IRA mole fights secret court hearing in case against MI5
MI5 has allegedly applied for a secret court hearing after being sued by former IRA informer Martin McGartland. He claims they compromised his safety and denied him medical treatment after being almost killed in two IRA assassination attempts.
McGartland, a former petty criminal from west Belfast, is credited with saving the lives of 50 police officers and soldiers in Northern Ireland, when he worked as a British mole in the IRA, providing crucial intelligence to the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
There were two attempts on his life, which left him with severe injuries, and he says the British security services failed in their duty of care to him, refusing to pay for his medical treatment.
He even says they knew of one of the IRA attempts to kill him in advance but failed to do anything to prevent it.
McGartland, who calls himself “the disposable agent”, alleges solicitors acting for the Home Office, the UK government department responsible for the security services, have applied to have the matter dealt with by a Closed Material Procedure (CMP) hearing, it was reported by the Independent newspaper.
A CMP is a special kind of court hearing where claimants are represented before a judge not in person or by their solicitors but by special advocates who have been cleared for security. This would mean that both McGartland and his lawyers would be unable to attend.
CMP’s are used by the British government as a way of conducting a hearing before a judge where the information, for reasons of national security, cannot be revealed in open court.
But the Labour Party has called for the use of such closed proceedings to be limited to cases where a judge agrees that a fair verdict cannot be reached by any other means, and says that they deviate from the “tradition of open and fair justice”.
The President of the Law Society, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, has also raised concerns that CMP’s undermine the essential principle of English justice, where all parties are entitled to see and challenge all evidence placed before the court, it was reported in the Law Society Gazette, earlier this year.
The case brought by McGartland against MI5 is the first of its kind between an agent and his former employers in the UK’s domestic security services.
After infiltrating the IRA in 1989, his cover was blown in 1991, after a clumsy interception of guns by the Royal Ulster Constabulary exposed him as an informer.
In an interview at a secret location last year with the Guardian newspaper has said he hoped the case would raise the issue of why, when the security services had him under surveillance in August 1991, the day the IRA abducted him at a Sinn Fein advice center, they failed to intervene.
The IRA then took him to flat and interrogated him for eight hours. Believing he was about to be killed by the IRA interrogation squad he hurled himself out of a third-floor window. He suffered serious head injuries, but was rescued by locals who called an ambulance.
According to McGartland, the standard IRA procedure against informers is to use torture and violence until a victim signs either a true or false confession and they are shot with two bullets in the back of the head.
MacGartland was given a new identity and a £100,000 home in North Tyneside, in England, paid for by MI5, but these proved insufficient and an IRA hit team managed to track him down to his new home in 1999.
During the confrontation with the gunmen, McGartland put his hands over the gun barrel and sustained serious injuries to his hands which prevented his assassin firing into his upper body and head. Despite being shot seven times in the attack McGartland says MI5 withdrew his medical treatment between 2001 and 2009. He claims this led to a deterioration in his condition, which now means he needs round the clock medical support.
“At 42 years of age I am on the scrapheap. I can’t get a job. I can’t even go to the supermarket without getting panic attacks. Even when I am driving my car if I see another car behind me for a while I suspect they are up to something,” he said.
“The total lack of care of duty by MI5 has caused me very serious and permanent psychological damage,” he continued.
McGartland believes that the decision to withdraw medical care was a deliberate decision to punish him for speaking out about the 1991 kidnapping and the 1999 shooting, and the police and security services failures. He has written two books Fifty Dead Men Walking and Dead Man Running about his experiences and in 2009 Fifty Dead Men Walking was released as a film.
A senior Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch officer, Ian Phoenix, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 1994, confirmed before his death that security teams knew beforehand that McGartland was about to be kidnapped by the IRA, who planned to kill him.
Even now McGartland believes he is still a target. In 2008 the Real IRA issued a death threat, stating that they would take up where the Provisional IRA left off, and named McGartland as one of their prime targets.
“I lost my home, my family, my friends. My brother was badly beaten by the Provos [Provisional IRA] just because he was by brother. I continue to be punished by MI5 because I would not be silenced,” he said.
McGartland rejects that MI5’s request for a CMP is for reasons of national security, but believes it is out of embarrassment to cover up their own failures and wrongdoing.