Alan Mains may not be a household name but he would be widely known in security circles for a variety of reasons, not least because of his involvement in the run up to one of the most infamous IRA attacks of the Troubles.
The cross border IRA operation, involving allegations of collusion at the highest level, almost derailed sensitive British/ Irish diplomatic relations. The double murder of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan in 1989 as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station caused a political crisis. Harry Breen was the highest-ranking RUC man to have been killed by the IRA, questions as to why he was travelling unguarded through South Armagh’s infamous Bandit Country were raised almost immediately. Questions about Alan Mains’ involvement on that fateful day came much later.
Alan Mains went on to have a remarkably successful career within the RUC/PSNI and climbed through the ranks at an astonishing pace. When he finally retired with a handsome pension he promptly reinvented himself as a ‘security consultant’, working primarily from Box nightclub in Belfast. It is somewhat bizarre that Mains, would later find himself in the middle of a sensational political scandal. To understand his involvement in the murky world of property scandals, political nepotism and brown envelope backhanders you must first look at his relationships with individuals at the highest echelons of government.
Mains primary role in the Nama scandal was acting as a ‘fixer’ and ‘go between’ for Peter Robinson and Cerberus, the CIA backed vulture fund which is headed up by a former US Vice President Dan Quayle. Quayle is himself no stranger to controversy, having previously been engulfed in scandal due to taking part in high level black op’s on behalf of George Bush Snr and the CIA during his political career. Mains linkman within Cerberus is a former MI5 operative, Ronald O Coggle. To understand those links we must go all the way back to 1989 and the gun attack on Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.
The two men had been to Dundalk in the Irish Republic for a meeting with Gardai in relation to the smuggling activities of Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy. Murphy, the man who for many years was believed to be the IRA Chief of Staff. His own personal ‘unit’ was the South Armagh brigade, widely acknowledged to be the most professional and successful IRA unit to have ever existed. The reason for the meeting seems to have come from the insistence of the then Secretary of State, Tom King, that Slab Murphy and his money making activities be shut down. It would later be claimed that at a dinner prior to the attack, the Secretary of State was made aware, by the military, of the considerable smuggling activities being carried out by Murphy on behalf of the IRA and as a result King ordered the RUC to see what could be done to shut down this lucrative enterprise.
Of course, the notion that a Secretary of State, who would have been regularly briefed by MI5, would be surprised to hear of these activities is somewhat far-fetched, Slab Murphy’s activities were an open secret at the time. However, that is the official version of events and was the reason given for the cross border visit by the two RUC men on March 20, 1989.
This was again repeated to a senior judge asked to investigate allegations of garda collusion in the murder of the two officers. Judge Peter Smithwick delivering his findings in December 2013 said he was; “satisfied there was collusion in the murders”. Alan Mains was one of the people to give evidence to Judge Smithwick. His evidence clearly fingered a garda officer as the mole and furthermore he recounted a meeting he claims he held with the then Chief Constable, Sir John Hermon.
There are no independent witnesses that could verify this meeting and Judge Smithwick established that no credible witnesses could actually verify for certain that it even took place.
In his evidence Mains claims he told Sir John Hermon that his senior officer, Harry Breen, had expressed concerns to him prior to his departure on March 20, 1989 about a rogue garda in Dundalk, and that he mentioned the name of Owen Corrigan.
What is remarkable about this testimony – notwithstanding the fact that there is no independent verification, and that Sir John Hermon is now deceased- is that when Alan Mains sat down to make his statement on March 22, 1989, he did not include the name of the rogue garda officer. Instead he referred to the fact that “members of the garda were on Slab Murphy’s payroll”. This statement is undoubtedly true, but it is beyond comprehension that Mains would wait 21-years before giving the name of the rogue officer. Surely this information could have been invaluable in saving the lives of other RUC officers or civilians at the time, yet he decided not to include the specific name within his witness statement, taken only 48 hours after the brutal slaying of two of his fellow officers.
I have since been furnished with an alternative version of events from a source who would have had detailed information and access to highly classified documents. It is clear, from the overall picture, that Owen Corrigan was working in some capacity for the IRA. The assessment of highly placed security force sources is that this was probably for purely financial gain rather than any ideological purpose. However, did Corrigan solely set up Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan? I have been told, by a highly credible source, that he did not. Owen Corrigan colluded with the IRA, but on March 20, 1989 the collusion wasn’t between the IRA and the gardai, but between British security services and the IRA.
