Kincora boys’ home sex abuse scandal: documents and key players

Last week it was announced that former residents of the notorious Kincora Boys’ Home, northern Ireland, where sexual abuse took place, will be allowed to challenge a decision to exclude inquiries about the scandal from the UK-wide inquiry led by recently appointed judge Lowell Goddard. However, with the Kincora scandal the added dimension is the role the sex abuse played in military psyops, pseudo gangs and the ‘dirty war’. Below is a ‘who’s who’ of those involved, including the part played by MI5. We also include copies of complete reports into not just Kincora but sex abuse involving other children’s homes in the province: these are of interest more for what they do not reveal (i.e., cover-up). Extensive, archival links are included at the end…


Kincora was a boys’ home in East Belfast that was run by Joseph Mains, Raymond Semple and William McGrath. McGrath was also the leader of an extremist Protestant paramilitary organization. On April 3, 1980, the three were jailed for the systematic sexual abuse of children in their care going back to the early 1970s. In 1981, McGrath, Mains and another staff member, Raymond Semple, were jailed for abusing 11 boys.

Allegedly, Kincora was run as a virtual gay brothel by loyalist leaders and MI5 and its clientele included loyalist paramilitary leaders, unionist politicians, judges and public figures. It has been claimed that MI5 used the home as a blackmailers lever. Also, the former head of Britain’s MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield, was reportedly observed by his Special Branch guards making use of boys from Kincora; also that he ‘shared’ boys with Sir Anthony Blunt, several bishops and an archbishop.

Psychological Operations

At the British Army’s Lisburn headquarters there was close liaison between the Psyops Units, Army Intelligence and the Security Services. One of their chief sources of information came
from homosexuals who were used to gather intelligence on extreme Protestant
groups. The Army didn’t trust the RUC Special Branch. Homosexuality was
still a crime in Northern Ireland and provided excellent opportunities for compromise
and blackmail. One of the Protestant politicians used in this manner was William

Under the influence of counter-insurgency expert, Frank Kitson, the Army
organised other intelligence operations along the lines used by Kitson against the Mau-
Mau in Kenya. The Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF) was created for this task.
SAS trained and including SAS personnel, the MRF numbered about 40 and
specialised in covert action. They set up Loyalist and Republican ‘pseudo-gangs’ to
infiltrate and subvert their enemies’ operations.  The pseudo-gangs were directed from the outside by the Army Intelligence. They retained a high degree of independence but were always open to manipulation and infiltration. They owed much of their training, supply of intelligence and materials to the British Army, routed through the RUC and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Among the pseudo-gangs were the ‘Red Hand Commando’ and the ‘Ulster Freedom
Fighters’. The self-confessed head of the shadowy para-military group, Tara, another
pseudo-gang, was McGrath.

MI5’s role

Suspicions of a cover-up regarding MI5’s role in what went on at the home were raised in a Belfast Telegraph article with MI5 accused of running Kincora as a paedophile honey trap. One example: Denis Donaldson, who joined the IRA in the mid-1960s while still in his teens and represented Sinn Féin in the USA, was later revealed in a Sunday World article (3 February 2013) to have been recruited by MI5 in the mid-1980s as the result of a ‘honey trap’.

In Who Framed Colin Wallace?, by Paul Foot, it is shown that Wallace, who served in a special Ministry of Defence press unit in Northern Ireland, which dealt in “psychological operations” (psyops), tried to alert the authorities about what was going on at Kincora. Foot’s expose also provided evidence that McGrath was working for MI5; and that in 1973 the Security Service set up a propaganda campaign named Clockwork Orange, the purpose of which was to blackmail and control top political figures in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, including Harold Wilson and Edward Heath. (Note: In October 1974, Wallace refused to take any further part in the Clockwork Orange operation and was subsequently sacked and moved to England. Later, the husband of a friend and colleague was found dead and Wallace was accused of murder and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. On 30 January 1990, UK Armed Forces Minister, Archie Hamilton admitted that several key allegations made by Colin Wallace were true.)

The Kincora Boys’ Home is alleged to have been pivotal to the ‘ghost op’ Tara. The Alliance Party’s John Cushnahan said in the Northern Ireland Assembly (Irish News,10th Nov 1983) that he believed a number of Assembly members had been actively involved in Tara. He gave a short history of Tara, including alleged gun-running and how the organisation received various types of weapons and plastic explosives. The Sunday News (22nd May 1983) gave details of a paper given to trainee spies at the Joint Services Intelligence Centre at Ashford Kent. It reads “Tara is a Loyalist organisation which is shrouded in mystery, but is basically a small ‘hate-taig’ group of homosexuals. They are all evangelists and one of its aims is the proscription of the Catholic Church. It has aspirations to become a paramilitary organisation”.

