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Two Rival Secret Services

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Two Rival Secret Services

Post by Karen on Wed 14 Jul 2010 - 4:03

Dublin Knows Secret Service Men as "Slops."

Exact Genesis of Epithet Coined Like Appellation "Black and Tan" Remains Most Profound Secret.

All Strangers Watched
Sinn Fein and British Detective Agencies Vie For Supremacy in Erin.

By Harold E. Scarborough
From The Tribune's European Bureau.

DUBLIN, Feb. 11. - The man on the street in Dublin (when he isn't driven off the street while Britisher and Sinn Feiner add another chapter to the story of their mutual relations) has an expressive name for the secret service men of either side. He calls them "slops."
No one seems to know the exact genesis of this epithet. Possibly it is like the appellation of "Black-and-Tan," which somebody or other coined last summer to describe members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and of its auxiliary force, and which spread about the world with amazing rapidity.
But when the average Irishman breaks on in the course of a conversation and mutters, "Look out!" There's a couple of slops just behind us," one feels as legitimate a thrill as the Conradesque one produced by reading The Secret Agent at 2 a.m. One knows kinship with Conan Doyle; and, being only human, one turns about at the first opportunity to inspect the supposed detectives.

Dublin Is Suspicious.

One is very apt to be disappointed. The men behind are a pair of ordinary citizens, with absolutely nothing in common with Sherlock Holmes. In an ordinary city (which Dublin certainly is not in these days) these men would be passed by without a single thought as to their identity or profession. Dublin is suspicious. The tilt of a cap or a sag in the right hand overcoat pocket, such as would be produced by a revolver nestling there, put it on its guard.
It is not remarkable that the British government should have a large and increasingly efficient secret service in Ireland. But it does strike the outsider as decidedly unusual that the Sinn Feiners, hunted and harried as they are, should yet be able to maintain an intelligence machine which functions with truly amazing effectiveness.
There are many good stories of the workings of the two man-hunting services in Ireland which come to the ears of the neutral correspondent, but which he cannot relate without the possibility of their working harm to one side or the other. Tales of ambushes which never came off, of arrests which never were made, of plans for "something big" on one side or the other - many of these bear earmarks of absolute truth. Some day many of them will be told openly.
Other incidents, showing the close check which the rival secret services keep on their quarry and on each other, are public property. There was an American correspondent, for instance, who, considering his work for the day well ended with the filing of his last dispatch about 6:30 p.m., adjourned with an Irish journalist to a convenient public house, and proceeded to betray in a moderate fashion his unfavorableness to the Eighteenth Amendment. As he was leaving, a youth near the door spoke up:
"Mr. ________ has had his evening drink and is going home."

Even Journalists Watched.

The journalist, on hearing his name called, turned about. Three other young men laughed heartily at his confusion, and chorused:
"Good evening, Mr. ________!"
He nodded and passed outside. He had never before in his life set eyes on any of the men. Neither had his companion, a man born and bred in Dublin. By a roundabout route he later learned that these men were members of Sinn Fein's intelligence service, straying from the strict path of duty long enough to enjoy his discomfiture.
There was another journalist who met a man on the street - a friend with whom he had a speaking acquaintance.
"Oh, by the way," the latter remarked casually, "did you get your interview with Lord _______?"
The journalist, whose request for an interview had been made in the form of a private letter to the official in question, started perceptibly.
"Oh, we passed your letter," laughed the other. "But you should have begun, "My Lord," instead of "Dear Lord ______!"
Letters are frequently delivered in Ireland today bearing the penciled scrawl, "Censored by I.R.A. (Irish Republican Army)." It was a succession of Sinn Fein raids on mails which caused the recent order that in several districts of southwestern Ireland mails would hereafter be delivered only in bulk, and at infrequent intervals.
Again, one may be walking along a Dublin street with an Irishman when he suddenly remarks, "Let's turn off here. There's an armored car coming."

Secret Communication System.

The stranger has seen nothing, heard nothing to indicate it. Yet if he cares to put the matter to a personal test he will find that in the majority of cases the armored car does appear within a minute or two. There apparently exists some simple system of communication whereby the impending presence of government forces is made known in sufficient time for "wanted" persons to disappear.
These are superficial incidents. There are others much graver, stories of spies planted in the very hearts of the assemblages which direct the rival policies in Ireland today, of counter espionage, of bullets fired from guns fitted with silencers and of night funerals at which the only mourners are armed guards to watch out for interruptions. The superficials one knows to be true; the others he can only accept with the guiding policy that almost anything is likely to happen in Ireland nowadays.
And then there is the nightly terror of Ireland - "masked and armed men," a phrase which has figured largely in the newspapers in the last few months. Now, everybody knows that sometimes these mysterious men are duly enrolled fighters for one side or the other. The phrase is used in Dublin Castle's official reports and it is used in the dispatches from the little rural towns, where everybody is known to his neighbor.
The shootings definitely ascribed to government forces or to Sinn Feiners are getting rarer. It is these quasi-unknowns on whom the blame is saddled. In many cases the Irish newspaper reader knows fairly well just which set of masked and armed men committed a certain act, but the public in other countries does not. And sometimes apparently no one knows. It is doubtless true that a certain number of private vendettas have been consummated by nightly raiders and have been laid to the door of one side or the other.
Where every man is suspicious of his neighbor the whole community's nerves are naturally on edge, and yet some curious paradoxes are apparent. There is an English journalist who strolls about Dublin with a monocle affixed in his eye, and who is never molested although he remarked that it was "beastly annoying" when a bullet intended for some one else whizzed within a yard or two of his head.) Yet another perfectly innocent man who carries a heavy pipe in his overcoat pocket may find himself the object of hostile glances along any Dublin street.
The Irishman who has any connection at all with politics may be fairly certain that very few movements of his go unrecorded, and likewise the foreigner whose business may take him into contact with partisan spheres. The truly amazing thing, however, is that Sinn Fein seems to be in perfect touch with the government's plans and activities. It has a great advantage in the geographical situation: Sinn Fein is Irish, knowing Irish people and Irish customs and Irish byways. The government must work in the dark to this extent: It must consider every man in civilian clothes a potential enemy.
With the British government in military occupation of Ireland; with its curfews and its prohibition of assemblages in certain parts, the physical difficulties in the way of Sinn Fein's maintaining an efficient secret machine and especially in utilizing the information it gleans, seem terrific. Yet maintain it, it does, and the apprehension of activist after activist seems to do it little serious damage.
It would, of course, be unfair to attempt to judge between the efficiency of the two services. Carried to its logical conclusion the policy of armed repression would be sheer force of numbers sooner or later reduce the menace of Sinn Fein to the occupying forces to a minimum. And there is no doubt but that some very good secret work has been done by the British in Ireland.
However not only in official quarters, but in Belfast they will admit to you that the "Sinners" have a wonderful intelligence service," and when Belfast admits anything concerning an accomplishment of the South one may take that as absolute confirmation.

Source: New York Tribune, Sunday February 13, 1921, Page 2

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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