BBC NI commissioned a documentary called The Lost Boys of Belfast from TV production company Alleycats. It was due for broadcast in May 2021 but was never shown (see The Phoenix 6/5/22). It will now open the Irish Film Institute Documentary Festival on September 27. The programme from Alleycats investigates the involvement of a paedophile ring in the disappearance of a number of boys in Belfast. One of the suspects examined is Alan Campbell, a friend of the paedophiles who ran Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast.
Kincora is a scandal with multiple open wounds, including the blackmail of loyalists who became gun-runners for MI5 and were involved in collusive murder with the state. Lord Mountbatten was also implicated as a VIP abuser of the children. The documentary, however, probes a deeper, more grotesque level to the controversy – the cover-up of child abduction and murder. The RUC was about to arrest Campbell for the murder of one of the missing boys, Brian McDermott, in the mid-1970s but was ordered to stand down.
Channel 4 is now streaming Lyra 2023, a documentary about the career of writer Lyra McKee who was shot dead in Derry in 2019. She was investigating the same issue as Alleycats. Lyra 2023 gives the impression that two of the missing children might have been killed by the IRA. Footage shows McKee discussing a source who reported that one of the boys allegedly teased some unnamed republicans on an unspecified date that he would tell the RUC they were in the IRA.
Not even the blackest of Britain’s propagandists has ever suggested that the IRA murdered and disappeared a cheeky child because of a slagging incident on the street. Nor would this explain why the boy’s friend later disappeared too. After this, McKee came to suspect that Campbell was the guilty party, not the IRA, but this is not revealed in the documentary.
Astonishingly, Lyra 2023 makes no mention of McKee’s book about Kincora, Angels With Blue Faces (2019 Excalibur Press, Belfast), despite much time being given in the documentary to her ambition to write a book. In Angels, she explored the possibility that Freddie Scappaticci, a British agent in the IRA, murdered unionist MP Roy Bradford. Time will tell if British police officer Jon Boutcher and his Operation Kenova have examined the Bradford assassination.
Ken Campbell was also killed during the hit and his brother, Joe Campbell, brought the issue to Kenova’s attention more than four years ago, as McKee relayed in Angels.
Bradford knew one of the abusers, William McGrath. Many loyalists were aware of McGrath’s boasts that he was a British agent. Bradford intended to raise this incendiary issue in the House of Commons but was killed before he got the chance.