Anthony McIntyre ponders a serious breach of data protection in the North.

As if Covid-19 and its prolonged ripple effect on daily life was not enough to cope with in 2020, the year has proved a dispiriting one for institutional abuse victims in the North. No strangers to disappointment and let down, they have already this year been dealt a double blow by authority. 

The first came in February when Boris Johnson fired from his cabinet the North’s Secretary of State, Julian Smith. In the light of what we now know about the infidelity to public duty so brazenly and contemptuously displayed by Dominic Cummings the decision to have sacked Smith, even more than it did at the time, smacks of vindictive political revenge executed because Smith failed to echo the obligatory Westminster deference of Yes Prime Minister.

The tenacity with which Johnson has battled to retain his wayward chief advisor, a man now widely regarded as an unremitting liar seriously deficient in redeeming attributes, has placed in full public view the arrogant Tory Toff disdain for the public. What say you old chap - the smelly plebs are up in arms because they can't see the value of double standards. They should go to Specsavers. 

Which is where Cummings should have went rather than Barnard Castle, but that's another matter. 

The way in which Smith, a politician who won the admiration of many in the North for the political dexterity he brought to the job, and who for survivors of institutional abuse, was a “guardian angel” is a salutary lesson, suggesting that there remains one Tory blood sport in need of banning. 

For those who have been campaigning for justice, Julian’s brief time in Belfast should be remembered for championing our struggle. Julian did more to ensure survivors of sexual and physical abuse in state-funded institutions got recompense and recognition than any other politician over many years.

The words of  Margaret McGuckin who chairs the SAVIA Lobby Group, and who since the 2008 release of the Ryan Report on clerical abuse has been “campaigning for an inquiry into institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.” 

Not of her own volition, Ms McGuckin has been in the news again. On this occasion to vehemently protest a second blow to victims which came at the weekend when “the names and emails of 250 abuse survivors were revealed in a monthly newsletter of the body set up to investigate their claims and compensate the victims.” 

It was a seeminlgy serious administrative error on the part of the office of the Interim Victim’s Commissioner, Brendan McAllister. People who had every right to anonymity saw that right vanish with the tap of a send email key. Those exposed had been part of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry which had been set up “to investigate widespread allegations of historic sexual and physical abuse at 22 institutions run by religious, charitable and state bodies in Northern Ireland for more than 70 years.” 

No one is blaming McAllister directly or ascribing malign intent to him but that has not prevented a furore swelling. Although he has apologised for the actions of his office, that has failed to stymie anger. The Unionist MLA, Doug Beattie, went as far as to call for the resignation of McAllister:

It is clear that Brendan McAllister should accept responsibility for this data breach and stand down. If he does not, then the executive office [devolved government] must take action to remove him from post and immediately begin the process to appoint a HIA commissioner, a process that should have been started in November 2019. Victims must come first in all we do, and establishing and maintaining confidence and trust is at the heart of helping victims … if there is no confidence and no trust, we are failing victims.

This is a view echoed by Margaret McGuckin who explained to the The Pensive Quill how those left marooned on an island of publicity as a result of the leak felt:

One let down after another, coming against HIA victims. Julian Smith was like a saviour coming their way, an answer to prayer almost! He was man enough to stand up for victims and honest enough to continue on his promises of bringing legislation through Westminster. Now, just at the start of the Redress Scheme Panel opening and issuing payments for HIA victims who have waited a LIFETIME for some form of justice, a government figure and one supposed to be their Advocate, Brendan McAllister, has let them down terribly for not over-seeing proper protocols from his office and staff, who have sent this leaflet out to 250 Abuse victims with their confidential details, names and email addresses for all to see.
A clear breach of Data Protection of the most vulnerable people in society which has set them back mentally and emotionally, as they cry out for help trying to understand why now this could happen to them once again.
Grown men who contacted me in confidence told me off their rape and abuse whilst in "care" and I reassured them that no one would ever know of their names, that they would be helped in the highest degree of Confidentiality and never would they be exposed to the public.
Well, this is exactly what had happened. They are inconsolable, angry, and traumatised all over again. And we, SAVIA Lobby Group, and Claire McKeegan, our Solicitor and friend, are left to comfort and to listen to their cries for help and to try to make them understand what and how and why. This has been yet another attack on their personal being yet again.
This will have to be resolved. They have absolutely no faith in the Interim Advocate and want his resignation immediately. The HIA Commissioner proper should be in place. Legislation was passed through Westminster last November for this to happen and we are still waiting. HoCS David Sterling must see that this happens immediately.

The "dreary steeples" that for aeons cast a shadow which concealed the abuse taking place in dark confines have yet to be fully exposed. Their continued dreariness a reminder of the Bleak House they sit atop.  Those who suffered horrendously in the shadows and who both craved and needed anonymity to spare them further anguish, have, paradoxically,  for their efforts been pushed into the public spotlight.

The American writer, Wendell Berry, has stated: “Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

Is that so? Excuse the victims of abuse for not knowing that such things exist. 

⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

One Let Down After Another

A Morning Thought @ 721

From People And Nature Some thoughts on the election from Liverpool Riverside. A guest post by John Graham Davies written not long after the devastating defeat for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour in the UK General Election. 

Listening to Radio 4 on Tuesday morning was a lesson in the gloating ruthlessness of our ruling class. We had just heard a clip of Jeremy Corbyn giving a dignified, measured assessment of his, and our, calamitous loss in the election. Corbyn explained why it was necessary for him to stay on for a short transitional period.

Cut to the studio: a cackling young BBC journalist, with an accent which sounded like it came out of one our more expensive public schools, armed with the obligatory fragment of Latin. 

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a crowd outside St George’s Hall, Liverpool, in 2016

“What’s the opposite of mea culpa? Ha ha ha! Not much self-criticism there, is there? Bit of a non mea culpa if you ask me.”

This braying buffoon, like so many of the other highly paid liars at the BBC, lives in so much of a bubble that he seems unaware of how much in contempt most of the British public now hold him. Him and his beloved BBC, that pompous foghorn of the state.

A right-wing Labour member of parliament was sharing the studio and made no attempt to silence the attack, or challenge it.

We all know that the knives are out for Jeremy Corbyn, but they are also aimed at our movement as a whole, and her silence was a reminder of that.

This election result, according to those who hold the wellbeing of our class most dearly to heart – well paid journos; former Labour politicians now earning nice salaries fronting radio shows; Tory politicians who sportingly feel it is “so vital” for our “democracy” to have a “proper opposition”; Labour MPs who have spent the past three years slandering the party that generates their generous salary and pension arrangements – all demand (for the good health of the Labour Party of course!) that this result must mark the definitive defeat of Corbynism as a movement.