Orchestrating the Kincora Sex Ring

(The following is adapted from archived research conducted by Stephen Dorril of Lobster magazine, which specialised in parapolitics.)

The man who orchestrated the various activities of the Kincora Ring has been identified as a Lt. Colonel in the British Army, attached to the E Department (Special Branch) of the R.U.C., whose staff code was F5. The links between F5 and Kincora were known by E3 (the Superintendent in charge of the intelligence section of the R.U.C. at Knock H.Q.) and his deputy in charge of intelligence on Loyalists, a Chief Inspector whose code was E3(B).
The Terry Report (see below) uncovered, though did not report, links between the homosexual vice-ring and senior MI5 member P.T.E. ‘Peter’ England, now dead. Kincora resident John Baird visited England at a house on the Old Hollywood Road in Belfast. The house was a Brit-intelligence base used as a pickup point for Provisional IRA leaders during the peace talks in 1976 which led to the setting up of Republican ‘Incident Centres’ paid for by the British. England was then C(Int)NI – the Chief of British Intelligence in Northern Ireland, a key figure in the Security Service (MI5).

Another senior intelligence man involved in the vice-ring directed, but took no part in the ‘truce’ talks at British Intelligence HQ in Craigavan, Co. Down. He moved to a crucial position in Britain’s defence structure. R.U. C. men have made statements about his homosexual associations. The Provisionals dealt with him indirectly through MI6 officer James Allan. In a bizarre twist the Provos became convinced from contacts abroad that he was a KGB agent.”
Not long after the inquiry into Kincora Boys’ Home, Pastor Billy Mullan, a close friend of Ian Paisley, William McGrath and Joss Cardwell, was found dead with a legally held gun beside him. Robert Bradford MP, a former member of the secretive Tara organisation and a close associate of McGrath, was shot dead in the middle of the RUC investigation into Kincora. Roy Garland, a young Unionist leader and a friend of Paisley, was a protege of McGrath and a founder member of Tara.


The Kincora scandal was being examined by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart. However, campaigners have argued that Hart was not provided with access to all the relevant documents. Transparency is paramount and so, below, we include links to two previous reports that are of relevance…

1. The Terry Report was the result of the Terry Inquiry, which examined “Kincora Boys’ Home and kindred matters” in 1983. Here is a copy of the full report.

2. The follow-up Hughes Inquiry was not just an inquiry into the Kincora Boys’ hostel 1960-1980, but also what happened at: Valetta Park Hostel, Newtownards; Bawnmore Boys’ Home; Williamson House; Palmerston Reception and Assessment Centre; Nazareth Lodge Children’s Home; De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House Kircubbin; Barnardos Sharonmore project; and Manor House Home. Here is a copy of the full 368 page report produced by the Inquiry.

Further reading

Kincora: MI5 knew about it but did nothing, that much is certain

Full story of Kincora Boys’ Home in east Belfast yet to be told, says child sex abuse victim

Kincora: Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt joins calls for inquiry into abuse at boys’ home

Baroness’s brother ‘tried to limit probe into Kincora’

Kincora: MI5 ‘must hand over files on abuse at east Belfast boys’ home’ 

Editor’s viewpoint: We must know truth of Kincora

Child abuse inquiry must look at Kincora Boys’ Home, says Amnesty International

MI5 ‘blocked exposure of Kincora sex abuse scandal’

Kincora Boy’s Home scandal: South African intelligence ‘secretly backed loyalist paramilitary group Tara’

Kincora Boys’ Home scandal: journalist Peter McKenna dies

State papers: The perjury that allowed Kincora suspect preacher to walk

Westminster’s dark secret: abuse of children, adultery, homosexuality and sadomasochism were all seemingly lumped together

Civil servant Mark Sedwill admits Home Office ‘probably’ destroyed paedophile dossiers 

Westminster child abuse dossier: Geoffrey Dickens also gave copy of file to top prosecutor Sir Thomas Hetherington – so why did DPP fail to act on evidence of paedophile ring? 

Historic child abuse files missing

Tory peer Lord Brittan defends handling of 1980s sex abuse dossier

Abuse claims police matter – Clegg

Abuse probe ‘into soul of society’

From the archives:

Kincora: Sex racket at children’s home (Irish Independent, 1980)

Kincoragate (Lobster, issue 1)

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