The two officers were it seems considered expendable assets in a dirty war. MI5 had an asset within the IRA unit involved with the murder- official sources have always been keen to suggest this source was ‘Stakeknife’- Freddie Scappitici -but was it? An alternative version of events is that there was another agent within the IRA unit on that day, a man who would was one of the gunmen in the Kingsmill massacre and who would go on to be one of the key players in the Omagh bombing.
We know there was a last minute change in plan to open fire on the two officers and kill them immediately rather than kidnap them. Why did this happen? Only those on the operation- or those pulling their strings- know the exact circumstances. In evidence to the Smithwick tribunal, IRA representatives became agitated when this question was asked and requested a short recess. It is clear that questions still hang over why the IRA unit opened fire on March 20, 1989.
Official sources will always be keen to pin the blame on ‘Stakeknife’- he is an asset that has already been burnt- but how much more shocking would it be if not only was there another agent within the IRA unit involved in the attack, but if that same agent was later intricately involved in the Omagh bomb.
Peter Keely- aka Kevin Fulton- gave evidence to the Smithwick tribunal and laid the blame at the door of Owen Corrigan. At the time of his statement, Kevin Fulton was still being paid by MI5. The evidence that was given in regards to Owen Corrigan may, or may not, have been true, but it raises a number of questions regardless.
Ronnie Flanagan described Fulton as an intelligence nuisance following claims that he had informed his handlers prior to the Omagh bomb and this intelligence was not acted upon, costing the lives of 29 innocent people at the hands of a Real IRA atrocity in 1998.
There are a number of problems with Flanagan’s statement- firstly, if Kevin Fulton was merely a Walter Mitty, then why would he have been retained by MI5 and the CID for as long as he was? Why did other credible witnesses testify to the calibre of Kevin Fulton as a useful asset? If he was so unreliable then surely no intelligence agency would touch him? Yet MI5 continue to pay his allowance and accommodation up to this very day.
Does it not beg some astonishing questions as to why Kevin Fulton only became a Walter Mitty following his claims – which have subsequently been proven to be true via a Police Ombudsman investigation carried out by Nuala O’Loan – that the RUC had intelligence that may have prevented the Omagh bomb?
All the evidence, when one examines it in the context of a detailed timeline, leads to the inevitable conclusion that Kevin Fulton was a useful and important asset. His former handlers have testified to this. He was only dismissed when he went public with claims the RUC could have prevented the Omagh bomb.
The details of what intelligence the RUC had could only have come from either an officer with high security clearance or else Fulton was telling the truth, and indeed he did warn the RUC of the plans to carry out a bomb attack and as a result he was aware of the fact the RUC were in possession of the intelligence, because it was he who provided it.
So unless a senior RUC officer decided to go and tell Kevin Fulton, who don’t forget Ronnie Flanagan tried to paint as a Walter Mitty, that they had been in possession of that intelligence, then the only logical conclusion is that Kevin Fulton did indeed pass intelligence relating to the Omagh bomb on.
I believe it can be taken as read that Kevin Fulton was a valuable asset to the intelligence services, and only lost his value when he exposed a monumental error by the RUC.
What is beyond doubt is that MI5 have continued to take an interest in Fulton and at the time of the Omagh bomb they were handling him along with CID. In the competitive world of the British Intelligence services, it is by no means beyond the realms of possibility that MI5 could have used Fulton to pin the blame on the RUC, for what was essentially an MI5 sanctioned bomb attack.
By going public and stating that the RUC had the intelligence prior to the bomb served two purposes. Firstly, it allowed the blame for a monumental error to be pinned on the RUC and secondly, it diverted suspicion away from any thoughts that MI5 could have had an asset within the RIRA bombing team. If going public over the Omagh bomb had damaged or embarrassed MI5, then they would have cut him loose, or worse. But they didn’t, instead MI5 continue to pay an ‘allowance’ to Kevin Fulton and provide him with accommodation. Is this the usual treatment dished out to a rogue agent?
