The MRF File – Part 10: The Louis Hammond Affair

By James Kinchin-White and Ed Moloney

The British government has released quite a few files to the Kew archive on the case of Ranger Louis Hammond, the Belfast-born British soldier who defected to the IRA and was then recruited as an agent by the MRF, first as a so-called ‘Fred’ and then as a leading participant in an ambitious and successful psyop designed to undermine and sully the IRA leadership in Belfast.

The files shed very little light on the truth of the case, not enough to make a definitive judgement on the true role that he played: whether he was, as he claimed, a double agent who stayed loyal to the IRA even while on the MRF’s books or if, in the wake of the exposure of other MRF agents, he decided to throw his lot in with the British.

The only thing that can be said with certainty is that Hammond was lucky to come out of the affair alive. He agreed to participate in the British psyop, confirming to two Sunday Times’ journalists an allegation that IRA chiefs had siphoned off the proceeds of robberies to enrich themselves, was effectively identified in the article that they published and was then abducted, interrogated and shot by the IRA.

The IRA seems to have had few doubts about whose side he was now on. Lured to a house in the Markets district of Belfast and questioned for three days, Hammond was shot three times in the head and once in the stomach, then dumped on a nearby street. Miraculously he survived the wounds but was left partially paralysed and blind in one eye.

The key questions remain unanswered in any of the documents released by Kew: what made Hammond participate in the British pysop? Did the IRA’s disappearing of fellow MRF agents at this time, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, scare him into throwing in his lot with the British? Or did British military intelligence persuade him to change sides, and if so how?

We don’t know where Louis Hammond is these days or even if he is still alive. What we do know is that he played a key role in one of the most successful dirty tricks operations of the Troubles, one that labeled the IRA’s leaders as criminal ‘Godfathers’, providing the British with a damaging propaganda bonanza to use at home and abroad.

An undated photo of Louis Hammond

The best part of half a century separates today from the events that surrounded Louis Hammond and there are very few people alive today who met or knew him.

One former soldier who did know Hammond has, however, written about his contact with the MRF/IRA spy and his recollection, rather than the Kew documents, forms the bulk of this posting.

Harry Beaves, who was born in Wiltshire, England, had joined the British Army, as had Hammond, as a teenager and had enlisted in the Royal Artillery. During the summer of 1972, in the wake of Operation Motorman, he was stationed in Casement Park in Andersonstown, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in the city. The stadium had been taken over by the military following Motorman.

Beaves met Louis Hammond at a time when the MRF was sending its IRA agents out on patrols with regular military units to identify fellow IRA members. The double agents were dubbed ‘Freds’, apparently after a popular English newspaper cartoon dog called ‘Fred Basset’.

Last year Beaves published an account of his life in the British Army. Called ‘Down Among The Weeds‘, he devoted part of one chapter to his dealings with the MRF’s ‘Freds’, and all of another to the story of Louis Hammond.

What follows are the extracts that deal with the MRF, the ‘Freds’ and Louis Hammond. After that we have isolated three sets of documents that add to the story.

One is the British Army logsheets that record Louis Hammond’s arrest in Belfast, some three months after he had deserted his British Army unit.

A second document is the central part of a British government paper explaining the Hammond affair to the then Northern Ireland Secretary, William Whitelaw. The author is not named and the document is not dated.

It is clear from that paper that there was an extraordinary – some might say disturbing – level of co-operation between The Sunday Times and the British military authorities in the preparation of the interview with, and article detailing Louis Hammond’s alleged knowledge of corruption in the IRA.

The document makes it clear that The Sunday Times passed on the full text of its reporters’ interview with Hammond to the military and the implication is that this was the quid pro quo for receiving the story about IRA corruption from the British Army.

This aspect of the affair raises one of two key questions: aside from Hammond, who was under the control of British military intelligence, what other source(s) did the Times have to validate the story about IRA corruption? Or was Hammond their sole source?

The other question is this: why did The Sunday Times effectively name Hammond as their source by identifying his rank and unit (intelligence officer for E Coy)? The paper must have known this was tantamount to a death sentence.

The third document provides confirmation that the British Army did have a psyops policy, aimed mostly at influencing media coverage of the Troubles, which was given the cover name ‘Information Policy’.

Finally, an outside intelligence expert – from Britain’s closest ally, the United States – gives his assessment of the Louis Hammond affair.

But first, Harry Beaves’ introduction to Louis Hammomd, as one of the MRF’s ‘Freds’.

Louis Hammond – Part One:

The Fred Basset informers were run by the Military Reaction Force (MRF), an intelligence-gathering unit made up of soldiers from all regiments and corps. It was a highly sensitive organisation based at Palace Barracks, Holywood and one of their tasks was recruiting and running a network of informers and agents.

‘Fred Bassets’ had proved very successful for N Battery, who most often took them on patrol in vehicles. The informer with an escort from the Intelligence Service and a Patrol Commander from the Battery would travel in a Saracen, looking out through the weapon slits. ‘Fred’ would point out wanted men to the Patrol Commander as the vehicle passed by. He would radio the description to a snatch squad in a second vehicle who would get out at top speed and apprehend the suspect who would be thrown in the second vehicle and taken away for questioning. It was a very effective technique and netted many on the ‘wanted’ list who would have passed by a normal patrol unidentified. The IRA became used to the method as two armoured vehicles cruising slowly through the housing estates raised their suspicion so, frequently, the wanted men would be running before the snatch squad had de-bussed. On occasions a suspect would loiter on the street as bait for the two vehicles and when the snatch squad pursued him, he would lead them into an ambush. By the time 28 Battery arrived vehicle patrols with Fred Basset were infrequent as they had outrun their effectiveness and were very risky.

Despite this we made several Fred Basset mobile patrols, but with limited success, so we began taking informers on foot patrol, an even more dangerous tactic. All intelligence operations are highly sensitive and cloaked in secrecy. In this case security was particularly important, not just because an informer would be a high-value target for the IRA should they discover him, but also, because having betrayed one side, it was always possible an informer could do so again and set us up for ambush by the Provos. The cover of darkness was essential for us to be able to move safely on foot with Fred Basset. Fred and his ‘handler’ would arrive from Palace Barracks by military vehicle and disembark in Casement Park, close to the entrance to the stand, only after the main gate had been closed. They would be ushered into the Int Office and be seen by as few people as possible. Fred would wear a combat jacket and beret, usually above his jeans and Doc Martens. His handler would be in uniform with a sub-machine gun.

The patrol was never less than eight men strong, usually staggered on both sides of the road. The Patrol Commander would be number one, number two would be on the opposite side of the road and Fred with his handler by his side would be at number three, behind the Patrol Commander. When the Patrol Commander met an approaching pedestrian he would greet him and, in a polite and friendly manner, ask him his name. He would then repeat the name in a clear voice as if to confirm it. Fred and his handler would by now be well hidden behind a wall or hedge. If the person was clear, Fred would whistle twice and we would let the person continue on his way. If he was a suspect Fred would give one long whistle. The Patrol Commander would then tell the suspect we would like to take him back for further checks and call up on the radio. From then on it was vital that everything happened at top speed so that there was no risk of compromise to Fred Basset.

When a Fred Basset patrol was out two vehicles were kept in Casement Park ready, engines running, with a section of soldiers on board. When the call was received they would crash out, the first vehicle picking up the suspect; the second, Fred Basset and his handler. They would be taken to 19 Regiment’s Int Cell at MPH where Fred would tell exactly who the suspect was and what he knew about him and questioning would begin. The patrol would return to the stadium on foot. Patrols like this were incredibly risky; the biggest danger was attracting a crowd who might create a disturbance or riot that could put the informer at risk. Fortunately we always managed to avoid this and used Fred Basset to great effect.

We had several different informers with different handlers during our time, but one was particularly successful. He was short and slim with very blue eyes, a typical sparky little Irish lad with a minder who was a tall, silent officer in the infantry. We were supposed to have no social contact in order to minimise any chance of compromise, but I always pulled Fred’s leg about his long dark hair. I got the impression he lived close by, but outside Andersonstown, and he seemed to know enough about military things to suggest he had been a soldier. I worked with him more than any other Fred Basset and he laid the finger on an enormous number of suspects for us, but as the weeks went on he became less good-humoured and more nervous and jumpy. His hair was cut short and he even began wearing camouflage cream on his face (another hint of military experience). I thought perhaps he was beginning to think that the IRA was getting close to him and as I said ‘Farewell’ after another successful patrol he replied, ‘You’ll soon be seeing less of me I hope.’ His silent minder added, ‘Yes, he’s not far off retirement.’ But there was another patrol, then just one more and another… Each time Fred arrived looking more pale and nervous. In any other circumstance I would have felt sorry for him, but I could only worry that if he reached the tipping point he might just set us up for an ambush by the IRA. Then one day I realised we hadn’t seen him for a while. Fred Basset patrols continued, but with different informers. I just hoped and assumed the highly successful old Fred was now enjoying his pension and not lying anonymously in a bog, a victim of IRA retribution.