If we mean by Corbynism something that was attempting to build a broad socialist coalition going beyond Westminster elections, then I don’t think it has necessarily failed – yet.

But I think we have to be honest. Last Thursday was a catastrophic defeat and we know what will follow in its wake: spiralling worries about money, how to feed our children, mental health problems.

All these – bad already – will get worse. We will see more homeless people on the streets, and some of us, particularly elderly and disabled people, will die younger as a result of cuts and our health service being given away to the sniggering spivs of the City and Wall Street.

It will be harder for our unions to rebuild and fight back. Racism, violence and the far right will grow.

There are things that we can do to try and counter all this, but this is what the victory of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) over Corbyn last Thursday means.

For that is what the election was.

The victory was not only Johnson’s. It also belongs to those on the right of the party (i.e. most of the PLP) who have worked night and day for the past three years to undermine Corbyn and the ideas of the movement which made Corbyn’s leadership possible.

We don’t forget the shocked and disappointed face of Stephen Kinnock at the exit poll announcement in 2017. He was smiling smugly on Question Time the day after this election. A defeat for Corbyn was vital for these careerist leeches, and they worked might and main for it. The bulk of them remain.

Before I move on to Brexit, it’s important to briefly mention the context, the Labour Party context, which has fuelled much of the scatter gun anger felt by many working class communities.

Others have written about the effect that Labour cuts have had. The fact that these originated in Tory government funding cuts to Labour councils was of no comfort to those seeing their services shredded. For many, Labour’s claim to be “for the many” must have rung hollow.

The fact that some of this righteous anger took the form for support for Brexit, and in many cases a little Englander mentality closely related to racism, should be no surprise.

One of the first acts of the Blair government, when it first took office in 1997, was to capitulate in the face of an assault by the media on “asylum seekers” and “economic migrants”. Fifteen years down the line, some Labour MPs were still talking about creating “hostile environments”. This was all manure for the far right and racism.

Coming out of that context, Brexit was a big factor. But, for me, neither the Brexit issue nor its effect on the election result are as straightforward as some comrades claim.

It was a difficult issue to deal with, given the twin demands of on the one hand our movement’s much vaunted (though seldom realised) tradition of internationalism and anti-racism, and on the other of recognising the hatred felt towards the institutions of the EU by those working class communities decimated by Thatcher, and then left to rot, clutching their lottery tickets in hope, by Blairism and, by extension in their eyes, the EU.

So it was a difficult issue and how it played out in parliament did us no favours. But it was certainly a big factor in the election result.

But so was the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Or should I say, so was the portrayal of the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

In the canvassing that I did, it was clear that a sizeable number of voters had doubts about Corbyn. These doubts were often vague. Yes, some voiced ludicrous claims about the abolition of the army (once), allowing the rest of the world in (if only it were true!), meetings with the IRA, and, of course, antisemitism. But when asked for details about these fears, they collapsed quite quickly into an inarticulate sense of unease.

Voters were unsure or hostile, but often found it difficult to express the exact nature of their opposition to Corbyn. There was a general sense that he was dodgy, weak, and probably a racist.

The effect of the media lies and smears has been for a thin layer of disapproving dust, disapproving of Corbyn in person, to settle on a lot of people. This shouldn’t surprise us, and the media campaign should not on its own have been enough to have turned a significant section of the electorate against Corbyn.

The problem was that the campaign wasn’t properly challenged – for two reasons.

Firstly, a large and very vocal section of the PLP was noisily reinforcing the smears, or in many instances instigating them. Our own MP in Riverside, Louise Ellman, had carte blanche to lie about Corbyn and about local pro-Corbyn members. For three years she had open access to every TV channel and newspaper column in the country to spread this filth. She was energetically supported in this, both locally by a small group of Liverpool councillors, and nationally by a network of MPs, Dame Margaret Hodge being only the most prominent amongst many.

As a side note, Ellman’s fantasies about antisemitism reached their comic nadir when she claimed on national radio to be able to sense that Jeremy Corbyn had anti-Semitic thoughts, even though Jeremy didn’t himself know he was having them. Twenty years ago there was a psychic called Doris Stokes who used to earn a good living at the London Palladium peddling this kind of thing. If Ellman can add the laying-on of hands to her repertoire, she might get a call from the late Doris’s agent.

The hostile, unremittingly false media campaign was out of our control. But right-wing Labour MPs shouldn’t have been. MPs like Ellman and Hodge should have been de-selected or expelled two years ago.

Unfortunately there was opposition to this course of action from most of the leadership around Corbyn, and by some on the left. Certainly, in our Constituency Labour Party (CLP), there was far too great an appetite from its leadership to hide behind “advice” from anti-Corbyn regional officials, and carry on a kind of “peaceful co-existence”. This “advice” was then marketed as “instructions” to the membership, preventing free discussion about the need to have Open Selection, or to discuss the slanders aimed at the most prominent and staunch pro-Corbyn members (e.g. Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein, Chris Williamson).

So the failure to deal with those in the PLP hell bent on destroying Corbyn’s leadership was a serious mistake in my view, and permitted the character assassination to continue unabated for three years. We should have protected him and our fellow comrades better.

The second factor which allowed this paper-thin veneer of disapproval to settle on Corbyn – for some of our electorate at least – was the failure to robustly challenge the various witch hunts, most centrally the fake antisemitism campaign. We should have been clearer and, in Chris Williamson’s words, less apologetic.

Antisemitism is the oldest and – for the numbers killed, and the chilling industrial efficiency of the Holocaust, among other reasons – the foulest of the various racisms in our racist country. And antisemitism still exists throughout our society.

But it is at its most ideological in our ruling class and within the far right. As recently as the noughties, a Tory front bencher characterised the problems of the Tory Party as being centred on Michael Howard, Oliver Letwin and Charles Saatchi because … “could they know how Englishmen felt?”. This isn’t a slip in language, an ambiguous mural, a re-tweet of an obscure anti-Semitic meme or a harmless joke about Jewishness. It’s conscious, ideological racism.

The Labour Party has no reason to be defensive about its record fighting antisemitism. Had it not been for the labour movement in general, with the Labour Party at its heart, antisemitism would not have been challenged at Cable Street. This fight against Oswald Mosley was carried out against the wishes of the Jewish Board of Deputies, but with the support of vast numbers of Labour Party members, many of them Jewish. And we have no reason to be apologetic or defensive about antisemitism now.

Allowing ourselves to be driven onto the defensive had a negative effect in two ways.

Firstly, for those who were inclined to be taken in by the fake claims, our defensiveness and unending apologies made it look suspicious – as if we had indeed been up to something.