A former very senior RUC officer told me that MI5 did indeed have an asset within the RIRA bombing team. The source was unsure exactly which one of the bombing team it was, but he has claimed that MI5 allowed the attack to go ahead, again for two purposes- firstly to effectively finish the dissident republican movement before it got off the ground. In this regard they succeeded; even former well respected republicans were hounded for involvement with the RIRA following the Omagh bomb. Widespread revulsion, even within the republican community, dealt a fatal blow to the RIRA and helped cement the Sinn Féin’s political project, even among those republicans who were initially sceptical.
The second reason it is now thought MI5 allowed the bombers to attack the market town and slaughter innocent civilians was that once their asset-Kevin Fulton- revealed that the RUC could have stopped the bomb, but failed, then Unionists may very well be more open to reform of the RUC through the Patten reforms which they initially rejected.
All of the above shows that not only was Kevin Fulton a credible asset, but he was an important one. So it stands to reason that Kevin Fulton would never have engaged with the Smithwick tribunal unless he had received the explicit permission of his handlers. I am in no position to say whether Kevin Fulton’s evidence to the Smithwick tribunal was accurate or not, but what is beyond all doubt is that whatever evidence he did give, he gave with a nod from MI5.
So what would the MI5 purpose have been in allowing Kevin Fulton to validate the evidence of Alan Mains in relation to Owen Corrigan? It is beyond doubt that there were political agendas and horse trading at play. There was a piece of disclosure from the NIO included in the Smithwick findings that was unreported at the time. A note claimed that Lady Sylvia Hermon, wife of the late Sir John Hermon, told former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble not to push for the inclusion of the Breen and Buchanan murders, as part of the Weston Park talks because it could embarrass the RUC.
It was Sir John Hermon that Alan Mains alleged he told of Garda collusion the day after the Breen and Buchanan murders. The North Down MP denied ever making such remarks and the rest of the UUP team validated this by denying ever hearing Lady Hermon making that case. Why the NIO would concoct such a note is open to speculation. What is not open to speculation is that the note was ‘recorded’, prior to Alan Mains making the claims about Sir John Hermon.
I know Lady Sylvia Hermon and have always found her to be a woman of the highest integrity. She is a well-known and well respected MP. I find it hard to believe that if Lady Hermon said, what the NIO note claimed she had, that she would give a false affidavit in relation to it, furthermore it seems unthinkable that she would encourage the rest of the UUP team to also lie. Therefore I am firmly of the opinion, as are others, that the NIO concocted the note for an ulterior motive.
So why would they have done this? As I said previously, the why is all open to speculation, but in regards to the wider context, there is something very strange about the NIO – who have their strings pulled by MI5 – concocting a note claiming to be from Sylvia Hermon stating that a Catholic RUC man had been passing information to the IRA and so Unionists should avoid pushing for an inquiry into the murders of Breen and Buchanan.
If the purpose of this concocted note was for a political leverage around the Weston Park talks, then the NIO would have played their hand much sooner, but they didn’t, instead they released it late into the Smithwick tribunal- therefore the inference being that the purpose was to influence those proceedings.
The inference from such a note would have been clear. It sought to create the impression that Sir John Hermon had passed some form of information to his wife, which would be frowned upon and damage the legacy of the deceased Chief Constable, but furthermore it would lead to speculation that Lady Sylvia Hermon was trying to shut down any possible inquiry, so as to cover for her husband. The question would then be what was she trying to cover for her husband? Enter Alan Mains and his account- 21 years later – claiming he passed Owen Corrigan’s name to Sir John Hermon the day after the murder of his two fellow RUC officers.
There is no independent verification that this meeting took place and Alan Mains made no reference to Owen Corrigan in his statement on the March 22, 1989. In evidence to the Smithwick tribunal, Alan Mains claimed he excluded the name of Owen Corrigan because he was advised to by a senior CID officer. Initially he could “not recall” who this CID officer was, however, in his testimony in the days after being unable to recall, Mains miraculously remembered the name of the CID officer. Conveniently the officer was, like Sir John Hermon, also now deceased so therefore we only have Mains version of events to go on. The ‘Hermon note’, would have created the impression that Mains was telling the truth and Sir John Hermon’s wife, Lady Hermon, was trying to cover it up. Except it wasn’t Lady Hermon trying cover up the events of that awful day.
