BBC Radio 4 – Drama, The Ballad of Bobby Sands

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#OTD in 1984 – Brighton Hotel Bombing: The PIRA attempted to assassinate British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her cabinet. – Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland


PM sent her private plane to rescue spy then brought his family to Downing St for tea-and a fish supimmediately

A BRITISH agent who iinfiltrated who infiltrated Sinn Fein to spy on Martin McGuinness has told how Maggie Thatcher helped smuggle him out of the North of Ireland as an IRA assassination gang was closing in on him. And Derry man Willie Carlin even had a private audience with the ‘ Iron Lady ‘ in her drawing room at 10 Downing Street.


It took place just days after he was spirited out of Ulster by his M15 handers in Thatcher’s Ministerial jet – which she personally put at his disposal. Carlin was lucky to escape with his life because the security forces warned him that if he stayed even an hour longer, he would have been scooped by an IRA kilker squad. We have learned that even before Mrs Thatcher meet the Derry man, she often sang the praises of MI5 agent 3007 – codenamed ‘ The Fox ‘. And on at least two occasions, she rejected RUC briefings in favour of reports written by Carlin. Shortly after he escaped out of Derry with his wife Carlin was presented to the Tory PM at a late night meeting inside 10 Downing Street. She told the diminutive Derry man : ” I have been looking at breifing notes outlining your work for years.


Willie Carlin worked for British Intelligence as a paid informet

” I only knew you by your agent number 3007 and your codename ‘ The Fox ‘. But I can’t thank you enough for all the work you have done for us over the years.” The PM added : ” It’s nice to put a face and real name to a number and a code name after all these years.The PM added : ” It’s nice to put a face and real name to a number and a code name after all these years. And I now release why they called you ‘ The Fox ‘ “. At that time Carlin had bright red hair. Mrs Thatcher also thanked Carlin’s wife Mary – who only discovered her husband was a Tout/Informer 48 hours earlier – and she even arranged a fish supper to be delivered to No 10 for the Carlin’s young daughter Maria. As far as friends and neighbours back in Derry were concerned Willie Carlin was just another Sinn Fein activist who lived with his family in Derry’s Waterside. But in reality, he was a highly-placed British agent who had just compleated a 12 year stint inside the Republican Movement where he operated undetected as a member of Martin McGuinness’s inner circle. Speaking to the Sunday World last week, Carlin, now 64, recalled the night he was introuduced to the Iron Lady and he revealed he will be attendind Margaret Thatcher’s funeral with full military honours in London next week, albeit in a private capacity. He said : ” First of all Margaret Thatcher helped save my life by allowing me to escape in her jet. That’s good enough reason to be going to her funeral. But apart from that, I admired her toughness. ” I know she was a women, but she had more balls than any IRA man Also, she never gave up. Martin McGuinness did give up. Martin McGuinness delivered the IRA – Maggie Thatcher delivered nothing !” And he added : ” I’ll be happy to salute her at the funeral next week ; she saved my life.” William Joseph Carlin was a member of a large Catholic family from Derry. He was brought up on the Creggan estate. As a young man starting out in life in the early 1960’s, he faced the bleak prospect of spending years on the dole. Determined not to go down that road, Carlin applied to join the British Army. And faced with a bright young man with a high IQ, army recruiting staff steered Carlin towards an Irish Cavalary Regiment, the Royal Irish Hussars. But after a nine year stint where he excelled as a soldier, Carlin tired of army life and in 1974, he longed to return home to Derry with his wife and young family. However, army top brass advised against the move as the Ulster Troubles were at their peak. Soon members of the British Secret Service got to hear  of Carlin’s plight and after a series of long discussions, the spooks persuaded him to work for them as a Tout/Informer inside Sinn Fein. After agreeing a handsome financial package, Carlin was told to return to Derry, find a house and settle down quietly for a period of around two years. After making contact with republicans in his home town, Carlin was given the the go ahead to return to Derry after he was given an assurance that he and his family wouldn’t be harmed as a result of him having served in the British Armed Forces. The Carlins were a well known in Derry. Willie’s father-in-law had worked alongside Martin McGuinness’s father in Brown’s foundry. And he had even been best man for McGuinness Snr., when he married Martin’s mother. The Carlins settled down to life in a house in the Waterside area. And with the cushion of an MI5 salary to finance him, Willie busied himself studying the political strategy of Sinn Fein. The Provisional IRA was still the dominant force in the Irish Republican Movement, althrough even then, moves were afoot to wean republicans away from vioence and towards democratic politics



As iinstructed, after two years, Carlin made his move and applied to join Sinn Fein. Gradually, he gained promotion and rose through the party ranks. Eventually, he was given a full time job running a community group in the Gobnascale area, near his home. The former soldier’s natural organisational ability and gift for facts and figures meant he was ideally suited to Sinn Fein’s plans of building a credible political machine. He also became a close aide to Sinn Fein chief Martin McGuinness, now deputy First Ministef in the North of Ireland. Carlin’s roll as an MI5 agent was to photocopy documents relating to any significsnt political developments taking place inside Sinn Fein which he later delivered to his MI5 handlers. Down through the years Carlin meet his handlers at various locations around and near the city. He would go for a walk through the Ness Woods beauty spot or a quiet country road near Benone Strand, where he would find an MI5 handler eagerly awaiting his arrival. And he also met them at an old detached house on the outskirts of Limavady, named ‘ Old Forge ‘. It later transpired, this was exactly the same location where Martin McGuinness had meetings with MI5 chief Michael Oately, to discuss ways of bringing the IRA campaign of violence to an end. One of Carlin’s handlers during this period  was MI5 operative Michael Bettaney. A gay Catholic man, who smoked a pipe and was a chronic alcoholic, Bettaney very nearly blew Carlin’s cover on several occasions. But it was in 1984 after he left the North of Ireland that Bettaney did his damnedest to expose Carlin’s secret roll as an MI5 Tout/Informer operating inside Sinn Fein and working as an aide to Martin McGuinness in Derry. Bettaney had been convicted of treason at the Old Baily in London after being found guilty of trying to sell British Military secrets to the Russians. He was jailed for 23 years and served his time with a numer of IRA men convicted of a bombing campaign in England, including a couple of months later, Pat ‘Chancer’ Magee, the Brighton Bomber. It was Magee, who using a false name Roy Walshe, booked into room 629 of the Grand Hotel, Brighton, with the sole purpose of blowing up Maggie Thatcher and her Tory party Cabinet colleagues during their annual party conference in 1984 in revenge for Thatcher’s role in the hunger strikers deaths. But just weeks before Magee’s arrest, Michael Bettaney was attending mass in the prison chaple along with a number of IRA men. Consumed with anger at the severity of his sentence, Bettaney approached an IRA man and gave him the name of an MI5 operative who had been spying on Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein for 11 years. And That name wadwas William Joseph Carlin. Using a sophisticated system of communication, the IRA man successfully pased the information to the IRA in Derry and Willie Carlin’s days as an MI5 informer were numbered.


Thatcher's final farewell from the Irish Republican Army TAL32
Thatcher’s final farewell from the Irish Republican Army TAL32

Hoerver, as the IRA net was closing in Carlin received a phone call ordering him to pack a suitcase immediately and walk to the end of the street with his wife and children. Within an hour, the Carlin’s were safely inside Derry’s Ebrington Barracks. There were taken to Palace Barracks, Holywood, before traveling to RAF Aldergrove where they boarded Margaret Thatcher’s personsel jet. The Prime Minister had personally ordered the aircraft to be put at the Carlin’s disposal as a token of repaying all the hard and dangoures work carried out on behalf of the British Government by agent 3007. On Saturday night as preparations were well underway for next Wednesday’s controversial Thatcher funerel, the Sunday World put it to Carlin that if he was asked to emberk on such a dangerous undertaking again, would he do so. He said : ” I would find out the time of the next plane to Derry was. It was the best most exciting thing I ever did in my life. I would do it again tommorow !”






You have Irish blood on your hands

God bless the ten brave men who defeated the so-called Iron Lady.



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