This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 8 2016.
An article I published in Ceylon Today last August has been shared by a few people recently. The article dealt with current UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of action during the Islington care homes scandal which erupted in the late 80s. Corbyn is facing a re-election contest. Despite the fact that most of the parliamentary Labour Party have deserted him, it seems likely that he will remain leader because he has the backing of Labour Party members outside parliament.
Matthew Collings (a British art critic, writer, TV presenter, and artist) raised the pertinent question on Facebook: given his unpopularity with journalists, why have the English media not given more prominence to allegations that Jeremy Corbyn did not assist, and may have obstructed, the investigations into allegations of sexual abuse of children in council-run care homes in his constituency of Islington in north London? Collings said that he took a particular interest in the matter because he himself missed secondary education, receiving therapy instead at the Finchden Manor Community, a haven for disturbed teenage boys. I have canvassed a number of people in ‘the media’ and done some digging around.
There are still many unanswered questions about the Islington scandal. Islington was not on the agenda of Judge Goddard’s historical abuse inquiry because no one submitted it to her. Goddard has now resigned and been replaced by Alexis Jay, who led the official inquiry into the Rotherham scandal, which found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in the town between 1997 and 2013. She is the fourth person to head the inquiry. How long will she last? The satirical magazine Private Eye has referred to the passing of the baton by Britain’s top female relay team.
An informed source told me that a senior political figure claims that the cross-party silence on allegations about Westminster paedophile rings stems from the involvement of the security services in relation to Northern Ireland. There are connections between Kincora and Islington.
The Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast was the scene of serious organised child sexual abuse and an attempted cover-up. Allegations of abuse first surfaced in 1977. There were credible allegations that the state colluded in a cover up. On 3 April 1980, three members of staff at the home, William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains, were charged with a number of offences relating to the systematic sexual abuse of children in their care over a number of years; they were all convicted.
In April 1990, a writer called Robert Harbinson (aka Robin Bryans) stated in the Dublin-based magazine Now that Lord Mountbatten and others were involved in an old-boy network which held gay orgies in country houses, as well as at the Kincora Boys’ Home. Another writer, Stephen Prior, in his 2002 book War of the Windsors, claimed that rumours had “linked (Lord Mountbatten) with the notorious scandal surrounding the Kincora Boys’ Home…”.“(Lord Mountbatten) was also said to have an interest in what homosexuals call ‘rough trade’ and to be particularly attracted to working-class boys in their early teens.” Mountbatten was murdered by the Provisional IRA in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland on 27 August 1979.
The Kincora case has become live again because the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) began examining allegations relating to Kincora on 31 May 2016, including claims that there was a paedophile ring at the home with links to the intelligence services. Sir Anthony Hart, chairman of the HIA said possible “systemic failures to prevent such abuse” will be investigated. He said that a number of state bodies will be examined, including the RUC. He also confirmed that MI5 and MI6 will be investigated and both will be legally represented at the inquiry. The then Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said that all state agencies would co-operate with the inquiry. James Brokenshire was appointed Northern Ireland Secretary of State by Theresa May on July 14 2016. We will await news of Brokenshire’s performance on Kincora.
Many years ago, Private Eye alleged that high-ranking civil servants and senior military officers were sexually abusing boys at Kincora. https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/tag/kincora-boys-home/. Former army intelligence officer Brian Gemmell said a senior MI5 officer told him to stop looking into claims of abuse at Kincora. He said he presented a report on the allegations to the officer in 1975. “He bawled me out. He was rude and offensive and hostile.”
Another former Army officer, Colin Wallace, suffered worse than rudeness. Wallace said he received intelligence in 1973 to say that boys were being abused, and claims his superiors refused to pass on the information.
Wallace was wrongly convicted of manslaughter in 1981, for which he spent six years in gaol. The conviction was later quashed in the light of new evidence. Paul Foot, in his book Who framed Colin Wallace? suggested that Wallace may have been framed for the killing to discredit the allegations he was making. During the appeal hearing, a Home Office pathologist, Dr Ian West, admitted that some of the evidence that he had used at Wallace’s trial had been supplied to him by “an American security source”. In June 1998, a former Special Branch officer who was familiar with the Wallace case wrote to Paul Foot saying: “I sincerely believe that Colin Wallace was ‘fitted up’ by corrupt members of the Establishment embarrassed by the events described in the early part of your book”. Alex Carlile QC (now Lord Carlile), then the SDP–Liberal Alliance’s Legal Affairs spokesman, issued a statement saying: “It is clear that Colin Wallace, a principled man, knew too much about the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal.”
In 1987, a former senior Ministry of Defence civil servant (once described to me by another mandarin as a “tough cookie”), Clive Ponting, said that he had attended high-level meetings with MI5 officers to discuss Wallace. “There was never any suspicion that Wallace was making these stories up or that it was totally unfounded and very easy to rubbish. It was very much a matter that, OK the story was being contained at the moment because he was in jail, but that in a few years’ time he would be back out again and could be expected to start making the allegations again and then that would be a serious problem.”
In the House of Commons, in 1990, the Government admitted that Ministers had “inadvertently misled” (code for “lied”) Parliament over Wallace’s role. Mrs Thatcher wrote: “I regret to say that a re-examination of departmental papers has brought to light information which shows that there were a number of statements in my letters, and in other Ministerial statements and official correspondence, which were incorrect or require clarification.”
In his 1999 book The Dirty War, Martin Dillon claimed that McGrath (convicted of child abuse at Kincora), who was also the leader of an obscure loyalist paramilitary group called Tara, may have been employed by MI5 since the 1960s and was being blackmailed into providing intelligence on other loyalist groups.
The Belfast News Letter reported that files on Kincora were “conspicuously absent” from the routine January 2013 release of 1982 government papers by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) under the 30-year rule.
In a recent item in Private Eye (issue 1425 September 1 2016), it was revealed that thousands of historic files remain suppressed long after the 30-year rule should have released them. This is because the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives is dominated by former diplomats, senior police officers and civil servants and shadowy figures from the world of espionage.
As well as ignoring the Islington abuse, the Goddard Inquiry also set aside the Kincora boys’ home case. Some campaigners had wanted Kincora to be investigated as part of the wider Westminster inquiry into historical child abuse, which they argue has more powers than the devolved HIA inquiry.
I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. However, there are times when people really do conspire to cover up evil deeds. Particular areas which are prone to this are paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland. All those ingredients are mixed up in this brew together with the peculiarities of Labour politics of the 1970s, which shaped the Corbyn we have today.
More about Labour Party history next week.