| 15.4°C Dublin

Assassination foiled IRA man saved MI6 spy boss Sir Maurice Oldfield from sniper attack

Plot to shoot top spook as he attended church was leaked by informer

Close

Sir Maurice Oldfield had a narrow escape from the IRA

Sir Maurice Oldfield had a narrow escape from the IRA

Sir Maurice Oldfield had a narrow escape from the IRA

The Provos planned to take out one of Britain’s biggest spymasters with a sophisticated sniper as he walked into a Belfast church surrounded by body-guards, a new book has revealed.

But an IRA man saved the life of MI6 chief Sir Maurice Oldfield after leaking details of the murderous plot to the RUC’s Special Branch.

According to newly released ‘Agents of Influence - Britain’s Secret Intelligence War Against The IRA’, the terror group had given the high-profile killing the go-ahead in 1980.

They had discovered that Sir Maurice – appointed by then PM Margaret Thatcher oversee security and intel in Northern Ireland – regularly attended the Sunday morning service at St George’s Church on Belfast’s High Street.

An excerpt from a secret intelligence report, uncovered by academic and author Aaron Edwards, revealed how the republican informer had overheard IRA volunteers talking about their plot to assassinate Oldfield.

His handler quickly filed an ‘SB50; form, detailing what his source had told him.

It read: “X had been contacted by a person who had close ties with PIRA in the Andersonstown area.

“This person stated the PIRA has ascertained that Mr Oldfield regularly attended the Sunday morning service held at St George’s Church, High Street, Belfast.

“The PIRA are aware that on these occasions Mr Oldfield is accompanied by 3-4 bodyguards, but they believe that a well-placed sniper could still assassinate him and successfully escape.”

Close

The Narrow Water massacre

The Narrow Water massacre

The Narrow Water massacre

 

Sir Maurice was a former head of both MI5, the Security Service and, until 1978, MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, which organises British agents for use abroad.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

The spy head was appointed as the Director and Controller of Intelligence in Northern Ireland in 1979 at a time when the Provo terror machine was causing death and destruction across Northern Ireland and beyond.

Just months before the security chief’s appointment, the Provos carried out two of its most audacious attacks.

In Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, they exploded a bomb on the boat of the former UK chief of defence staff and cousin to the Queen, Lord Louis Mountbatten – killing him, two teenage boys and his daughter-in-law’s mother.

Later that afternoon at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint in Co Down, the IRA struck again, this time exploding two huge bombs on a military convoy carrying soldiers mainly from the Parachute Regiment, killing 18.

Close

Lord Mountbatten’s body is taken from Mullaghmore

Lord Mountbatten’s body is taken from Mullaghmore

Lord Mountbatten’s body is taken from Mullaghmore

 

They then turned their attention to Oldfield.

The book added: “Oldfield’s death would send a clear statement to the heart of the British establishment. However, the plot was disrupted by Special Branch before it could be executed.”

It was not the first time the Sir Oldfield had found himself on an IRA hit-list.

According to the book, published by Merrion Press, the IRA had also planned to place a bomb in the toilet of a restaurant beneath his flat in London back in October 1975.

Newspaper cuttings relating to the spy chief were subsequently recovered from an IRA safe house in the city a few weeks later.

 

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy