Skip to main content

tv   Hard Talk  BBC News  December 23, 2019 4:30am-5:01am GMT

4:30 am
people have fled syrian government attacks on rebel—held territory in idlib province, and he's insisted his country couldn't cope with a new wave of refugees who might attempt to cross the border. there've been reports of civilian deaths in air strikes on towns and villages. more than 100 bushfires are still burning in new south wales in australia. as firefighters struggle to control blazes, prime minister scott morrison has acknowledged a link between global warming and extreme weather, but doubled down on his committment to the coal industry. in india, prime minister and hindu nationalist leader narendra modi has tried to calm anger over a controversial new citizenship law, saying indian muslims have nothing to fear. at least 20 people have been killed in days of protests over the law.
4:31 am
now on bbc news it's hardtalk with stephen sackur. he interviews former spy willie carlin. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. the long and bloody conflict in northern ireland was known euphemistically as the troubles. one aspect of it got a separate label, the dirty war. that was the name given to the covert operations of the british state — both army and intelligence — infiltrating the ira, running informers and agents to undermine the republican this is the briefing. movement from within. i'm ben bland. our top story: one agent was my guest today, willie carlin, who became an undercover spy within syria's refugee crisis worsens. the political wing turkey's president warns eighty of the ira, sinn fein. thousand people have fled fighting he's written a book in idlib province. exposing his secrets. how does he justify what he did? calls for a government inquiry, after another racism row rocks english football. campaigners say racist
4:32 am
incidents are on the rise. nine dead as storms and flash floods hit spain and portugal. monday could bring more severe weather. # it's a beautiful day in this neighbourhood. # a beautiful day for a neighbour... and fresh from playing an american tv icon, candid confessions from tom hanks. iam kind of loud, iam needy in some ways, i'm a wisenheimer. willie carlin, welcome to hardtalk. thank you for having me. it is actually quite extraordinary having you in the studio given you were an undercover spy in the ‘70s and the ‘80s at an extraordinarily dangerous, sensitive time in northern ireland and you then went in hiding, you lived in secret. why have you now, later in life, decided to come out of the shadows? i think it's because it's time. you know, i'm 71 now. and for the past, since 1985 to quite recently, i've been reading books about 50 dead men
4:33 am
walking and how i saved, and i thought, when is anybody ever going to write a story about the truth of what has happened in derry? i've read many books about belfast, armagh, newry. so i thought, "0k, i'lljust go back over my memory," and see where it all fits in. my original manuscript starts the day i was born. well, i'm going to stop you right there because here you sit telling this story that has been long kept secret, and i think we do have to begin at the beginning because it is, for many people i think watching and listening to this, it's going to be very hard to understand how a boy, raised in a catholic family in one of the most nationalist areas, neighbourhoods of the city derry in northern ireland, how you could — before you chose to become an agent, a spy — how you could originally decide to serve in the british, the british army, as a republican and a nationalist.
4:34 am
well, i was born in 1940, i'm a war baby. my father had been in the inniskilling fusiliers, and lots of young boys growing up my age, their parents, their fathers, had been in the british army. catholics as well. catholics. now, when i enquired aboutjoining the army, my father didn't see a problem because in 1965—66, in my regiment, there's 25 young guys my age from derry. so it was something that we did because our fathers did. and as you say, it was before the troubles really took hold. but, let us now move forward to the crucial year of 1974 when you'd served nine years or so in the british army, you wanted to come home and you were approached by m15, by intelligence officers, asking you if you would go home and act as an agent, informing on your own community and in particular, aiming to inform in the longer run on sinn fein, the political wing of the ira. how carefully did you think about the decision?
4:35 am
i didn't want to go home. i wanted to go back to germany and get promotion. i was offered promotion. but to go backjust a few months before that, my wife and i had a little girl called sharon and she died of a cot death, six months. and it was decided that she should go home for a while to be with her mummy and daddy. now, she lived in a protestant area. anyway, when she came back, she was lording it about "derry‘s great, there's no problems", "it's only if you go to the derry side", and i tried to figure how am i going to... because she was bereaved, as was i. so i thought, i know what i'll do, i'll ask my colonel, get me word on the ground, there's got to be better information than that, and i thought he would get me a letter and i would be able to give it to my wife and show her that i'll be dead if i go back there, but the opposite happened. that information went up the ladder
4:36 am
to m15 and they wanted me to meet them and i did. and to be blunt about it, they saw you with all the background we've just discussed, as a hugely, potentially useful intelligence asset and that is what you became. i remember saying to this man, "listen, i'm just a clerk in the army." he says, "no you're not, you're a nationalist from creggan". and then he went on to tell me, which i didn't know, he went on to tell me that bloody sunday wasn't what it was made out to be and the fact that i had a niece that had been shot dead in derry. i was told through bfes in germany that she'd been rioting. so he painted a different picture for me. so in fact you had many reasons to hate the british but in fact you were embraced by the british, persuaded to work for the british. correct. i suppose one of the important questions is — over the coming years from 1974 through to the early ‘80s, how did you persuade the republican movement, including extremely seniorfigures like martin mcguinness who had been an ira commander at the very top,
4:37 am
how did you persuade all these people to trust you? well, i settled down in a little house in a state on the waterside. staunch republican. and they came to me and wanted my discharge papers etc, just to make sure that i was really out of the british army. and one of the instructions i got from the people that sent me there was... your handlers? yeah. get involved in community work, have nothing to do with the ira. in fact, they said to me, if you report anything to do with the ira, my people will have to tell people and you'll be compromised, so stay away from it. get involved in community action. and, you know, do this. so i became, over the years, the person to go to in that estate if you wanted something done. you were winning trust all this time. correct, and in fact, it got to the point where sinn fein people and ira people used to come to me to ask me, could i do something
4:38 am
about their mother's electric, or could i go over to the job centre and appeal this person was turned down for benefit, and i won these cases. and eventually, because of this relationship of trust, the community activism you were doing, you did get close to martin mcguinness. absolutely. now, at the time, he was a real big figure in the ira. yes, he was 0c northern command. and you, it seems, were tasked with trying to figure out whether he was interested in developing a political organisation and approach to the northern ireland troubles. that's what the british wanted to know. yes. so how were you able to get it to mcguinness‘s head? well, what happened was, during the hunger strike when bobby sands died. this is the very early ‘80s. yes, very early. there was the election in fermanagh south tyrone, the hunger strike, bobby sands...
4:39 am
1981. and anybody that was anybody, not even people in sinn fein, were recruited to go up there and help with canvas and help with voting and stealing votes and stuff to get this man elected. so that was my introduction to working with sinn fein people. now then, back in derry, a year later, the british government decided that there would be a northern ireland assembly and it was decided that martin would stand. so they needed canvas teams, they needed people who knew what they were doing. i had experience from bobby sands‘s election. so i went to one of the meetings and from there i was recruited as one of the people, it was myjob to get martin elected to the northern ireland assembly in 1982 and even my handlers told me, and i've read it in the book, they said to me,
4:40 am
look, it is vital that he gets elected. you do whatever you need to do. now, when you tell me that, that your british intelligence handlers were telling you to ensure that martin mcguinness got elected, became a leader of republicans, both political as well as underground military in northern ireland, it has perhaps played into a narrative amongst some in the republican movement that martin mcguinness must have been in some way or other an agent. he must have had links, ties to the british. he's always denied it, but what do you think? well, i've got mixed feelings about it. martin mcguinness had authorisation from the army council, way back as early as the mid—70s, to deal on a back channel with those people who were looking for an alternative way to solve this problem. and do you think that's why the british saw mcguinness as somebody that ultimately, from a very early stage, they could do business with? yes, of course they could.
4:41 am
you see, you have to understand something. there's a famous quote. and you think, well, why were they trying to deal with mcguinness? gerry adams was the man. well, in weston park in 2001, all the parties were gathered there, including tony blair, and mark durkan, the leader of the sdlp at the time, complained about the amount of attention that martin was getting and he told them, he says, "listen, mark, you've got no guns". the most famous quote that i rememberfrom mcguinness was, "the ballot box will never deliver our freedom, only the cutting—edge of the ira will bring our freedom." that's absolutely right. in 1982, when we were trying to get him elected, we used to put up posters, martin's photograph was on it, saying, "we will never achieve united ireland through stormont." yes, he continued to believe in the arms struggle. exactly. but listen, i want to bring it back to the personal. if martin mcguinness had known that you were a spy, you were informing to your british handlers on every move, every thought he had, you would have been killed. i'd have been dead. and in fact, many times, i thought that i'd been compromised. you had this thing
4:42 am
in your head all the time. you lived with fear all the time. oh, i used to get phone calls at 1am in the morning — "can you come and see me and don't bring your car". and i thought, "that's it, i'm dead." but you weren't just risking yourself, you were risking your family. um... yeah, selfish as it sounds, iwas, yeah. well, it is selfish. yeah, i was. did you think hard about that level of selfishness? um... i didn't really, you know, because here's the thing, it's hard to explain, i was living on adrenaline. it's the greatest drug ever. in fact, when i left ireland, i didn't know what to do with myself i wasn't on the drug anymore. and then i've metjournalists over the years and they told me the same thing, happened to them, no more troubles, no more shooting, no more trying to walk two sides of the street at the same time. now i'm going to see westlife at the 02 centre. they went through the same thing. you're telling me that your life as an informer, an agent, a spy, it actually was the buzz you needed.
4:43 am
absolutely loved it! oh, my god. there's nothing greater than thinking you're going to get shot and you get into bed and think, i'm not shot... every day? ..i'm going out again tomorrow. you can live on that every day? yes. yeah, but i come back to the selfishness. because let us now get back to your, they call it ‘extraction‘ from northern ireland. yes, yes. because there came a day in 1985 where your handlers, now in military intelligence, learned that you had been compromised. yes. a former handler of yours — it's a complicated story — but turned out to be a russian spy... correct! ..and in prison, he had met some ira people and he told those ira people that martin mcguinness had a close associate who was working for the brits and it was you, willie carlin. you were in big trouble. the brits decided to get you out, they literally commandeered margaret thatcher's private plane, they brought it to northern ireland to ghost you out of northern ireland. correct. but you had to take your
4:44 am
wife and your kids. they were given, what, an hour or two to pack? 0ne suitcase. leave everything. what impact did that have on your family on your family? well, i remember coming in and saying to mary, "look, i've been doing something for the last number of years and i've been caught." and... were you honest? did you say mary, i have essentially lived a lie with you for these last nine years or whatever it was. and now, because of my lying, you and the kids have to get on this plane and you'll probably never see northern ireland again? well, over the years, i used to think, "i wonder, should i tell her?" and then i thought, "now, if i tell her and she has this information, if i'm ever caught, they'll shoot her too, so i'm not going to tell her." because there were people who left derry, informers, and their wives were able to return because they were seen to as not knowing very much about it. so i decided, "look, selfish as it sounds, i'm not going to tell her." and that's why i didn't tell her. but, you know, here was i, this wee boy from creggan, working in sinn fein and i was on the comhairle ceantair, i then got promoted. i made a speech about raising funds
4:45 am
because i was the treasurer of sinn fein in derry. you were quite a big shot, yeah. and at the same time, i had to keep reminding myself, you know, "wait a minute!" because i'd seen some terrible things that the british army did and i'd seen some terrible things that the ruc did, and i'd seen some terrible things the ira did. so i mean, at one time i had kind of divided loyalties and i had to keep reminding myself, listen, you're a soldier, you're undercover, stay focused. yourjob is to get this political thing even off to its first baby steps. but when you say you had to remind yourself you were a soldier, you were a soldier in a war where your own family and community were on the other side. correct. you were, and i'm going to be blunt about it, you were a traitor. and when you left, because the brits
4:46 am
had to get you out to save your life, when you left, you had to face the fact that you'd basically cut your ties and become isolated from your own home, pretty much forever. well, let me deal with just a couple of things here. and you're absolutely right. because i used to think ‘what the hell are you? what are you? what have you done?‘ and here's how i work it out. i was never one of them. i went in there to pretend to be one of them. you know, an informer is someone who turns on their comrades like denis donaldson did or raymond gilmour did. i mean, i didn't go there. i was not betraying my conscience. you're saying you weren't a traitor... they weren't my comrades. ..because you never pretended to be? but that's not isn't entirely true, is it? and you're right, when i first left they had this guilt trip. did you? but now when i look at things i think, wait a minute. in the long game, look where martin got?
4:47 am
look where he ended up? he was the peacemaker. the baby steps that we took to get him elected in 1982 made it possible for government people to talk to an elected representative. so you can justify to yourself by saying i was one piece of that jigsaw. .. a wee, tiny piece. ..which lead to peace in northern ireland. absolutely. no doubt in my mind. but, well, i can imagine that helps you sleep at night... yeah. ..but it doesn't really address the problem you've got with your own family. for example, and one thing that people won't know is that your own sister, doreen, when you were teenagers and you decided to join the british army, she made a very different decision. she joined the other band. yeah. shejoined the women's wing of the ira. correct. she was your direct enemy, your sister. well, i wouldn't say — i wasn't that close to me sister when i was living there. no, but let us be honest. you decided to throw in your lot with the british state. yep. she decided to throw in her lot with the ira. but it's not even just about her, it's your entire wider family and community. they could never, and even today, in 2019, they will never forgive you for what you did.
4:48 am
well, you're actually wrong there. i'm in touch with people all the time, even ex—volunteers, members of sinn fein, even, who say listen, at the time we hated you but when we think about it, you actually helped us. really? absolutely. you have sensed forgiveness, have you? absolutely. i mean, what about, what about — again, i don't wish to delve into all the private pain. no, carry on. but you've had a lot of loss in your life. 0h, geez, oh, terrible. and it's difficult to talk about, but you lost two of your grown—up children. yes. one in a car crash, one to a horrible blood disease. they died far too young. yep. they were buried in northern ireland. yeah. you couldn't even go to the funeral. no. in fact, i think you have said "i couldn't even send flowers because they might be able to trace where i'd sent them from." yeah, i wanted to go to me daughter's funeral, and i booked a flight into stansted, i booked another flight to derry. and while i was waiting in the departure lounge, these people sat beside me and said "listen, if you go there, you'll become the story
4:49 am
and your daughter won't get buried in peace." and all i could do was sit there and let the flight leave. and then when me son died, just earlier this year, they reminded me not to send flowers because where he comes from, there's only one florist. and if they see a wreath with your name on it, even my daughter's headstone, we had to discuss what to put on it. and it was decided not to put my name on it in case people find out who she really was and vandalise the grave. that's the sort of thing i go through. what does that do to you? it, well... you kind of have to stay focused and stay look, i hadn't seen my daughter in 15 years. this is going to sound really cold. if you've been around someone every day and that person dies, it devastates you. but if you haven't seen someone for 15 years and you've only spoken to them occasionally, let's put it this way, it's not as hard to take. you know?
4:50 am
you can handle it. and, listen, i've been handling that all my life. i've been to that many funerals it doesn't make sense. but does it, willie carlin, feel like it was worth it? absolutely. i only have to close my eyes and see tony blair, albert reynolds, martin mcguinness, ian paisley, secretary of state for northern ireland, and just think to meself, somewhere along the road, if there's going to be a big building erected of that story, underneath the ground, in the foundations there's a wee brick marked "willie carlin". but, the other thing to think about is that you also, if you shut your eyes, can see so much of the bad stuff that happened in the name of the british state during that conflict. and you, i mentioned it at the beginning, were part of this dirty war, the secret war of informers and double agents, of people who were in essence giving secret information which did lead to the deaths of many people in northern ireland. there's now a call for full accountability. mm—hm.
