There is growing momentum for the the Child Sex Abuse Inquiry to look at Northern Ireland's Kincora scandal, but a key piece of evidence linking Kincora and the Paedophile Information Exchange suggests that access to intelligence documents will be crucial to any new investigation.
Last month former army officer Colin Wallace told Spinwatch of his willingness to testify to the Child Sex Abuse Inquiry about historical abuse at the Kincora Boys' Home in Belfast during the 1970s. Our report also highlighted allegations by other un-named army officers, one of whom, Brian Gemmell, has since come forward publicly.
Amnesty International's call for the abuse inquiry to look at Kincora has received widespread support in recent weeks. A victim of abuse at home, Clint Massey, has waived his right to anonymity in order to speak out.
The issue's significance was underlined when it emerged that former attorney-general Michael Havers had acted to limit the scope of a previous investigation of Kincora in 1984. The revelation by Exaro News was swiftly followed by the resignation of Havers' sister, Baroness Elizabeth-Sloss, as chair of the inquiry.
The judge in that earlier inquiry, William Hughes, said in his final report that "The conduct of the police, or elected representatives, or clergymen, or military intelligence, or any other persons, who may have been in receipt of allegations, information or rumours relating to Kincora, or any other home, was not under scrutiny in this inquiry."
British military intelligence in Northern Ireland produced a number of documents about Kincora, which formed the basis of Colin Wallace's attempts to persuade journalists to take up the story in the mid-1970s. A number of these documents were later published by Paul Foot as appendices to his book, Who Framed Colin Wallace?
They included a briefing provided by Army intelligence to the Information Policy unit at HQ Northern Ireland in 1973. It described a shadowy loyalist paramilitary group known as Tara and it's leader:
The OC is William MCGRATH. He is a known homosexual who has conned many people into membership by threatening them with revealing homosexual activities which he himself initiated. He is a prominent figure in Unionist Party politics and in the Orange Order.
McGrath uses a non-existent evangelical mission as a front for his homosexual activities and also runs a home for children on the (236) Upper Newtonards Road, Belfast (Tel: B'fast 657838).
On the 8 November 1974, Colin Wallace wrote a memo highlighting the abuse of inmates at this hostel, the Kincora Boys' Home. His conclusion, cited in Paul Foot's book, was that the Army should seek to have matter investigated by the RUC and by responsible journalists, something that ultimately did not happen for another six years.
The earlier 1973 memo on Tara made no direct mention of child abuse, but it did include one largely un-noticed detail that may link Kincora to parallel scandals in Britain.
A handwritten annotation at the bottom of the document reads:
'Ulster's children of conflict', New Society 15 April 1971. Dr M. Fraser? RVH
This is a reference to Dr Morris Fraser, a child psychologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, who wrote extensively about the impact of the Troubles on children. But what possible significance could he have in relation to Tara?
In May 1973, Fraser was charged with sexual offences against boys in the United States. If this prompted Army Intelligence to make a speculative link to Tara, it would tend to strengthen the case that the Army was aware of child abuse at Kincora.
If Fraser's link to Kincora/Tara were proven, it would imply a direct link between Kincora and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) founded in 1974, of which Fraser was a member. This is a particularly troubling possibility given that the allegations surrounding both PIE and Kincora include claims that perpetrators were protected for intelligence purposes.
At a minimum, the Wallace documents provide powerful evidence that some in authority were aware of abuse at Kincora some six years before any action was taken to put an end to it.
When those documents first emerged in the 1980s, there were suggestions that they were forgeries. As Paul Foot noted at the time, the best evidence for their authenticity was the shifty reaction of the British Government, who should have been in a position to debunk any such fabrication.
In 1989, Labour's Kevin McNamara, wrote to Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke, noting that Foot had received an opinion from forensic expert Robert Radley supporting the authenticity of Wallace's memo of 8 November 1974. In response, Brooke claimed that the document was of limited value without further testimony from Wallace to the Hughes Inquiry.
He thus glossed over the fact that Hughes had no remit to examine what the Army and intelligence agencies knew about Kincora, and that it was unable to offer Wallace legal immunity in relation to his testimony on that central issue.
Paul Foot wrote of this response in 1990:
Mr Brooke's reaction, even when approached by the Labour front bench, was to ignore the point at issue altogether; to make no inquiry into the authenticity of the document or the accuracy of Mr Radley's report, but to fall back on the lame excuse that Colin did not give evidence to the Hughes Inquiry. The Hughes Inquiry, as has been made clear here again and again, could not investigate security or intelligence matters; and therefore could not even ask the question whether or not the Army and intelligence knew about Kincora, let alone answer it. There is about Brooke's replies in this correspondence as strong a stench of cover-up in high places as there is from any other corner of this dark and dismal story.
A quarter of a century later, Foot's suspicions have been vindicated. It now appears that the narrow mandate of the Hughes Inquiry had been drawn up by Sir Michael Havers after Cabinet-level discussions rejected a full public inquiry into Kincora.
It is vital that the new Child Sex Abuse Inquiry does not repeat Hughes' failure. As Amnesty's Patrick Corrigan has said:
For this new inquiry to have credibility, the government must do things differently.
The entire purpose of the inquiry is to lift the lid on this grim chapter – there should be no barriers to people saying what they know.
These are deeply disturbing claims - that MI5 turned a blind eye to child abuse and actively blocked a police investigation, instead using the paedophile ring for its own intelligence-gathering purposes.
The Home Secretary must announce the inclusion of Kincora in the inquiry and an exemption so that army officers and others bound by the Official Secrets Act can finally speak freely.
The focus must be the protection of children, rather than officials and their dirty secrets.