Secondly, for those who saw the smears for what they were, a political campaign to destabilise the Corbyn movement, our repeated apologies were a puzzle, demoralising, or worse. For these people, Corbyn’s repeated self-flagellation in the face of a fake campaign appeared strange. I have heard numerous people say so. For some, it took the shine off his well-earned reputation for plain speaking and probity. For others it appeared weak.

Since the election result, the witch-hunters have renewed their campaign with confidence. They have to be challenged robustly and directly.

The result of this prevarication and compromise was that some in the leadership ended up actually participating in the witch hunt. Much has been written about Momentum’s degeneration, both in terms of its democracy and its participation in the witch hunt. This was eventually echoed in the CLPs.

From being initially staunch opponents (at least vocally) of the witch hunt, some leading left members in our CLP ended up supporting it, or urging silence in the face of the suspensions. Solidarity with those suspended locally became weaker. And this was only an echo of what was going on in the national leadership circle.

As far as I understand, Chris Williamson’s expulsion was discussed by John McDonnell and his advisors – and McDonnell maintained a deafening silence when Williamson was suspended. At around the same time, McDonnell appeared in a cosy interview with Alistair Campbell, the snake oil salesman who sold us the mass murder in Iraq. During this chat, McDonnell chummily told Campbell that he’d happily have Campbell back in the party.

So in the same week we had two things: the strongest voice in parliament defending Corbyn being thrown to the wolves, and cosy overtures being made to a notorious Blairite liar.

I found this change in McDonnell quite shocking, and, if I’m perfectly honest, demoralising.

I felt the same shock listening to comrades locally who were quite happy to watch as a succession of innocent comrades were thrown under the bus on spurious charges, and who seemed indifferent to the fact that local right-wing councillors were behind this, routinely running to the hostile press, slandering local members, creating stress, health problems and family conflict.

Loss of solidarity at the top was followed by the same thing in our CLP.

Demoralisation and drift away from the Party has been evident on social media for two years, but has speeded up in the last nine months. Those who have left were among the most politically conscious and experienced Corbyn supporters. Momentum membership has plummeted. There has been an initiative by some ex-Momentum members, and others concerned about the absence of a democratic grass roots movement, to set up a national Left Alliance. This may still go somewhere.

But the Party was seriously weakened at the grass roots before this election was called. You could see it at the various rallies, which whilst still outshining the Tories by a country mile, did not have the size or fervour of 2017.

So, where do we go from here? Is the Labour Party the vehicle we need to bring about radical, fundamental social change? Is it up to the task? Can it even play a part in a wider movement?

I’m asking that question because this article is aimed at those party members who do not want a return to the free-market, capital-friendly Labour Party of the past, which is being presented to us as inevitable.

If you can’t face that, there are two alternatives, it seems to me: 

We stay inside the Party, and make sure we get as good a leader as we can, continuing, as far as is possible, in the spirit of the Corbyn movement’s ideas. This will involve an urgent and determined fight to democratise the Party: open meetings, no limits on discussion, rotation of CLP officers.
We join with others, those socialists who remained outside, in a broad, democratic, grassroots movement.

I think we should do both. I don’t suggest this though without misgivings.

A close political friend told me four years ago that he wouldn’t be joining because the Labour Party was corrupt, pro-imperialist, and was incapable of change. Fuelling illusions in its capacity to do so would only bring about disappointment and alienation from politics for a large number of people. That comment has popped into my head a good deal recently.

I have to say that my own experience of the party is that its machinery has not changed much since a lot of us joined in 2015. The party’s bureaucracy remains out of democratic control, and its disciplinary processes are opaque and corrupt. Despite some limited improvements, attempts to change these things have essentially failed.

However, we do have some things in our favour. Half a million voices – while they remain – can make a lot of noise. Two or three hundred thousand people, a lot of them young and previously unengaged with politics, have experienced a very intense political education: the importance of trade unions, of fighting social injustice, learning about the Palestinian struggle. This knowledge and experience won’t go away.

The question is, will that knowledge now become active, part of an ongoing struggle, or will it turn to disappointment and disillusion. And if we do continue to try to change the course of this massive, undemocratic tanker that is the Labour Party, do we do it by trying to accommodate those on the right whose careers and material interests are bound up with a political ideology alien to ours?

In my view, the right wing of the Labour Party is a representative of capital within the workers’ movement. It acts as an agency of capital. Without defeating it, there can be no democratic socialist movement. It is acting now, ruthlessly, to try to extinguish our movement and our hopes. We need to confront it, without compromise, and re-build our trade unions and grass roots organisation. Our leaders can’t do this, we have to.

The Radio 4 programme I mentioned at the beginning of this article continued with the same journalists speculating on the next Labour leader. As if to reinforce how detached they are, one of these hired mouthpieces opined that the right-wing Labour MP Jess Phillips was a real, viable contender.

He continued, “those fanatical Corbynistas from 2015, they’ll all have disappeared in a week or so!”

Let’s prove them wrong.

■ More election comments on People & Nature: Nightmare on Downing Street (Gabriel Levy, 16 December), and After the election: standing up to the global rise of nationalism (Martin Beveridge, 17 December).

⏭ Keep up with People And Nature.

Confronting The Agents Of Capital ➤ A Corbynista’s Dilemma

Three journalists from The New York Times reviewed more than 260,000 words spoken by President Trump during the pandemic. Here’s what they learned.

At his White House news briefing on the coronavirus on March 19, President Trump offered high praise for the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn. “He’s worked, like, probably as hard or harder than anybody,” Mr. Trump said. Then he corrected himself: “Other than maybe Mike Pence — or me.”

On March 27, Mr. Trump boasted about marshalling federal resources to fight the virus, ignoring his early failures and smearing previous administrations. “Nobody has done anything like we’ve been able to do,” he claimed. “And everything I took over was a mess. It was a broken country in so many ways. In so many ways.”

And on April 13, Mr. Trump insisted that governors were so satisfied with his performance they hadn’t asked for anything on a recent conference call. “There wasn’t even a statement of like, ‘We think you should do this or that,’” he said. “I heard it was, like, just a perfect phone call.”

The self-regard, the credit-taking, the audacious rewriting of recent history to cast himself as the hero of the pandemic rather than the president who was slow to respond: Such have been the defining features of Mr. Trump’s use of the bully pulpit during the coronavirus outbreak.

Continue reading @  The New York Times.

260,000 Words, Full Of Self-Praise, From Trump On The Virus

If the shoe fits, then Don't wear it! Religious commentator and Presbyterian minister’s son, Dr John Coulter, continues his series on life as a preacher’s kid and reflects on the battles he fought over his dress sense.

If there’s one advantage that the lockdown has brought the Christian Churches, its that people can dress casually in their homes whilst watching the online Sunday worship and daily Bible studies which many religious groups are posting from around the globe.

Even before the lockdown, which closed places of worships, many Christian churches adopted relaxed or casual dress codes for attending Sunday worship.

Some of the more fundamentalist and traditional congregations still adhered strictly to the dress codes that men must wear their ‘Sunday best suits’ and the women must have their heads covered with hats.

The challenge to the Christian Churches is whether they will relax their dress codes for attendance at church now that many fellowships are experiencing an online boom in attendances. Even for churches which live streamed their services prior to the lockdown, in some cases, they have seen their online attendances rocket.

As a snap-shot, one rural Pentecostal church which would have an average Sunday morning attendance of around 100 people in the pews, is now enjoying a Sunday online audience of around 3,000 viewers.

With lockdown restrictions now being relaxed so that some churches are having so-called ‘drive through’ worship where people sit in their cars in the church carpark while the cleric delivers the sermon via a public address system, the challenge still remains for these churches as to how many of the vast online audiences can be retained and converted into ‘bums on pews’ once churches get the green light to fully open.

While I certainly did not sit in my ‘Sunday best’ watching our online services, the relaxed dress code reminded me of the battles I have faced as a minister’s son over dress codes.

In the Sixties and Seventies, there really was a myth among some in Presbyterianism that the minister’s son should wear his ‘Sunday best’ at all times! But then I’m a rebel preacher’s kid so challenging the establishment has always been in my nature.

This rebellious streak in terms of the minister’s son’s dress code began in my primary school era. Each June was a traditional Presbyterian Children’s Day at church. The Sunday school students made up the choir that day. All the girls would wear white dresses; the lads would be dressed in dark trousers or shorts, white shirts and red ties.

After the morning service, there was also the traditional church photo of the Sunday school choir on the front steps of the building. But in my mind, if all us lads were dressed the same, how would folk recognise me?

I had a brainwave! Myself and my best chum were among the smallest that year in the 1960s, so I told him that rather than stand to attention for the photo, both of us would stand with legs crossed in the front row!

Seconds before the church photographer yelled ‘smile’ I crossed my legs, but my chum bottled it. Needless to say, I got a severe telling off for being the only person in the photo who was standing differently from the others!

Perhaps it was that incident which brought about the wrath of criticism about what the minister’s son should and should not wear, especially when in the House of God.

As I moved into secondary education in the early Seventies, it was a time when my chums started wearing colourful suits, ties and jackets. But there was no such colour for me - especially when the rumours began ‘I hope the minister’s son doesn’t appear dressed like that!’

I so deeply wanted to dress like my chums, but I realised if I did, the ‘tut-tut brigade’ would heap their verbal flak on me. There was only one solution - I would have to wear my grammar school uniform to church!

While my schoolboy nickname was Budgie Coulter, because of the schoolboy image at church, I also got the nickname ‘Plain John’.

During term time for about 18 months, I would wear my Ballymena Academy uniform seven days a week - Monday to Friday in school for lessons; on Saturdays representing the school at cross-country and athletics events, and on Sunday at all the church activities.

Then an elder’s wife took pity on me, noticing how I looked so plain in my school uniform while all my chums were in fancy suits. She bought me two fancy shirts and matching ties.

The next Sunday, I turned up at church wearing one of the shirts and a colourful matching tie. It was like a red flag to a bull in terms of the ‘tut-tut brigade’.

They were having a field day criticising me until one of the ‘brigade’ made the mistake of mouthing off about me and my new dress code in front of this kind elder’s wife.

A real bitch fight erupted between the elder’s wife and one of the ‘tut-tut brigade’. But it had the desired effect. I could wear jackets and even French Flair trousers and the ‘tut-tut brigade’ couldn’t mutter a word because they didn’t know who had bought the outfit!

But I could use the symbols of dress code to emphasise that I was a rebel. I did at one Boys’ Brigade annual display. The BB being a Christian uniformed organisation, there was a specific dress code for church parades and annual company displays in the church hall.

It was a dark suit, white shirt and black tie along with the traditional BB regalia. In the early Seventies, I decided to make a point. Instead of the black tie, I quickly donned my red and blue Ballymena Academy school tie for the inspection parade by the guest inspecting officer.

It, too, had the desired effect! The guest officer stopped with me and said: “I see you’re not wearing a black tie!” Grinning back, my retort was: “That’s because I’m the minister’s son!” Speechless, the inspecting officer moved quickly on as there was nothing in the BB dress code about minister’s sons being exempt at that time from the black tie rule!

But such a rebellious protest was a ‘one-off’. In 1975, the ‘in’ piece of clothing for all my peers was a denim jacket known as a ‘Wrangler Jacket’. All my chums had one, except me. Finally, I persuaded my parents that I needed one of these Wrangler Jackets for BB camp that year at Southport.

That was okay for BB camp in England where the ‘tut-tut brigade’ could not see me, but I made the huge error of judgement that it would be okay for the minister’s son to continue wearing the Wrangler Jacket back home at the Saturday evening church youth club.

While my chums - mainly farmers’ sons - could wear such jackets to the church youth club, the reaction I got when I turned up at the same youth club sporting my Wrangler Jacket took me completely by surprise.

For the ‘tut-tut brigade’, the sight of me in a Wrangler Jacket sparked a level of criticism more akin to a situation if I’d tried to burn down dad’s pulpit in the main church building.

Yes, I wanted to be a rebel against the ‘tut-tut brigade’ and their Victorian image of the minister’s son, but it would come at a price. There were times, especially in my later teens, when I would simply not don the Wrangler Jacket just to get some peace and quiet.

That conformist mentality evaporated when I went to university to begin my journalist training. As I near 61, I am still a radical Presbyterian rebel. I will occasionally still wear a denim jacket to Sunday worship or the mid week Bible study, complete with sew-on patches and badges.

Occasionally, I still lock horns with the ‘tut-tut brigade’. In the late 1990s, I was refused the Right Hand of Fellowship ceremony of membership of a Baptist Church because I am married to a woman who does not wear a hat to church!

At some mid week Bible studies, I would wear a football top and jeans. Other chums would also wear their ‘footie’ tops, too. But one evening within the past few years (bear in mind I was then in my very late 50s), I was singled out for criticism for wearing such football tops - the incident provided me with a right old rant on my radio show about dress codes in church!

Perhaps I just need to learn the lesson that no matter what age I am, the ‘tut-tut brigade’ will always target me because I’m a minister’s son. But hopefully, I will have the last laugh on the ‘tut-tut brigade’.

My hobby is vexillology - the collection and study of flags. I have over 100 in my collection from around the globe and various organisations, including an Irish tricolour and Starry Plough flags.

When it comes my time that God decides that I will enter eternity, perhaps I will give one last ‘two-fingered’ salute to the ‘tut-tut brigade’ by having my coffin adorned in these two flags and carried up the church aisle at my service of thanksgiving. I imagine many of the ‘tut-tut brigade’ will have expressions on their faces akin to a bulldog chewing a wasp!

