are universally despised, even by those who recruit
them and pay for their services. Even if an informant
is fortunate enough to survive a career of betrayal
and treachery, he or she is compelled to live a precarious
and miserable existence throughout their retirement
years, forever fearful that their treacherous past
may come back to haunt them.
Hannington's Unemployed Struggles: 1919-1936
details the case of a man named Johnstone, a paid
informant, recruited by Scotland Yard to provide information
about the internal activities of the National Unemployed
Workers' Movement. When exposed as an informant Johnstone
fled to Southend-on-Sea. There on 14th June 1927 he
was found dead on the beach, after committing suicide
by drinking a bottle of disinfectant. Hannington was
convinced that 'all militant movements in conflict
with state power are subject to the treachery of the
unprincipled wretch who worms his way into the movement
and secures its confidence only to betray those who
its inception in 1791, the efforts of the United Irishmen
were continually frustrated and undermined by informants.
The names of Thomas Reynolds, Leonard McNally, Samuel
Toner, Fredrick Dutton, and Captain Armstrong are
mentioned in many of the accounts of this period.
They were all notorious informers. However, there
were many others less well known. Informers are frowned
upon as weak and vulnerable people. They are easy
prey for ruthless spymasters who are only too ready
to use and abuse them to suit their own ends. Informers
betray their comrades and wrecks the lives of their
victim's family. Even their own families are not spared
from stress and trauma. Weak and selfish to the end,
they are indifferent to those they betray and hurt.
Their motivation is usually financial self-interest.
But sometimes their nefarious actions can be driven
by a desire to avoid imprisonment.
Ireland over the past 30 years many informers have
been exposed and have lost their lives while working
as agents for the "security forces". In
fact several informants lost their lives at the hands
of other informants. In many instances British Military
Intelligence was the final arbiter in relation to
which informant would live and who would meet their
death. Some of those who were exposed and killed had
outlived their usefulness. Their lives were eliminated
at the behest of their former paymasters in the British
state. They were sacrificed to protect a better placed
informant, like pawns in a game of chess.
of the better known informants like Eamon Collins
from Newry met with a violent death when he became
expendable. It is widely believed that Tom Oliver
was a Garda informant and that he was killed to prevent
the exposure of another informant believed to be "Stakeknife".
Billy Stobie was killed long before he ever appeared
in a Belfast Court Room, where he would have been
in a position to publicly identify the members of
the "security forces" who had ordered the
killing of Pat Finucane.
Nelson, the FRU's UDA agent, was widely believed to
have been responsible for as many as 29 murders. Exposed
by the Stevens inquiry and of no further value to
his FRU handlers, Nelson eventually ended up with
a short prison sentence as part of a deal designed
to prevent him becoming a 'whistle-blower'. At this
time it is unclear if he is alive or dead. His paymasters
have recently reported that he died from natural causes
while under protective custody following his release
from prison. However, it seems that Nelson's family
are not convinced and are calling on the British government
to produce his death certificate. Former British soldier
Kevin Fulton who befriended republican activists and
gained their confidence while continually passing
informing to his British 'handlers' is now also 'surplus
to requirements'. For the moment he is still alive
and on the run from the IRA and his former paymasters
in MI5. Martin Ingram, another exposed agent, is in
a similar position to Fulton.
the mid 1980's the IRA informer Sean O'Callaghan,
who according to himself, arranged the murder of John
Corcoran, another IRA "informer" from Cork.
O'Callaghan has previously stated that he informed
the Gardai where John Corcoran was being held and
therefore expected the Gardai to intervene and save
Corcoran's life. But the Gardai did nothing. They
allowed the murder to proceed, lest the identity of
their most valuable informer [O'Callaghan] be compromised.
latest startling exposure in the intelligence world
is that of the informer codenamed "Stakeknife".
The most bizarre aspect of this revelation is the
number of other double agents who are coming out of
the woodwork to point the finger at the individual
alleged to be "Stakeknife". Some say he
is "Stakeknife". Others including himself
reject the allegation. But to the discerning eye there
is a more sinister agenda behind this latest MI5 exposure.
individual accused of being "Stakeknife"
has applied to the Belfast High Court for a judicial
review in order to force a British minister to confirm
that he is not "Stakeknife". However it
is doubtful if the British will comment in relation
to the identity of the British Army's top spy over
the past 20 years. In fact the court action will confuse
the issue further rather than resolve who "Stakeknife"
actually is. Speculation in relation to "Stakeknife's"
real identity will continue for years to come.
informers are lucky enough to remain alive after they
have been exposed. However their lives are irrevocably
transformed. They are provided with a new identity
and a new place of residence. The informant may be
permanently disguised by having their features altered
by plastic surgery. The informant will be promised
that at all times their family will be under the protection
of vigilant police officers. However, one breach in
these protective arrangements and the informant is
doomed. In many instances the promise of a happy and
prosperous new life abroad is a deceit. When the agent
becomes worthless, paymasters simply discard their
previously 'valuable intelligence asset' and move
only has to look at the recent fate of the British
agent Martin McGartland. He was given a new identity
and home which in his own words was a "damp flat
in England". His whereabouts eventually became
known to the IRA and he was seriously wounded during
an attempt on his life. In the final analysis, informants
are pawns in a dirty intelligence war. Once they have
outlived their usefulness they are removed and replaced
by another more willing traitor.
is ignored throughout this shadowy world of informing
and double-dealing is the devastation and tragedy
left behind by agents, their handlers, their bosses
and ultimately the Governments to whom they are responsible.
In the never ending war of intelligence gathering,
the faceless paymasters who direct the activities
of informers remain continually on the look out for
a more willing and treacherous recruit. Once identified,
their latest 'catch' takes his or her place on the
never ending conveyer belt of informants, all the
time hoping that they can evade detection by their
colleagues or sacrifice by their paymasters.
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