“As for Martin McGuinness informing on his comrades, there was never any evidence that he ever did, though the British state counter-insurgency certainly started to orbit McGuinness from the late 1970s and early 1980s” – Willie Carlin
FORMER British agent Willie Carlin has claimed that he saw Martin McGuinness leaving a safe house in Co Derry linked to MI5 in the 1980s. Mr Carlin makes the claim in his book Thatcher’s Spy: My Life as an MI5 Agent Inside Sinn Féin. However, he says that despite what he saw, he does not believe Mr McGuinness worked for British intelligence. Mr Carlin worked as an MI5 and British army agent inside Sinn Féin for more than a decade before his cover was blown in 1985. In his new book he reveals how he supplied information about the party’s political direction to the security service and later the British army’s FRU Force Research Unit.
It has previously been reported that Mr McGuinness had contact with MI6 officer Michael Oatley (who also attended his funeral) as part of a secret back channel between the British government and the IRA. Now Mr Carlin has claimed that he saw the future deputy first minister leaving a house used by British intelligence in 1980. He said he himself had previously used the house near Limavady in Co Derry when meeting a handler known as ‘Ben’. It later emerged that ‘Ben’ was Michael Bettaney, who was jailed in 1984 for passing sensitive documents to the Soviet embassy in London and was seeking to work for them.
Mr Carlin claims that while in jail in England his former handler revealed his activities to IRA prisoners. In the book he says how he he was making his way to meet ‘Ben’ in Carnlough, Co Antrim, when he drove past the ‘spook’ safe house he had previously visited. “As I drove up the road a red Peugeot came out of the gates of the house and headed back to Limavady, coming straight towards me,” he wrote. “I had the shock of my life, for there in the passenger seat was Martin McGuinness, bent forward as if he was reading or looking at something on his knee.” Stunned, he said he wondered “what the hell Martin McGuinness doing coming of an MI5 house” as he carried on his journey.
Several weeks later Mr Carlin was to have an anxious encounter after ‘Ben’ turned up outside the Sinn Féin man’s house in Derry. “One afternoon after seeing Ben I was heading back to Derry to attend a meeting on Cable Street when I spotted Ben sitting in a car outside Martin McGuinness’s house,” he wrote. “Ben had often told me that if he could meet McGuinness he could ‘put him wise’ and let him know what was really going on ‘behind his back’.” Mr Carlin recalls how he feared that the MI5 man may be spotted by locals and if interrogated could reveal his role as a spy. He then approached the handler and urged him to leave the area.
“Listen Ben’, I said with some urgency, ‘you’re sticking out here like a sore thumb and it won’t be long before someone arrives and will challenge you’,” he wrote. “So, for f***k sake get out of here before you get us both killed’. “That seemed to sober him up a bit because he started his engine and left.” Later in the book Mr Carlin says that despite what he saw, and claims subsequently made by former FRU handler Ian Hurst, he does not believe
Mr McGuinness worked for British intelligence. “As for Martin McGuinness informing on his comrades, there was never any evidence that he ever did, though the British state counter-insurgency certainly started to orbit McGuinness from the late 1970s and early 1980s,”he wrote. “I think the British became aware sooner than the public imagined that there was a man they could do business with.” Mr Carlin said that later in 1980 he decided to part company with MI5 over his distrust of his handler.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story
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