Ed Moloney and James Kinchin-White have tonight published a new document from the National Archives featuring some interesting discussions about intelligence between senior Army officers in 1973. However, the evidence for their conclusion, that it points to a high-level army source inside the IRA, seems to me to be flawed.
The relevant document is an account of a meeting on 24 May 1973 between the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland (GOC NI) Frank King and the Vice Chief of the General Staff Sir David Fraser.
The final item in the record states:
h. Brocolli. VCGS brought the GOC up to date and discussed the problem of protection of the source.
It is this single cryptic reference that Moloney and Kinchin-White interpret as evidence of an agent in the IRA, raising the obvious alternative possibilities only to dismiss them:
There is no clue about “Brocolli’s” identity, not even that it is a person rather than a thing, and nor is it at all clear whether “Brocolli” is associated with Republican paramilitaries rather than Loyalists. However the paper makes an earlier reference to the fact that the Army now has “good intelligence” on the UDA and the absence of a reference to “Brocolli” at this point in the discussion suggests it was not a Loyalist source. That points to a Republican connection and, since the Provisional IRA was the British Army’s principal foe in 1973, that “Brocolli” was somehow associated with that camp.
However, there is an obvious reason why Brocolli might not have been mentioned in the earlier discussion of intelligence in Item B of the document. In that item, as in most of the document, the discussion was led by the GOC, Frank King, and largely concerned operations with which he would have been involved at Headquarters Northern Ireland (HQNI). For example, it mentions the Special Reconnaissance Unit, which was under the direct command of HQNI. It also discusses liaison with the Director and Co-ordinator of Intelligence (DCI), Fred Rowley, who was also based in Belfast. (Incidentally, while Moloney and Kinchin-White suggest Rowley was MI5, his recent Times obituary confirms he was an MI6 officer.)