The involvement of MI5 ripples throughout the events of March 20 1989 and indeed the subsequent cover up and finger pointing. I have since learned that not only did MI5 have a second agent, besides ‘Stakeknife’, involved in the operation to murder Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, but they also had a third asset who was within the RUC station. This asset was made aware prior to the murder that he should avoid travelling with Harry Breen to Dundalk on that fateful day. Let us consider the testimony of Alan Mains, and his statement dated March 22, 1989. Mains claimed he was asked by Harry Breen to travel to Dundalk with him but he decided not to go and instead telephoned Bob Buchanan to take his place. This is contradicted by various witnesses who gave evidence to the Smithwick tribunal. It was established by Judge Smithwick that ever since a meeting on March 16, when the intention to travel to Dundalk was discussed, Bob Buchanan was always intended to be part of the RUC delegation that would travel to the meeting with the Garda.
A number of credible witnesses describe Mains being present at various times during the meeting held on March 16 – yet Mains claims he has no recollection of being at this meeting. This is remarkable given that he remembers every word spoken during the events of less than one week later. Alan Mains also claims Harry Breen asked him to make a call to Dundalk Garda station on his behalf, yet once again the only person who could verify this- Harry Breen – now deceased. Mysteriously there was no mention of this call, within Alan Mains statement on the March 22, 1989. None of the staff within the Garda station could recall or verify Mains making any of these calls. So the question then arises, between gaining knowledge of the planned trip to Dundalk on March 16 and the IRA ambush four days later, just who did Alan Mains actually call? Given Mains could not recall being at the planning meeting, but could recall- 21 years later- calls that he made from the RUC station, supposedly on the orders of the now deceased Harry Breen, it poses the question- how come Mains memory and recollections are remarkably sharp about some events but conveniently cloudy about others?
Alan Mains, 21 years later managed to recall that he was supposed to travel with Harry Breen on that day, a claim disputed by all independent witnesses and rejected by Judge Smithwick, he has subsequently given a number of different versions as to why he did not travel to Dundalk. In an interview with the BBC on December 4, 2013, Alan Mains told journalist Sharon Ferguson that he had been asked by his boss, Harry Breen, to travel to the meeting in Dundalk. All independent witnesses and evidence collated during the Smithwick tribunal, contradicts this claim. Alan Mains further claims, in his interview with the BBC, he did not travel to Dundalk because he wanted to “go to the gym”.
It is worth quoting the full paragraph, attributed by the BBC to Alan Mains:
“I remember looking out the window and looking at the sunshine, I was very tempted to go, but decided that I would go to the gym and do some weight training.”
It has never been questioned, or established; whether Alan Mains did, or did not, attend the gym on that sunny day. It would be reasonable to assume the gym would have kept a sign-in book, which could provide verification as to whether Alan Mains actually did go to the gym. I am informed that this sign-in book, if it still exists, has never been sought. In the Belfast Newsletter, on the June 22, 2011, under the headline “Gardai were in pay of top republican” the paper describes Alan Mains evidence to the Smithwick tribunal in Dublin. The article contains the following account of why Alan Mains did not travel to Dundalk on the fateful day. Again, it is worth including the relevant paragraph in full:
“Mr Mains was originally to go with Chief Superintendent Breen to Dundalk but asked to be excused so as he could play Rugby that evening. Instead, said Mr Mains, Chief Superintendent Breen picked Superintendent Buchanan not only for his expertise in the border area but also because he was soon to be transferred to Newtownards and a visit to Dundalk would allow him to say farewell to many of the Garda officers he had been working with.”
Again, it has never been verified or even questioned, if there even was a rugby match taking place that evening. If there was, there would have been a number of independent witnesses who would have been aware Alan Mains was due to play alongside them, yet not one has ever come forward. The BBC interview was given after the completion of the Smithwick tribunal, and therefore Judge Smithwick was unable to assess or question why Mains decided not to travel to Dundalk and why he gave two very different accounts of his movements that night. This, of course, is notwithstanding the fact that Judge Smithwick had already rejected his claims that he was ever even going in the first place.
