MI5 officers bound to report abuse if evidence was uncovered, Kincora inquiry told

The former Kincora Boys home
The former Kincora Boys home

A retired MI5 officer has insisted the Security Service would have been duty bound to take action if it uncovered evidence of abuse at Kincora boys’ home.

The officer, known as 9347, was giving evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, which is examining claims that intelligence agencies covered up the crimes committed by a paedophile ring in the east Belfast home in order to blackmail some alleged high-profile abusers.

Three senior care workers Joseph Mains, Raymond Semple and William McGrath were convicted of abusing boys at Kincora in 1980, but it has long been alleged that other more prominent figures, including politicians, judges, civil servants and police officers, were also involved.

It has also been claimed that McGrath, who had links to a shadowy Protestant paramilitary organisation known as Tara, was working as an MI5 agent.

Officer 9347 was being questioned about a classified MI5 document from 1982 that noted a military intelligence officer who was seeking permission in 1975 to interview a man with alleged links to McGrath and Tara was told he could go ahead, but not to question him about “deviant sexual activity”.

The military intelligence officer was Brian Gemmell, who has since gone public with claims MI5 warned him against investigating abuse claims at Kincora.

Mr Gemmell said he was told to stay clear of Kincora after filing a report to a senior MI5 officer on allegations related to the home.

Officer 9347, who succeeded the officer Mr Gemmell claims warned him off, suggested the “deviant sexual activity” referred to claims of homosexuality among Tara members, not child abuse.

Giving evidence via video-link, he said MI5 was not interested in the sexuality of those involved in Tara, but insisted it would have acted if it uncovered claims of sexual abuse.

The officer told the inquiry that “serious criminal activities that appeared in the course of intelligence operations we would be bound to report it to relevant authorities”.

He added: “I would have encouraged, indeed insisted, that anything of a serious nature was reported.”

The officer said he had never seen any document that suggested MI5 was aware of the Kincora allegations before they became public in the early 1980s.

“I don’t remember any (document) of that kind,” he told the inquiry.

The retired officer worked in Northern Ireland from 1981 to 1983 and was not involved in the region when the abuse was committed.

He was giving evidence about papers he wrote in 1982 on records he had examined from the mid-1970s relating to Mr Gemmell’s activities.

He noted that at the time of writing in 1982 the Army had been unable to find the report Captain Gemmell said he filed on Kincora.

The long-running HIA, chaired by retired High Court Judge Sir Anthony Hart, is examining allegations of child abuse in children’s homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.

The inquiry continues.