Chapter 3: The Belfast Informer
The car sped towards Palace Barracks on the outskirts of Belfast. They were five men inside, two in the front and three in the back. All were dressed in civilian clothes. The four English men were laughing and joking while the fifth sat huddled and quiet in the middle in the back seat, between the other two laughing and back slapping passengers.
The front seat passenger talked into the radio. “Approaching base. Prepare to open the rear gate. We are now on Church Street heading south.”
Ringo sitting in the back, the one with long hair and denim jacket hugged the middle passenger.
“Cheer up Setter that was mission accomplished. Two Provo scumbags less to worry about.”
Ringo punched the air as the car drove through the opened gate, the solders on guard duty waving them through. They pulled up to their building and stepped lively out of the car. Setter got out and hunching forward pulled his wool cap down low to cover his face. Code named Red Setter, Eoin Harris was a prominent member of the Belfast Official IRA and Official Sinn Fein. Aged 30 with long straggling black hair, the Red Setter code name was a twist (mock) of his communist beliefs by his RUC handlers. He had been an informer, or Agent as he preferred to be called, for the RUC for six months now.
As the Provisional IRA profile and activities rose in the nationalist areas and was beginning to eclipse his Official Army, his RUC handlers had become more interested in the Belfast Provo members’. Six months ago he had started passing on small well known titbits of information to an RUC handler for a few pounds, to help meet the bills and a chance to get rid of some anti-social thugs. He was quite happy with the arrangement as his information was relatively harmless to the community, but things had taken a turn for the worse this morning when his RUC handler had brought him out here to Palace Barracks to introduce him to some of the elite intelligence gatherers in the British Army.
The meeting went fine at first as everyone was friendly enough. They introduced themselves as the Military Reaction Force and told Eoin that their mission was to bring law and order back to the streets of Northern Ireland. They explained that the odds were stacked against the two Republican Armies. They outlined the hundred thousand personnel that the British Army side could call on, the ultra-modern sophisticated armoury and intelligence gathering equipment, MI5/6, the various loyalist armed gangs that they armed and worked with and the billion pound finances at their disposal. Then the one they called Kenneth moved his chair closer, short but lean without a pick of fat on his chiselled body, with well-groomed hair, Kenneth smiled or at least his mouth smiled, a smile that did not reach his eyes or Eoin’s heart.
He said in a friendly voice “We are offering you the chance to be part of the victory of law and order over terrorism and anarchy. We will triple the money that you are presently receiving from the police and if discovered by the enemy, we will give assistance for you and your family to set up a life and business anywhere in the world that you want.”
Eoin looked at him, the hair standing up on the back of his neck, every nerve in his body telling him that this Brit fuck was bad news. Kenneth’s whiskey and cigar breath caught in his nostrils and throat. Eoin put his hand into his pocket to pull out the cigarette pack looking for a cigarette to buy time. He was happy enough with his present arrangement, but he had a feeling that this was not a Yes or No option. Hand shaking, he tried lighting a match. He needed to calm down and try to keep some control of the situation he thought to himself.
Tommy the friendly looking one, reached forward with a lighter
“Here ya go mate. No need for panic. We just have an idea that we want to run by you. You know what I mean mate?”
Eoin pulled furiously on his cigarette looking around the room for his RUC handler but he had vanished, nowhere to be seen.
“O Christ help me what’s happening” Eoin thought.
Suddenly he gave a nervous giggle. “For fuck sake” he thought “I’m an atheist and here I am praying!”
As the Brits looked curiously at his sudden laughing he seemed to gain the control that he needed.
He sat back in his chair away from Kenneth’s breath and space, looking past the two Brits he blew a smoke ring. “So what do you want from me?” he asked with a grin that turned into grimace.
“It’s simple enough mate” said Tommy “you want a socialist country and the Provo’s are in your way to achieving that. We want the Provo’s taken out of it so politics can return to normal. We both want the same thing. The Provo’s’ gone.”
Eoin looked at him not saying a thing just listening with his mind racing. This is not good he thought.
“Right see here chum” salivates Kenneth, reminding Eoin of a spider moving in on a fly caught in his web.
“Right” Kenneth breathed on him “Our mission is to kill Provo’s and you are going to help us by bringing us to their haunts and homes. We will shoot them and terrorise them and their support in the community until they realise that God and justice is on our side and the only road open to them is hell. And your mission starts now Eoin baby.”
Tommy jerked Eoin to his feet and half dragged, half carried the stunned speechless Eoin out the door and into an unmarked Ford Cortina. Kenneth came out the door pulling on an anorak coat and slinging a Thompson machine gun over his shoulder. Two others came jogging out of another door, revolvers and saw off shotguns hanging off them. Tommy pushed Eoin into the middle of the back seat with Ringo, before getting in beside him. Kenneth jumped into the front passenger seat while the fourth undercover soldier, all six foot four of him, climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Right Paddy, we’re heading for Twinbrook” Kenneth said as he handed some photos back to Eoin. “Have a look at them Provo fucks and tell us the best spot to cross their paths today.”
