Thatcher’s Spy: My Life as an MI5 Agent Inside Sinn Féin


Willie Carlin

New edition: August 2021

The Cold War meets Northern Ireland’s Dirty War in this remarkable real-life spy thriller.



March 1985, and as he climbed the six steps of Margaret Thatcher’s jet on the runway of RAF Aldergrove, little did Willie Carlin know the role played in saving his life by the ‘jewel in the crown’ of British military intelligence – Freddie Scappaticci, aka ‘Stakeknife’.

So began the dramatic extraction of Margaret Thatcher’s key undercover agent in Sinn Féin – Willie Carlin. For 11 years the former British soldier worked alongside former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in the republican movement’s political wing in Derry. He was MI5’s man at McGuinness’ side and gave the British State unprecedented insight into the IRA leader’s strategic thinking. Carlin worked with McGuinness to develop Sinn Féin’s election strategy after the 1981 hunger strike, and the MI5 and later FRU agent’s reports on McGuinness, Adams and other republicans were read by the British Cabinet, including Thatcher herself.

When Carlin’s cover was blown in 1985, thanks to one of his old MI5 handlers being jailed as a Soviet spy, it was another British ‘super spy’ inside the IRA’s secretive counter-intelligence, the ‘nuttin’ squad’, who saved Carlin’s life.

In Thatcher’s Spy, the Cold War meets Northern Ireland’s Dirty War in the sensational memoir of a deep undercover British intelligence agent, a man now doomed forever to look over his shoulder. . .

Table of Contents

Prologue: ‘You’ll Be Dead in the Morning’
1. From Holy Orders to Battle Orders
2. Back Home in Derry
3. FRU for You
4. Sinn Féin on the Rise
5. A Rising Star in the Movement
6. Debate and Distrust
7. Gilmore Dropped and Ding-A-Ling Ditched
8. My Cover is Blown
9. Haunted by the Past

About the Author

Willie Carlin was born and raised in Derry. Joining the British Army in 1965, he was recruited by MI5 in 1974 (and later the Force Research Unit), to infiltrate Sinn Féin. Over the next 11 years, he built up close contacts with Martin McGuinness and Mitchel McLaughlin, becoming one of Britain’s most valuable long-term agents in Northern Ireland. However, as his own republican commitment increased, he began withholding information from MI5. His cover blown by his unstable handler in 1985, Carlin was told that the IRA was on its way to kill him and, an hour later, he and his family were extracted from Northern Ireland on Margaret Thatcher’s private jet.

Praise for Thatcher’s Spy

‘[A] stark, uncompromising memoir … as compelling as it is unsettling.’
Becky Long, The Irish Times

‘Carlin’s story is straight out of a John Le Carré novel.’
Aaron Edwards, Dublin Review of Books

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