The continued varying of Alan Mains own account raises a number of questions but also provides us with some answers to who knew what on that fateful day. Join the dots and what emerges is the very real possibility that it was Alan Mains who the MI5 asset within the RUC station and he knew in advance the attack was going to take place. There is no suggestion that he was in contact with the IRA, instead it was MI5 who were running two agents involved with the murder plot and who were reporting back to Mains. One of these assets was ‘Stakeknife’ and the other was later part of the RIRA team that bombed Omagh.
The original plan put together by Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, was to kidnap the two officers and have them interrogated, this is where ‘Stakeknife’ would have come in, as a member of the IRAs ‘nutting squad’ that was his area of expertise. MI5 feared what the two officers might have revealed under interrogation, and I have also been informed that MI5 viewed Harry Breen as a ‘problem’ due to his hardline stance against the IRA. I have been unable to corroborate that piece of information, therefore it is important to state that I have no evidence or independent verification to prove that MI5 viewed Harry Breen as a problem. I am merely repeating the comments of one well-placed source.
‘Stakeknife’ would never have been involved in the actual operation itself because it was not part of his IRA remit, therefore MI5 decided to use another of their assets to shut down the planned kidnapping by executing the officers on the spot.
MI5 let the planned operation, and eventual murder of the two RUC officers, go ahead for two reasons. The first was to protect their assets within the IRA, who had informed their handlers of the plans. The second was to bring the issue of Garda collusion with the IRA to the fore and to put pressure on the Irish Government. Sir John Hermon, the then RUC Chief Constable, blew the second part of the MI5 plan out of the water only days after the murder, when he dismissed allegations of Garda collusion. Perhaps Sir John Hermon knew as far back as then and was disgusted by the fact that MI5 had sacrificed two of his officers to protect one of their terrorist agents. Alan Mains was unaware of these plans and the finer details of what was going to happen, instead he was asked by his contact in MI5 to simply keep an eye on the planned trip to Dundalk and report back. Mains duly undertook this task and telephoned his MI5 contact on a number of occasions between March 16 -20.
Prior to the attack Alan Mains was informed by his MI5 contact that he should avoid the trip to Dundalk at all costs if asked to go because ‘things were happening’. But as it happened Mains was never asked to go to Dundalk. The two different stories, one about the gym and one about a rugby match, came over 20 years later during the Smithwick tribunal and media interviews he gave afterwards. If Alan Mains evidence is looked at in its totality, it becomes clear that there are a number of purposes to his revised recollections. Firstly his latest evidence throws further bad light on the RUC due to the allegation that Sir John Hermon basically ignored Garda collusion. It is always a trick of MI5 to point the finger at other parts of the security apparatus. Secondly the tearful testimony of how Mains was supposed to travel to Dundalk but pulled out at the last minute was designed to allay any suspicions he was forewarned about the attack. Thirdly, Mains testimony played into the political agenda of MI5 at that time. It put pressure on the Irish Government in relation to collusion, which did take place between gardai and the IRA, as Judge Smithwick concluded. And finally the evidence of Alan Mains diverted all suspicion away from MI5 in relation to their part in the double murder.
The fact is Alan Mains never pulled out of the trip, because he was never going. He never telephoned Dundalk on behalf of Harry Breen. He telephoned his MI5 contact to keep him up to date with the travel plans of his two colleagues. He never asked Bob Buchanan to replace him at the last minute, because Bob Buchanan was always going to Dundalk ever since the March 16 meeting, a meeting which Alan Mains cannot recall being present at, even through various credible witnesses placed him there coming in and out at regular intervals. It is not a coincidence that Mains evidence to the tribunal was backed up by Kevin Fulton, a credible MI5 agent who was still in the pay of the security services when he gave evidence to the tribunal. There is no doubt that there was gardai collusion with the IRA, probably on a scale that has yet to be fully uncovered. But on this occasion it was MI5, who allowed the murder of two honest, decent RUC officers.
Did Alan Mains know the two officers were going to be murdered? I do not believe he did, nor do the highly placed and credible security sources that have assisted me with this book. What he did do was pass information to MI5 in the days leading up to the murders and he knew that ‘something was going down’- yet he failed to tell his fellow officers. Alan Mains may not have knew he was aiding MI5 and their assets in the murder of two RUC officers but he would have known afterwards and yet stayed silent.
