Thursday, 31 July 2014

Dubious Dark Alleys

Henry McDonald has an illuminating article over at the Belfast Telegraph in which he describes how the fraught circumstances of the 1970s "took the State down some morally dubious, highly questionable dark alleyways, one of which was the Kincora Boys Home scandal."
"Both [Chris] Moore [author of the book The Kincora Scandal] and myself are confident that one loyalist extremist, who is deeply mistrusted even by the UDA and UVF, has connections to Kincora as well as being a suspect in a number of other paedophile-related incidents.
This character, however, has never been seriously investigated or questioned by police over what he knew about Kincora or any of the other allegations that were made about him during the 1980s. 
We are equally convinced that this individual was a state asset and long time "agent provocateur" within extreme loyalism for decades and that the role meant he was also a protected asset.
One of his former associates was John McKeague, an ex-leader in the terror group the Red Hand Commando, who has also been linked to or had at least knowledge about the abuse regime at Kincora."
Those who have been following the Kincora scandal may well have their own ideas of who might fit the bill. One man in particular — like McGrath, a long-time British-Israelite preacher who has straddled the line between evangelicalism and Loyalism for most of his life — has been bitterly denounced by former protégés who have fallen foul of the law. He is also someone on whom Henry McDonald has reported, in veiled terms, for many years.

Quite apart from the question of whether the guilty are to be brought to book, or the calumniated vindicated, through a formal legal process, the fact that the suspect is also an alleged agent provocateur raises some interesting legal questions that could conceivably result in the convictions of his one-time acolytes being quashed. If that were relevant only to Northern Ireland, where peace is now well established, it might not be a problem. However, similar tactics are almost certainly still being employed against others, ranging from animal-rights activists to anti-fracking campaigners — and, most notably, British Muslims. For that reason, the state security apparatus will be loath to let the matter get to court.

If it does, expect an unofficial plea bargain of the kind that William McGrath enjoyed 30 years ago.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Willie Mullan

The Belfast Telegraph continues to provide evidence suggesting that there is much more yet to emerge about the Kincora Boys' Home scandal. This time the finger is being pointed at Willie Mullan, a friend of Ian Paisley and former homeless alcoholic who became a preacher after successfully turning his life around.

Mullan committed suicide at the age of 79 in December 1980, using a legally held firearm. At the time, his death was thought to have been the tragic epilogue to that of his wife, but it has now emerged that he had been questioned about Kincora shortly before. He was a friend of both the convicted paedophile William McGrath and Joss Cardwell, who the Bel-Tel is now openly stating "preyed on kids at the home", and who in 1983 followed Mullan in taking his own life, likewise after being questioned by the RUC about Kincora.

The revelations appear to confirm long-held suspicions that some sort of prostitution ring was operating at the boys' home. They also confirm Ian Paisley, who married William McGrath's children and in whose church John McKeague was at one time active, as a key figure in the scandal. As the Belfast Telegraph points out, however, although Paisley expelled McKeague and was alleged to have ignored warnings about McGrath, "There is no suggestion Dr Paisley knew anything about claims linking Mullan to Kincora."

Monday, 21 July 2014

Polemical Alignments

It is a fact that some people grow more right-wing with age. Sometimes it's to do with changes in their lives: parenthood; the achievement of a modest sort of prosperity; bewilderment at a world of never-ending change and collapsing verities. In other cases the reasons are more complex. The journalist Melanie Philips, for example, used to be staunchly left-wing in her views but migrated to the right, now colourfully describing herself as a liberal "who has been mugged by reality" (others call her "Mad Mel"). Perhaps the Blether Region is doing her a disfavour by suggesting that Melanie may be one of those people for whom a single issue, in her case her support for Israel through thick and thin, has been allowed to define her politics, the establishment of an archipelago of colonies on land seized in 1967 having occurred hand in hand with the rise of the free marketeers of Likud — followed, for both reasons, by a revolution in attitudes to the country among the European left.

