MI5 agent says 'role player' was paid £3k

10 June 2010
The Irish News

The prosecution case against three Co Armagh men facing charges arising out of an MI5 sting operation against the Real IRA ended yesterday with yet more revelations of the workings of the Secret Service.

Among the details given was an admission that undercover operatives, or 'role players' as they were described during the month-long Belfast Crown Court trial, do get paid "bonuses".

What could not be agreed upon was in what circumstance an agent would be paid, despite earlier denials from an operative named "Amir" that he was ever paid.

Mr Justice Hart has now adjourned the case to allow lawyers time to present written submissions, which will be made to the court on Monday and Tuesday.

Between them the defendants, Desmond Paul Kearns (44) from Tannaghmore Green, Paul Anthony John McCaugherty (43) from Beech Court - both Lurgan - and 41-year-old Dermot Declan Gregory aka Michael Dermot Gregory from Concession Road in Crossmaglen, deny eight charges relating to an alleged attempt to procure weapons and explosives in Europe.

Earlier yesterday agent 3590, who described himself as a "fully signed up member of the service", said he was the Operational Security Officer during the two years of the operation from August 2004 until April 2006.

The hard-of-hearing agent said his job was as an independent security adviser, overseeing all operations and providing risk assessment of the tasks involved.

Questioned by Gordon Kerr QC, prosecuting, agent 3590 agreed he made a number of comments on the activities of the 'role-player' Amir who was involved in the sting operation from the outset.

Some appeared critical of the way he operated, and at one point noted that "dire warnings" should be issued to Amir by an appointed manager.

The operation's initial "Comptrolling Officer", identified only as 3522, also said he was involved from its inception until 2005.

He said the aim of the operation came from intelligence which suggested there were members of the "Real IRA involved in weapons procurement activities".

He claimed there were indications that McCaugherty appeared to be in control of such activities along with some associates.

Agent 3522 claimed a link had been found regarding cigarette smuggling, other criminal activities and weapons procurement.

As part of the operation it was decided to try to "cultivate" Kearns and attempt to establish if he was involved in anything against "national security" and what "contacts he might have".

However, he agreed that there was some criticism of the working of "Amir" who made contact with Kearns and met him on numerous occasions. He accepted that the Secret Service interest in Kearns was relatively small.

He also accepted that in "contact notes" reference was made that Amir had been paid "performance bonuses" of £1,000 on three separate occasions from April to Sept 2005.

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