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A spycop headed 1970s troops out

AN UNDERCOVER officer “ruthlessly” clawed his way to the top of an Irish solidarity campaign in the 1970s and used his position as leader to destabilise the organisation. 

Sinn Fein described the revelations, uncovered last week at the Undercover Policing Inquiry, as disgraceful and “very concerning” today.

On Friday, the inquiry heard how undercover officer Detective Constable Richard Clark infiltrated the Troops Out Movement (TOM), a lawful and peaceful campaign group set up to highlight abuses by the British army in Ireland. 

Speaking on behalf of two TOM campaigners, James Scobie QC told the inquiry how Mr Clark, who is now deceased, rose up the ranks by abusing friendships and starting four sexual relationships with women who did not know he was a police spy, to gain trust. 

He eventually became acting leader of the entire national movement in 1976, a few years after his deployment began. Mr Clark, who had used the name Rick Gibson, used his position to take decisions to destabilise the democractic campaign, the inquiry heard. 

Mr Clark is one of about 139 officers whose conduct is being examined by the public inquiry, headed by Sir John Mitting. The officers infiltrated more than 1,000 protest groups over 50 years. 

Mr Clark was later outed as a police spy by the group Big Flame, which he had been trying to infiltrate, after suspicious members found the birth and death certificate of the deceased child whose identity he had stolen. 

Assuming positions of power within protest groups became “common practice” after Mr Clark’s deployment, the inquiry heard. 

Mr Scobie contended that the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and its remit were known by the “highest level of government.”

Responding to the revelations, Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy said:  “The Troops Out Movement was a legitimate campaign formed to highlight the nefarious role of the British army in Ireland and to call for its removal, and it is disgraceful the British state would target it in this way. 

“It shows the extent of the British state’s efforts, by whatever means, to undermine any support for Irish causes and to cover up its activities in Ireland. 

“Unfortunately, these efforts are not simply historical, as the British government is still intent on attempting to cover up its role in the conflict.”

The Public Interest Law Centre is instructing Mr Scobie. Its senior solicitor Paul Heron said: “The undercover officer Richard Clark infiltrated the Troops Out Movement, and through ruthless planning and manipulation was able to become a national officer and organiser. 

“This was done by using and abusing friendships, through the use of four sexual relationships and using people as a stepping-stone to a position of significant influence.

“It is essential to remember that the Troops Out Movement was a peaceful and democratic campaigning organisation calling for self-determination for the Irish people and troops out of the North of Ireland. There is simply no justification for this action.”

The inquiry continues. 

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