Operation Torsion

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Event.png Operation Torsion Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
DateOctober 4, 2002

Operation Torsion was an RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) operation that led to 'Stormontgate, the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive in October 2002, amid claims of an IRA spy-ring. It would later emerge that a key figure in the alleged spy-ring, Denis Donaldson, was a British agent.

Surveillance operation

According to the BBC's Brian Rowan, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid authorised a major surveillance operation against the IRA by the Police Service of Northern Ireland Special Branch, assisted by MI5, in the wake of the Castlereagh break-in.

I understand Prime Minister Tony Blair was briefed by John Reid in September, by which time the investigation had reached a critical phase.
On the police side, only a handful of senior officers were kept informed - the then Acting Chief Constable, Colin Cramphorn, senior Special Branch officers Chris Albiston and Bill Lowry, and the senior Belfast detective Phil Wright, who is also heading the Castlereagh break-in investigation.
Before Operation Torsion "went live", Chief Constable Hugh Orde had been fully briefed and the most senior uniformed officer in Belfast, Alan McQuillan, had been brought into the picture.[1]


The Israeli website Debka claimed that the alleged Stormont spy-ring may have passed intelligence to groups linked Al-Qaeda.

The most urgent purpose of the parallel probes is to track down the recipients of the secret documents. It is believed that some materials reached interested parties in the Middle East. Thus far, two such parties have been identified as Palestinian agents based in Cyprus and Lebanon and Greek Cypriot agents who work the region. Both groups have longstanding ties both with the IRA and with Lebanese and Palestinians associated with Iraq and al Qaeda operatives in Lebanon and the Persian Gulf.[2]


  1. How Stormont 'spies' were rumbled, by Brian Rowan, BBC News, 12 November 2002.
  2. Spy trail from Belfast to Middle East, DebkaFile, 17 November 2002, accessed 1 April 2008.