I was, however, wrong on both counts. Our ‘favourite Fred’ was involved in very much more and is part of another remarkable tale……..

Harry Beaves, went on MRF ‘Fred’ patrols with Louis Hammond

Louis Hammond – Part Two:

Over the years, whenever I found information about people or events relating to my Northern Ireland tour in 1972 I added it to my scrapbook and diary.

In April 1973 I was enjoying a bachelor Sunday morning, reading the papers, when my eye was taken by a headline about an IRA informer who had been found shot in Belfast. The story in the Sunday Times was written by Chris Ryder and Paul Eddy and as I read it I became convinced it was our favourite ‘Fred Basset’, so I added the story to my scrapbook.

I also had a cutting from the Sunday Times by the same two journalists dated 13th May 1973, this time about the alleged misappropriation of the proceeds of robberies, by members of the IRA. The article particularly interested me because it involved E Company who operated in Riverdale and it named Tommy Gorman as one of those involved, which supported our opinion that many of the IRA ‘heroes’ were as much thugs and criminals as political idealists.

I re-read the articles when I was preparing Chapter 20 of this book and checked facts on the internet. I found myself following a fascinating trail of intrigue surrounding the activities of a shadowy organisation known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF), an informer named Louis Hammond and an elaborate sting operation by British intelligence. My internet research led me to read Martin Dillon’s book The Dirty War which tells the story behind the two newspaper cuttings. Dillon includes in his book a photograph of Louis Hammond who I can positively recognise as our favourite ‘Fred’.

The MRF was a covert intelligence-gathering unit of the British Army, based at Palace Barracks, Holywood between 1971 and 1973, conducting plain-clothes patrols around the city, running agents and debriefing informants. The ‘Fred Basset’ informer network was one of their operations. The MRF was always controversial and although it contributed much valuable information to the intelligence picture there is little in the open about those who served in the unit or the events with which they were involved. Today the MRF is a largely discredited organisation, mainly because much of what it did is believed to have fallen well outside the British Army’s Rules of Engagement at that time.

I knew four senior NCOs from 19 Regiment who returned to Ireland and served with the MRF after our 1972 tour. The first, who I knew particularly well, told me that he had worked with Louis Hammond during that time. He also confirmed in broad detail that the MRF had operated hit squads, essentially assassinating known IRA offenders, the kind of unlawful activity of which they have often been accused. The second of the SNCOs from 19 Regiment was returned to unit not long after his arrival as, I believe, he was involved in an incident which threatened the security of the whole organisation. The other two stayed on and did several tours of duty with the MRF or other covert units until, eventually, they just ‘disappeared’ from the Army organisation and probably became formally employed in one of the national intelligence gathering bodies, probably MI5.

Louis Hammond’s story is full of controversy and contradiction. There is the British Military version, the Provisional IRA version and areas in between that have been clouded by misinformation and disinformation. This is what I have been able to piece together.

Louis Hammond was born in 1954, grew up in Andersonstown and joined the British Army in 1970, serving with the Royal Irish Rangers. When he was sent home on leave in 1972 he failed to return and was posted ‘absent’, as is the normal practice. Some months later he was picked up on one of the barricades protecting the Republican ‘no-go’ areas. He was arrested and faced a lengthy spell in prison not just as a deserter, but also as an IRA activist. Instead he was told that nothing more would be said, provided he gave British Military Intelligence information about the IRA in his area. He seemed happy to do what was asked and, once he had accepted and become an informer, there was no turning back. One of the newspaper articles by Ryder and Eddy gave him credit for putting a huge number of wanted IRA men behind bars and seriously reducing the effectiveness of the IRA in West Belfast. It is fair to assume that it was his activities on Fred Basset patrols with units like 28 Battery that achieved this.

* * *

The Four Square Laundry was one of the well-known operations mounted by the MRF. ‘Four Square’ offered a laundry service to the Catholic estates with energetic promotions undercutting the local opposition. A box-bodied van would visit twice a week to collect and deliver laundry, driven by a young man, accompanied by a young woman. Both were plain-clothes soldiers. In the void above the cab of the laundry van a third soldier was concealed so that he could take photographs through slits in the vehicle. Clothes collected by the Four Square Laundry vehicles were taken back and forensically checked for traces of explosives, as well as blood or firearms residue, then processed through the standard military laundry service. They were also compared with previous laundry loads from the same house –the sudden presence of different-sized clothes could indicate that the house was harbouring an IRA member, for example. It had become an extremely valuable intelligence-gathering operation.

The IRA had become suspicious of one of the ‘Freds’ named Seamus Wright and apprehended him for questioning. Wright tried to buy his life by giving the IRA information on the MRF and also naming Kevin McKee, another ‘Fred’. When questioned by the IRA, McKee revealed the activities of the Four Square Laundry and other MRF operations. On 2nd October 1972 a Four Square Laundry van was ambushed in the Twinbrooks estate and the plain-clothes military driver was killed. Twinbrooks was the responsibility of 5 Battery and, despite bordering 28 Battery’s Riverdale area, had been relatively quiet until then.

The time at which the Four Square Laundry was ambushed coincides roughly with the time in my log when we noticed that our favourite ‘Fred Basset’ had his hair cut short and was becoming very jumpy. Despite the constraints, occasional conversations with him and his handler did happen and I remember the handler telling me how untrustworthy the ‘Freds’ were and how one had tried to set him up with the IRA. On another occasion I remember Louis Hammond talking about how another ‘Fred’ had been discovered by the MRF trying to pass information to the IRA and had since disappeared, I believe this was Seamus Wright.

All of this fits loosely with stories I have read of that time. I suspect Louis Hammond felt very vulnerable lest he was betrayed by someone else in the informer network, which would help to explain his nervous state during his last patrols with us. He probably outlived his usefulness as an informer and, if he was not ‘retired’, I suspect that he was stood down for a while and probably sent to a safe house in England while the dust settled.

Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright had hoped to buy their lives by becoming double agents for the IRA, but they were never seen again. They IRA have admitted that they were executed as informers in accordance with IRA rules, it is said, by Jim Bryson and Thomas Tolan (both now dead), but their bodies have not been found. They are listed among the ‘Disappeared of Northern Ireland’, those who are believed to have been abducted, killed and buried in unmarked graves by Republican paramilitaries. Their story was told on the BBC4 documentary The Disappeared by Darragh MacIntyre on 5th November 2013.

Afternote. The bodies of Wright and McKee were found in a bog in County Meath in June 2015, forty-three years after their disappearance.

* * *

In his book The Dirty War Martin Dillon claims, in a fascinating story, that Ryder and Eddy’s article in the Sunday Times on 13th May 1973 concerning the misappropriation of robbery money was a clever and very successful psy-ops operation on the part of the British Intelligence Services.

The IRA had historically committed robberies to obtain money to buy weapons and otherwise fund their activities and it had long been suspected by both the IRA and the security forces that not all of the stolen money was being handed to the IRA hierarchy. The security forces had helped increase suspicion within the IRA by, on occasions, by deliberately inflating the sums stolen when issuing press releases on robberies.

The sting itself claimed that a secret document, purported to be from a senior IRA member being held in Long Kesh, had been intercepted by the security forces. It was addressed to the IRA’s Belfast Commander, Seamus Twomey, and named IRA members who had been misappropriating funds. The security forces leaked details of the document to the two journalists, Chris Ryder and Paul Eddy.

Chris Ryder, pictured at around the time the Louis Hammond stories were published

Now Louis Hammond comes into the story. Ryder and Eddy had been approached separately by Hammond who told them that he had once been the Intelligence Officer of E Company in Riverdale, but was at that time acting as a British informer. They spoke to Hammond several times, initially seeking information on Wright and McKee and the MRF. When they pressed him for information on IRA embezzlement Hammond corroborated the facts contained in the alleged intercepted document, claiming that he was doing so because he had become disillusioned by what had been going on. The suspicion is that Hammond was brought out of retirement as a ‘Fred’ and deliberately used by the security forces to feed Ryder and Eddy information to support the sting operation concerning the misappropriated robbery proceeds.

Such information from Hammond, an IRA insider, seemed to confirm the credibility of the story so Ryder and Eddy went ahead and published the article in the Sunday Times quoting as their source an unnamed ‘former Intelligence Officer from E Company’. From this the IRA were in no doubt who had betrayed them and the article led to the eventual shooting of Hammond.

The Sunday Times article told that in 1971– 72 there were 1,368 armed robberies in Ulster, the majority of these committed by E and F Companies of Belfast’s 1st Battalion, who specialised in staging bank robberies to raise funds for the IRA. It was alleged that at least £ 150,000 had been siphoned off by senior members of the 1st Battalion. The article named seven prominent members of the IRA who were being accused of misappropriating IRA funds. In consequence, the Provisionals’ High Command suspended military activities by E (Riverdale) and F Companies because of these financial irregularities.

Co-author of the article on Louis Hammond, Paul Eddy. A former Sunday Times ‘Insight’ reporter, he turned to fiction writing later in life. He died in 2009.

