I’m baffled. Honestly. As a non-military or spook-person, I don’t understand the latest claims that nearly half those in the IRA leadership were in fact British agents. We know that some IRA people – the various supergrasses, Denis Donaldson – were working for the British from within republican paramilitary ranks. But nearly half?
My first bafflement is, how all those agents must have been central to all the things the IRA did - shootings, explosions, killings. If they'd kept coming up with excuses for being elsewhere each time violence was planned or occurred, wouldn’t somebody have smelt a rat? And if they were directly involved, wouldn’t that have placed them in Alice in Wonderland? In order to bring an end to the IRA’s violent actions, they were…um…performing violent IRA actions. Or master-minding them. Or both. Am I missing something here?
The second bafflement is, how on earth was the IRA so successful for so long? As a paramilitary force, it was acknowledged as one of the most effective in the world – very often by people who detested it. But how in God’s name could a force like that have so many of its leading figures British agents? Imagine if half the British forces that sailed to the Falklands had been in fact Argentine agents. Is it likely that Thatcher would have been able to arrange the sinking of The Belgrano without interference? Wouldn’t the British forces have been hopelessly confused, with all those agents in their ranks?
My third bafflement relates to cui bono - who gains from this kind of claim? Certainly not republicans – it undermines what they would present as a heroic campaign against the British forces that went on for decades. If this heroism could be transformed into instead a pack of fools continually deceived by their shrewd British enemies, think what a wonderfully demoralizing effect that might have on republican energies and ambitions today?
If you can pollute the waters in which your enemy swims, you’ve got him licked. But you have to be sure that what you’re pouring into those waters is concentrated, 100% garbage.