Some years ago the Blether Region encountered Aidan Doyle, an Irish-language academic who held strong views on the North. The civil conflict there was, in his view, the product not of history but of the sheer badness, both personal and communal, of Northern Nationalists. Now Dr. Doyle has penned a confused article on the Irish language subtitled "No amount of campaigning can transform the situation of a weak language". That comes as something of a surprise, since it goes against much of what we know about minority languages, i.e. that the provision of services, achieved by just such campaigning, is the key to their survival.
"A minority takes article 8 of the Constitution seriously, maintaining that it has a right to State services through the medium of Irish. What is interesting about this group is that it consists for the most part of non-native speakers, people who have decided that Irish is an important part of their identity, but whose first language is English.
This is a rather uncomfortable fact. One can sympathise with a native speaker of say Flemish in Belgium demanding that their children be schooled in their native language, but it is more difficult to grant victim status to a native English speaker from Dublin demanding the same service for their offspring. The fact that something is enshrined in the Constitution does not necessarily mean that it is morally justified."
It is a true that there are unenforceable and embarrassing provisions in the Irish Constitution, but those concerning Irish are not (or at least need not be) among them. One wonders also where the talk of moral justification has sprung from. Creating and enforcing linguistic rights has a sound practical rationale, and one that most Irish people understand and support. To suggest otherwise is to adopt the reductively utilitarian attitudes of Northern Unionists. But of course, that may be the attraction, since according to Dr. Doyle the appointment of two clueless Béarlóirí to the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs has led to "the usual flurry of protests from Irish-language organisations and Sinn Féin Deputies". In fact, although it would indeed now be difficult for anyone who feels that the Irish language is very or fairly important to vote Fine Gael, such protests were by no means limited to the Shinners.

Dr. Doyle's view of how many people are fluent in Irish is just as peculiar.
"Every year a few dozen students graduate from third-level institutions with an impressive command of the language, and I know many foreigners who speak Irish really well. But most people simply don’t have the time, dedication and plain linguistic ability to achieve that level."
The Blether Region recently marched from the Falls Road to Belfast city centre with 6,000 people to protest at the absence of a language Act in the North, and, although virtually all of them spoke Irish, the majority had never been to university and never will. It is true that the Irish of learners is not always grammatically or idiomatically perfect, but they are Irish-speakers nonetheless. The same is true of English-speakers in Ireland, who are similarly the product of language shift.

If Dr. Doyle thinks otherwise, he should try explaining to an Englishman or American that the Fine Gael Shoneens are after leaving Irish in the ha'penny place and see how they react.

But, of course, for whatever reason, he probably wouldn't say that.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Who was in Tara?

Given the renewed media interest in the membership of Tara, it might be a good time to gather up what we know. Although, as the Blether Region reported yesterday, the Bel-Tel's Liam Clarke has implied that a meaningful percentage of Tara members were involved in the abuse of children, that is highly unlikely to be the case, since for most of the period in question the organisation was simply too large for that. As its Wikipedia entry confirms, "by 1974 Tara had an estimated 300–400 members, which was significantly less than the group had at their 1969 peak".

Among McGrath's more prominent colleagues in Tara were, according to Wikipedia:
Davy Payne is listed as "an associate". Whether John McKeague was a member of Tara is disputed, but since he was a paramilitary, a known friend of McGrath and an active abuser of boys, the distinction is perhaps academic.

One website lists Rev. Robert Bradford as a member. Since Tara was a legal organisation and Bradford a known British Israelite, that would be unsurprising. It would also lend credence to suggestions that Bradford was investigating Kincora (rather than an RVH corruption scandal) at the time of his death.

As the Blether Region recently reported, a journalist informed it some months ago that Nelson McCausland was a member. The fact that he was not mentioned as such in The Kincora Scandal can therefore be ascribed to his not yet having attained a high profile when the book was published in 1996.

Chris Moore also states that "Sir Knox Cunningham, Jim Molyneaux, Sir Reg Empey, Lord Laird, Ian Paisley and Nelson McCausland" were at one stage linked to McGrath, but without stating if any of them were members of Tara.

A more interesting question is perhaps who was in Ireland's Heritage LOL 1303, the much smaller private Orange lodge that McGrath founded. The group was known for its Irish-language banner, which earned it the nickname "the Fenian lodge". The banner was made by Tommy Robinson, with the Irish translated by the father of someone who is now a well-known Irish-language academic (in the event it emerged in a somewhat imperfect form). The family lived in Mountainview Drive, not far from Clifton Street Orange Hall, where Tara held its meetings.

The Kincora Scandal lists some of those in attendance at the lodge's last meeting, from which it is possible to reconstruct the following list of members.
  • William McGrath
  • Worthington McGrath, "Worshipful Master", McGrath's son, who is now a North Down businessman active in Ballynafeigh Walkers. As an aside, McGrath's other son, Harvey Andrew McGrath, is a former chairman of the Prudential and a supporter of integrated education; he was awarded an honorary doctorate by QUB in 2008.
  • Clifford Smyth
  • John McKeague
  • David Kerr, "Pastor", presumably the same David Kerr involved in the National Front, the Ulster Independence Movement, and Third Way
  • David Hanna
  • R. Stewart
It is important to stress here that no one is making any allegations relating to child sexual abuse about any of the living members of Tara listed here. Neither was it a proscribed organisation. Neither was it, corporately, engaged in violence.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kincora and the Covenant