Eoin looked at the bunch of photos on his lap and then at the assortment of arms carried by the undercover Brits.
This was not good. “Get the fuck I’m not fingering anyone for youse.” he spluttered.
Tommy gave him a sharp elbow into the side of the head which sent his head snapping sideways. The Brit on his other side, Ringo, calmly cocked the pistol in his hand and stuck it into Eoin’s stomach “One Paddy or another he doesn’t bother me, Eoin it really doesn’t.”
The deadly calmness brought home to Eoin the hopelessness of his predicament.
“I didn’t sign up for this” He moaned “They’ll fucking kill me if they find out. This is way over what I agreed with Henry my RUC handler.”
Tommy patted his leg “You’ll be fine mate, you’re with us now. You can help us clean up this stinking mess and then we can all go home. C’mon Setter look at the photos and help us out here mate.”
Eoin dropped his eyesight and looked at the first picture and then skimmed through the rest. He could still feel the barrel of the short stuck into his side. He felt Kenneth’s cold stare drilling into his head “One Paddy or another he doesn’t bother me” he heard again in his head.
He sighed in resignation and his shoulders slouched. He would look through these and pick out someone that he had a grudge against if possible and tonight he would head for Dublin and lie low for a while. Fuck them and their ideas and money.
“Alright” he whispered.
“Good man Setter” congratulated Tommy “let’s rock and roll.”
The Cortina slowly pulled into the Twinbrook estate. Eoin had looked through the photos and had narrowed it down to two possibilities. Both people that he barely knew personally but he knew enough about them to know that they were low ranking Provo’s. He also knew where they now lived.
“Take a left and the second right” he said. “Drive around the green park area. We will not get closer than that with the barricades” he added.
The barricade came into sight. Two youths aged around 14 or 15 years old were leaning against it smoking and laughing, barely looking their way.
“We can drive past the barricade and out onto the main road” Eoin advised them. “The target might be up at the bookies”.
Suddenly Kenneth’s Thompson gun was out the window and Tommy was sticking his shotgun out his window.
“What the fuck” Eoin started and then all hell broke loose.
The Thompson was rattling away and Tommy’s pump action was exploding shotgun shot after shot out his window. The two youths were flung against the barricade with the ferocity and intensity of the gun fire keeping their bodies from falling. The driver of the Cortina having paused briefly for the gunfire, slapped the car into first gear and with tires squealing tore off down the road.
“Here” Kenneth shouted at Eoin as he tossed the Thompson into the back seat onto Eoin’s lap. Eoin gripped the gun as Kenneth sat back into his seat winding up the window. The bodies of the two youths slowly slid onto the ground, blood streaming out their multiple wounds and bullet holes. As the MRF unit made the turn onto Dunmurray Road, British Army units were setting up checkpoints immediately in their wake. The headed back towards Palace Barracks, the adrenalin pumping through their veins while Eoin sat stunned and silent with thoughts racing through his brain. “They were only kids.” he thought.
The Thompson machine gun, without the ammo clip he noticed, draped across his lap, his finger prints on several places of it. He thought briefly about trying to clean the weapon of his prints but in sinking despair had discarded that idea.
Pointless in even trying to struggle now. He was up the creek and without a doubt, without a paddle. These Brits were ruthless and would without a doubt top him without a second thought.
They were nearly back to the barracks and Kenneth was talking on the radio “Confirmed hit. Two gunmen had attempted to high jack our car and despite warnings from the car occupants, the gunmen had then aimed their guns at us. We had no other recourse opened to us but to return fire in self-defence.”
“Job well done” returned the person on the other end.
“God I’m going to be sick” thought Eoin.
Kenneth finished on the radio and turned back to face the back seat
“Well done Setter, exposing those thugs and terrorists. You done good chum and a great service to law and order. And I might add a step closer to your socialist Republic.”
They pulled into the barracks and parked up the car. Getting out they were met by the stand by unit.
“Fucking great job Sergeant Major” one said slapping Kenneth on the back handing him a beer.
The group closed together talking and congratulating each other.
“Any word from Harold and his unit?” asked the big driver.
“Yeah, they are by the Ardoyne, closing in on some Provo scum.” One of the MRF men replied “We are listening on the radio. Come on let’s head back inside to hear.”
Kenneth turned to the driver “Bring Setter into the city centre and drop him off.”
Then he said to Eoin “Setter you will remain in Belfast and we will need you next week to do a recon on some more Provo’s. Your RUC handler is now out of the picture since you shot up those Provo’s and this gun is all the evidence we need.”
