Legendary Irish writer Brendan Behan had his telephone conversations bugged by the British intelligence service MI5.
Behan wrote several books and plays including “The Borstal Boy,” “The Quare Fellow,” “Brendan Behan's New York” and “Confessions of an Irish Rebel.”
Behan was heavily involved in Irish Republicanism and was jailed in the late 1930s for attempting to blow up the Liverpool docks.
He left the IRA in 1947 and became a successful writer and playwright. Behan was also known for having Communist sympathies.
The UK National Archives released papers today, detailing a conversation Behan had with a middle class communist sympathizer Barbara Niven in 1957.
It is not clear whether or not Behan was the MI5's target, but it is likely that Niven was under constant surveillance.
The MI5 officer that handled the bugging misspelled Behan's first name and called him Brandon.
The officer comically assumes that "Brandon was either little mad, or drunk" during the conversation.
“He said he had his mother with him. Did Barbara understand him? Barbara said she did not understand him. Brandon said he was going to give a subscription to the Daily (Worker) for a year.
“Barbara said that was wonderful. Brandon said he understood that canvassing was very bad. Brandon said could he call around to see her. Barbara said she was very busy as she was writing something that had to be finished by that evening.
“Brandon said he wanted to give the money to her himself and he wanted to see her because he was a first-class man and no one would call for him. Not even his own class would talk to him, he said (Behan)."
Niven eventually permitted Behan to visit her an hour after the conversation.
"He said he had got the embassy working for him. He hoped that they would get him a plane,” the officer added.
“He wanted to go home to Ireland where he lived. His brother Brian had dragged his name in the mud by his interview in the Daily Express,”.
Behan claimed that the MI5 asked him to become an informer on the IRA when he was detained for traveling on fake documents in 1952.
The MI5 said that records made no mention of an attempt to recruit Behan, but records show that Behan said: “I will explain everything, but not now as I am suffering from a hangover,” when he was arrested.
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