Kincora and the secret service: Three men willing to tell all they know may never get the chance
Fears are growing that the truth about Kincora may never be revealed after it emerged that three people who offered information on intelligence service involvement have not been approached by Sir Anthony Hart’s inquiry into historical and institutional abuse.
The prospect of a light being shone on what the security services knew about the abuse of boys at the east Belfast home is under doubt after the inquiry confirmed to one of the men – former Army Captain Colin Wallace – that the British Government has not so far cleared him to give evidence.
Mr Wallace was involved in black propaganda and Press liaison when he was here and, after he raised his concerns about Kincora, was convicted of the manslaughter of a friend, before being later cleared and compensated.
After offering to the help the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, Mr Wallace’s solicitor James Nichol received a letter raising a question over whether he would ever be able to give evidence.
“I can say that the inquiry is seeking an undertaking from the Attorney General that would ensure that anyone providing evidence to the inquiry would not be prosecuted for any criminal offence that might be committed by providing such evidence, such as breaches of the Official Secrets Act,” Patrick Butler, solicitor of the inquiry, wrote on December 19.
Mr Nichol had been abroad and the letter only came to light last week. In it, Mr Butler “welcomes Mr Wallace’s willingness to help the inquiry” but says that without an assurance of immunity Mr Wallace or other intelligence witnesses cannot be called about Kincora.
He writes: “If these matters are resolved to the satisfaction of the inquiry, then the inquiry will be in a position to make arrangements to speak to those who may be able to assist the inquiry, such as Mr Wallace.”
Last October inquiry chairman Sir Anthony acknowledged Secretary of State Theresa Villiers’ pledge that all Government departments would co-operate with his Kincora investigation but said he needed wider powers to carry out investigations into “non-devolved Government departments and agencies”.
Another man who came forward was Brian Gemmell, a captain in charge of military intelligence in Belfast during the worst of the Kincora abuse.
“I haven’t heard a word from the Hart inquiry since offering to come forward,” he said. “I suspect that they won’t call me because this is too hot to handle.”
Mr Gemmell stressed that he was still willing to help and that he had the names of other potential witnesses. One persistent allegation is that the intelligence services were aware of child abuse at Kincora and used it to recruit those involved as agents within loyalism. It has also been alleged that a secret network of top people were involved in abusing children at homes like Kincora.
Mr Gemmell said: “One sergeant who worked for me in 39 Brigade told me that, when he worked for my successor, he actually drove somebody, a civilian who he now thinks was MI5 but never identified himself, from HQNI to a meeting in Kincora. He did it one or two times. I am prepared to give the inquiry the name of the driver.”
Mr Gemmell became aware abuse was happening at Kincora through a number of confidential contacts. These were in Tara, a loyalist paramilitary group headed by William McGrath, the Kincora housefather jailed for four years.
The third person who offered to help was Roy Garland, deputy commander of Tara for a time, who reported his suspicions to Mr Gemmell. Jim McCormick, a vet on the fringes of Tara, also told Mr Gemmell his suspicions.
Mr Gemmell claims he was warned off by Ian Cameron, an MI5 officer who is believed dead.
Last night Mr Wallace added: “Speed is important if we are to get anywhere. This all happened 40 or more years ago, many witnesses have died already and material may be gone. My lawyer points out that he would need time to get documents on my behalf. It will also take time to contact other people from the intelligence community.”
Mr Wallace said that could also help the inquiry identify McGrath’s handlers and those of John McKeague, the Red Hand Commando leader who was a suspected child abuser.
In 1980 three members of staff at Kincora Boys’ Home – William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains – were jailed for systematic sexual abuse of children in their care going back to the early 1970s. Rumours have persisted that the abuse ring went further and last August the Belfast Telegraph published details of three people who are still alive and passed on intelligence on this subject but claim they were warned off. The allegations are due to be investigated by the ongoing Hart inquiry into institutional child abuse and all three men have offered to assist it.