Frank Steele

From Wikispooks
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Person.png Frank Steele PowerbaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(spook, banker, deep politician)
DiedNovember 1997 (Age 74)
Alma materCambridge University/Emmanuel College
Member ofLe Cercle
An MI6 officer with African connections who opened contacts with the IRA in the early 1970s. He later moved into banking and attended more than one meeting of Le Cercle.

Employment.png spook Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
1951 - 1975
"?" contains an extrinsic dash or other characters that are invalid for a date interpretation.


In office
1975 - ?
EmployerKleinwort Benson

Frank Steele was an MI6 officer who opened contacts with the IRA in the early 1970s.[1] He later moved into banking and attended more than one meeting of Le Cercle.


He studied engineering in Emmanuel College, Cambridge.[2]

MI6 Career

He joined MI6 in 1951 and was posted to Basra, and then served in Cyprus, Libya and London. He was station chief in Amman in 1965 and in 1968 in Nairobi.<ref="atoz"/>

Northern Ireland

When Stormont collapsed in 1972 a diverse collection of home civil servants, diplomats and spooks was sent out to try and make sense of the place. One of these was a remarkable MI6 officer, Frank Steele, a former colonial officer and travelling companion to the explorer Wilfred Thesiger.

Steele made it his job to get out into Catholic ghettos like the Falls Road in Belfast and the Bogside in Derry and to make contacts at all levels. Eventually he was able to get in touch with Provisional IRA leaders and suggest they come to London to see Willie Whitelaw [the first Northern Ireland secretary] in 1972. Steele was the first British official to meet the IRA.[3]
While in Kenya, he had had to engage in dialogue with Jomo Kenyatta, considered a terrorist, and did not see much difference in talking to the Republicans. As well as arranging the Whitelaw meeting, Steele was able to use his contacts to prevent a bloodbath occurring when, in Operation Motorman, the British Army retook the no-go areas in Derry immediately after the meeting with Whitelaw. The IRA were advised of the situation and withdrew their weapons and ammunition, making no attempt to wage a pitched battle with the army.[4]
From 1971 to 1972, primacy appeared to be with MI6 under Frank Steele. In May 1972, the Director General of MI5 and the Chief of MI6 agreed to establish an Irish Joint Section (IJS) for the purpose of co-ordinating the operations and intelligence distribution of both bodies.[5]

Later activities

In 1975, Frank Steele officially retired as a spook and went to work for bankers Kleinwort Benson.[2]

Le Cercle

In January 1984, he attended a meeting of Le Cercle with his wife.[6]


Michael Oatley


Events Participated in

Le Cercle/1982 (Wildbad Kreuth)11 June 198213 June 1982Germany
Hanns Seidel Foundation
Le Cercle/1983 (Bonn)30 June 19833 July 1983Germany
Le Cercle/1984 (Capetown)12 January 198415 January 1984South Africa
4 day meeting of Le Cercle in Capetown exposed after Joel Van der Reijden discovered the attendee list for this conference and published it online in 2011
Le Cercle/1985 (Washington)7 January 198510 January 1985US
Washington DC


  2. a b The A to Z of British Intelligence, By 'Nigel West'
  3. Talking to the enemy: the secret intermediaries who contacted the IRA, The Guardian, 18 March 2008.
  4. Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, by Jonathan Powell, The Bodley Head, 2008, p67.
  5. Interim Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974 (December 2003), Appendix E: The Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, p37