Britain's security service, MI5, was today accused of colluding in the sexual abuse of children, in a court hearing in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
It is alleged that the agency knew that child abuse was taking place at the Kincora Children's Home in Belfast during the 1970s, but that they protected the perpetrators, one of whom was an MI5 informant.
Three survivors of abuse at Kincora say they believe that three staff at the home, who were convicted for abuse there in 1981, were part of a wider network, which carried out the abuse and which received protection from the security services and other official bodies.
"I believe that many of these people had power, and included MLAs (members of the Northern Ireland Assembly), MPs, and paramilitaries," Gary Hoy, one of the men, stated in a sworn affidavit. "It makes me mad that they all could get away with it so easily. These people are hiding and protecting other people. I want to know who was involved and what they did."
The three survivors are asking that a statutory inquiry in England and Wales have its remit expanded to include Northern Ireland, so that the allegations can be investigated by a judge with the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.
An existing inquiry in Northern Ireland, led by Judge Anthony Hart, does not have that power.
Home Secretary Theresa May has so far resisted calls to extend the statutory inquiry to Northern Ireland, raising fears that the existing Hart inquiry will be unable to probe allegations against the security service.
May has said that she wants a "protocol" to be agreed "to make sure that no information falls through the cracks, and no people or institutions escape scrutiny, censure or justice."
The court today granted the three survivors leave to subject May's decision to a judicial review, which will commence on June 1, and is scheduled for three days.
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International UK was present in court, and described the state's argument that the powers of the Hart Inquiry were sufficient as "weak."
He anticipated that if the arguments used today were repeated before the judicial review in June, "they will be found wanting." The Home Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament said last week that the statutory inquiry should cover Northern Ireland.
The Kincora Children's Home operated between 1960 and 1980. A housemaster there who was convicted of child abuse in 1981, William McGrath, was also the founder of the clandestine loyalist paramilitary Tara group, which during the 1970s smuggled weapons into Northern Ireland to prepare for war against Catholics if the British left.
The former BBC journalist Chris Moore alleged in his 1996 book, The Kincora Scandal, that McGrath was an MI5 asset by 1970, one year before he begun working at Kincora. The book recounts several occasions on which the abuse at Kincora was raised within MI5, as well as reported to other authorities, including the Royal Ulster Constabulary, during the 1970s. But investigations were obstructed.
An earlier book by the investigative journalist Paul Foot, published in 1990, claimed that a former army officer and psychological warfare expert, Colin Wallace, also tried to blow the whistle. He was framed for murder, the book claimed, in order to discredit his attempts to reveal information to journalists about Kincora, and about the so-called Clockwork Orange plot, an unofficial smear campaign against Labour Party politicians by right-wing intelligence officers.
It has also been claimed that MI5 blackmailed a leading member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) with evidence of child sexual abuse. Joe Cahill, the former IRA Chief of Staff, was said to have been photographed having sex with a 14-year-old girl in a car.
The protection of morally dubious individuals and the use of legally compromising information has long been a feature of the murky world of intelligence operatives.
The KGB and CIA are said to have been aware of child sexual abuse by powerful figures in the British establishment during the 1970s and 1980s. "We wanted to make contact and use this to our advantage," a source close to the KGB told the Sunday People.
Separately, a member of Sinn Fein was among visitors to the Elm Guest House in south-west London, which was both a meeting place for gay men and a venue at which child abuse was carried out. It has also been reported that a former senior Tory MP visited Kincora during the period in question.
"I find the whole thing frightening, and at times am frightened that people in authority will want my mouth shut, and want it all brushed under the carpet like it had been years ago," Hoy, the survivor, said in his affidavit.
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