychological operations in Northern Ireland at this time, see this submission to the inquiry.)

Among the documents which Maitland was questioned about are the two I have come across. In the light of Dean Godson’s recent advocacy of the IRD I think they are worth reproducing here.

The first of these is a note by Maitland recording a meeting with Clifford Hill, together with a brief for Hill’s role as Press Liason Officer, Northern Ireland. In his evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Maitland could not recall this meeting or the brief, which he believes Hill wrote himself.

Maitland note contains this interesting comment:

Sir Dick White, Norman Reddaway and I have decided on the machinery for placing anti IRA propaganda in the British Press and media. This machinery is already in operation. Its first major task will be to produce articles which will counteract the effect of the Compton Report.

The nature of the Compton Report was described last year in this very apposite report by Paul Reynolds:

Amid arguments similar to those surrounding the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the Compton report examined so-called sensory deprivation techniques used on IRA suspects held without trial – hooding, wall-standing, white noise, sleep deprivation.

It ruled, controversially, that these did not constitute torture or brutality but did amount to "physical ill-treatment." (BBC News)

Clifford Hill’s brief is also intriguing, particularly this:

The IRA’s connections with other urban guerrilla organisations should be emphasised in order to show that the hard core Provisionals have ambitions quite unconnected with the status of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and indeed with partition.

I take this absurd statement to be a sign of the IRD’s anti-communist obsession. If so, its particularly noteworthy given that the British information organisations in Northern Ireland would later be the source of the Clockwork Orange operation, which attempted to link first the IRA and then Westminster politicians to international communism.

The second document I came across is Outlines of a Plan for a Two Year Programme of Counter-Propaganda, by Clifford Hill. This is another document that was put to Sir Donald Maitland at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and which he did not recall seeing.

References to ‘covert propaganda’ notwithstanding, much of this document is unsurprising, though nevertheless interesting. One particular line might be of interest to Dean Godson:

Overseas interest can be expected to die away but propaganda for overseas should move towards encouraging "casebook" study of the situation.

The IRD was eventually closed down by Foreign Secretary David Owen in 1976. According to Ramsay and Dorril’s book Smear, the decision may have been related to its semi-detached relationship with MI6 and the Foreign Office, which was nominally the IRD’s sponsoring ministry.

PC Spooks? – Index to posts







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *