The Kincora scandal: 'MI5 tried to blackmail Belfast homosexual,' says whistleblower

Victim and ex-intelligence agent join call for beefed-up investigation into notorious care home

In the glut of allegations of sexual abuse, one care home stands out. At Kincora, a boys' home in Belfast, three men routinely abused teenage boys in their care for more than a decade. In this case, the abuse is undoubted, as a court confirmed when, in December 1981, William McGrath, the "house father", Raymond Semple, an assistant warden, and Joseph Mains, warden, were sentenced to four, five and six years respectively for the sexual abuse of children. What makes Kincora remarkable is the lingering suggestion that British security services connived in the continued abuse of children in order to secure intelligence.

More than three decades on, Kincora still stinks. Last week, it was revealed that in the 1980s three former residents had received secret payments – with gagging clauses – in compensation from the local authority. Two books have been written, one even alleging that a murder was committed to discredit army information officer Colin Wallace, who had sought to expose publicly what was happening. A possibly game-changing testimony emerged on Friday when former intelligence officer Captain Brian Gemmell went public in saying that, in 1975, his boss in MI5 made him cut short attempts to investigate what was going on at the home.

Last night, Capt Gemmell told The Independent on Sunday he had had personal experience of the security services discussing using somebody's homosexuality to apply pressure on them. "Some months before I was told to leave the Kincora case alone, on the grounds that the service didn't involve itself with homosexual matters, I had a meeting at a hotel on Buckingham Palace Road. There were three members of MI5 talking about a known Protestant terrorist, John McKeague of the Red Hand Commandos, being homosexual, and they asked me if I thought he could be blackmailed over his homosexuality, because they had film of him."

William McGrath William McGrath Last week, Clint Massey, a former resident, gave his first newspaper interview, to The IoS. Born in 1957, he had been in another Northern Ireland care home before, in 1973, he was sent to Kincora, a half-way house for boys in care at the start of their working life. He shared a room with two other boys, who used to leave early in the morning to go to work, leaving him alone in the room. "On my first full day there," he recalled, "McGrath came in and asked me what I wanted for breakfast, but, as he did so, he put his hand inside my pyjamas." Mr Massey says he was abused several times a week, and often raped.

"At the time, nobody talked about sex. You just didn't. It was almost as if people had a shower with their clothes on. Young men didn't share secrets like that, so I knew there was nothing I could do. These people were highly respected members of the community." When he gave evidence (unidentifiably) against McGrath in court, he said he had no idea which other boys would also be doing so. "It was a taboo subject," he said.

Although he speaks matter-of-factly, the abuse he suffered has clearly been a life sentence. As recently as a fortnight ago, he self-harmed, at the age of 57, slashing his wrists in frustration after it appeared that the investigation into historic abuse was to be ditched because of a lack of funds. He goes on occasional day-long drinking binges, has taken drug overdoses and laid down in front of a train, only to find it diverted at the last minute. "I look at couples and people with children and I think that should have been me," he said, but relationships have never worked out. "I don't trust anybody, although slowly I'm learning to trust now. I remember what I used to be like before I went there. I should be a grandfather by now, but I never will be. So instead I try to be one of the world's best uncles."

Former intelligence officer Brian Gemmell has said that MI5 forced him to cut short his investigation into the home (pictured here) in 1975 Former intelligence officer Brian Gemmell has said that MI5 forced him to cut short his investigation into the home (pictured here) in 1975 Mr Massey's specific claims are limited to his own experience. He makes no accusation against anyone but William McGrath, a Protestant (religious and political) fanatic, who he says would be inclined to place a gospel tract in the hand of those he met. (He puts the combination of extreme religiosity and casual sexual abuse down to "massive guilt".) He declines to join in the excitable speculation as to who specifically might have visited, but does recall a lot of "suits" arriving, often in the evening. "In those days, there were loads of people over from London. I have always assumed they were senior figures from Whitehall. I certainly heard English accents."

Whoever they were, the suggestion that Kincora was being closely monitored by the security services, and its habitués leaned upon, is, to him, a potent and credible one. "I strongly believe it was an entrapment operation for them. They hoped to get a handle on the people who visited, to get them to work for them and inform for them – that's the way the dirty tricks department works."

But McGrath and the others went to prison. If it were a conspiracy, that was hardly a successful outcome. "I believe they were part of it. They were the facilitators, and were protected to some degree." He believes, as many do, that a deal was done, their plea quickly changed and the resulting sentence a lenient one.

Will the current investigation into Kincora get to the truth? There hasn't been much official gusto about previous efforts. Brian Gemmell, who had sources inside Tara, the apocalyptic anti-Catholic group founded by McGrath in 1966, who told him about the abuse, has never even been interviewed by any of the previous official inquiries.

Sir Anthony Hart, the retired judge leading the current investigation into institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995, has expressed concern that he lacks the authority to get to the truth. David Cameron has been asked by Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, to bring Kincora under the broader, UK-wide inquiry, which could call MI5 to account for itself.

"It has to be done from Westminster," said Mr Massey. "If it stays local, a lot of people will be happy. There are too many people in Northern Ireland, predominantly Protestant, who don't want it looked at.

"But I hope there are people shaking in their boots. They may be old men now but I don't care. There's no statute of limitations on this. I think there are lots of people shaking. I hope they're expecting a knock on the door, but an investigation can't dig deep here [in Northern Ireland]. At Westminster, they have the authority, and they can do it if they want to."

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Sport
Torquay United mascot Gilbert the Gull
football
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker