Roy Greenslade put his own reporters with collusion claims

Revealed: IRA editor Roy Greenslade put his own reporters at risk by claiming they were colluding with security services

  • Former Fleet Street editor Roy Greenslade secretly supported the IRA 
  • He was also had a column in the republican newspaper An Phoblacht 
  • In his column he criticised Fleet St colleagues for ‘manufacturing stories’ 
  • At the time he was the managing editor (news) at the Sunday Times  

A former Fleet Street editor who hid a lifelong support for the IRA secretly used a column in the terror group’s newspaper to accuse journalists of colluding with security services, it can be revealed.

Ex-colleagues have accused Roy Greenslade of placing his own correspondents in danger after newly unearthed articles show how he claimed that mainstream newspapers were ‘lying’ and ‘manufacturing stories’ – all while holding an executive role at The Sunday Times.

The 74-year-old, who went on to edit the Daily Mirror, used a column in the republican newspaper An Phoblacht as the Troubles raged in the Eighties to claim that mainland newspapers were an ‘excuse for journalism’ and ‘suspended even their own shoddy rules’ when referring to the IRA. At the time, he was managing editor (news) at The Sunday Times, which railed against IRA attacks under the editorship of Andrew Neil, now chairman of new TV channel GB News.

Former Fleet St editor Roy Greenslade, pictured with his wife Noreen Taylor, has been accused of endangering the lives of his reporters by writing a column for an Irish republican newspaper

Greenlade wrote a column for Irish republican newspaper An Phoblacht under the pseudonym George King

A tranche of An Phoblacht newspapers obtained by the Daily Mail from the Linen Hall Library archives in Belfast reveal for the first time the full extent of Mr Greenslade’s duplicity.

In March 1988, under the pseudonym George King, he wrote that journalists working in Northern Ireland were manufacturing stories ‘with the help of MI5 and the RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary]’.

Seven months later, Liam Clarke, The Sunday Times’ award-winning Northern Ireland editor, received a death threat from the IRA and was forced to flee his home with his family and move into a safe house.

Unaware that his boss at the time was a columnist for the republican movement, Mr Clarke later wrote: ‘For a journalist living and working in Northern Ireland to be accused of collusion with the security forces is life-threatening.’

Mr Greenslade, a former Guardian columnist who is married to ex-Daily Mirror journalist Noreen Taylor, revealed his long affiliation with the IRA in an article for the British Journalism Review in February. He said he had supported its bombing campaign since the early Seventies and wrote for An Phoblacht ‘as often as possible’.

Former Sunday Times Northern Ireland editor Liam Clarke, pictured with his wife Kathryn Johnstone was forced to flee his home with his family after the IRA issued a death threat against him

He described standing bail surety for alleged Hyde Park bomber John Downey and his 50-year friendship with retired Sinn Fein politician Pat Doherty, also reportedly a former member of the Provisional IRA Army Council. Mr Greenslade said that ‘the killing of civilians, albeit by accident, was justifiable’. As the backlash grew, he resigned from his post as an honorary visiting professor in journalism at City, University of London, where he lectured on journalistic ethics.

The revelations raised questions about what information Mr Greenslade may have passed to the IRA. And the files throw new light on how his columns put reporters – and specifically Mr Clarke – in danger. In January 1988 – in a column titled Behind the Lines – Mr Greenslade said journalists were writing about splits within the IRA ‘without a single piece of evidence’.

Greenslade was forced to resign his role at City University as a visiting professor lecturing on journalism ethics after his role with An Phoblacht was revealed

He wrote: ‘This objective and informed comment from the specialists on the spot – the people in the know! – hints darkly at splits inside the IRA, a split between the IRA and Sinn Fein, a split between Adams and other republicans, any old split they fancy. They offer not a single piece of evidence, not even one of their favourite manufactured unattributed quotes in support of this theory.’ In October that year, Sunday Times reporter Mr Clarke was tipped off about an IRA plot to murder him, allegedly because of his articles about splits within the IRA. He died in 2015 from cancer.

Last night his widow Kathryn Johnston said: ‘My entire family have been absolutely shattered and appalled by these extracts from An Phoblacht/Republican News from early 1988. They bring us back to the horror of the IRA plot to murder my husband.

‘Part of Liam’s work, at which he excelled, was to conduct hard-hitting investigations about struggles and division within the IRA, including exposés of tension among factions and intimate details of their military campaign. Shooting the messenger was a common IRA strategy. Liam had written many, many stories in The Sunday Times about splits and tensions within the IRA. When they couldn’t kill those stories, they decided to kill the journalist instead.’

In an article in March 1988, Mr Greenslade wrote: ‘For years they [the British newspapers] have manufactured stories – plenty, with the help of MI5 and the RUC – but just as many by sticking to their own fantasies of “objectivity”.’ In an earlier article he said: ‘There is no lie to which even the respected British papers will not stoop.’

Last night Mr Neil, Mr Greenslade’s boss at the Sunday Times in 1988, said Mr Greenslade’s writings could have put journalists at risk.

Mr Neil said: ‘He had this sort of Walter Mitty existence and was living two lives: a senior executive at a mainstream paper and being this IRA-loving columnist as well.

‘I think it’s very sad what’s happened and even sadder he was such a pro-IRA person but that’s what it was. I have no evidence he was responsible for anything we did or stopped anything we wanted to do about Northern Ireland.’

Mr Greenslade did not respond to requests for comment.

Journalist betrayed by his boss 

‘There are the British newspapers, tame and willing victims of self-censorship by the very nature of their capitalist ownership… For years they have manufactured stories – plenty with the help of MI5 and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.’ 

 Roy Greenslade, writing in An Phoblacht as ‘George King’ – while at The Sunday Times – March 31, 1988 

‘For a journalist living and working in Northern Ireland, to be accused of collusion with the security forces is life-threatening.’ 

Liam Clarke, writing in The Sunday Times, July 23, 2000 

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