The publication of the article in the Sunday Times caused chaos within the ranks of the Provisional IRA and caused immense damage to the organisation. There was enough truth in the story to fuel the suspicions and make the additional ‘embroidery’ and downright lies so plausible that the accusations could not be ignored. However, few of the accusations could be substantiated as the original document was purported to have been smuggled out of Long Kesh and intercepted by the security forces before it reached its destination, so, probably, only the author knew the contents and the author himself (if he existed) was unknown. There was paranoia within the IRA over who the author might be and what the actual contents were. The hierarchy suspended a large part of the Provisionals’ active membership for some time whilst investigations were made. Distrust and suspicion were so strong that it resulted in a split between the ‘old guard’, who were close to accepting a negotiated political settlement, and a group (including Adams and McGuinness) who were willing to pursue a protracted war in which the military and political campaigns were fought side by side. Key to the whole operation had been Louis Hammond, our favourite ‘Fred Basset’.

At some stage Hammond was taken back to Liverpool by one of the Senior NCOs with whom I had served in 19 Regiment and told to lay low, but he was homesick and could not settle. The IRA had been watching out for Hammond and picked him up when he returned to his father’s house in Belfast. Hammond’s bullet-ridden body was found in an alley near the Ormeau Road. He was shot several times in the head and in the body, but miraculously survived. In the book Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland, Greg Harkin and Martin Ingram claim that his attacker was Brendon Davidson, himself an IRA informer who was subsequently murdered by Protestant paramilitaries. Gerry Adams was a pall bearer at Davidson’s funeral.

Brendan Davison’s funeral – Freddie Scappaticci on the left (with moustache) and Davison in the coffin were both IRA informers

Hammond’s name appears in a number of publications on the Troubles, but, except for his activities as a ‘Fred’ his true role is unclear. From these stories, I believe the following is likely: he and the IRA claim that he was a double agent passing information to the IRA. At the time when Wright and McKee were informing the IRA of the Four Square Laundry etc, it is probable that Hammond was interviewed by the IRA. He may or may not have offered information, but he did not feel under threat from them and when he was ‘pensioned off’ by the British security services, he felt relatively safe from both the British and the IRA.

Unfortunately, he had outlived his usefulness for the British because, through his association with Wright and McKee, he could no longer be trusted. When he was used to support the embezzlement sting the British saw him as expendable. British intelligence would have known that revealing in the press that information had come from a ‘former Intelligence Officer from E Company’ identified Hammond to the IRA and effectively signed his death warrant.

The story of my connection with Louis Hammond had an interesting postscript. In 1975 I was part of the Royal Artillery force serving in Oman during the Dhofar Campaign, deployed for weeks on end in Observation Posts in the jebel about two miles north of RAF Salalah. One lunchtime a group of officers were in the bar of the Officers’ Mess of RAF Salalah seriously ‘re-hydrating’ after a particularly difficult and dangerous spell of operations. One of them, a tall slim man wearing the uniform of a Captain in the Sultan’s Armed Forces, seemed strangely familiar. We exchanged glances and a few minutes later he walked up to me, a bottle of Heineken in his hand.

‘We’ve met before,’ he said.

‘Yes,’ I replied.

‘Casement Park ’72. We were always pleased to go out with you.’

It was Fred Basset’s silent minder, then serving on secondment to the Sultan’s Armed Forces. He returned to his friends and I was buoyed by the compliment, wishing he was free to answer my many questions, in particular, about Louis Hammond, of whom, at the time, I knew nothing.

Some weeks later he was involved in the Shershitti Caves operation, one of the major concluding conflicts of the Dhofar campaign. He showed great bravery rescuing several men under intense enemy fire and was awarded a Sultan’s award for bravery.

A remarkable person. The same man features as one of the lead characters in Ranulph Fiennes’s book The Feather Men, which was made into the film Killer Elite, starring Robert de Niro.

The Arrest of Louis Hammond:

In the early hours of May 13th, 1972, Louis Hammond, along with five other local men, was manning a barricade set up in the Slievegallion area of Andersonstown.

Loyalists were beginning to launch forays into Andersonstown at that time, but there had also been incursions by other, unknown gunmen and some shootings. It was only later that it emerged that these other incidents were carried out by motorised MRF patrols (see here).

The barricades had been erected to protect local people but that night a British Army patrol surrounded the Slievegallion barrier and arrested six vigilantes manning it. The troops also discovered a ‘brand new’ Armalite rifle dumped behind a nearby hedge, one of the first of those weapons to be smuggled into Belfast from the United States.

