Tuesday, January 7, 2014

IRA volunteers in the Briitish Army

    A BBC article on records revealing how many members of the IRA had infiltrated the British Army in the 50's (a similar tactic was employed by the United Irishmen with the Navy). To the British this was no doubt quite startling but common knowledge to many republicans.
   A partial list of known members of both the IRA and British army involved in Operation Harvest includes Leo McCormack, Phil O'Donnell, Connie Green, Kevin Neville, Liam Sutcliffe, Sean Garland, Frank Skuse (involved the Blandford raid), Leo Steenson and co in the War Office itself, and many more.

Thursday, 27 April, 2000

'IRA members joined British forces'


Numbers of IRA members and sympathisers were known to have joined the British armed forces in the late 1950s, it has emerged.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary had advised they be dismissed, but they were not to save "embarrassment" to the War Office.

Papers released to the Public Records Office on Thursday showed many republicans took advantage of the military training provided.

The War Office papers said they gathered information about bases and guards before deserting and returning to southern Ireland to rejoin their comrades.

One IRA member based as a soldier in England was said to have taken part in an attack on his own base after abandoning his regiment.

Civilians' support

Monthly briefings prepared by the Director of Military Intelligence revealed it was known the then-resurgent IRA had members among civilian staff at some bases as well as enlisted men.

A paper from May 1957 read: "There are 14 known IRA members and active sympathisers employed in the military in Northern Ireland.

"The RUC advises the dismissal of these employees on the logical grounds that their presence in military units will make these units more vulnerable to IRA attacks.

It has been decided that rather than stir up trouble through their dismissal, the risk caused by their presence has to be accepted

War Office report

"It has been decided that rather than stir up trouble through their dismissal, the risk caused by their presence has to be accepted."

By October that year, action had been taken against 20 employed republicans, but it was decided others should be left alone.

The briefing read: "It has been noticeable that there has been positive information that many deserters to Eire are members of the IRA.

"This gives strength to the belief that members of the IRA sometimes join the British Army to gain military training and to be in a position to give information about camps and guards with a view to further attacks."

But it continued: "In order to save War Office embarrassment it has been decided to continue the employment of seven IRA persons who were employed as civilians in military installations in Northern Ireland.

"Previously, three of these had been suspended from work."

Women members used

In February 1958 the REME training camp at Blandford, Dorset, was attacked by the IRA.

A report soon afterwards revealed: "An Irish deserter from the REME unit stationed at Blandford is believed to have been responsible for information used by the IRA leading up to the attack, and is also believed to have taken part in it."

Other discoveries made by the security services at the time included the devices IRA members based in the Irish Republic used when on intelligence-gathering operations in the North.

A report in August 1958 noted: "It is known that reconnaissance patrols of members of the IRA, often with their wives or women members of the organisation have, posing as tourists, recently made visits to Northern Ireland."

But, few of these "tourists" contacted IRA members in Northern Ireland because of "fears of police penetration", it added.

The archives also show the paranoia within security circles about the potential sympathies of Irish people serving in British forces and Government.

When it was recommended the circulation of the top-secret monthly briefings be increased from 20 people to 150 - all of whom would still be very senior - the RUC warned against it.

A report explained: "They (the RUC) are well aware that there are many Irishmen in the forces and other Government services.

"They accept as a matter of course the paradox that these people may serve the British Government well and loyally in all respects, except where the interests of southern Ireland are concerned, if they happen to be Irish nationalists by inclination."

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