Alex Sloan

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase - investigating corporate and police spying on activists



Part of a series on
undercover police officers
'HN347'
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Alias: Alex Sloan
Deployment: 1971
Unit:
Targets:
Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front

Alex Sloan is the cover name used by a former undercover officer with the Special Demonstration Squad who was deployed into Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front (INLSF) from 1971. Currently he is in his 70s.[1][2]

For the purposes of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and Operation Herne, they are referred to by the cipher HN347 (for the N cipher system see N officers). The Inquiry has ruled that the officer's real name will be restricted.[3]

We are grateful to Dr Norman Temple for sharing his memories of the INLSF and of how it was targeted.[4] A fuller account of Special Branch interest in the Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front see SpecialBranchFiles.uk.


Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front

The target of 'Alex Sloan' was the Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front (INLSF). This was a small Maoist group based in North London, where it was focused on its general secretary and key driving force, Edward Davoren - whose house acted effectively as its base of operations.[4][5]

Edward Davoren

Davoren Defence Fund leaflet, Spring 1969 (via Marxists.org).

Edward Davoren was a prominent figure in London Maoist circles at the time having been politically active since the 1950s, including being deported from South Africa in 1964 for trade union activities.[5] In 1968-1969 he was closely connected to Abhimanyu Manuchanda who ran the Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist League. The RMLL was behind the British-Vietnam Solidarity Front and active in the Revolutionary Students Socialist Federation (RSSF), taking part in many significant political events at the time.[6] Both men were named in Special Branch files of late 1968 as significant organisers of protests ahead of the 27 October 1968 Vietnam War demonstration.[7] In 1968 Davoren became convenor of the London branch (Secretary of the London Conference) of the RSSF [5][8]

He came to particular public attention when he was one of 31 anti-apartheid protestors arrested at the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square on 12 January 1969. At his trial in November, he and another was found guilty of assaulting two police officers and given a suspended sentence[9][10] The case was even mentioned in Parliament.[11] More on the case can be found at SpecialBranchFiles.uk

In August 1969, Davoren split from Manchanda. Initially he focused on student politics, setting up his own version of the RSSF, but in 1970 he moved onto Irish related politics, establishing the INLSF with himself as the general secretary, while co-founder Joe O'Neill was its chairman. Much of the groups work took place at Davoren's home in Golders Green, North London.[4]

Activities of the INLSF

Cover of issue 1 of the Irish Liberation Press, March 1970

The group was founded in summer 1969, with meeting taking place at The Cock pub in Kilburn. It's formal launch came on 27 September 1969, in a conference at Conway Hall.[5][12]

In the beginning it organised protests and events, raising awareness on the struggle then taking place in Northern Ireland. This included organising an exhibition on armed struggle in Ireland. The group also produced a several page leaflet on legal rights on being arrested and representing oneself at court.[13]

In March 1970 it began issuing it's newspaper, the Irish Liberation Press.[5] Once the paper was established as a monthly publication, it became the group's main focus. Davoren was its editor and wrote most of the articles. Meanwhile, the rest of the group would pair up on Friday nights to go around Irish pubs in London selling it.[4]

The INLSF was never a particularly large group. Into 1971 it met every Sunday night at the Marquis of Clanricarde pub in Paddington for 'political education classes'.[14] This was a general, open circle for supporters interested in finding out more. These usually attracted 15-18 people. There was also a secretive, inner core group of 7-8 people which actually ran things; it met at Davoren's flat and was generally dominated by him.[4] This core would late become known as the Communist Workers League of Britain.

INLSF and the struggle in Ireland

Statement of Aims and objectives of the INLSF, from Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971.

Politically, the INLSF took an anti-imperialist line on Ireland, supporting the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein in a qualified fashion.[15] It saw the cause of the armed struggle in Northern Ireland as a war of national liberation against British colonial aggressors. It used an image of an AK-47 on its papers' mast-head and in one intervention of a meeting at which Bernadette Devlin, a leading figure in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland was speaking at in early 1970, Davoren rose to argue that the gun was the instrument of liberation for the Irish people. However, it would later modify this position.[5]

However, as there were no groups they felt sufficiently close to in terms of political analysis in Ireland, the INLSF had no particular contacts there,[4] though on a number of occasions its members did travel to Ireland to do paper sales.[16]

In the UK, as well as raising awareness through its newspaper, it organised a number of protests and awareness raising events. By the time Alex Sloan was involved, much of its activity focused on the production and selling of its newsletter. It also continued it's weekly political education / discussions nights and did film showings. In practical terms it focused on raising awareness of Irish political prisoners in British jails. It also [4][16]