Can you imagine the furore given the past history of republican funerals and the removal of flags on coffins before the service? Just imagine a row at the front door of the church - the Presbyterian minister’s son and life-long unionist having an Irish tricolour and Starry Plough flags on his coffin! Even in death, I will still be a rebellious preacher’s kid!

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter

Listen to Dr John Coulter’s religious show, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, or listen online at

Fighting The Fashion Fascists ➤ The Life-Long Battle Of A Preacher’s Kid!

A Morning Thought @ 720

Anthony McIntyre bemoans his choice of lockdown viewing.

The challenge many of us face is what to do during the lockdown when choice is so limited. Often we are reminded by the Medical Directorate that now rules over us about what not to do but normally we look for things to do rather than not to do. There is a common sense assumption that doing rather than not doing is a better way of neutralising the boredom. 

I thought I would get heaps of books read but not a single one have I completed since the start of it, despite having four or five on the go. Finding the motivation hard to come by, I reverted to the fall back position of falling back on the settee and watching TV. What a disaster that turned out to be.

I am usefully careful about what I choose to watch. I am a lazy non-engaging viewer, preferring to lounge and not be confronted with a plot too intricate or the characters too multifaceted. I like to be able to follow it whether I have a large glass of neat whiskey in my hand or a cup of coffee. My wife complains that we get nothing finished as I fall asleep half way through, if not on occasion minutes in. The point is, I like it simple.

Watching Westworld was the biggest mistake I made during the lockdown. It is mind numbingly boring and should be renamed Worstworld. It started out reasonably in Season 1 but seriously nosedived in Season 2 and despite some potential has made no improvement in Season 3. I watched it out of consideration for my daughter – and the end is not yet nigh - who asked me to hang out with her. I didn’t learn my lesson from an earlier occasion when she asked me to watch the stultifying Twin Peaks. It too started out with promise before collapsing into a David Lynch vanity project, where the quality got smaller as the Lynch ego got bigger while my urge to throw a whiskey glass at the TV screen grew exponentially.

These things become endurance tests with no reward at the end for the trial undergone, just a punishment via a deep sense of angst that so much time was invested in a useless project. Something like a cleric discovering that there is no god, only writ small.

Westworld is science fiction where only the genre symmetry works: bad science and equally bad fiction. I have watched more than a few zombie films plus the box set Walking Dead, but this time I was the zombie watching the robots on television. Hopeless and horrible, I lost interest in the plot - not that I had the slightest curiosity in keeping up with it – and the characters one by one began to flat line. Were I to resume the blanket protest tomorrow I would refuse to watch it if it was offered to combat the ennui. There is more mental stimulation to be derived from looking at a shitty wall.

Set in a Wild West American theme park, the guests can work out their killing fantasies to their hearts’ content. The hosts on whom the guests draw their pistols are programmed not to be able to harm their tormentors. Then it slowly starts to unravel as Artificial Intelligence acquires a life of its own. The robotic creations begin to become sentient beings and before long the lunatics are taking over the asylum.

Locked in Syndrome is a condition no one could relish being afflicted with, obviously, or even wish on those we might detest. The helium bag is the answer to that.  I once read a novel, Lunch with the Generals, part of which was a story told about a surgeon in Argentina whose daughter had been raped, murdered and disappeared during the country’s dirty war.  The vengeful father physically induced Locked In Syndrome in the cop responsible, a sadistic red neck from the sticks. He left the thug with only awareness of his predicament as payback. He was relieved of his arms, legs, eyes, ear drums, tongue, anything from which he might extract sensuous pleasure. As much as I had nothing but contempt for the death squad leader, it was hard not to shudder at the situation he found himself in, wishing that he had instead been administered a lethal injection. If there is a hell, unremitting boredom is its daily regime.

No point in exaggerating the symptoms and coming over as the embodiment of a cross between hypochondria and Munchausen's Syndrome given that nothing as horrendous as Locked In Syndrome has gripped me. Still, Locked Down Syndrome is a dispiriting malaise which is certain to be exacerbated by a bad choice of watching the wrong show as a means to combat the stress of cabin fever.  Multiplying the ennui chips is not a wise investment.

⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

Locked Down Syndrome

From Live Science a piece that seeks to outline some core tents of fascism. By Jessie Szalay.

Fascism is a complex ideology. There are many definitions of fascism; some people describe it as a type or set of political actions, a political philosophy or a mass movement. Most definitions agree that fascism is authoritarian and promotes nationalism at all costs, but its basic characteristics are a matter of debate.

Fascism is commonly associated with German Nazi and Italian regimes that came to power after World War I, though several other countries have experienced fascist regimes or elements of them. Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francisco Franco in Spain and Juan Perón in Argentina were well-known fascist leaders of the 20th century. [Dictator Deaths: How 13 Notorious Leaders Died]

Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York who is widely considered the father of fascism studies, defined fascism as:

a form of political practice distinctive to the 20th century that arouses popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda.
Other definitions, Paxton said, rely too heavily on documents that Mussolini, Hitler and others produced before they came to power. Once in power, fascists did not always keep their early promises. 
Continue reading @ Live Science

What Is Fascism?

From Science Magazine news of a prize awarded to a US physician-geneticist for his work in trying to blend science with religion.  

By Jeffrey Brainard
U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins has won the $1.3 million 2020 Templeton Prize for his work to reconcile science and religion.

The prize, which was first awarded in 1973, was created by John Templeton, a successful investor who died in 2008. It honors those who have advanced Templeton’s vision of “harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.”

Collins wrote a bestselling book in 2006 that argues that scientific inquiry and Christianity are not incompatible, and that religious faith can inspire scientific discovery. He has continued to speak publicly about those ideas since he became NIH director in 2009, even as some researchers have criticized those activities as inappropriate for the leader of a federal science agency.

Continue reading @ Science Magazine.

NIH Director Francis Collins Honored For Work To Bridge Science And Religion

Right Wing Watch with news from the US religious Crazy Collegiate. 

“Messianic rabbi” Jonathan Cahn’s books about prophecy and the End Times are filled with biblical and historical numerology, but he has botched both math and history in his efforts to lend symbolic weight and spiritual significance to the date of “The Return,” the preelection politics-and-prayer rally he and other religious-right leaders are planning to hold on the National Mall later this year

Cahn and other rally promoters have repeatedly described the Sept. 26 event as falling 40 days before the 2020 election and on the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. Neither is true.

