FOLK DEVILS IN THE 1980s… & TODAY
Sinn Féín likes to present itself as ‘modern’ and au fait with ‘modernity’, including in sexual matters. So it has a, not-too-loudly proclaimed, policy on LGBT rights. Admittedly, SF consulted the LGBT community including NIGRA (the NI Gay Rights Association), and upstart magazine, in the framing of the policy. But the temptation to make an anti-Unionist point is difficult to resist. One such temptation appears in the Nollaig / December 2012 edition of Party journal An Phoblacht (The Republic). On page 13 is Cover-up and lies at heart of the British Establishment – Peadar Whelan, who may not be responsible for the lurid headline. A box at the top of the page shows Jimmy Savile hobnobbing with various British Establishment figures. The legend is: The revelations around Jimmy Savile and the suspicions that people in authority knew about and covered up his abuse have clear echoes of the scandal surrounding the Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast in the 1980s.
‘Kincora’, (the name of an Edwardian villa in a ‘leafy’ part of east Belfast), was not in any real sense a “Boys’ Home”. It was a hostel for employed adolescents. It opened its doors as such in 1958, when the school-leaving age was 15, raised to 16 some years after that. (The youngest person to stay in the hostel was 13 year’s old – and that was overnight.) Such matters are important this article is decorated, if that is the mot juste with the famous image of William McGrath in Orange regalia. There is a palimpsest of Kincora House, a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) cap badge, bits of heraldry, a Top Secret stamp, and images of two pre-adolescent boys. One is of Brian McDermott whose disappearance and death the Irish Times journalists made strenuous efforts to pin on McGrath and other staff. His brother was later accused of the murder although never charged – see the following The Irish Independent
Peadar Whelan’s article is a tissue of – not outright ‘honest’ lies – so much as hint and innuendo. There are four short paragraphs about Savile and the BBC that are “…clear echoes of the scandal surrounding the Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast in the 1970s and 1980s.” ‘Kincora Boys’ Home’ is written as if it were the official title of the place. It didn’t really have an ‘official title’ and, as stated, was for employed teenagers, who needed particular care or a halfway house to ‘family life’. Some inmates had been institutionalised for most of their young lives (Belfast Corporation’s Welfare Committee did its very best with hostels, attempting to make than as ‘home-like’ as possible within its budget, despite the flaring up of ‘The Troubles’.)
“[T]he systematic abuse of young boys in the home…” is not merely improbable – it was impossible. There were no “young boys'” to abuse. There is the assertion that McGrath was “head of the loyalist paramilitary group Tara”. As early as 1972, the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force – an actual loyalist paramilitary group) decided that Tara was essentially a figment of McGrath’s imagination. He wasn’t “central to the formation of the… Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in 1971…” he circulated flyers calling for an Ulster Protestant army, but various Defence Associations were already in operation, their coming together was pretty inevitable. The UDA, and to an extent the UVF, (despite its aspiration to be IRA-like), are ‘franchise’ operations and not centralised and disciplined conspiratorial organisations.
We get McGrath’s “links” with “both major unionist parties” (Peadar Whelan is probably too young to realise how ironic that phrase is. There used to be one Unionist party, it perceived itself as a ‘movement’. The Ulster Unionist Council, ran it, with heavy input from the Orange Order – the Order’s relationship to the Party was something like the Trades Unions to the Labour Party – only much stronger. “Indeed… the Grand Master of the Orange Order…” UUP MP Martin Smyth “presided over the dedication of McGrath’s Irish Heritage Orange Lodge”. How big does An Phoblacht or Peadar Whelan think the Orange Order or ‘Northern Ireland’ are? Martin Smyth may have driven – or walked – to such dedications in a matter of minutes.
… not the property of the Minister…
McGrath “preached regularly… Ian Paisley’ s Free Presbyterian churches.” Not if ‘regularly’ has any real meaning. He hired or was allowed to use one or two different church-venues at the discretion of their Ministers and Elders. Presbyterian churches, Free, Reformed, Non-Subscribing, or mainstream are not the property of the Minister but of the congregation by way of elected Elders. This is not arcane information, difficult to get at. Flicking through a book on the subject, or making a phone call to anyone involved in these groups would have done the trick.
Private Eye magazine alleged that “senior military and judicial figures engaged in sex with the boys”. What ‘senior military and judicial figures’? This ‘scandal’ was made public over thirty years ago. In the UK’s wonderful legal system it is impossible to libel the dead. (Meaning: they don’t have to have actually done anything.) So why not throw out a few names just for show? Can it be that this is a matter of ‘smoke and mirrors’? There is no actual substance to it? Are we expected to believe that Kincora’s clientele are particularly long-lived?
Bibles Behind The Curtain
“A British army officer was… told… to drop any contact or investigation into Tara…” When? Who was the ‘British officer’? An Phoblacht must know quite well that this is not journalism – it certainly is not ‘investigative journalism’ – it is gossip and hearsay. The officer in question was probably told McGrath was a fantasist with no real insight into what was happening in Ulster, he wasn’t even useful for tittle-tattle about the real paramilitaries who didn’t trust him, especially when it became obvious that he had no source of weapons supply.
He had smuggled Bibles into countries behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ but that was hardly relevant to Belfast in the 1970s. And such activity would have necessitated some sort of Secret Service sanction; something else that would have made the Loyalist paramilitaries dubious about his bona fides. The UVF and UDA eventually got their weapons from the USA and Canada viâ, (in particular), Glasgow. The explosives mostly came from quarries in Scotland.
There is some more trivia about this busybody having contact with all sorts of VIPs, moderately important people, and persons of no consequence whatsoever. Some of the latter ended up in the armed forces of ‘Rhodesia’ and Apartheid South Africa (neatly puncturing the notion that Apartheid was all the doing of the ‘goddamned Dutch’.)
This is not a defence of William McGrath. He had deeply unpleasant views on nearly everything. A ‘British Israelite’ he was thereby essentially a racist (and probably ‘anti-Semitic’. In that he would have denied that Jews are actually Jewish). He was a deeply closeted homosexual, forcing himself onto young men he met on the fundamentalist Protestant Christian circuit. He forced himself onto one of his charges in Kincora, (a psychologically fragile young man), who reacted very badly to the experience.
One, now well-known Gay man in Belfast *, was in McGrath’s charge at this period. He was astounded to discover what he had been up to. Which is a tribute to McGrath’s cunning and deceitful nature – he probably went to his grave safe in the knowledge that he was not a pervert like those ‘homosexuals’ – he almost certainly deceived himself.
An Phoblact‘s pious wish that the Savile scandal may “reawaken investigations into Kincora and the role of the British military and intelligence services” will not be granted – and it knows it. As Peadar Whelan writes: “Despite his [McGrath’s – upstart] trial and five separate inquiries into the Kincora scandal, the real story has yet to emerge.” Well, actually, it has emerged: three Kincora staff members – clearly acting separately – took advantage of the fact that their charges were young men in their teens. Most of the “sex” seems to have been pretty low-level groping. Any psychological damage (rarely mentioned in all the material printed since 1981 – thirty-two years ago!) was practically speaking non-existent. Except in the one case mentioned about in relation to McGrath in particular. upstart suggests to the Republican Movement and its journals that this folk-tale be spiked, if not thrown on the back of the fire.
* Information with author – approach upstart – if you want specifics.