A message confirming the arrests and weapon find was recorded in the log sheet compiled by the military’s Belfast headquarters and a copy sent to the Thiepval Barracks HQ of the British Army in Lisburn, just west of Belfast. The names and addresses of those arrested was also sent to HQNI, including that of Louis Hammond.

Six hours later a further message was sent to HQNI stating that Hammond had deserted from the Royal Irish Rangers three-and-a-half months before.

The third log sheet below (see Serial 61) also records that a copy of this message was forwarded to ‘Int’, i.e. military intelligence. The presumption must be that this was the point at which Louis Hammond’s fateful career with the MRF effectively began.

The British Army’s Psyops Policy:

An Intelligence Assessment of the Louis Hammond affair.

In September 1999, a US Navy Intelligence officer by the name of Mark L Bowlin published his Masters degree thesis on British intelligence operations in Northern Ireland. Titled ‘BRITISH INTELLIGENCE AND THE IRA: THE SECRET WAR IN NORTHERN IRELAND, 1969-1988’, Bowlin devoted a section to the Louis Hammond affair. The thesis can be accessed here. The relevant section reads:

The articles by Eddy and Ryder proved very damaging to the IRA and helped establish the reputation of the Provisionals as racketeers and gangsters. The interesting thing about the case of Louis Hammond and this aspect of the British sting was that although the participation of the IRA in criminal activities has been well established, it appears that the embezzlement of IRA funds (at least this incident) was fabricated by British intelligence. This was facilitated by the British practice of creatively reporting on the amount of money stolen from banks robbed by the IRA. Every time the IRA robbed a bank to fund their operations, the British announced to the press that an amount slightly higher was taken than actually was. Desmond Hamill wrote that frequently the effects of this policy could be seen immediately, “Very often the Army found that soon afterwards, sometimes even the next day, there would be a number of kneecappings. It was not good for IRA recruiting.” Neither was the incident involving the hapless Louis Hammond.

Assessing the former operation first, British intelligence formed a lasting public image of the IRA as gangsters and common criminals, yet it is important to remember that that image is not entirely a British concoction. The IRA funded its operations through bank robberies, protection rackets and a whole range of illicit businesses, yet the British were successful in painting a portrait of criminals that were so corrupt that they would steal from the cause as well as for it.

Moreover, the MRF portrayed Louis Hammond, and the media furthered the portrayal, as a loyal Republican whistleblower who was nearly killed by his own for speaking “the truth.” To the IRA and their sympathizers, it is one thing to rob a bank to fund IRA operations, but it is something else altogether to steal from the movement.

The Embezzlement Sting was a clever operation that brought confusion to the ranks of the enemies of British intelligence, yet it was not without cost. Undoubtedly, Louis Hammond was not a choirboy. He was a deserter from the British Army and was an active member of a terrorist organization.

Nevertheless, Hammond paid a pretty dear price for his participation in the Sting, more so, one would argue, than had his British handlers. There is a strong argument that the war in Ulster was what is referred to there as a “big boys’ game” and that Hammond knew the risks. He could have opted to serve his time in prison instead. Yet his was a fate that was common to the Freds. Tony Geraghty wrote of the ex-terrorists, “It was a lethal, complex and bewildering game of cat and mouse and not many of the Freds survived to enjoy the freedom promised them after MRF service.

Another disturbing aspect of the Embezzlement Sting was the manipulation of the media. This was not the first nor the last time that the media was used by the British intelligence services. It is not against the law in the United Kingdom for the government to lie to the press, but the net result of having repeatedly done so was that the credibility of the government was always in question. In a long war, such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the government’s campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people is made infinitely more complex when government officials are rightfully viewed as inveterate liars and official statements as propaganda.

And finally that report on the Louis Hammond affair prepared for Willie Whitelaw:

Jonathan Pie On Brexit

The MRF File – Davy Payne, Frank Quigley And The MRF – A Mystery Solved

From James Kinchin-White and Ed Moloney

Thanks to ‘Iain’ for discovering this and bringing it to our attention:

The more attentive readers of our series on the MRF will recall a piece we wrote about the North Belfast UDA leader Davy Payne returning material to the British Army that had been stolen from an MRF patrol car which had been mistaken by a Loyalist crowd in the Shankill Rd district for an IRA vehicle, hijacked and its occupants beaten up.

The piece can be accessed here.

We wondered whether this co-operation was the outworking of a decision made by British prime minister Ted Heath’s Northern Ireland cabinet sub-committee earlier in 1972 which endorsed the idea of co-operation between British forces and so-called ‘civil defence’ groups, of the sort that were springing up in Loyalist parts of Belfast in early 1972.