The whole purpose of the trip to Dundalk was to discuss fuel smuggling and money laundering, MI5’s interest would have extended to Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, of course it would have. The Secretary of State was demanding action, and it’s therefore ludicrous to think that MI5 would not have been involved in the plans to shut down Slab Murphy’s smuggling and money laundering.
From 1976-1991 there was a MI5 operative working under the cover of the fraud squad in New Scotland Yard, his name was Ranald O Coggle. He is now the Cerberus European head and he is Alan Mains contact for ‘fixing’ sweetheart deals, for Peter Robinson’s charmed circle.
Alan Mains has never come clean on the events of that day, instead he has further served MI5 by giving a self-serving account to Smithwick. He shot up through the ranks of the RUC, benefitting in certain circumstances from the MI5 hidden hand, clearing the path up the ladder aided by his close friendship with Ronnie Flanagan. In 2007 Mains retired from the PSNI and set himself up as a ‘security consultant’. He regularly spoke to the media about security issues, and made a small amount of money from these appearances, this in itself is not unusual. The website for Alan Mains security Consultancy Company is remarkably blank; it offers little or no information. This is strange for a security consultant.
Following the sale of the NAMA portfolio to Cerberus, Peter Robinson sought to ensure that his charmed circle of property developers benefited from a sweetheart deal that would allow them to refinance their debt. He needed a middleman to work with Cerberus to ensure this happened; the man he chose was Alan Mains. Mains made contact with Cerberus to discuss the deals that could be made available to a select number of property developers. Cerberus agreed, and with the help of Jeffries Loan Core and others, a number of corrupt property developers had their loans refinanced in sweetheart deals which seen a large portion of their debt wiped clean.
Those to benefit included the Lagan brothers, Paddy Kearney, Noel Murphy and Adam Armstrong. Paddy Kearney showed his appreciation to Alan Mains by buying him an £80,000 Mercedes. This generous gift shows the level of gratitude Paddy Kearney felt for the work Mains carried out on his behalf. While this was going on small companies with far less debt than the friends of Peter Robinson, were squashed or placed into receivership by the US vulture fund- Cerberus. People like Paddy Kearney are having millions of pounds of debt wiped clean and individuals like Alan Mains are benefiting with £80,000 gifts. Thanks to this old boys network the rich were getting richer while the poor were getting trampled on and put out of business.
Alan Mains still has some friends within the PSNI at a reasonable level, and indeed he is still in contact with MI5 and his close friend and former RUC Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan. It has been claimed, by some sources, than an incident internally within the PSNI prompted an earlier retirement by Alan Mains than he had originally planned.
Throughout the entire cash for influence scam that has perverted the NAMA process, Alan Mains was a central player. Trusted by Robinson, trusted by the corrupt property developers and trusted by MI5 operative Coggle, who he has known for many years. Almost as soon as my blog began to highlight the involvement of Alan Mains he approached a private investigation firm and asked them to “find the leaks” and to “dig dirt”- presumably on me and others that he blames for his exposure. He also enquired about the possibility of bugging private business offices.
Alan Mains blames someone from within his inner circle for hanging him out to dry. He has sat in business premises in the Newtownards area and spoke about his anger over the situation and also discussed why they couldn’t have me ‘whacked’ at this stage because it would lead to far too many questions. He was accompanied on occasions by a serving senior PSNI Detective who I shall call Nigel.
From that dark day on March 20, 1989- and probably prior to that- up until the cash for influence Nama scheme, Mains has inhibited a dark and murky world of espionage and counterespionage. In recent times he has brought this expertise in the dark arts into the political sphere, to help and protect the financial interests of a select group of property developers. The only unanswered question is why? Is it for purely financial gain or is Alan Mains still actively working for MI5?
If the latter is the case, then this opens up more questions around why MI5 would be interested in Cerberus, who of course own Dyncorp, the world’s largest private military and security contractor. Dyncorp specialise in ‘snooping’ on private citizens on behalf of the CIA, FBI and others. It is a world where lives and livelihoods can be bought and sold, where money talks all languages and where Alan Mains feels very much at home.
Alan Mains may not be a household name but he would be widely known in security circles for a variety of reasons, not least because of his involvement in the run up to one of the most infamous IRA attacks of the Troubles.