Let’s take the easy one first. The 2020 presidential election will take place on Nov. 3, which is 38 days from Sept. 26. So why call it 40? Because 40 is a symbolic number in the Bible. There are many biblical stories that include 40-day periods, including the 40 days and nights of rain in Noah’s flood and the 40 days that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Jesus resisted Satan’s offers, but Cahn could apparently not resist the temptation to fudge the math around “The Return.”

Continue reading @ Right Wing Watch.

End Times Author Gets Math, History Wrong in Promoting Preelection ‘Sacred Assembly’

The religious brainwashing of children.

Brainwashing Children

A Morning Thought @ 719

Kevin Fulton aka Peter Keeley was the Central witness at the Smithwick Tribunal. 'Killusion' written in 2016 Village by Deirdre Younge explains his role. It provides useful background to a lengthy article by her which featured in TPQ earlier this month.

Full-time for ‘Fulton’ whose changing and inaccurate evidence sparked the Smithwick Tribunal and whose wide-ranging role is beginning to emerge in other Tribunals. 

The Smithwick Tribunal was set up in 2005, by the Irish Government on the advice of Michael McDowell, then Minister for Justice, and sat in public in Blackhall Place from 2011 until 2013, examining the possibility of Garda collusion in the deaths of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) who were murdered North of the Border in March 1989, after a brief meeting in Dundalk Garda Station. The purpose of the RUC officers’ visit was to discuss a move against the IRA’s Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy, which had been ordered by then Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Tom King.

The Smithwick Tribunal ended up in 2011 with a strange, abstract, finding of ‘collusion’ in the murders of the two RUC men. Though it found “no smoking gun” in Dundalk, the Tribunal weakly decided there was indeed less specific evidence of “collusion by gardaí” in the murders. Dutifully, Enda Kenny described these findings as “shocking” and a public and media jaded in affairs Northern determined rather vaguely to remember that Smithwick was about a search for evidence of collusion which it had somehow found.

What is extraordinary is that Smithwick provided no name for the ‘colluder’, though it clearly for a long time thought it was Owen Corrigan – even though it wasn’t. One of the reasons for this is that there may in fact have been no Garda colluder, a big embarrassment for those who felt a tribunal needed to be instigated and, worse, for those who conducted the inquiry without ever drawing attention to the inaccuracy of the premise that led to it but who saved face by continuingly, through the eight years of its existence, pretending there was one, albeit with less and less specificity.

Smithwick was swayed into its collusion abstraction by the PSNI (which succeeded the RUC) giving untestable, very-late evidence to the Tribunal privately naming a fourth garda who was more plausible than Owen Corrigan as the colluder.

Fulton: the man whose evidence led to a falsely perceived need for the Tribunal

Smithwick always focused on Corrigan as the colluder because the Cory Inquiry, which prompted the Smithwick Tribunal, unduly relied on the 2003 evidence of a dissembling double agent known as ‘Kevin Fulton’ – now challenged by a source who spoke to Village – that Corrigan gave deadly information to the IRA about the RUC men. In its report the Smithwick Tribunal stated [at 15.1.2]:

This statement was a key factor in Judge Cory’s decision to recommend the establishment of this Tribunal, and Kevin Fulton was therefore an important witness before this Tribunal.

In any event Fulton actually seems to have later changed his story (when giving evidence to Smithwick in 2011) to say that Corrigan gave information to the IRA only about a 37-year-old Cooley farmer, informant Tom Oliver, who An Phoblacht then accused of passing on information to Garda Special Branch. Oliver was kidnapped, allegedly interrogated by Scappaticci and subsequently murdered. The changed story was that Corrigan gave information about Oliver, not about the doomed RUC men; but even the changed story was expressly and ignominiously disavowed by Smithwick, under pressure in a recent High Court case, to the extent it implied that Corrigan’s information led to Oliver’s death. In other words everything related to Fulton collapsed, despite Smithwick’s paean to him.

Kevin Fulton/Peter Keeley

Kevin Fulton had begun to engage with the Smithwick Tribunal in 2006. In its opening statement in 2011, the Tribunal made it clear that “Mr Fulton has elaborated on and expanded the statement he provided to Judge Cory”.

The expanded statement was given to Corrigan’s lawyers in November 2011. For the first time they saw the central allegation made by Fulton which sensationally implicated Freddie Scappaticci, ‘Stakeknife’. It did not concern the murders of the two RUC Officers but instead implicated Sergeant Owen Corrigan in giving information which would lead to the death of an alleged IRA informer, Tom Oliver. The first reason not to believe Fulton is that a book about him makes no mention of any of this. Admittedly Fulton now distances himself from the graphic book called Unsung Hero about his life but this is chiefly understandable as an expedient in the face of the, at least nine, PSNI Investigations arising from it, and the many civil actions in the pipeline. He has already had to pay compensation to the family of Eoin Morley, a Newry man shot dead in 1990, after failing even to enter an appearance in the Belfast High Court to proceedings by his mother.

Nevertheless it is undeniably notable that at no stage in the book does Fulton mention a garda in Dundalk station passing information to the IRA, though it was scarcely something he’d be expected to omit. Nor is there any other evidence – of any sort – that he passed information about Corrigan or other Dundalk gardaí, to his handlers.

Bizarrely Smithwick warmly endorsed Fulton, a man who had made a lifetime “career” of deception, as a highly credible witness, in his final report, even in effect if he completely and absolutely disavowed him in the subsequent legal action. Surprisingly, Smithwick was to say of Fulton:

He sat only metres from me and I observed him throughout. He was a very impressive and credible witness and I have formed the view that his evidence was truthful.

However, clearly there is a shadow over the statement from Fulton which inspired Cory’s call for what became the Smithwick Tribunal. If this is so it rewrites the history of both inquiries.

Fulton’s’ similar role in other high-profile investigations will emerge in the coming months.
But what exactly was the core allegations that convinced Cory and then hung Smithwick out to dry?

This is the Fulton Statement as published originally in the Cory Report in 2003:

In 1979 I enlisted in the British Army. Within months of my posting, I was recruited by a British Intelligence Agency to act as an agent. In this capacity, I became a member of the Provisional IRA. On one occasion in the late 1980s, I was with my senior IRA Commander, Joseph Patrick Blair and another individual in my car. I knew the other individual to be [Owen] Corrigan, a member of Special Branch of the Gardai. I was introduced by Blair to Corrigan. I knew that Corrigan, who was stationed in Dundalk, was passing information to the Provisional IRA. I was in Dundalk on the day of the ambush of Superintendent Buchanan and Chief Superintendent Breen. I am aware that, after the ambush took place, Joseph Patrick Blair was told by a member of PIRA that Sergeant Corrigan had telephoned the Provisional IRA to tell them that officers Breen and Buchanan were at Dundalk Station.. I should add that I know nothing about the murder of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson. I have read this statement and its contents are true and accurate. – Kevin Fulton

Judge Cory redacted parts of his report so – extraordinarily – it’s not possible to know whether any parts of this particular statement were withheld. Corrigan’s legal team was only given access to the unredacted report on 17 May 2011 according to an affidavit drawn up by the Tribunal solicitor in 2014. This gave notice to Corrigan’s legal team that Fulton’s statement would be an issue, as it turns out a crucial and determining issue, for the Tribunal. However, the core allegation of collusion i.e. precisely what exact information passed from Corrigan to a PIRA member was not in the Cory statement. Nor was the Smithwick version of the statement released until November 2011.