Davy Payne’s generosity came to light thanks to the discovery in the Kew files of British Army log sheets, or incident records, dated May 16th, 1972. A message from the British Army’s Belfast Brigade headquarters to HQNI in Lisburn said that a missing MRF folder, stolen by the Shankill Road mob, had been handed in to Flax Street Army base by Davy Payne, ‘an associate of Frank Quigley’.

Here is the relevant log sheet. The relevant note is at Serial 33 (what Dr Oliver’s role in all this is not at all clear):

But who was Frank Quigley? Nobody seemed to know or could remember. Until ‘Iain’ discovered a reference to him in an April 1973 News Letter story about the trial in London of Loyalists from North Belfast who had traveled to the capital in April 1972 – just a few days/weeks before the MRF incident involving Payne – to meet an arms dealer and buy guns to bring back to Northern Ireland.

Quigley, whose address was given as Deerpark Road in North Belfast, was described as the leader of the group who the court was told were members of the UDA. The arms dealer told the police about the approach from Quigley, a former Belfast city councillor, and his friends and they were arrested and put on trial. His party affiliation was not disclosed in court. One of the accused was a former ‘B’ Special. Quigley was given a two years sentence.

‘Iain’ also kindly provided clippings of the story from the News Letter which are reproduced below.

So it seems that Davy Payne was an associate of a putative if somewhat amateurish Loyalist gun-runner and may even have been party to the plot. He was close enough to the event for British military intelligence to know about the pair’s relationship.

So the British Army managed to retrieve confidential MRF material courtesy of someone who may well have just been involved in a gun running venture:



Remembering Freddie Scappaticci…….

Martin Ingram is the nom de guerre/plume of Ian Hurst, a former NCO in the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU), which along with MI5 and the RUC Special Branch led the intelligence war against the Provisional IRA in the latter period of the Troubles.

FRU members pose for a class photo. Ingram/Hurst is standing, second from left

I got to know Martin/Ian not long after he had begun his media campaign – launched in The Sunday Times Irish edition – to expose Freddie Scappaticci as an agent for the FRU and to demonstrate that in using him as an agent, British intelligence had on numerous occasions sanctioned murder.

A few weeks after the first article appeared in The Sunday Times, he phoned me in Belfast, we arranged to have lunch in Dublin and so began our relationship.

I have to say that I always found Martin/Ian pleasant to deal with, although the chirpy Mancunian was frustratingly obtuse when the discussion turned to the identity of the British spy in the IRA’s ranks. I never had a reason to think he ever lied to me; he never told the full truth either but not a lie that I knew of.

The spy was of course Freddie Scappaticci, or Scap, as he was widely known. Scap was the second in command of the IRA’s Internal Security Unit (ISU), which had the job of hunting down informers in the Provisionals’ ranks. For reasons that remain unexplained both Scap and his boss, John Joe Magee remained in charge of the ISU for the best part of two decades, in flagrant breach of a elementary rule of counter intelligence.

Freddie Scappaticci (lower right) and Martin McGuinness confront the RUC at the funeral of IRA leader Larry Marley in Ardoyne

Having a spy so well placed in the IRA, someone who could help the British recruit and protect other informers, gave the British an unprecedented advantage in their war against the Provos and in all probability hastened or even initiated the journey towards the peace process.

It would be many years before Scappaticci was eventually outed and by that stage Ingram/Hurst had acquired a name for controversy and unreliability as far as much of the mainstream media was concerned.

He fell out with Liam Clarke, for instance, the Sunday Times‘ reporter with whom he had begun his campaign to out Scap, although Clarke agreed with Ingram/Hurst’s claim that the late Martin McGuinness was an agent for British intelligence. You can read about Clarke’s row with the former FRU soldier and Clarke’s article on McGuinness here.

By the way, Clarke was not alone in his suspicions about McGuinness. Toby Harnden, author of Bandit Country, also suspects that McGuinness was a British spy.

Since then, and for all we know because of his claims about McGuinness, the British establishment effectively declared him persona non grata.

The Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday took evidence from him but concluded he had exaggerated his importance. And when the British government appointed prominent barrister, Sir Desmond de Silva to investigate the role of FRU agent Brian Nelson in the UDA killing of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane, Ingram/Hurst was not asked to give evidence even though as a former FRU soldier he had a lot to say about the killing (not least that a former colleague had admitted to him that intelligence reports had been fabricated to clear FRU of allegations of foreknowledge about the Finucane murder).

De Silva would not entertain Ingram/Hurst as a witness but broke his own rules to hold several face-to-face meetings with Col Gordon Kerr, the commander of the FRU. (Perhaps guessing what response he would get, he didn’t even bother approaching this writer even though I did figure in his report.)