He paused and stared into Eoin’s eyes “If you don’t show up the evidence will be leaked to the Provo’s. So it’s your call Paddy. We will pick you up same time and place as your RUC handler did.”
Kenneth turned to another soldier “Tony, give him an emergency number. Your code name stays Setter just not Red anymore. Later chum.”
And as sharp as that Kenneth turned and walked away, leaving a still in shock Eoin with the Big Driver, Tommy and Tony. They walked, half pushing Eoin into a black Taxi that was parked outside. Tommy shoved Eoin into the back and climbed in with him, Tony got into the front passenger seat while the Driver took some clean pistols and Thompson machine guns off another Brit.
As he handed the Thompson back to Tommy he winked at Eoin, “Don’t worry Setter, purely for self-defence. We don’t want the fun to stop too soon by wiping all the scum up in one day!”
He laughed and revved up the engine “Lock and load” he shouted.
As they drove out of the gate Eoin saw a second car with more Brits drive out behind them and kept a short distance behind them.
“Are you alright Setter?” asked Tommy.
Eoin wanted to shout “How the fuck do you think I am, you murdering shitebag?”
Instead he nodded his head, huddling deep into himself.
Tommy looked at him and patted his leg. “You made the right decision Eoin. We have to sort this mess of a country out and you can help us. Here is your allowance money.” He said as he slipped Eoin an envelope with £100 in all used notes in it.
Eoin automatically took the envelope and stuck it into his jacket pocket still huddled and saying nothing.
“Eoin” Tommy barked at him, “You need to pull yourself together man. You’ve shot and killed people before. Get your act together. We are going to drop you off and you are going to have to act normal and not draw attention to yourself or get your comrades in the Stickies suspicious. Do you understand? You getting lifted by their heavy gang and shot as an informer isn’t going to help anyone. Do you understand?” Tommy repeated and continued “We are in this together man. You have our number to call in emergency, In the meantime act normal and don’t call your RUC friend.”
Eoin shook his head and taking a deep breath said “Aye I understand” And thought, “Aye I understand that I’m well and truly fucked.”
“Alright” he said “I’ll see you next week at the same pick up point.”
Tommy grinned and said “Good man Setter” and slipped him another twenty pounds. “Here you go mate, have one on me.”
They were in the city centre and the Driver pulled over and Eoin jumped out of the Taxi, a slight drizzle falling he hunched his back up and shivered, as he pulled up the collar of his thin jacket. He walked away without a glance backwards. Walking briskly down the street, slowly building himself back into Eoin Harris, Twinbrook Official Irish Republican Army Officer Commanding and Official Sinn Fein member. He walked around a corner and stepped into a doorway to see if he was being followed. Carefully looking at the passer-byes he waited two minutes and then walked across the road into a department store and doubled around once again to look at anyone they he recognized as following him.
Satisfied he calmly walked out a side entrance and walked down the street till he came to a city centre bar that he frequented. It was early afternoon and nearly empty.
“What about ya?” he said to the bartender “Give us a pint of larger and a Jameson with water.”
The bartender nodded and brought Eoin the drinks. “Cheers kid.” Eoin said as he poured a small drop of water into the whiskey.
He downed the whiskey in one swallow, relishing the burning sensation as the whiskey worked its way through and burned the bad taste in his mouth. He then turned his attention to his pint. Normally a Guinness drinker he couldn’t wait for the settling time needed for that drink. He sat looking at his pint, sighing he raised it gratefully to his lips, tilting his head back he poured the first swallow into his mouth. Once again relishing the taste he swallowed and put the remaining two thirds of his pint back on the bar top
“What a fucking morning” he thought.
He pulled his cigarettes and lighter from his pocket, still slightly shaking he raised the lighter to his cigarette and took a long deep pull slowly inhaling. He went through the mornings events, cursing the RUC handler for fucking him over, cursing the Brits for fucking him over. Exhaling his cigarette, he continued weighting his options.
“Let’s look at the facts and see what I can get out of this” he thought to himself as he took another drink of his pint.
£100 was good money but he would need more than that he decided. He could sort out what Provo’s he wanted taken care of plus a few thugs. His problem was to try and stay undetected by his comrades. They wouldn’t understand the complexities of his plan and would treat him as a common tout. Finishing off his pint, he took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders and puffed out his chest, he was no tout, he was a revolutionary socialist he reminded himself.
He called the bartender with a raised hand and ordered
“The same again please bud” as he settled himself down, now more comfortable and with a clearer head, he was able to think and plan ahead.
By the time he met his new Brit handlers next week, he would have decided and picked their next hit.
The rain was falling heavily now as more people crowded into the pub, some nodding acknowledgement to Eoin as they ordered their drinks.
“Yes,” Eoin Harris decided, “I’m very much in control in this game again.”