Kincora: How three men alerted MI5 officers to home’s dark secret… and still nothing was done to stop the child sex abuse

Posted By: August 26, 2021

By Liam Clarke. Belfast Telegraph. August 5, 2014.

The Belfast Telegraph can name three people who gave information about child sex abuse in Kincora to British military intelligence only to see any investigation blocked for years by MI5.


Last night Brian Gemmell, a former captain in military intelligence, confirmed that he had passed on information from three men – James Miller, Roy Garland and Jim McCormick – to a senior MI5 officer named Ian Cameron. All three information sources were completely opposed to the abuse and wanted it ended.


Mr Gemmell, an officer in military intelligence at the time, was trying to gain an entrée to Tara, a secretive Protestant paramilitary group headed by William McGrath. Until late 1971 McGrath’s second-in-command in Tara was Mr Garland.


“I had been aware that McGrath was a child abuser since the 1940s,” Mr Garland said.


He first became aware of it when McGrath, a born-again Christian, was carrying out a mission in Faith House. The premises in Belfast’s Orpen Park has now been converted to an old people’s home and has no connection with its role in McGrath’s day.


A second source of information on McGrath was Mr Miller, an Englishman and former soldier who had settled in Northern Ireland.


He worked as a military intelligence and MI5 agent. In 1971 Mr Miller, who is now dead, was infiltrating Tara for the intelligence services and had reported his suspicions to his handlers.


He was told to drop the issue, and shortly afterwards he was expelled from Tara.


“I can tell you exactly what happened,” Mr Garland said. “A number of UVF men were attending the meeting and they said that Miller was working for British intelligence. McGrath said: ‘Tell him to go’, so I went over and told him: ‘I am sorry, you have to go,’ and showed him out.”


Mr Miller went on to join the UDA at his handler’s request.


The third source was Mr McCormick, an evangelical Christian, who set up a meeting between Mr Garland and Mr Gemmell in 1974. Mr McCormick said at the meeting that there were three child abusers working at Kincora.


“I had been trying to bring this out for some time,” Mr Garland said. “I had already given an account to police in Strandtown and the UVF had warned me that I was under threat of death as a result.”


He and Mr Gemmell remain friends to this day, but at the time Mr Gemmell had his own agenda.



“I was trying to get on the inside of Tara and the deal with Jim McCormick was that he would help me do that if I raised Garland’s story up the line and got some action on it,” he said.


His first move was to report it to Cameron, an MI5 veteran who was working under the cover of a political adviser in the Northern Ireland Office.


“Ian Cameron was very much a father figure to me at the time,” Mr Gemmell said.


“I was in my mid-20s and he was in his early 60s. He was normally a very nice chap, but he reacted very strongly.


“He told me that MI5 did not concern itself with what homosexuals did and he ordered me to stop using an agent I had within Tara, who we had codenamed Royal Flush.”


However, Mr Gemmell was aware of efforts to recruit John McKeague, a loyalist paramilitary and abuser of teenage boys, as an informant, so he knew Cameron was lying.


The refusal to investigate Kincora led to Mr Gemmell severing his relations with the intelligence services when he left the Army two years later.


“It was a profession in which lies and cover-up were tools of the trade. As a Christian, I could not make that separation between private and professional morality,” he said.


Two previous Government inquiries, the Terry Inquiry and the Hughes Inquiry, concluded that there was no military intelligence knowledge of child abuse at Kincora. Mr Gemmell was not interviewed by either of them.




The First Minister Peter Robinson, Amnesty International and politicians across the board have called for the possible role of the intelligence services in covering up child abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast to be investigated as part of a UK-wide inquiry. On April 3, 1980, three members of staff at the home – William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains – were jailed for the systematic sexual abuse of children in their care going back to the early 1970s. Rumours have persisted that the abuse ring went further and included prominent people, both here and in the UK. It has been claimed that the security services were prepared to blackmail key figures as a means of controlling elements within loyalism and unionism as the Troubles flared.