4:51 am
for example, the intelligence operative known as stakeknife... yes. ..who was ultimately planted at the very top of the ira's internal security operation. yes. he was working for the british, but it seems he commanded the assassination of a number of other british informers. does the truth need to come out? absolutely. but here's the funny thing about sta keknife, i'd been working with the kenova team now for over a year. stakeknife is the codename of this operative, and now the british government investigation into what happened to try to get accountability, it's as you said, 0peration kenova, have you spoken to them? oh, i've been dealing with them for over a year, and i'll tell you what happened. i decided i would get in touch
4:52 am
with them or they got in touch with me. but, i wasn't really what they wanted to hear because this person known as stakeknife saved my life. it was him... it was him? ..that tipped off the forces searching that he was on his way to get me. ah... so this man who is alleged... "angel of death" is what they called him. yeah, the leader of the what are called "the head—hunters". .. yeah, the nutting squad. the nutting squad. nutting squad ‘cause they shot you in the head. you're saying, whatever he did to other people, he saved you? absolutely! now, that wasn't what they wanted to hear. however, i was able to tell them where i heard it first in 1985, the handlers that were looking after me in chatham. that led them to the handlers. the handlers then led on to peter, who was stakeknife's handler, and that led them to colonel carey, who was brigadier carey, in charge of the force that was searching for us. this thing goes all the way up the top with stakeknife. and this thing continues to be something where a lot of people in northern ireland wantjustice. correct. because it revives so much the pain and the hurt and indeed the hate. i want to end with a thought
4:53 am
about northern ireland today. do you think, that given all of the focus that brexit has put on northern ireland, and some of the raised tensions — the new questions of identity that come with the questions of whether northern ireland's economy is going to be aligned with the eu or whether it's going to be with the rest of the mainland, whether there could be new border, a so—called border in the irish sea, all of this stuff. do you think it raises new questions about the future stability of the place you are from? it certainly does. i mean, look, there is all this talk about brexit, all they know is this. the people in ireland are united, there's a sea surrounding all of them. it's economically united, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of transactions every day, up and down, across, children going to school across the border. farmers, you know, the whole thing. if anybody does anything to interrupt that or divide it or corner a piece off, it will destroy a part of the economy of the north of ireland.
4:54 am
and i guess the question for you is are there, in your opinion, still people in northern ireland who are prepared to kill to protect... yes. ..their identity and the community? there are people these days kind of circulating around strabane, lifford, just over the donegal border who call themselves the new ira, the 32 county ira. they're only young people, 18—19 years of age. however, a number of ex—volunteers, senior people, some of them just slightly younger than me, have been, if you like, showing them how to do things. you could say training them. mm. and because they didn't know how, they didn't know. and some of them are well—trained. and they are ready to do whatever they think they need to do in this new situation, should the dup do this, should there be a border, should there be customs posts, should there be policemen running the customs posts, these people are ready.
4:55 am
willie carlin, thank you very much... god bless you. ..for being on hardtalk. thank you. hello. sunday saw the winter solstice, that means that at least from an astronomer‘s point of view, we are officially into winter. the days are also starting to get just that little bit longer. how about the weather? the start of christmas week — a bit of a mixed bag, sunshine and showers on the way. we're in between weather systems,
4:56 am
one weather front moving out towards the east, another one heading our way for later on monday. but during the day on monday, we're in this sort of clearer slot here, but it's not completely clear. you can see some speckles of cloud. those are showers coming off the atlantic and that's exactly what's happening right now. showers across western scotland, end of the night, start of the morning, maybe one or two further south, but generally speaking, the weather is dry and it's not particularly cold even where the skies clear. six or seven in the south, a touch of frost there, as you'd expect this time of year in scotland. here's monday's weather forecast. so the weather is approaching but it's still way to the south—west of our neighbourhood, that does mean the weather is largely dry during the daytime itself, apart from showers which may affect western scotland for a time. there could be one or two moving through the lakes, but there's more clear weather than wet weather around on monday. so i think a very decent day on the way for cardiff but birmingham, as i say a few showers there for glasgow, edinburgh, maybe carlisle. 11 degrees, so mild in the south, nine in glasgow. we are watching the next weather front approaching the neighbourhood,
4:57 am
the thinking is after dark, it'll start to turn cloudy then wet in cornwall, devon, throughout wales, and that rain will move across other parts of the uk as well. with it also comes mild air, and it's notjust across the uk but also spreading deeper into europe too. so the weather is very mild throughout the continent at the moment. let's have a look at christmas eve. you can see the extent of the cloud early in the day, outbreaks of rain, the rain will probably come and go from thicker cloud during the afternoon as well across the south but the trend will be for the weather to gradually improve through the day on christmas eve, and that's a hint of things to come for the big day itself, because christmas day is expected to be a fine day throughout the country. high pressure is expected to build, the winds will fall light, the sun should be out for the morning on, a bit of mist start with but on the whole, but overall a fine day to walk off those calories. temperatures around nine or 10 degrees in south, six degrees in the north. so we don't get the snow but we do get the sunshine this christmas. 00:27:57,865 --> 4294966103:13:29,430 goodbye.
4:58 am
4:59 am
5:00 am


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on