The statement as published, in what the Tribunal says is the unredacted version of Cory, contains one description of an event – an alleged meeting in a car between a Special Branch man and a member of PIRA. However, Corrigan emphatically denies this ever happened – as did Patrick Blair, the PIRA man who he allegedly met. As this is the kind of meeting policemen have regularly organised for information gathering purposes the paragraph itself is meaningless without knowing the content of the conversation. The rest of the statement is a hearsay allegation, that Owen Corrigan was a man known as “our friend” who passed information to PIRA. Fulton on cross-examination substantially resiled from even this and actually changed his evidence under cross-examination.

However Fulton’s one piece of direct evidence, which he accepted was at the core of his allegations of collusion was an alleged meeting between PIRA South Down ASU Commander Patrick ‘Mooch’ Blair and former Special Branch Sergeant Owen Corrigan outside Fintan Callan’s Céili House – a busy roadhouse on the main road, open to public view. Mooch Blair couldn’t drive at this point which is why Fulton, as his driver, says he was in the car. But for the first time (insofar as can be ascertained) in March 2011, after interacting with campaigners, politicians and security forces about his knowledge of PIRA since 1999, Fulton “revealed” the contents of the conversation between Blair and Corrigan. He alleged that Corrigan told Blair that a Cooley Farmer, Tom Oliver, was giving information to the Garda about PIRA weapons and their movements.

After the meeting with Corrigan, Blair was then alleged to have threatened to murder Oliver. Fulton then alleged that soon after the meeting Tom Oliver was picked up at his home by a PIRA team, and handed over to Freddie Scappaticci for interrogation. Oliver was subsequently murdered, it is believed, in the Cooley Mountains. Fulton said the date of the alleged meeting between Blair and Corrigan was sometime in early 1991 though he couldn’t be pinned down to a precise day. He was certain however that weeks after the date of this alleged meeting in July 1991 Tom Oliver was interrogated and shot dead.

His body was found with a number of bullets in the back of the head in Belleeks, Co Armagh. But the date of the alleged meeting outside the Céili House, in the crucial Fulton statement, changed from late 1989 in Cory to 1991 in Smithwick. This is a curious jump considering a senior Judge like Peter Cory would have been punctilious about the accuracy of his reporting of statements. Fulton’s statement changed between Cory and Smithwick. Though Fulton had been interacting with the Tribunal since 2006, Judge Smithwick in December 2011 gave personal assurances to Corrigan’s legal representatives that the Fulton statement hadn’t changed beyond minor corrections.

While cross-examining a witness in 2011 Fulton’s lawyer revealed that Fulton would say that he was at a meeting in Blair’s house on the 20th March when he and Blair were told by a PIRA member who came into the house after the shootings that the Garda had given info about Breen and Buchanan. Senior counsel for Owen Corrigan, Jim O’Callaghan, then says that this is a change of evidence and the first he has heard of this meeting, occasioning the following exchange:

O’Callaghan: Why did you mislead Judge Cory?
Fulton: I would not have purposely misled Judge Cory.

Even a benign interpretation suggests Fulton misled Cory.

Fulton talks to campaigners in 1999 

Under-researched pieces by Myers and Harndon caused havoc in the RUC

In late 1999 Fulton began interacting with campaigners along the border after being introduced, he said, by the Northern Editor of a British newspaper who he described as a Registered Special Branch informant. He gave information to them about his first activities in Newry and Dundalk.

Cory in Dundalk

Reliable sources describe what happened. At a meeting in Dundalk in 2003 Cory is said to have remarked to campaigners looking for an investigation into the Breen and Buchanan murders, that while he believed there were questions to answer he had no direct evidence to argue for a Tribunal of Inquiry. According to sources the “Fulton statement” was written up for Fulton including a direct allegation against Corrigan, he signed it and subsequently appeared before Cory just weeks before Cory’s final report. This normally reliable source is adamant that what became seen as Fulton’s central allegation — the passing of information from Corrigan to Mooch Blair about Oliver, was not made and that, in fact, the allegation was rather that Corrigan had tipped off Blair about Breen and Buchanan’s arrival at Dundalk station.

Village‘s sources, however, are adamant that the initial statement as given to Cory concerned Corrigan giving information to IRA member Patrick ‘Mooch’ Blair about the arrival of Breen and Buchanan at Dundalk Garda station. Village‘s sources insists that the statement described how Detective Sergeant Corrigan came out of Dundalk Station and said to ‘Mooch’ Blair – who was supposedly sitting in a car with Fulton – “they’re here”, after Breen and Buchanan had entered Dundalk.

Crucially, by the time Fulton reached Smithwick the alleged collusion had morphed into allegations about Corrigan’s passing ‘Mooch’ Blair information about Tom Oliver. Not having access to the original Cory documents it has not been possible to verify — and Patrick Blair and Corrigan utterly deny — the allegations. The Tribunal unsurprisingly declared that the murder of Tom Oliver was not part of its remit, but then accepted evidence that Corrigan had given information that set him up for murder.

This was an unusual approach and of course Corrigan took legal action by way of Judicial Review. Following discussions between the parties, on 25 May 2016, the Tribunal confirmed, in a statement read to the High Court, that, whatever evidence it had heard, its final report had made no finding that the killing of Oliver was as a result of information the ex-garda provided to the Provisional IRA. The action was then struck out by the High Court on the following terms:

While the Tribunal accepted the evidence of Kevin Fulton there was no finding in the Tribunal’s report that the killing of Mr Oliver was as a result of the information provided by Mr Corrigan to the IRA.

The Smithwick Inquiry ended with an enigmatic conclusion: a collusion — which this article has shown was not satisfactorily proven, with no named colluder. It is important that it is registered by anyone concerned with the truth that Smithwick had to close down the judicial review — it risked exposing the mess, the confusion and the contradictions that lie at the heart of its final report.

The problem with Smithwick is that it was bedevilled by its dependence on the UK ‘Security Services’ which determined how little intelligence the Tribunal Team would receive, and it was badly chaired. The Tribunal was instigated largely as a sop to Unionists to maximise pressure on the British Government to carry out inquiries into the likes of Pat Finucane’s murder and Bloody Sunday. The exercise was tainted in its conception and in its application.