Frank "Butch" Roche trial

INLSF picket of trial of Roche & Egan, February 1971 (from the Irish Liberation Press)

In 1969 the British Army began using CS Gas against nationalist communities in Northern Ireland, as issue that was picked up by the British Left, including the Irish Liberation Press. On 23 July 1970, two CS Gas (tear gas) cannisters were thrown into the House of Commons, for which Frank "Butch" Roche and Bowes Egan were arrested and put on trial.[17]

On 29 October 1970, Roche wrote to the INLSF, saying that he had been interviewed by Detective Chief Superintendent Ivor Reynolds, head of 'C Division' within Special Branch and he had asked about Davoren, though the two men did not know each other.[18]

The trial of the pair, for which Roche was convicted, though Egan acquitted, took place in February 2019. [17] Both the INLSF and the Irish Solidarity Campaign (for whom Egan was made joint Honorary President) picket the hearings.[19] It is around the time of the trial that Alex Sloan would have made his appearance in the INLSF.[4] While the ISC was already a target of another SDS undercover 'Alan Nixon'.[20]

Relationship with other groups

The INLSF had cordial relationships with the Panther Movement UK, the Pan African Congress of Azania (South Africa) and in particular with the Black Unity and Freedom Party (BUFP). Some members of the BUFP were also in the INLSF, and the two groups would share platforms. In particular, the two groups came together in November 1970 under the banner of 'Anti-Fascist Revolutionary Coordinating Committee of National Minorities' though which they organised joint protests.[5][21][22][5][21]

Split and the Communist Workers League of Britain

INLSF march past Houses of Parliament, ca.1970/1971

In 1971 Davoren began to move the group away from purely Irish issues, and sought to include more matters which were British in nature though still had an Irish aspect to them.[4] This included Irish republicans being held in British prisons.[23] and the Stephen McCarthy justice campaign (see below).

Tensions between Davoren and co-founder and chair, Joe O'Neill started to grow in this period, a power struggle emerging. Also, by this time, Davoren and O'Neill had come to the conclusion that Alex Sloan was a police spy. During one of the groups meetings, O'Neill publicly accused Sloan of this, but it was denied and not supported by Davoren.[4]

At the same time, having ambitions to become an editor of a British-Maoist newspaper, Davoren entered into talks with the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for a possible merger of the groups, though this was turned down by Birch. When the existence of these talks became known to the rest of the INLSF, Davoren was seen as trying to sell the group. This sparked a split with half the group under Joe O'Neill walking out in June 1971.[4] The Irish Liberation Press carried a note saying that three leading members were expelled, with other leading members from the inner group leaving after a special conference was called to ratify the decision.[5][24]

The INLSF continued to function following the split, producing one further issue of the Irish Liberation Press. However, several weeks later Davoren announced, despite earlier denials, that he wanted to create a British-focused organisation and paper, which those remaining members went along with.[4] Thus in July 1971, the Communist Workers League of Britain (Marxist-Leninists) emerged.[16]

The group kept some presence around Irish politics for another six to nine months including holding a rally against the introduction of Internment in Northern Ireland in August 1971. In March 1972, the paper was changed to Voice of the People and the CWLB abandoned the INLSF as a cover.[5][25] The latter would continue to be a target of police attention, being raided by Special Branch in 1973.[5]

Davoren left the group in 1972, dropping out of political activity.[5]

Stephen McCarthy family justice campaign

Stephen McCarthy

Stephen McCarthy was a 19 year son of a North London Irish family. In 1969 he plead guilty to stealing a car and sentenced to borstal, but subsequently escaped. On 16 November 1970 while walking with friends in Islington he was stopped by police. While being arrested, police banged his head against a bus stop to the extent he was taken to hospital - police later said he ran his own head into the bus stop. Against doctor's advice, police took back to Islington Police station to appear before the magistrates court on the 17th, where he was remanded to Wormwood Scrubs prison. On the 14th January 1971 he missed his next court hearing having fallen ill. On being transferred to a specialist hospital on 16th January he underwent an emergency brain operation from which he never regained consciousness. He died on 26th January and on 19th February, the coroner ruled it was an accidental death.[26][27][28][29]

His parents argued that his death was as a result of the police assault at the time of his arrest, and launched a campaign for justice, which was taken up by local MP for Islington East, John Grant, who asked the Home Secretary for a public inquiry.[27] The family also sought to fund their own inquest and privately prosecute several of the police involved.[29]

The INLSF also took up the campaign, working with the McCarthy family.[30] In this they worked with the BUFP under the RCC banner, including printing a leaflet calling for justice, witnesses and prosecution of the police involved.[31] The campaign also gained the support of other north London political groups.[32]

On 20 March 1971, the family campaign held a public meeting at Islington Town Hall to mark Stephen's death and to demand an independent public inquiry. This was followed by a march to the local police station where police attacked the protest. Norman Temple believes Alex Sloan may have attended this protest.[4]

There were 17 arrests among them McCarthy family members and Stephen's father John is hospitalised.[33] Also arrested were both Edward Davoren and Joe O'Neill, both subsequently convicted of 'inciting an unlawful assembly and criminal libel of police officers'.[34] McCarthy family members were also convicted and one imprisoned for six months.[27][35] It seems the McCarthy family were banned from participating in further protests.[36] though the family continued the campaign into 1972[37][27] with a protest march taking place on 28 January 1972.[38]

The Stephen McCarthy case is believed to be the first family justice campaign spied upon by the Special Demonstration Squad. It along with the case of David Oluwale, a black man murdered by Leeds Police also in 1970, are notable in being among the first campaigns to bring attention to the abuse of the coroner system to cover up police brutality, and of suspicious deaths in custody in general.[39][40][41]

Infiltration of the INLSF

Norman Temple believes that the group's focus on Irish issues as a significant reason for its infiltration even though it was not particularly active with other Irish political groups. Nevertheless, it would still have allowed the undercover to identify who was working with who. Police would also have been interested to see if there was a hidden agenda such as fundraising for Irish militants or where there contacts with the IRA factions, particularly in London.[4]

It is possible that its links to radical black power organisations, a key target of Special Branch at the time, may have also played a factor in why it was subject of a specific tasking.

Temple recalls Alex Sloan as having a strong Scottish accent, who was not a prominent person in the group and who had no real politics and did not become part of the group's inner circle. He was mainly involved in the selling of the Irish Liberation Press. At the time Sloan was around, the paper was the main focus of the group, and though it attended other demonstrations, it was not organising them. However, to be in the group at the time, he would have had to be active in selling the paper. [4]

Prior to the split within the INLSF in May 1971, it was discovered in some fashion that Sloan was a police spy, though it is not known how this came about. At one of the group's meeting, Sloan was directly challenged by Joe O'Neill, but saw it off, being supported by Davoren. Nevertheless, Sloan subsequently resigned from the group after the split, saying he could not trust them any more.[4]

According to Norman Temple:[4]

After he had been exposed he did not simply disappear. Instead prior to disappearing, he tried to throw a spanner in the works. There had been a split in the INLSF. He told us that he saw two people outside his flat obviously watching him. One was a person who stayed with the INLSF and the other was a person who had resigned. This was an obvious attempt to make us question the loyalty of one of our members.

He is not known to have had sexual relations.[4]

Timeline of INLSF for 1971

This is a list of known INLSF activities for 1971, mostly taken from it's newspaper.

Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front on march; from Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971.
  • 9/10 January 1971: INLSF activists travel to various British cities to sell the Irish Liberation Press.[21]
  • January 1971: Davoren addresses a large public meeting of the BUFP held on 17th January in Deptford on police brutality, which is followed by a march to Ladywell police station. This was in the wake of several BUFP members being assaulted by police on 10 January, and a separate incident were fascists petrol-bombed a black house party on Sunderland Road, the INLSF supporting the BUFP's campaigning around these. Further BUFP / INLSF public meetings were held on New Cross (13 Jan) & Hackney (31 Jan). The INLSF also announce its intention to attend the picket of the court on 25 February when the BUFP activists were due to stand trial.[42]
  • 8 February 1971: 8 February 1971: INLSF hold a picket at the Old Bailey for the opening of trial of Frank Roche and Bowes Egan who had been arrested having released tear gas into House of Commons in protest over its use in Northern Ireland. The Irish Solidarity Campaign also holds their own protest.[43]
Irish Liberation Press vol.2, no.2, 1971, cover naming Dick Jackson as an undercover police officer.
  • 13 February 1971: INLSF call press conference about recent bombings in Britain, and also to release details of Dick Jackson as a Special Branch agent.[44]
  • ca. February/March 1971: police detain INLSF paper sellers.[45]
  • Easter (April) 1971: a car of INLSF activists travel to Ireland, and sell their newspapers. They visit Dublin, Belfast, Derry and Cork.
  • Easter 1971: start of stickering campaign to raise awareness of the issue of Irish republicans in British jails.[46]
  • 11 & 12 April 1971 INLSF Easter Weekend Programme: On Sunday 11 April, INLSF repeat photo exhibition on Irish Revolutionary Struggle at the Camden Studios, followed by a meeting on politics of James Connolly. On Easter Monday, 12 April, rally and demonstration, meeting at Speaker's Corner with march to 10 Downing Street, Ulster Office and the Irish Embassy, to be followed by a social in the Spotted Dog pub, High Street, Willesden.[47]
  • May 1971: split in group over changing emphasis of its political activity, with half leaving as a result. A number subsequently turn to Irish republican politics.[4]
  • July 1971: Communist Workers League of Britain forms.[4]
  • 20 July 1971: INLSF members present at BUFP Conference.[48]
  • 25 July 1971, Davoren of the INLSF speaks on the platform of a demonstration called by the Black Unity and Freedom Party.[49]
  • 15 August 1971: Anti-internment rally organised by INLSF attended by 600 people, converging with a larger one organised by Trotskyist groups.[5][50]

In the Undercover Policing Inquiry

  • 1 August 2017: Application to restrict real name made by Metropolitan Police Service.[51]
  • 14 Nov 2017: minded to restrict real name, though cover name can be published.[52] At the time, the Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Mitting, wrote:[1]
He is said to be concerned about the physical safety of himself and his family if his real name were to be published and is concerned about the risk of media intrusion and the impact which this might have on his family. The latter concern is not irrational. In the unlikely event that any member of the group targeted who is still living may be prompted into giving evidence about his deployment, publication of his cover name, which will occur, will provide that prompt. Publication of his real name would serve no useful purpose. The infringement of his right to respect for his private and family life and that of his family would not be justified under Article 8 (2) of the European Convention. A closed note accompanies these reasons.
  • 8 February 2018: cover name and target group published.[2]
  • 5 March 2018: provisional decision to restrict real name with application to be heard on 21 March 2018.[53]
  • 27 March 2018: ruling in favour of restricting real name made.[54]
  • July 2018: it was noted by the Inquiry that, in light of investigations, it had changed the deployment dates of HN347 / Alex Sloan from 1971 to 1973 to just 1971.[20]

Resources

  • A broader overview of the Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front and its targeting by Special Branch, including a second suspected undercover, 'Dick Jackson' is available at SpecialBranchfiles.uk
  • The Encyclopedia for Anti-Revisionism Online (EROL / Marxists.org) host a number of articles which discuss the activities of the INLSF.
  • Various issue of the Irish Liberation Press may be found online. EROL,

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 In the matter of section 19 (3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstrations Squad ‘Minded to’ note 2, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 14 November 2017 (accessed 15 November 2017).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Email to core participants, '20180208 UPCI to all CPs - HN343 and HN347 cover names', Undercover Public Inquiry, 8 February 2018, referencing update of the webpage UCPI.org.uk/cover-names.
  3. Kate Wilkinson, Counsel to the Inquiry's Explanatory Note to accompany the Chairman's 'Minded-To' Note 12 in respect of applications for restrictions over the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Public Inquiry, 13 September 2018.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 Undercover Research Group: interview with Dr. Norman Temple, 19 November 2019.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Sam Richards, The Rise & Fall of Maoism :the English Experience, 2013 (accessed February 2019).
  6. Dónal O’Driscoll, 1968 – Protest and Special Branch, SpecialBranchFiles.uk, 14 April 2018 (accessed 5 February 2019).
  7. Conrad Dixon, V.S.C. "Autumn Offensive" (Weekly Report), Metropolitan Police Special Branch, 16 October 1968 (accessed via SpecialBranchFiles.uk).
  8. Davoren Defence Fund (leaflet), 1969, The Marxist, no.9, Spring 1969 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  9. Black and White Unite and Fight!, Freedom News, vol.30, no.2, 18 January 1969.
  10. Left's court victory, Socialist Worker, 20 November 1969.
  11. Central Criminal Court (Trial), Hansard (Parliament.uk), vol. 793, 19 December 1969.
  12. Counter Revolutionaries Get Hammered, Irish Liberation Press, vol.1, no.6, 1970 (available via Marxists.org).
  13. A copy of the leaflet exists in the archives of John Chesterman, held in the London School of Economics library.
  14. INLSF Activities, Irish Liberation Press, vol.1,no.1, March 1970 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  15. INLSF statement on Sinn Fein and the IRA, Irish Liberation Press, Vol.3, No.1., March 1970 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Dónal O’Driscoll, Special Branch and the Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front, SpecialBranchFiles.uk, July 2019.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Butch Roche from Wexford threw two CS Gas grenades into the House of Commons, Irish Republican Marxist History Project (Wordpress site), 29 June 2016 (accessed 13 July 2019).
  18. Letter from Frank Roche, Irish Liberation Press, vol.1, no.7, (Nov) 1970 (via Linenhall Library archives).
  19. Free the patriots now!, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.2, 1971.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Cover names, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 27 July 2018 (accessed August 2018).
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 INLSF Intensifies Struggle, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.1, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  22. A black worker stands on picket in condemnation of British imperalist atrocities in Ireland, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  23. Free the Irish Political Prisoners Now!, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.1, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  24. Renegades expelled from I.N.L.S.F., Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.5, 1971 (via Linenhall Library archives).
  25. A new socialist newspaper will go on sale on 1st May, Irish Liberation Press, Vol.3, No.1., March 1970 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  26. Pigs murder youth, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.2, 1971.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Who Killed Stephen McCarthy - timeline, Felix (newssheet of Imperial College Union), no. 311, 11 May 1972 (via FelixOnline.co.uk). This is a reprint of part of a leaflet titled 'Who Killed Stephen McCarthy', issued by the The McCarthy Committee, 50 Courtney Court, Courtney, Road, Holloway, N7 7BH.
  28. Stephen McCarthy, Hansard (House of Commons Debates), 20 May 1971 - HC Deb 20 May 1971 vol 817 c1507.
  29. 29.0 29.1 John Telfair, The police and the death of Stephen McCarthy, Socialist Worker, 17 April 1971.
  30. A year of struggle for the INLSF, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  31. The people charge police with murder, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  32. On 8/9 October 1971 a joint benefit gig in its name was held, along for the Ian Purdie and Jake Prescott Defence Group (of the Stoke Newington 8). vide infra 'Who Killed Stephen McCarthy' timeline.
  33. Stephen McCarthy, Class War (paper of the London Alliance in Defence of Workers Rights), no.2, 1972 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  34. Edward DAVOREN and Joseph O'NEILL: convicted of inciting an unlawful assembly and..., National Archives (catalogue of closed record), 1971 (accessed 5 February 2019). Note, it appears to have date of the protest wrong, giving it as 15th March.
  35. McCarthy family fight on against legal lies, Socialist Worker, 24 July 1971.
  36. Police brutality, The Red Mole - special issue on racism, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  37. In memory of Stephen McCarthy, The Red Mole, vol.3, n.35, 24 Jan 1972 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  38. Family and supporters of 20-year-old Stephen McCarthy march on th second anniversary of his death in protest at alleged police brutality during his arrest in Upper Street, Islington, London after which he died in police custody, ReportDigital.co.uk (image of demonstration), 28 January 1972 (accessed 5 February 2019).
  39. Clive Bloom, Violent London: 2000 Years of Riots, Rebels and Revolts, Springer, 2010.
  40. Tim Newburn & Stephanie Hayman, Policing, Surveillance and Social Control, Routledge, 2012.
  41. Melissa Benn & Ken Worpole, Death in the City, Canary Press, 1986.
  42. Black workers wage struggle against police brutality, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.2, 1971.
  43. Free the patriots now!, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.2, 1971.
  44. Press Conference, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  45. News briefs (page 21), Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  46. Free these patriots now!, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  47. Important Announcement: INLSF Easter Weekend Programme, Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (accessed via Marxists.org).
  48. Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.3, 1971 (via Linenhall Library archives).
  49. Molehills – An attempt at disruption, The Red Mole, vol.2, no.14, 14 August 1971.
  50. Irish Liberation Press, vol.2, no.5, 1971 (via Linenhall Library archives).
  51. Open application for a restriction order (anonymity) re: HN347, Metropolitan Police Service, 1 Aug 2017, published 5 March 2018 via ucpi.org.uk.
  52. Counsel to the Inquiry's Explanatory note to accompany the 'Minded-To' Note (2) in respect for restrictions over the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 14 November 2017.
  53. Press notice - Publication of documents relating to Special Demonstration Squad anonymity applications for hearing on 21 March 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 5 March 2018.
  54. Sir John Mitting, In the matter of section 19(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 Application for restriction order in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad Ruling 5, Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 27 March 2018.