Gary Kent

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search
Northern Ireland.jpg This article is part of SpinWatch's Northern Ireland Portal.

According to Dean Godson, Kent is a 'former Troops Out supporter who changed under the influence of Democratic Left stalwart Seamus Lynch.'[1]

According to Kent's own account, he came to the Irish issue as a result of his role in Independent Labour Publications:

I best declare my own interest as one of those who came to take a deep interest in Northern Ireland as a member of the ILP leadership. I had become active in the Labour Party in 1976 when the demand for 'Troops out of Ireland!' was part of the DNA of much of the left. Some of us came to recognise the fact that parts of the British left were more nationalistic than the Irish left – which sought to halt the violence and unify the North before any type of new Ireland were possible.[2]

In 1996, Kent was one of the organisers of the New Dialogue fringe meeting which provided David Trimble with an entrée to the Labour Party conference.[3]

Trimble knew several of the group's leading figures including Gary Kent, a parliamentary researcher for the Labour MP Harry Barnes who had had a long interest in Northern Ireland affairs. Kent had organised several fringe meetings on Ulster at Labour conferences, to which speakers from the Orange Order, the Ulster Unionist Party and even the parties connected to loyalist paramilitaries had been invited. His aim had been to present the other side of the Northern Ireland story to counter the dominance of the pro-republican/nationalist tendency within Labour. However, until 1996 no Unionist leader had ever spoken at a Labour conference.[4]

Kent and Chris McGimpsey approached the New Statesman to sponsor the event. Editor Ian Hargreaves agreed so long as there were a range of speakers in attendance. The magazine's PR company Hobsbawm/McAuley booked the room.[5]

Gary Kent thought Trimble's address had shattered a number of myths widely believed by senior Labour MPs. 'They thought he was terribly right-wing - they only saw the images as Drumcree - not the other side to his personality.'[6]

Kent met with IRA defector Sean O'Callaghan when the latter arrived in London after his release from prison in 1996.

I was met at the other side by a contact of Liam Clarke's on the Sunday Times. He drove me to a pre-arranged lunch date with Ruth and two friends, one of whom had instigated my writing for The Spectator while I was in jail, and the other of whom, Gary Kent, had visited and kept in contact during the last two years. Gary is heavily involved in a cross-party peace group called New Dialogue, which has made a tremendous contribution to combating terrorism and promoting a peace in Ireland based on reality and not wishful thinking.[7]

Kent was among those who attended a unionist unity conference at the ancestral home of Viscount Cranborne in November 1997, which was ostensibly the brainchild of Sean O'Callaghan.[8]

In April 1999, Kent played a role in concealing the full extent of the relationship between Trimble and O'Callaghan.

The Belfast-based Sunday Life revealed that the First Minister had been drinking in the company of O'Callaghan in the House of Commons bar shortly after leaving a Downing Street meeting with Tony Blair. The paper did not realise the extent of the collusion between the two men, and Gary Kent, the Labour Party activist and spokesman for New Dialogue, a cross-party British-Irish pressure group campaigning for peace and the restoration of a devolved government in Northern Ireland, managed to pass off the incident as a mere coincidence. 'It is no great secret that Sean meets with a variety of politicians, including members of the SDLP, the Orange Order, MPs and peers of all persuasions,' Kent told the Sunday Life. What Kent did not reveal was that O'Callaghan did not proffer the same advice to people in the SDLP as he gave to Trimble on a regular basis.[9]

O'Callaghan would later describe Kent as "a supposedly left-winger who is more right-wing."[10]

In December 2006, Kent attended a meeting hosted by Will Marshall at the Progressive Policy Institute.[11]

From 8-12 May 2008, Kent visited Baghdad as a guest of the Islamic Dawa Party of Iraq, which paid the cost of travel and accomodation.[12]

On 19 May 2008, Kent was present when the Henry Jackson Society hosted Thomas Cushman for a talk about the United Nations and what could supplant it.[13]






  1. Himself Alone, by Dean Godson, Harper Perennial, 2004, p263.
  2. Gary Kent, Book Review: Gunsmoke and Mirrors: How Sinn Fein Dressed Up Defeat as Victory, Democratiya, Spring-Summer 2009.
  3. Himself Alone, by Dean Godson, Harper Perennial, 2004, p263.
  4. Trimble, by Henry McDonald, Bloomsbury, 2000, p174.
  5. Trimble, by Henry McDonald, Bloomsbury, 2000, p175.
  6. Trimble, by Henry McDonald, Bloomsbury, 2000, p176.
  7. The Informer, by Sean O'Callaghan, Corgi 1999, p405.
  8. Himself Alone, by Dean Godson, Harper Perennial, 2004, p263.
  9. Trimble, by Henry McDonald, Bloomsbury, 2000, p289.
  10. Trimble, by Henry McDonald, Bloomsbury, 2000, p289.
  11. Come Back, Schlesinger, by Seth Gitell, The New York Sun, 6 March 2007.
  12. Register of Interests of Lords Members Staff, accessed 5 March 2009.
  13. Eyewitness account from Spinwatcher
  14. Register of Interests of Members' Secretaries and Research Assistants, accessed 5 March 2009.
  15. Register of Interests of Members' Secretaries and Research Assistants, accessed 5 March 2009.