Stakeknife ~ A Pernicious British Agent

Presenter Cormac O'hEadhra (CO) interviews Anthony McIntyre (AM) via telephone about the independent investigation of Freddie Scappaticci who is accused of being the British agent known as Stakeknife. Thanks to TPQ transcriber.

RTÉ Radio One
10 June 2016
(begins time stamp ~ 7:30)

CO: Anthony McIntyre is a former IRA member and is a writer and an historian and he knew Stakeknife in the 1970's and he joins me now. Anthony McIntyre, you're very welcome to the programme.

AM: Good afternoon.

CO: Do you think an investigation like this set up today will have much value?

AM: Oh, I doubt if it will produce the truth to the extent that people wanted and particularly the relatives. I don't have any faith in prosecution-driven strategies for truth recovery; I think a lot of people will clam up and it has a chill effect. And so I wouldn't be hopeful and I think George Hamilton who's has already suggested or sort of sounded a number of alarms...

CO: Why? And in what way?

AM: Well I mean for example Hamilton, George Hamilton, himself has talked about the costs of this and the fact that the British government have given no indication that they're going to finance it. And we'll see an endless battle between the British and the local executive in terms of who will finance it and they will defer and they will delay. I don't think the British state have any inclination to seriously investigate their own security services. The current Secretary of State, British Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has talked about the 'pernicious narrative' that has been developed in relation to the state security services I mean – that's an utter nonsense. The former Chief constable of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), Hugh Orde, has stated that in terms of Brexit and the effect on the Irish border, the border between The North and The South in this country, he had said that Theresa Villiers' head is buried in a peat bog. In terms of British state terrorism and collusion...

CO: ...But, but can I ask you this...

AM: ...all we can see from that peat bog is the soles of her feet she's that far buried in it.

CO: Do you think then that the process itself, the independent investigation headed by John Boutcher announced today, is the wrong way to go or that this investigation team will be hampered by other arms of the British state?

AM: I think both. I think it will be hampered seriously by other arms of the British state and I also think it is the wrong way to go. I think that we are in a situation where we continuously, for the purposes of recrimination and not reconciliation, are engaged in a process of shroud waving – of shouting at each other: 'Our shroud is more important than yours' 'We want your crowd investigated but we don't want our own crowd investigated.'

CO: But surely you have to start somewhere, Anthony McIntyre. Surely it's not...

AM: ...No, you have to stop somewhere rather than start somewhere. Where have we got with these processes of prosecutions? What have we got? We have never, ever got one British soldier or member of the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) in court over this despite all the commitments and I also suspect that this is as much an exercise in trying to embarrass the Sinn Féin leadership as it is trying to bring out British people responsible.

CO: How so?

AM: Well, at the time of the outing of Stakeknife the British ... the Sinn Féin leadership decided that they would cover for Freddie Scappaticci, cover for this Stakeknife person. and they deflected – they accused the media of telling lies, making up stories. We had a lecturer of journalism writing in the Republican News that it was all a myth, that Freddie Scappaticci was not, it was a British myth. Now what we have, and George Hamilton referred to it in his Newsletter interview very clearly today: he couldn't have been more clear when he said that some of the people under investigation will be the people who worked with Stakeknife in the IRA and these people go as far as those who authorised it. Now that takes us to the Army Council of the IRA who had responsibility for signing off on the executions of people. and as we know - people who Freddie Scappaticci deemed British agents. and these people were executed on the authority of the Army Council. and we know that many of those – some of those Army Council people - are very public in political life today and they are regarded as central to the peace process. so I think there is going to be repercussions that are not going to felt solely by the British state.

CO: What type of repercussions?

AM: Well, if there's going to be arrests, we've already seen the type of instability that was brought into the political process in The North with the arrest of Mr. Adams a number of years ago. I mean we know, without naming people, the type of people that are going to come under the spotlight in this investigation. The people who were in very senior levels within the IRA and I ...

CO: ...And the families may say, the families of the victims of these fifty murders or so, if that's the correct figure, may say: So be it if that's what justice demands.

AM: I have every sympathy with the families in arguing that case. and I mean I think even at this stage I think that the Sinn Féin leadership should secure from the IRA, at the very least, a posthumous pardon for all those people who were put down as informers by Stakeknife and by the IRA Security Team operating under his leadership. There can be no way that these people can be regarded as informers any longer on the basis of what this Security Team, working at the behest of the British, discovered. But in terms of justice I think that the more you push for prosecutions the less the chance you have of achieving truth. I think that...

CO: But sorry, just to stop you there... it's just not prosecutions. The families – look at Loughinisland for example and that report yesterday – the families, after so many years - internationally on a campaign in a search for the truth - they were absolutely delighted with the truth yesterday. It wasn't just what they want but they were delighted with the truth. Surely if something like that could come forward, could come out of an investigation like this it would be something for the families. 

AM: I agree. But I think there are other ways that more truth for more families can be established and I don't think it is through a state-led prosecution process. because the state at all times are trying to cover up their role in this, including the PSNI. But, and I think Michael Maguire, the Ombudsman, did a very good job. But I think that his task is made easier if agencies like this are given access to documentation and all the documents - journalists, historians, researchers, academics are allowed to come together and start to delve more deeply and bring out …

CO: Okay. 

AM: … a greater understanding, a greater truth recovery. My experience is that where prosecutions exist truth recovery is much more limited than it would be otherwise.

CO: Okay, well we'll see if access to files is forthcoming. Anthony McIntyre, former IRA member, writer, historian and a man who knew Stakeknife, thank you very much indeed for joining us.


  1. Interesting points. For me the thought of people allegedly working for the RUC SB being allowed to end up south of the border to be interogated and killed is incredible. The mindset of those permitting that and the mindset of Scap himself was nothing but undiluted evil. Then we have Martin McGuinness standing on the steps of Stormont wth the Chief Constable of the same RUC lecturing the population and calling for the people to support the RUC. The entire thing is rotten but for me some of those running Scap and Scap himself should be dragged through the courts. Maybe even the court of human rights. So whilst I agree there will be no real transparency here, I think those doing the killing and permitting it AND ordering it at the highest level of SF/IRA should be dealt with. Then draw a line under the ongoing war by victims cases.

  2. Very interesting AM....I understand your point of recrimination now.

  3. Have to agree with AM - it all ends up being subject to political considerations rather than the truth and used as a tool for leverage and again not for truth.

    "...all we can see from that peat bog is the soles of her feet she's that far buried in it. " I actually laughed out loud at that, classic.