From Saville to Goddard: How MI5 vouched for a key Kincora witness

On April 8th, the High Court is due to rule on whether the Goddard Inquiry into child sex abuse should look at the Kincora Boys' Home in Belfast.

Several people have come forward over the years, claiming that MI5 was informed about abuse by Kincora housemaster William McGrath in the 1970s, and did nothing. Witnesses include former Army information officer Colin Wallace and former Army intelligence officer Brian Gemmill, the latter of whom gave MI5  reports on Kincora from three men, Roy Garland, Jim McCormack and James Miller. Miller is now dead, but there is particular reason to regard him as credible. For one thing, it appears that MI5 vouched for him during the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

Miller originally came forward in 1987, after Colin Wallace's claims began to come to public attention, contacting Barrie Penrose of the Sunday Times, who gave the following account of his career: 

Miller, 55, was recruited by army intelligence and MI5 in 1970. At the time, Miller, an Englishman married to an Irish Protestant, lived in Monkstown, Co Antrim. His job as a lift engineer enabled him to travel freely all over Ulster and to undertake his intelligence duties. (Sunday Times, 22 March 1987).

In a follow-up the following week, Penrose wrote:

Miller has revealed that his first task for the intelligence service was to spy on William McGrath, a former housefather at the Kincora home. McGrath, who was jailed for his part in the abuse of 13 children in his care between 1973 and 1979, once headed the Tara Loyalist paramilitary organization. Miller says that McGrath's sexual tendencies were common knowledge inside Tara.

Miller said: 'My M15 case officer later told me to leave McGrath to them and I understand they used the information to recruit him as an informer. ' Last night McGrath confirmed that he knew Miller but would not comment on any other aspect. (Sunday Times, 29 March 1987)

 Penrose worked closely on the McGrath story with the Sunday Times' former Irish editor, the late Liam Clarke. When a wave of paedophile scandals prompted renewed scrutiny of Kincora in 2014, Clarke recalled his knowledge of Miller and of Roy Garland, a former member of Tara. 

In 1971 Mr Miller, who is now dead, was infiltrating Tara for the intelligence services and had reported his suspicions to his handlers. He was told to drop the issue, and shortly afterwards he was expelled from Tara.

"I can tell you exactly what happened," Mr Garland said. "A number of UVF men were attending the meeting and they said that Miller was working for British intelligence. McGrath said: 'Tell him to go', so I went over and told him: 'I am sorry, you have to go,' and showed him out."

Mr Miller went on to join the UDA at his handler's request. (Belfast Telegraph, 6 August 2014).

A few weeks earlier, Clarke had written another story which did not mention Miller, instead discussing a witness who had given testimony to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

There is no doubt that MI5 knew about the Kincora sex abuse scandal and kept it quiet.

For evidence we have the testimony of a man described by MI5 itself as an energetic, reliable and brave source of intelligence who had proved himself on many occasions. This praise was heaped on the head of a man known as 'Observer B' at the Bloody Sunday tribunal.

Clarke went on to make clear that not only Observer B but also his MI5 handlers had testified to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. 

The person praising Observer B to Lord Saville's tribunal was one of his former handlers, a career MI5 agent known as 'Julian'. His evidence, which was given in London in May 2003, is preserved in the National Archives and available online.

Julian made it clear that Observer B, although not a republican, was a prized security service informant in Londonderry at the time.

Observer B was a former British Army Sergeant Major, an Englishman married to a local woman. He died in 2003, but I spoke to him in 1987 about his efforts to alert the authorities to Kincora before his handlers made his financial problems disappear to shut him up. (Belfast Telegraph, 16 July 2014). 

Clarke does not say so directly, but given the identical details of their respective careers, the conclusion appears inescapable that Observer B was James Miller. [Observer B's testimony is available here, while that of Julian is available here] . Writing in 2013, the intelligence historian David Charters noted that the testimony to the Saville Inquiry provided a unique insight into MI5 agent-handling:

The Observer B case is instructive for several reasons. First, it is unique in the sense that it provides an account of agent-running from the moment of recruitment to a later stage in his career, spanning about four years. We know when B was recruited, how and by whom, who handled him, when and what he was paid, something about his motives, and assessments of his reliability. This study also explains where he operated, what he reported, how he reported it, what was or was not done with it, and what influence it had (or did not have) on operations. Such studies are rare, and that alone would make his story worth telling. (Intelligence and National Security, 2013).

Charters went on to note that these insights were obtained with the cooperation of MI5 itself.

Observer B survived his experience as an agent and lived long enough to provide written testimony to the Saville Inquiry although he died without
appearing in person. His former handlers checked (and corrected) their testimony against MI5 records, but their account and his, largely written or
recalled from memory decades after the fact with all the vagaries that attend, comprise the only public record of his work.

On this last point, Charters would appear to have been misled by the Observer B cryptonym, as  Miller's story had been in the public domain since the Sunday Times story of 1987. In fact, once it is realised that Observer B was James Miller, the insights into MI5's operations in Northern Ireland appear even more profound. Remarkably, MI5 must have put forward their evidence about Observer B in the full knowledge of Miller's 1987 allegations about the Security Service's own complicity with William McGrath.

Also striking in the light of James Miller's activities is the testimony of 'Julian', the MI5 agent-handler who in his written statement described Observer B as 'perfectly reliable and truthful' and 'an extremely brave fellow'. On MI5's role in Northern Ireland, Julian stated: 'It may seem strange, but the IRA were not a prime target of ours. The RUC were running IRA informers, as were the Army. Nobody, however, was monitoring the extreme right, so we were asked to do that.' Miller's role during 1971 infiltrating Tara, a ginger group linking several sections of loyalism, was ideal for this purpose.

Given MI5's willingness to put Observer B's evidence before the Saville Inquiry, there is surely no reason why Miller's evidence should not be put before a similarly competent tribunal, which can only mean the Goddard Inquiry.

This is not to say that MI5 evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry was always cogent. For example, the senior MI5 officer in Northern Ireland in 1972, 'David', testified that he had no knowledge of Operation Clockwork Orange, the psychological operation in which Colin Wallace was involved. Given that, on Paul Foot's 1989 account, Clockwork Orange started under 'David''s successor, Denis Payne, in 1973, this evidence gave a rather misleading impression. Wallace does however believe that other psychological operations were underway in 1972, and wrote to the Prime Minister in 2015, arguing that several Saville Inquiry witnesses mislead the inquiry on this point, in the face of evidence available in the National Archives.

If Wallace's experience underlines the difficulties inherent in holding intelligence agencies to account, the Saville precedent does nevertheless show that any legitimate security concerns can be overcome. Indeed, to a significant extent, an examination of Kincora by the Goddard Inquiry would involved the same MI5 documents, operations, agent and officers already examined by the Saville Inquiry.






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