A new book, Client Confidential written by a former British army intelligence officer Seán Hartnett (pseudonym) claims that the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) was so worried about media leaks they employed him to search for bugs in their Dublin headquarters.
He claims that the fear was triggered after the contents were reported “almost word for word” by the Irish media after a post-mortem meeting about the 2007 World Cup in France, a campaign that ended with a 15-30 loss to Argentina. Hartnett concluded the leak to the press was probably the result of a covert mobile phone recording.
Hartnett was employed to search for listening devices as well as deploying other devices to search for possible covert mobile phone recordings in their headquarters.
Hartnett details how he tested the security of the IRFU HQ by taking an electronic pass key, entering through the underground car park “From there I moved to a room next door where player information, including salaries, was openly on display. I now knew how much Paul O’Connell [the former Ireland captain] was earning. As I walked around the building that morning, picking up information as I went, not one single person asked who I was or what I was doing.”
After issuing his security report, Hartnett says he addressed IRFU board members, telling them that the next press leak would be fully investigated. “Before this meeting began, I carried out a full sweep of this room … If anyone so much as turns on a mobile phone, I’ll know about it.”
Hartnett, originally an officer in a secret counter-terrorism army unit in Northern Ireland, moved to a private espionage business in the Republic.
He is not a stranger to controversy with his books. The British MoD attempted to ban his previous book on his time with JAVUNI (Joint Action Unit).
An IRFU spokesman said Hartnett had “fictionalised” their dealings with a reputable and credible risk assessment company.