How seriously, you might ask, should we take this?

The answer, alas, is not very seriously at all.

Which is exactly, of course, what someone would say if they were a person in the media who had been compromised by UK intelligence. You will just have to take my word on it that nothing quite so exciting has happened in my life of late.

The problems with this allegation by Kevin Boyle are multiple: First, and foremost, you might think from reading his title that he is somebody of importance – a member of the US Congress. But you would be wrong. Boyle is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, elected with 16,000 votes in a two-horse race in North Eastern Philadelphia. He is not a member of the US Congress. In relative terms, it is a bit like being a member of Cork County Council. An important job, to be sure, but not one which comes with much access to important national security information.

Boyle’s brother, Brendan Boyle, is, in fact, a member of the US Congress, representing Pennsylvania’s 2nd district in the House of Representatives. So, you might think, perhaps this little tidbit was passed from brother to brother, and made its way to twitter? The problem there is that the other Boyle, though he is in Congress, has no obvious way to access this kind of information either. If he were a member of the intelligence committee, that would be plausible (though leaking such information would be a crime) – but he is not. He serves on the very boring Ways and Means committee, which does not deal with intelligence. There would be no plausible reason for him to have access to US intelligence reports about UK intelligence operations in Ireland, assuming such reports exist.

The other fact to consider here is that Boyle is…. not a neutral observer. He is, in polite terms, a staunch supporter of Sinn Fein and the armed struggle against the hated British, as a few recent, less newsworthy tweets, demonstrate:

In any case, even if you take Boyle’s credibility – which is not very high – off the table, for a moment, how credible is this allegation on its own merits?

In the first instance, if the UK intelligence agencies had infiltrated the Irish media, would you not expect the Irish media to be a little bit more sympathetic to the British cause? As it is, there is probably no more institutionally Anglophobic country in the world than Ireland, at least over the past five years since Brexit. The assumptions about Britain in this country, and about its future, are universally hostile: Scottish independence is assumed, rather than discussed. A United Ireland is assumed, again, rather than discussed. Both are presented as almost inevitabilities, because of the “Brexit disaster”. If the UK intelligence agencies have a foothold in the Irish media and politics, then they are not doing an especially good job at making Irish politics and media any more friendly to Britain, which would be the primary objective, you would assume, of such infiltration.

Of course, reasonable people like you, dear reader, are not the target audience for this kind of rumour. When allegations of British spying deep in the heart of the Irish establishment are thrown around, who do we think suspicions will fall on? The UK-born head of RTE news? The UK-born Garda commissioner? Neither, of whom, you might note, are popular with the political party that Representative Boyle sympathises with. The same political party, of course, which is very fond of imagining broad conspiracies against it every time an unfriendly news piece emerges, or an unfortunate Garda investigation is opened.

The bottom line is this: There is no reason, in the wide earthly world, to suspect that Boyle has access to “US National Security circles”. There is every reason, by contrast, to suspect that he wants to help Sinn Fein politically, as much as he can.

You should judge what comes out of his mouth accordingly.