The Belfast Telegraph is carrying a series of articles about the Kincora scandal. In one of them, former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan says that the claims of involvment by the intelligence services "may be credible" and calls for a full investigation. In another, framed psy-ops specialist Colin Wallace promises to "reveal the secrets":
"Since leaving the Army he said he had been told that boys from Kincora were being taken to Brighton to be abused. 
While in the Army he believed well-connected paedophiles were using the home, including Sir Knox Cunningham, who was parliamentary private secretary to former PM Harold Macmillan.
The abuse allegations in the home centred around a secretive loyalist paramilitary organisations known as Tara, which met in Clifton Street Orange hall at the time and was largely made up of Orange Order members. Some, like William McGrath, who was later jailed for child abuse at Kincora, were in an Orange lodge known as Ireland's Heritage."
Other deceased Northern Ireland movers and shakers sometimes mentioned along with Sir Knox are Joss Cardwell and Sir James Kilfedder, although rumours about them may concern homosexuality as much as paedophilia.

If boys were taken from Northern Ireland to Brighton, it would strengthen suspicions that there was a link between the Kincora and Elm Guest House scandals, perhaps with some of the same personnel involved, in which regard those suspects with known connections on both sides of the water, people such as Anthony Blunt, Knox Cunningham, Lord Mountbatten, and Maurice Oldfield, are likely to be of interest. That calculation would also apply to any Northern Ireland politicians elected to Westminster during the period and falling under suspicion, as well as to some military personnel.

It is noteworthy that the article states that "abuse allegations [...] centred around [...] Tara". Although some takes on the scandal hold that McGrath was spared simply because of his (separate) usefulness as an agent provocateur, and although fellow paedophile John McKeague of Red Hand Commando was also involved with the organisation — along with, at one time, numerous members of the UVF — the claim that Tara was central to the abuse is, as far as the Blether Region is aware, new.

In that context, the third article, by political editor Liam Clarke, provides interesting clarity.
"Not all members of Tara were involved, but within its ranks there operated a ring of outwardly respectable and born again Christians who were also child abusers. They were ripe for exploitation by intelligence agencies and William McGrath, the leader of Tara, often boasted to other members of his links to the intelligence service."
Tara was once memorably described as a "bizarre homosexual army", a tag that has caused some consternation. In Chris Moore's book The Kincora Scandal, he states that "it has never been alleged nor is there any suggestion that any other members of Tara were homosexual" (p. 9). As we have seen, however, paedophile abusers of young boys may come from a "heterosexual" as well as a "homosexual" background. Moreover, the confused mixture of liberalism and bigotry that constituted 1970s attitudes to sexuality may not adequately have distinguished between being gay and being a pederast — something, one might argue, also true of Chris Moore's book in parts. To the Blether Region's knowledge, William McGrath was the only member of Tara ever to be convicted of child abuse. Whether he and McKeague, who was assassinated in January 1982 and whose membership of Tara is disputed, together could constitute a "ring" is open to question.

That suggests that other abusers, insofar as they are still with us, have not yet been brought to book.

Farewell, farewell

Slugger O'Toole has some interesting quotes from former Fianna Fáil Senator and TD Martin Mansergh. Much discussion has been taking place in Northern Ireland about the possible knock-on effects of Scots independence. Comments on Slugger tend not to be particularly informed, with undue weight accorded to the scare stories and biased poll analysis of the mainstream media and an unwarranted focus on the Orange Order, which, although clearly able to embarrass the "no" campaign, is fairly marginal to party politics at a national level in Scotland.

The Blether Region's interest had previously focussed on the effect on Catholic voting patterns, its assumption being that Protestants will continue to vote solidly for the Union but that Catholics' Unionism will be nipped in the bud — at a time when they are on the verge of forming a majority.

More recently friends have pointed out that Unionists are likely to be disconcerted by Scots independence and as a result move to the right — which will of course do even more to alienate Catholics from the UK.

Now, however, Martin Mansergh has made a very interesting point, and one that the Blether Region has to admit didn't occur to it.
"First Minister Peter Robinson has made it clear that if Scotland voted Yes, Northern Ireland would remain in the UK with England and Wales. While it might lead to some rethinking of Ulster-Scots as a pillar of unionist identity, it is unlikely republicanism would gain new traction, despite any initial flurry of excitement."
Given the fact that Ulster Scots remains an extremely problematic emblem of Unionism, with many ordinary Protestants opposed either reflexively or on the basis of the movement's clear lack of linguistic professionalism, there could be pressure for the Ulster-Scots Agency and similar bodies to be scrapped. Were that to happen, though Ulster Scots would be diminished, it wouldn't disappear as a phenomenon. Even the more extreme activists in a linguistic sense, regardless of what inspired them in the first place, are likely to have internalised their aims and probably don't know how mad they are — umlauts and graves can seem very normal after a while if you're writing them every day — and there are of course also Catholics and non-political enthusiasts interested in Scots.

