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Stakeknife - Britain's Golden Egg And Murderous Swine

Mick Hall @ Organized Rage writes:

A general of the British army described Freddie Scappaticci as their golden egg, others regarded him as a tout, turncoat and murderous swine    

Freddie Scappaticci at a press conference when he was pleading his innocence
Later this week we should know whether the 'Stakeknife investigation' is a serious attempt to search out the dark secrets of one of the most infamous examples of Britain's dirty war in Ireland. Or whether it's a typical government stitch-up to kick a troublesome issue into the long grass, à la the Widgery Tribunal into Bloody Sunday, and the Hutton Inquiry which was led by a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.

(Those who are optimistic about the outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry would do will to be mindful its author once served as Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office)

First proposed by Barra McGrory, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, with a mandate to recommend an official investigation into the activities of Freddie Scappaticci, a long time member and eventually commander of the PIRA internal security department, who was also an informer for the British security services codenamed ‘Stakeknife.’

After Scappaticci was publicly revealed as an informer in 2003 in the book Stakeknife,* he first tried to front it out claiming he was being set up by British spooks or RUC. When his claims of innocence became ever more implausible he disappeared from his Belfast home. Presumably scooped up by his British masters and relocated to some far off land, where he could live comfortable on the blood money he gratefully received from HMG.

When members of the British army's intelligence Corp Force Research Unit (FRU) turned Scappaticci they most have thought all their christmases had come at once. The IRA unit which he ended up commanding was responsible for screening all new PIRA recruits, conducting inquiries into operations suspected of being compromised, plus identifying, and punishing informers once the Army Council had confirmed a court martial judgment.

The value of Scappaticci to the British army was best summed up by General Sir John Wilsey, the Army commander in Northern Ireland from 1990 to 1993, when he described him as:
"our golden egg, something that was very important to the Army. We were terribly cagey about Fred."

Given the remit of the internal security department it is pretty obvious why Scappaticci was regarded as a "golden egg," he would have been in a position to screen out for membership potentially useful new recruits, put the Army Council off the scent when operations had been compromised or placed the blame where it didn't belong, create a witch hunt atmosphere with the ranks. That Scappaticci and his unit were known as the nutting squad by ordinary volunteers speaks volumes about this, and shield, or not, other informers within the IRA.

To top all this he was a willing executioner. Those who might be in a position to know estimate at least 50 people were sent to an early grave by Scappaticci, which if true would make him one of the most prolific mass murderers in British history.

Why members of the internal security department were not rotated by the leadership is still a mystery. Of all sections of the IRA it was pretty obvious it would be a number one target of the British security forces. Yet it's leading members remained in place for years. Some republicans believe there may have been a more senior informer within the Republican Movement who gave cover to Scappaticci. If so they could still be in place today within the upper echelons of the Republican Movement.

Although it could have been few volunteers wished to join the security unit as they found its work distasteful, for much the same reasons as why many police officers regard anti-corruption units despicable, i.e. they target their own. Although as all volunteers were under military discipline there is no reason why the unit could not be rotated by ordering volunteers to serve in it.

Whatever the reason the failure to rotate its membership proved to be a disastrous mistake for the IRA.

The inquiry will be overseen by the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the police authority for Northern Ireland, charged with supervising the activities of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). It is a non-departmental public body composed of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Its membership today consist of four DUP MLA, Nelson McCausland, Brenda Hale, Joanne Bunting and Keith Buchanan. Sinn Fein has three, Gerry Kelly, Raymond McCartney and Jennifer McCann, Ulster Unionist Party one Ross Hussey, SDLP one Nichola Mallon, and Alliance Party one Stephen Farry.

The board has a Unionist majority, although the three Sinn Féin members are all former members of Óglaigh na hÉireann and ex-prisoners, two of the three in all probability would have known Scappaticci personally. **

According to Belfast journalist Brian Rowan who has good contacts within NI police and the security services.

The Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher is expected to lead the police investigation which will focus on a series of IRA killings (the number could stretch beyond 50) and what was known inside the intelligence agencies – military, Special Branch and the British Security Service MI5.

Given its role, the investigation will also look inside that world that the IRA described as internal security, its activities and at those operating alongside Stakeknife.

In 2003, the Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci fled Belfast denying he was the agent. That denial was dismissed by others. In a brief conversation I had with him at the time he said his “involvement” with the republican movement had ended 13 years earlier – meaning 1990. Others believe his “involvement” stretches beyond then.

Stakeknife’s information could bring the roof down. Think of his role inside the IRA. An Agent interrogating other agents. What did he tell his handlers? When did he tell them? How was that information shared across the intelligence agencies?

It is no secret what happened inside IRA internal security. Its purpose – what happened to those identified as informers. This case is when the dirty war becomes filthy.

We wait now for the detail of the investigation – the terms of reference, the time frame, how it reports.

On the agent role of Stakeknife, what is the information trail that has been left behind? What tracks have been covered? What access will the investigation team be given? What about the National Security card? When will it be played? What was meant by that term “golden egg”?

Other investigations involving other cases have been down similar roads – Stalker, Sampson, Stevens. We all know how long they took, the obstacles they faced, the spaghetti junction that is National Security.

We are at the beginning of something – nowhere near the end.

