Saturday, July 4, 2015

Seminar 3 Position Statement: Stephen Dorril, Univ. of Huddersfield.

Lifting the Veil: Major Fred Holroyd, ‘The Troubles’ and Whistle-Blowing

For thirty years, I have been researching the case of the Military Intelligence Officer, Maj. Fred Holroyd, who served in Northern Ireland during the blackest period of the Troubles. I have recently been testing the various claims made by Holroyd against document releases both in Ireland and the UK, the results of official enquiries and new research into the period of “Dirty Tricks”. In the process, I have seen aspects of the life-time ordeal that many whistle-blowers endure: a study enriched by the analysis of whistle-blowing by Professor C. Fred Alford, who offers a model and account that leads to a greater understanding of the nature of the organisations within which people in the security and intelligence services work. Holroyd’s experiences of the “secret” or “dual” state also beg questions about the type of political society of which these agencies play an increasingly significant part: questions studied by the relatively new area of para-politics and answered, I suggest, by the controversial German philosopher and political theorist, Carl Schmitt.
I will briefly consider Holroyd’s overall career in Northern Ireland as a military intelligence liaison officer with the RUC and his operations in co-operation with MI6. More specifically I consider key operations which led to his whistle-blowing role and in the process reveals after forty years of official secrecy, the identity and circumstances of the death of a senior Military Intelligence officer at the heart of the intelligence war; I also outline a new evidence on cross-border relations between the UK and Ireland that helps to explain why Holroyd’s whistle-blowing was seen as such a potential threat.
Studying such cases naturally raises questions about researching controversial and secret subjects when whistle-blowers are generally faced by antagonism not only from the State but also within the research community and the media. It also provides – in the Snowden era - a useful case study of the whistle-blower and what their actions and attempts at vindication tell us about contemporary society and the role of organisations, such as the Army and secret agencies, in what Alford terms, the “destruction of the moralised individual”. The aim of organisations is, Alford argues and Holroyd’s experience confirms, to transform the act of whistle-blowing from an issue “of policy and principle into an act of private disobedience and psychological disturbance”.
One of the reasons why whistle-blowers are often ostracised is because they have “seen behind the veil” and the public tends to shy away from what they reveal about how society is really organised. Holroyd’s experience of the counter- terrorism war in Northern Ireland begs the question of who actually was running the covert war and where was the political control of it.

Dr Stephen Dorril is author of ‘MI6: Fifty Years of SpecialOperations’ and a paper for the International Journal of Press/Politics, ‘Russia Accuses Fleet Street: Journalists and MI6 during the Cold War’. His history of MI6 and the European stay-behind units will be published next year.

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