Against disestablishment, one would also have to consider the economic benefit to the many non-linguist Unionist politicians with both a large and small "p" who have inveigled themselves into publicly funded posts and expenses regimes on the basis of Ulster-Scots "culture".

What we could see, therefore, is the linguistic aims of the Ulster-Scots movement being scaled back. However, an equally plausible result might be a re-alignment of less ideological Unionists behind the more extreme elements that aim to make Ulster Scots into a distinct language — an angry farewell to Scotland and to moderation.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Nelson McCausland and Tara

While the Blether Region has long suspected it, Chris Moore's article in the Sunday World is perhaps the first reputable published source to link Nelson McCausland with William McGrath, as well as neatly summing up some of the other strands in the Kincora case. The Blether Region had heard from another journalist some months ago that Mr. McCausland was a member of McGrath's legal paramilitary group Tara.

In recent years Mr. McCausland has also attended events organised by the British-Israel World Federation. As an Ulster-Scots activist, at one time heading the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council, he has worked with fellow British-Israelites Clifford and Anne Smyth, as well as Lord Laird, who is also named in Moore's article as having links with McGrath.

The Ring

Perhaps the most obvious question surrounding the allegations of paedophilia swirling around Westminster — assuming that even half of them are true — is how so many individuals with the same minority criminal predilection managed to find themselves rubbing shoulders together.

Thus far, we can determine the following about those suspected: 
  • Most of them are Conservative, although there have also been allegations against the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, and a living Labour peer first accused while an MP in 1991 and reportedly now too senile to prosecute;
  • Far from any stereotype, many of them are, when they want to be, conventional in their sexual tastes. Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson were both married twice, while Nicholas Fairbairn, who boasted of his enormous sexual appetite, had both a wife and a mistress;
  • Most attended boarding school;
  • While it may not be relevant, they were of a wartime generation and thus familiar with both violence and long periods away from women.
There are perhaps three possibilities about how they were able to conspire together: 
  • That the old clichés about boarding schools are — or, until recently, were — true, i.e. that sexual abuse of boys by masters and older pupils was common and, since a substantial minority of victims go on to become perpetrators, self-perpetuating;
  • That, being a secretive "club", they helped each other in the same way as is sometimes alleged in the case of the Freemasons or, in Northern Ireland, the British-Israelites;
  • That they were helped by another power, perhaps MI5, which was almost certainly either blackmailing them or seeking the potential to do so, or a more senior political figure, probably in the Conservative party.
The first two possibilities are almost certainly true on some level, but it would be difficult to prove to what extent.

The third possibility is supported by two suggestions. First, the Elm Guest House visitors' register included a man with a Protestant-sounding name who was said to be in Sinn Féin. That name was almost certainly a pseudonym, while "Sinn Féin" is likely to be a euphemistic reference to the IRA. In all likelihood, the man was either being given a treat by his MI5 handlers, or they were gathering information in order to increase their hold on him. Probably a bit of both.

Secondly, lurid allegations going well beyond paedophilia have been levelled at the former Prime Minister Edward Heath — with whom, coincidentally, Cyril Smith wanted to form a new centrist party in 1978.

Allegations have now been made about Rhodes Boyson, Nicholas Fairbairn, Michael Havers, Edward Heath, Charles Irving, Keith Joseph, former Scottish Conservative Chairman Alistair Smith, and Cyril Smith, along with numerous living politicians.

Sectarian Jokers

The Belfast Telegraph reports on a picture of a five-year-old girl posted on social media. The girl in question had the letters "KAT" ("Kill All Taigs") written in red, white and blue on her forehead.

So far, so depressing, but what really struck the Blether Region was the headline, "Young girl (5) has sectarian slogan painted on face: Police investigating image showing child with anti-Catholic slur". Quite apart from the fact that readers should be able to make up their own minds about whether a five-year-old girl is "young" (one suspects that they would agree), "Kill All Taigs" is not a "slur". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a "slur" is 'a deliberate slight; an expression or suggestion of disparagement or reproof'.

When the Blether Region was a hauflin, the word "slur" referred very specifically to the nudge-nudge, wink-wink variety of defamation. In recent years, however, it has come to be associated with racist language, probably for phonaesthetic reasons — "racial slur" — regardless of its subtlety and regardless of whether there is any defamation involved. "Taig" has a quite clear etymology, being a respelt version of "Teague", which itself derives from the Irish forename "Tadhg"; in Scotland, a shortened form of its English equivalent, Timothy, is used in the same sectarian way.

While offensive and, one would hope, attracting the full force of the law, using the word "taig" is clearly not a slur in the dictionary sense, being neither subtle nor defamatory. In particular, "Kill All Taigs" is, to call a spade a spade, an exhortation to genocide — to call it a "slur" is to diminish greatly the degree of criminality involved.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

You Couldn't Make It Up

The television cameras were filming outside the former site of Kincora Boys' Home this afternoon, and small wonder. Clint Massey, who was abused at the home during the 1970s and has waived his right to anonymity, has called for the hostel's inclusion in the current UK inquiry into child abuse.

For that inquiry the newspapers continue to furnish a veritable surfeit of fresh material. Former Conservative activist Anthony Gilberthorpe has claimed in the Daily Mirror that he procured underage rent boys for the benefit of top Tories at conference parties held at hotels in Blackpool and Brighton, one of which also featured a "table of cocaine". Those "said to be present at the parties included Keith Joseph, Rhodes Boyson, Dr Alistair Smith and Michael Havers", all of whom have since died. While the gay age of consent was then set at the discriminatory level of 21, Gilberthorpe claims that some of the boys "were clearly only about 15 or 16 years old". Of one party at the Grand Hotel in Brighton he said:
"It was held on the night before the bomb went off and afterwards one MP crudely joked that it was a good job it was, or there would have been rent boys falling through the floor."
Now perhaps best known as father of the actor Nigel, Michael Havers was also the Attorney General for England and Wales whose handling of child abuse allegations has been thought controversial enough to compromise his sister, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss — a circumstance that has now led her to step down from the planned inquiry. Not only that, but in his parallel role as Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Havers also wrote the terms of reference for the original inquiry into Kincora Boys' Home, which explicitly excluded the investigation of any potential offenders except the staff of the hostel.

Further historic allegations of paedophilia have been levelled by the Scotsman at Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, a former Solicitor General for Scotland once memorably described as a "tartan muppet".  An RP-speaker with a penchant for the trews of a clan chief, Sir Nicholas, who drank himself to death in 1995, has been tentatively identified as the "N. Fairburn" listed as a guest at the Elm Guest House in Barnes along with the late Cyril Smith and other politicians who cannot be named.

That visit took place on 7 June 1982, a matter of months after Fairbairn's mistress had attempted suicide at their London flat.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Colonial Mindsets

The Independent reports on a Donegal priest who has made some embarrassing comments about yoga. Unfortunately, it calls him "Padraig O'Baoill", when, as any good student of Irish knows, his actual name is likely to be "Pádraig Ó Baoill". Is that important? Well, if quality newspapers can get the accents right on French words — often French words that are close to being assimilated — surely they can get them right with folk's names.

To treat an unanglicised Irish name as its English equivalent smacks of a colonial mindset. It's bad enough when BBC newsreaders get coaching on how to pronounce the difficult names of Middle Eastern politicians but prove incapable of pronouncing the everyday Gaelic and Scots word "loch".

Indeed, perhaps the Irish and the Scots are just not foreign enough.

Who Else's Pictures did Anthony Blunt Survey?

Anthony Blunt was an extremely accomplished man. Fluent in French since his childhood days, he graduated from Cambridge in Modern Languages, having initially gone there to study Mathematics. During the Second World War he was recruited by MI5 and eventually attained the rank of major. Knighted in 1956, Blunt was also Professor of the History of Art at the University of London and Surveyor of the King's Pictures.

There was another side to him, however, for as early as his Cambridge student days he had been engaged as a Soviet spy — the Russians having correctly assumed that the concentration of privilege in the obsolescent UK would see its minions there land in a position of influence.

That happened during the Second World War, when Blunt passed to the Soviets information that had been gleaned from German intercepts — running the very real risk that the Nazis would grow suspicious enough to change the settings of their Enigma wheels.

Blunt's spying for the Communists was suspected from an early stage, and he was pointed out to a visitor to Buckingham Palace as a "Russian spy" as early as 1948. He chose not to follow orders to join Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean in fleeing to Moscow in 1951, and, despite much questioning, denied all accusations of espionage until presented with undeniable evidence of it in 1964.

At that point, Blunt was offered a deal. Having given up several other spies, he was guaranteed immunity from prosecution in perpetuity and protection from exposure for 15 years.

