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 He left this post in June 1980 after his positive vetting clearance was withdrawn after he admitted to lying to cover up his homosexuality.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.

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