Indeed we are. We also know the investigations led by John Stalker, Colin Sampson and John Stevens were all sabotaged by the British State. Files from the Stalker/Sampson inquiry were destroyed in 2013. Which government departments were responsible for the destruction of the files the Government will not say, although the Ministry of Defense and Mi5 must be in the frame. That it happened shortly before a shoot to kill inquest was due be opened does not bode well for Chief Constable Jon Boutcher's inquiry into Stakeknife.

*Stakeknife: Britain's Secret Agents in Ireland by Ian Hurst (Martin Ingram) and Greg Harkin.

* They were active within the Belfast Republican Movement around the same time as Scappaticci was making his mark.

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Anthony McIntyre

Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher

8 comments to ''Stakeknife - Britain's Golden Egg And Murderous Swine"

  1. That someone wanted the job or was happy to stay in for many years should have been enough to disqualify them but as you say it is likely that a higher up "asset" was orchestrating things - what I have never understood is how the British with all their dark arts and a compliant "legal" system never managed to find a way to put Adam or Marty behind bars during a significant period of the conflict. They were pretty good at removing people from liberty when they felt like it and not letting due process get in the way.

    All one can hope is that Scap/Steakknife is burdened in some way by his actions and not able to enjoy the freedom and life that he denied so many others.

  2. Forgive me for being out of touch, but how did they get him to turn?

  3. Steve, it was said that he got a severe beating from some one in the RA, and was a walk in to Army barracks to volunteer his services.

  4. Sighs loudly. Scappaticci was "Kerbstone", as to Ian Hurst (Walter Mitty, Lidl's version) he knew nothing about Belfast, being stuck in Fermanagh. His covert recordings continue, his latest pal is a paid police perjurer now retired in Norfolk and desperate to flee abroad.

  5. Freddie (Kruger) Scap - his handlers - Adams and McGuinness should all be put in jail for the rest of their natural for this episode.

  6. jrg

    On your point about why McG and Gerry did not get dropped into a long stretch in the meatgrinder which was the judicial and prison system in the north during these years is two fold. Firstly both are extremely careful men, especially Adams who has a reputation for weighing up all the options and angles, some say even when he is having a dump on the toilet;)

    McG is said to have travelled almost weekly to Belfast during one period of the war, there is the tale of him stopping Brian K along the way and K getting arrested further down the road shortly after. If they could stop and fit K into the frame why wouldn't they not do the same to McG as he had a higher public profile than Brian?

    Ian Hurst also has placed McG on the public record as an informer, having said that he hates McG as he played a leading role in bringing back to Derry Frank Hegarty, an IRA quartermaster who Hurst ran as an informer. Again McG role in this was pretty clear yet he was not even question as far as I know, let alone prosecuted for his role in getting Hegarty to return home to be executed.

    We shouldn't forget Tom Murphy never did much time, he was an equally cautious man and many of those whom he led owe their lives to this fact. Just because Gerry and McG have not done hard time is no reason to believe they are informers. I personally would be astounded if Adams was.

    Having said all this the British security services have a long history of talent spotting their foes and selecting people whom they feel will be more pliable if they ever need to negotiate with them at some future date. they have access to psychologists, etc who pore over every detail of these folks lives.

    In Cyprus they 'protected' Makarios during the Eoka military campaign to end the status of Cyprus as a British crown colony and achieve the island's unification with Greece. With the British on the back foot they promoted Makarios who eventually negotiated a sweetheart deal which left the British in control of their bases in the eastern mediterranean. A number of the leading members of Eoka were forced to leave the island.

    Something similar happened in Kenya where the Mau mau thought a bloody war in which the British gov broke almost every human rights piece of legislation on the Statute book. The British picked Kenyatta as their coming man, he like Makarios, sat out the war after being 'imprisoned' but while he lived reasonable the mau mau if taken prison were beaten, buggered and brutalised by their British guards.

    After general Chin Peng played a major role in bringing about an independent Malaya when he fought the British colonial
    administration he became persona non grata in his own land as the British nominated satraps refused him entry for the rest of his life. This was a man who played a massive role in defeating the Japanese in his part of the world during WW2 and led the military struggle gaining independent for him homeland.

    Last not least the same type of touting rumours which swirled around McG were around Tim Healy's, the first head of the Irish free State state.

    If history teaches one thing it's the British government often picks an individual for high office long before the individual concerns has any idea he is Britons clown.


    Do we know what Scappaticci was beaten for, if that is what happened?

    To conclude one of the reasons I find it hard to believe McG is a tout is because why would someone remain a leading member of an organisation long after the war's end, when they could just walk away and live a life comfortably?

    True anyone could become an informer if the right buttons fall into place for the security services, but I feel it's more likely he falls into the category of agent of influence as he has many of the same characteristics as people like Healy, Makarios, and Kenyata. I suspect none who fall into this group believe they are the crown's man.

  7. Thanks Organized Rage - I am not saying they were or were not anything - I am just saying the two of them and some others were either very careful as you say, or very lucky or very smart (much smarter than the Brits) or some combination of these - alternatively it could have been something much more nefarious - I suppose history might one day tell us or maybe we will never know but history has shown us that people who are "owned" rarely if ever get to simply walk away.

  8. Mick, it doesnt say why in the Hurst book, but i read elsewhere (cant remember where at present) that he had driven a car into a group in a road rage type incident, got a beating for it, then walked into an army barracks in 1978. That obviously leads the question what was the reason for his rage, and I dont know that it has been documented. AM may know more, it said on another article on here that he knew the guy.


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