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Women tricked by police spy demand answers

Ellen Coyne - The Times

A woman who was deceived into a relationship with an undercover British police officer has asked Enda Kenny to explain if the state knew he was spying on her while she was in Ireland.

“Lisa,” not her real name, is one of four women who wrote to the taoiseach after The Times uncovered a secret report, which revealed that Martin Callinan, the former garda commissioner, refused to deny that the force gave permission for undercover UK officers to work in Ireland.

Mr Callinan defended confidential arrangements between gardaí and British police that would allow undercover agents to spy in the Republic without the Irish government being informed. Mark Kennedy, a spy who gardaí knew was in Ireland on a number of occasions under his alias between 2004 and 2006, is one of several officers at the centre of a UK inquiry after it emerged that they had sexual relationships with the women they spied on.

Lisa, originally from Wales, told The Times that she met Mr Kennedy in Ireland and that they had a six-year relationship. She also said the couple went on holiday to Waterford around 2006.

“What surprises me is that the Irish authorities are not more concerned or that the Irish public is not more concerned that the British state had undercover operatives in Ireland? Surely that should be a really big scandal,” she said.

“This is a really serious issue. British police, who were being paid by the British state, are undercover in Ireland and we don’t know to what extent any of that was authorised.”

Lisa had been part of the Shell to Sea protests against the Corrib gas pipeline in the early 2000s when she met Mr Kennedy. “A lot of the time I spent with him wasn’t at a demonstration, or a meeting, or anything that would have been worthy of being spied on,” she said.

“A lot of it was domestic stuff that you would do with a partner, like going on holiday, meeting up and having a meal and staying overnight somewhere. It’s a really creepy feeling to think that he might have had a handler who was observing us from afar, or all those kinds of things.”

Mr Kennedy posed as an environmental activist and joined groups under the name Mark Stone, an alias he used from 2003 to 2010 while he was attached to the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The Pitchford inquiry will examine the practices of Mr Kennedy and others in his unit after it emerged that officers had been having sexual relationships with women on whom they were spying.

The inquiry will not scrutinise what agents may have done in other jurisdictions, including Ireland. The Irish government has not planned an inquiry into Mr Kennedy’s practices here and will not consider one until Pitchford is complete.

“That’s ridiculous, because Pitchford is specifically only at the things these officers did in England or Wales. There’s no reason for any other government to hang on, because it’s not going to tell them anything about Ireland,” Lisa said. “I feel like I’m at the beginning of a really long and arduous quest for justice. I don’t want to still be pushing on this in ten or 20 years time. From a mental health point of view, I would really like to move on from this, but the lack of answers means it’s impossible.”

The garda commissioner report on Mr Kennedy had been kept secret for six years on state security grounds. It was released after The Times referred the Department of Justice to the Information Commissioner for refusing to grant a freedom of information request. The report revealed that Mr Callinan was “aware” of suggestions that Mr Kennedy had been in the Republic with the consent of the gardaí. He did not deny that Mr Kennedy had been operating with the consent of the force but went on to tell ministers that the right of gardaí to enter into such arrangements was vital for national security interests.

He failed to state whether the national police force had a confidential arrangement with the Metropolitan Police allowing undercover British officers to work here.

In a letter to the taoiseach this week, Lisa and “Alison,” Helen Steel and Katie Wilson — three other women who also had relationships with Mr Kennedy and had been with him in Ireland — called for a full public investigation “detailing any offences they committed in Ireland, and the number of people affected”. “Secret files must be released and the cover names of the officers published so that the people affected can come forward, and the full extent of the abuses can be known,” they wrote.

The Department of the Taoiseach said it was a matter for the Department of Justice. Frances Fitzgerald’s department said that it was assured by the gardaí that Mr Kennedy never did anything illegal in Ireland.

Posted Date: 
27 April 2017