Smithwick Tribunal: Enter Freddie Scappaticci

In 2006 Smithwick received an application from Freddie Scappaticci for legal representation though this was turned down. By May 2011, however, the Tribunal informed Scappaticci’s solicitor that as he now “appeared to be a person whose reputation was at risk, i.e. a person against whom allegations may be made”, he would be allowed limited representation and information.

In a decision made on 6th June 2011 Smithwick allowed his lawyers limited access to Tribunal statements as they applied to him. After a further application heard in July 2011, that legal right was extended to limited legal representation at the Tribunal on specified occasions on matters that concerned him. Scappaticci’s lawyers were alerted to at least some of the contents of Fulton’s statement before it was distributed to other parties: Corrigan’s lawyers did not receive the final Fulton statement with its extraordinary allegations involving Tom Oliver, until November 2011 five months after it was received and just two weeks before the evidence of former PIRA man, Mooch Patrick Blair, a crucial witness.

Operation Kenova is an investigation into the executions of suspected informants by the Army agent Stakeknife. It notes that “many are concerned at the involvement of this alleged State agent in kidnap, torture and murder by the Provisional IRA during ‘the troubles’ and believe they were preventable”. It will also “look at whether there is evidence of criminal offences having been committed by members of the British Army, the Security Services or other government personnel”. The overriding priority of the investigation is to discover the circumstances of how and why people died, to establish the truth regarding those offences covered within the Terms of Reference.

According to Eamon Mallie:

A question screaming out for an answer is how the Army and MI5 explain and justify the alleged role of Stakeknife – an agent in that part of the IRA that interrogated and tortured other suspected agents, steps often leading to execution. Under what rules of intelligence gathering or agent handling was that possible? Were other agents sacrificed in those places where Stakeknife was at play?.

From an Italian immigrant family and originally from the Markets area of Belfast builder Freddie Scappaticci was fined for riotous assembly in 1970 after being caught up in “the Troubles” and, one year later, was interned without trial with, among others, Gerry Adams. He became deputy head of the IRA’s internal security, its so-called nutting squad. In 1978 he was apparently beaten by a fellow high-ranking member of the Provisional IRA, prompting him to offer his services to the British security services; he eventually came under the control of the British army’s shadowy FRU “force research unit”. Sir John Wilsey, at one time the most senior army officer in Northern Ireland, was secretly recorded in 2012 by a military intelligence whistleblower claiming to be a television news researcher.

Wilsey described Stakeknife as “our most important secret”, “a golden egg”…“We were terribly cagey about Fred”. Scappaticci was named in the press as Stakeknife – Britain’s top agent inside the IRA in 2003 and soon resurfaced at a press conference in Belfast, denying that he had ever worked for Army intelligence or been involved in terrorism. However, shortly afterwards he fled Belfast.

In his book Killing Rage former IRA man Eamon Collins, himself killed by the IRA, characterised Scappaticci as “small and barrel-chested with classic Mediterranean looks – olive-skinned with tight black curly hair”. He described him as a cold-hearted killer and conveyed graphic details of his viciousness. Scap is now in his late 60s and living in hiding under security-service protection. The media is not allowed to report anything that could suggest where he is living or to show images of what he now looks like.

His activities as agent ‘Stakenife’ are now the subject of a major investigation in Northern Ireland involving over 50 officers, Operation Kenova.

The Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, announced in 2015 that he had asked the chief constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, to investigate allegations that Scappaticci was involved in at least 24 murders. It is speculated that he could be responsible for up to 40, some of his victims allegedly sacrificed to protect his identity. McGrory also asked Hamilton to investigate the British security-service controllers who handled him. Operation Kenova is headed by Chief Constable Jon Boutcher of Bedfordshire Constabulary has already begun to talk to victims’ families. It is not yet clear if the investigation will extend to the murder of Tom Oliver, and examine the allegations of Fulton made to the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin that Scappaticci was involved in the kidnap and interrogation of Oliver who was subsequently murdered in Louth before his body was dumped in South Armagh in July1991. Scappaticci was an important, though unseen presence, at the Tribunal – his interests represented by his lawyers, paid by the Irish taxpayer.

Scappaticci sought legal representation to counter claims by Fulton that he was involved in the Tom Oliver abduction and murder.

At one stage Scappaticci’s senior counsel put it to Fulton:

You see, what I am suggesting to you Mr Fulton is that you are desperate for attention…and naming Mr Scappaticci is an attempt to get the Spotlight back on you? …… And I suggest [to] you that you evidence that he was involved in any matter concerning you or Tom Oliver, or indeed in 1994, is a fabrication for that reason.

Scappaticci enjoyed increasing levels of representation at the Tribunal and unsuccessfully pursued a Judicial Review of Smithwick’s decision to allow Fulton to give evidence behind a screen. His barrister described him as an attention-seeker who lied about Scappaticci. Fulton, of course, denied this. Credible sources maintain that he spoke to Tribunal personnel privately for three days in Dublin and some sources say he denied having anything to do with the Tom Oliver murder. but the Tribunal has denied that Scappaticci engaged with them.

If he did give evidence the legal teams were not informed. The Tribunal was so confused that such anomalies were the least of its problems.

Scappaticci’s final handler, an Army Intelligence Major and one of the most important Army Intelligence Officers based in Northern Ireland, gave evidence to the Tribunal in April 2012 that, contrary to Fulton’s’ claims, Scappaticci had never given any information about Owen Corrigan colluding with PIRA nor was there any evidence, whatever, to that effect.

Fulton’s specific and momentous allegation was that in 1991 Corrigan met Patrick ‘Mooch’ Blair, a senior IRA member, in the car-park of Fintan’s Céilí House near Dundalk, and told Blair that Oliver was passing information about the IRA to the Garda Síochána. Blair is then alleged to have threatened to murder Tom Oliver, who was indeed killed soon afterwards. Fulton had become Blair’s driver.

Fulton was a professionally trained dissembler and kept his handlers in MI5 and Army intelligence supplied with information for well over a decade.

The arrival in 2012 of the (now) Deputy Head of the PSNI Drew Harris with his evidence not only served to exonerate Corrigan but also to overshadow Fulton’s allegations against Scappaticci.

Certainly the Smithwick Tribunal made no useful findings but almost certainly there was no reason for the Smithwick Tribunal in the first place.

Justice and Truth demand that the truth of why Tom Oliver was killed, and the role of one of the most brutal double agents, Stakeknife in it, are ascertained.

Postscript: Since the above article was written Kenova has found no evidence to support Keeley/Fulton's allegations that Scappaticci was involved in the Tom Oliver murder (still unsolved) or his interrogation.

Deirdre Younge is a writer/producer/director.