It can be argued that Blunt's spying role was relatively minor; during the Second World War, he was actually passing information to an ally. He had also helped finger others, and public exposure would also prove damaging to the reputation of the British intelligence services. Nevertheless, there are other factors that must be considered:
  • Blunt was the third cousin of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother;
  • In 1945 he travelled to Germany on a sensitive mission on behalf of the Palace to retrieve compromising, possibly treasonous correspondence between the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler;
  • He may have known of other traitors whose names he did not reveal, some of them perhaps in senior roles in the intelligence services;
  • He may have known of other Establishment figures who were homosexual (illegal in England and Wales until 1967 and 1982 in Northern Ireland);
  • Perhaps most damaging of all, he may have known of Establishment figures who had engaged in sexual acts with children — another deceased individual rumoured to have connections with Kincora was frequent visitor to Ireland Lord Mountbatten.
Above all it is the Establishment circles in which Blunt moved that are remarkable, the well-known names that crop up casually again and again. Indeed, following his exposure in 1979, he was hidden by the entertaining television art historian Brian Sewell, a former pupil, though no one is alleging anything against him. As Blunt has been named on the Internet as a visitor to the Elm Guest House, the question of his enduring links with the great and good, the intelligence services — and, perhaps, paedophilia — is as pertinent today as it ever was.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Kincora: the Unanswered Questions

Ivan Little has a long article on Kincora in the Belfast Telegraph in which he summarises some of the unanswered questions surrounding the scandal, such as the suicide of Joss Cardwell and the killing by the INLA of Red Hand Commando leader John McKeague, in whose targeting, in a disturbing parallel with the murder of Rev. Robert Bradford, some accounts allege British intelligence involvement.

Perhaps the most worrying issue that Little raises, however, is that "Sir Maurice Oldfield, a former head of MI6, was reportedly seen by his Special Branch protection officers associating with boys from Kincora." William McGrath, the best-known of those convicted in that connection, was supposed to have worked for MI6 until responsibility for Northern Ireland intelligence-gathering passed to MI5 in the mid 1970s. The question must therefore be asked whether a single paedophile in a position of power — Maurice Oldfield was "C" between 1973 and 1978 and for many years previously the MI6 number two — could have played a role in the corruption of the entire intelligence services.

Oldfield's Wikipedia entry records that "In 1979 the new prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, asked Oldfield to coordinate security and intelligence in Northern Ireland. He left this post in June 1980 after his positive vetting clearance was withdrawn after he admitted to lying to cover up his homosexuality. He died, unmarried, in March 1981."

The Kincora scandal broke in January 1980, and some observers will therefore see a link with Oldfield's dismissal.

Given that the original article, linked to above, alleged a teenage prostitution ring, with money changing hands, and the fact that Oldfield, Northern Ireland intelligence supremo at the time, appears to have been personally involved, Kincora certainly warrants inclusion in the new Westminster inquiry to be chaired by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss.

There are obvious reasons why a prostitution aspect to the case might not have received the attention that it merited. First, it is embarrassing for the victims. There would have been little understanding of "grooming" in 1981, and admitting quasi-voluntary involvement in prostitution would have decreased the chances of convicting the original abusers.

Secondly, those buying sex would wish to avoid both criminal prosecution and public exposure.

Thirdly, the intelligence services would wish to protect themselves both from William McGrath, through an unofficial "plea bargain", and more generally. Although conspiracy to commit the sexual abuse of children may not have been taken as seriously then as it is now, there is no doubt that it was illegal, as well as morally repugnant.

Fourthly, it is conceivable that any prostitution arose only during the last days of abuse at the home, perhaps personally encouraged by the late Mr. Oldfield. If so, earlier inmates of the home, who being older might have found it easier to give evidence, would have been unaware of it.

Last but not least, William McGrath may not have been the only intelligence asset or source that British intelligence wished to protect.

Immersion Education in Scotland Set to Overtake the North

Bòrd na Gàidhlig has just issued its Aithisg Bhliadhnail or Annual Report for 2013/14, recording a 6.1% increase in the number of children in Gaelic-medium education, with the total now standing at 2,652. Most encouragingly, the number registered for P1 rose by 13%, which if maintained or improved over the next few years would be good news for speaker numbers. Indeed, the number of Gaelic-language playgroups rose from 80 to 93, so further increases seem on the cards, with new schools planned in Portree and Fort William to cater for them.

Admittedly, such development is coming from a low base (GME having begun only in 1985). For comparison, the equivalent number for much smaller Northern Ireland is 3,830 (3,061 primary and 769 secondary). However, with such increases being recorded, it's likely that the numbers in Gaelic-medium education in Scotland will overtake those in Irish-medium education in Northern Ireland in the relatively near future. The National Gaelic Language Plan foresees an annual intake of 800 pupils for GME by 2017, which in the course of time would increase the number at primary school alone to 4,800. GME is already ahead in secondary schools, whose numbers grew by 7%, from 1,104 to 1,181, over the year. In Scotland, a majority of children attending GME primaries will go on to GME post-primary education, whereas in Northern Ireland that is true of only around a quarter of them.

