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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 20:28 GMT
The secret life of a former spy
Willie Carlin believes his life is still at risk
Willie Carlin believes his life is still at risk
A self-confessed former MI5 agent has broken his silence for the first time about spying on republicans.

Londonderry born Willie Carlin began working for the security services in the 1970s and continued to supply them with information over an 11 year period.

Now the 52-year-old has told the BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight programme that even now, he still believes his life is at risk. Spotlight reporter Chris Moore tells Carlin's extraordinary story.

Willie Carlin was born and raised in Derry. In 1965 he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the British Army.

After nine years service he was 'head-hunted' by MI5. He agreed to a secret rendezvous near his barracks in England.

He says that when he got there a "civilian gentleman" got out of a black Mercedes car.

"We went for a walk and he asked me if I would consider leaving the army right away, go back to Derry, to live there and try and settle down into the community.

"He said: 'There's a job my organisation would like you to do for us'."

The job was to infiltrate the republican movement and spy. He joined Sinn Fein and says his finest achievement in Derry was the illegal rigging of the 1982 assembly election.

Sinn Fein's candidate was Martin McGuinness, although there is nothing to suggest he was aware of any plan to steal votes.

Willie was born and raised in Derry
Willie was born and raised in Derry

Carlin said he had 23 people using cars and minibuses, with coats, wigs and glasses in this operation.

"I voted 14 times, but I was a minor detail. I had a girl in my team who was brilliant, went round all the polling stations from 9 o'clock in the morning until dark, ended up in the Creggan - and she had voted 67 times."

Carlin claims his team of Sinn Fein supporters impersonated more than 2,000 voters to guarantee Martin McGuinness' victory.

After Sinn Fein's 1982 election success, Carlin said he felt his republican commitment grow stronger and he began withholding information from his handlers about IRA members and what they had been doing.

Even after 11 years spying for the British and 15 years on the run, Willie Carlin today says he still regards himself as a republican

The move away from the gun to the ballot box gave Carlin most satisfaction and he claims some credit for helping put Sinn Fein on the electoral map.

But in March 1985, his handlers were about to shatter his pride and his life of deceit.

"I got a phone call to say they wanted to see me right away," said Carlin.

"Very unusual. In a plain car at the top of the street which was also unusual. They took me straight into Ebrington Barracks and told me I had two hours to leave."

Even after 11 years spying for the British and 15 years on the run, Willie Carlin today says he still regards himself as a republican.

"I think that life took me down a road where I didn't know what I was and I found myself - supposed to be Brit in the middle of my own people."

Spotlight is broadcast on BBC One at 2235 GMT on Tuesday

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