Apart from anything else, the smallness of Northern Ireland and the language's lack of reach regarding Protestant schoolchildren may prove structural hurdles hard to overcome — barring a cultural revolution on the Catholic side, of course. In Scotland, on the other hand, the old linguistic and cultural divide, although still there, is of much reduced significance owing to Highland migration to the Lowlands.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Lost Boys of Kincora

The Belfast Telegraph and the BBC are reporting on calls by Amnesty International that the former Kincora Boys' Home be included in the terms of reference of the child abuse inquiry just announced by the English Home Secretary, Theresa May.
"Kincora is the subject of an ongoing public inquiry launched into historical institutional abuse here. 
But Amnesty's Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan pointed out the inquiry has limited powers and cannot compel the release of files from either Whitehall or the secret services 'where any secrets are likely to lie buried'."
Mr. Corrigan's words suggest that he views a cover-up involving the intelligence services as at least a possibility — one requiring to be ruled out once and for all. Given the persistent rumours surrounding the home and the lack of public faith in government transparency, that seems only sensible.

Interestingly, the Bel-Tel piece also claims that "a former religious preacher involved in loyalist circles, who was a suspect in the Kincora abuse scandal, walked free because of perjured evidence."

The Blether Region is aware of one preacher who reportedly had a relationship with a former inmate of Kincora and who within the last few years had to relinquish his position at a British-Israelite micro-church when he was found to have been embezzling funds to pay for rent-boys. He was also a mentor to at least one individual convicted of Loyalist offences during the early days of the peace process. In fact, he seems to share several elements in his biography with William McGrath, the agent provocateur, who was reportedly a friend.

That is not to say that he is the person in question, however, or that he is guilty of child abuse.

Both the victims and those who are the subject of speculation deserve to have their day in court.

Monday, 7 July 2014

"Hate Crime"

Differences of politics in Northern Ireland often find expression in differences of language. One need only think of the various names for the polity itself, ranging from a Unionist "Ulster" via a neutral "Northern Ireland" to a Nationalist "north of Ireland" and a Republican "Six Counties" — which may or may not also be "occupied". There are different names for Derry / Londonderry, for the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement, and for a host of other matters in everyday discourse.

One subtle difference between Nationalist and Unionist usage concerns the word "sectarian". Whereas Nationalists tend to reserve the adjective for reference to theological bigotry, Unionist use of the word is much less discriminating, often referring in general terms to political violence or even to competing views of constitutional politics.

Nationalist and Unionist views of "sectarianism" often come into their own when discussing the Troubles, with the former contending that Republican violence was not in general sectarian, for the reason that its victims, with some spectacularly shameful exceptions, were targeted not because of who they were but because of what they did. Unionists will argue that in many cases what those victims did — such as being members of the RUC Reserve or the UDR — was merely the logical expression of their Unionist identity, while for their part Nationalists will respond that dispensing with the exclusively theological meaning of "sectarianism" risks suggesting that Republican and Loyalist violence was somehow morally equivalent, despite the fact that the latter really did target people largely because of what they were — or, to be exact, what they were expected to think — rather than what they did.

Recently the Blether Region has noticed that PSNI spokespeople have on several occasions referred to attacks on Orange halls and related property as "hate crime". That such acts are crimes is not in doubt — they are illegal. Indeed, one could additionally and uncontroversially describe them as "mindless", "wanton", "stupid" and "counterproductive". But are they "hate crime"? Well, it's unlikely that Nationalists and Unionists will ever agree on that. Most people most places, however, would view the Orange Order as itself a hate-filled or hate-promoting organisation, a large part of whose raison d'être is to provoke just such an immoderate reaction.

Whether the PSNI's use of "hate crime" to categorise illegal acts against Orange halls is correct can therefore be debated. There is no doubt, however, that its doing so puts the organisation's use of language squarely in the Protestant and Unionist camp.

A Political Earthquake

The Blether Region reported a few days ago on the Elm Guest House scandal, which, without any exaggeration, looks set to prove a political earthquake. Among the pop stars, dignitaries and politicians — more than one of whom served in the NIO — whose involvement has been alleged by some websites was a person whom the Blether Region referred to as "a Sinn Féin politician with a Protestant-sounding name".

Of course, there have always been some Protestants involved in Republican politics and even paramilitarism. In the 1930s there was an IRA unit on the Shankill Road. More recently, Ronnie Bunting, son of loyal Paisley follower Ronald Bunting, was leader of the INLA. In general, however, Protestant support for the Union has been very solid indeed, and Protestant loathing of violent Republicanism understandably even more so. Not only that, but Googling the name listed on the Internet provides very few hits, suggesting that it is in fact a pseudonym.

At least one site, however, identifies that pseudonym as referring to a former volunteer known to have passed information to the Garda Síochána — the reference to "Sinn Féin" evidently being a euphemism for "IRA". In view of the big names alleged to have attended the guest house — without libelling anyone living, the Blether Region can name the deceased Anthony Blunt and Charles Irving MP — if a Republican spy was indeed involved, the question arises of whether he was also working for the British.

That all puts the Kincora scandal, in which intelligence service involvement and a VIP child prostitution ring have been alleged, in a new context.

Another issue that should be raised is why Anthony Blunt was never prosecuted even after his role as a KGB agent had been publicly exposed — but perhaps we now know the answer to that.

Coláiste Feirste

A Written Answer (AQW 34776/11-15) from the Minister of Education shows just how well Coláiste Feirste is doing in comparison with other schools. Some 93.6% of Coláiste Feirste pupils achieved at least one grade A or A* at GCSE level, almost double the equivalent figure of 50.5% for all other Northern Ireland post-primary schools. Were the Coláiste Feirste results compared solely with those for non-selective English-language secondaries, as should properly be the case, the disparity would be even greater.

The results are, on the face of it, not quite as good at A level, with 33.3% of Coláiste Feirste pupils earning an A or A*, compared with 43.3% of other pupils. However, A levels, much more so than GCSEs, are known to be the province of grammar schools, meaning that, here too, Coláiste Feirste is punching well above its weight.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A Dirty War and an Amoral Decade

Perhaps the most disturbing fact that the Blether Region has hitherto gleaned about Northern Ireland's compact Ulster-Scots movement is the surprising extent of involvement on the part of individuals who subscribe, or purport to subscribe, to British-Israelism, the risible, racially tinged fantasy that the British peoples are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel and thus have a special democracy-trumping role in the world — as well as an overlapping set of individuals connected with a single Orange lodge, the Cross of Saint Patrick, LOL 688.

In the 1970s the same theory was advanced by one William McGrath, a co-founder of LOL 688 remarkable for being, in turn, an agent of MI6 and MI5, as well as the leader of legal Protestant paramilitary group TARA and an active paedophile able with a minimum of effort to insinuate himself into a position of trust at the Kincora Boys' Home, whose vulnerable teenage residents he subjected to a lengthy and brutal campaign of rape.

McGrath eventually wound up in jail, serving a lighter sentence than his two co-accused despite being, by some accounts, the worst offender. Upon his release he retired to the Ards Peninsula and eventually died in the 1990s, still implausibly protesting his innocence and, somewhat in the style that Tommy Sheridan has since made his own, ascribing his conviction to a political fit-up.

One of the enduring mysteries surrounding Kincora is the question of whether the home was being used by the British intelligence services as a "honey trap" in order to provide material with which to blackmail people of influence during the Troubles. Most commentators nowadays think not, although they hold out the possibility that child prostitution rings involving the "great and good" existed elsewhere.

One such ring may be about to face exposure, since many UK newspapers are this week reporting on the handling of a dossier of allegations involving the Elm Guest House in south-west London by Leon Brittan, Home Secretary for two years in the 1980s, as well as on conflicting statements made by him in that regard.

Some unsubstantiated reports have listed a royal equerry, a clean-cut pop singer, and a Sinn Féin politician with a Protestant-sounding name among the habitués of the guest house, along with, most worryingly, an MP who went on to hold one of one of the four great offices of state.

Another leading British-Israelite in the 1970s was LOL 688 member Rev. Robert Bradford MP, murdered by the Provisional IRA during a constituency surgery in 1981. His friend and fellow UUP politician Jim Rodgers has alleged that he was about to expose a scandal involving corruption at the Royal Victoria Hospital. It has also been suggested that Freddie Scappaticci, later outed as a British agent, was involved in the operation, and that British intelligence services were aware that Rev. Bradford was about to be targeted — ostensibly for no reason more serious than his undoubtedly sectarian pronouncements — but declined to undertake any action to save him. Surprisingly few Northern Ireland politicians were murdered by anyone during the Troubles — Wikipedia lists only 11, including one from the 1920s — and those killed by the Provisional IRA solely because they were politicians and not also soldiers, judges or RUC reserves were even fewer; in fact, apart from Rev. Bradford, only Edgar Graham springs to mind.

All this is of course murky in the extreme and may turn out to have only the flimsiest basis in fact. The undue influence exerted by British-Israelites over Ulster Scots, however, is documented and real.