A more contemporary photo of Martin Ingram/Ian Hurst

None of this means that what Ingram/Hurst has to say about Scappaticci should therefore be ignored (although it remains to be seen what attitude the Operation Kenova team has taken to him). He was, after all, correct about the most basic element in the story: Freddie Scappaticci was a British spy.

In that spirit I am happy to reproduce the chapter he wrote on Scappaticci in ‘Stakeknife – Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland‘. The book was co-written with Greg Harkin. As the Operation Kenova inquiry into the Scappaticci affair winds to a conclusion, it is a timely reminder of all that happened in this most extraordinary chapter in the Troubles.


Chapter 4

The Agent Stakeknife


Frederick Scappaticci grew up in the Markets area of south Belfast, the son of Daniel Scappaticci, an Italian immigrant who arrived in Belfast in the 1920s. Belfast, like Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin and other cities at the time saw a large influx of Italian families seeking a better life. There were so many Italian immigrants in the old docks area, around the Markets area of Belfast, that it was known as ‘Little Italy’. The Scappaticcis ran a number of ice-cream businesses. Scappaticci was reputed to be an unruly and bad-tempered teenager, once breaking the leg of a fourteen-year-old in a row over football. Football was his passion –in 1962 he travelled to Nottingham Forest for a three-week trial but was sent home. The left-sided midfielder, although barely five-and-a-half feet tall, was highly rated by scout Johnny Carey, a former Manchester United and Irish international. However, the other Manchester –Manchester City –was Scappaticci’s team and after he became an agent the FRU would often arrange tickets for him for big matches at Maine Road. It also provided good cover when Scappaticci wanted to spend a weekend with his handlers.

Scappaticci, like his father, was a republican. He was caught up in the early Troubles, and was fined for riotous behaviour in 1970. A year later he was interned with, amongst others, Francisco Notorantonio, Gerry Adams, Alex Maskey and Ivor Bell. Now working as a bricklayer, Scappaticci was twenty-five years old. Veteran Derry republican Michael Donnelly, who was also interned at Long Kesh, recalled the now-notorious Scappaticci temper in a conversation with BBC Northern Ireland journalist Vincent Kearney: ‘Freddie Scap was short-tempered and quick to throw a punch … If he had been a foot taller he would have been a dangerous bully, but as it was he usually had one or two with him when he did throw his weight about, and he didn’t do much damage.’

Donnelly said Scappaticci ‘hung around with the Ballymurphy team, who were led by Gerry Adams’. He was particularly touchy about his name, which many of his fellow inmates mispronounced: ‘He would stamp his feet and shout, “It’s Scap-a-tichi, Scap-a-f******-tichi!”’ said Donnelly.

Scappaticci was released in December 1974 and became a trusted member of the Provisional IRA. He volunteered his services to British Army intelligence in 1978. Meanwhile he was working his way up through the IRA ranks. By 1980 –the year the Force Research Unit was established to centralise Army intelligence under the Intelligence Corps –Freddie Scappaticci, with guidance and help from his handlers, was firmly ensconced in the IRA’s internal security department, aka the Nutting Squad.

From then until early 1996 (although there was less work for his Nutting Squad after the 1994 ceasefire), Scappaticci would have a role in investigations into suspected informers, inquiries into operations suspected of being compromised, debriefings of IRA volunteers released from questioning and vetting of potential recruits. The FRU had placed its prize asset at the centre of the IRA, at the heart of Northern Command. During my time in the FRU he was referred to as Stake, Stakeknife, Steak or Steak-Knife and sometimes as Alfredo –Italian for Freddie. By the time he was outed, Stakeknife had become the norm.

I first became aware of both his activities and the role of the FRU in those activities in the early 1980s. One evening during 1982 whilst visiting the office at Headquarters Northern Ireland, a telephone call on a source telephone, a dedicated line for agents, was taken by a colleague who was the 121 Intelligence Section duty operator. This colleague, whom we shall call ‘Sam’, was, like myself, inexperienced as an intelligence operative. Sam took the call from an RUC officer based at Donegall Pass RUC station. The gist of the conversation was that an individual had been arrested for drink driving and had asked the RUC desk sergeant to telephone his handlers and alert them to his predicament. The ‘individual’ was in fact, Freddie Scappaticci, whom the police had arrested near his home, which was on the Lower Ormeau Road, about half a mile from the Donegall Pass station in south Belfast.

Whilst Sam telephoned those responsible for the running of Stakeknife, seeking instructions, I kept the desk sergeant occupied on the phone. Throughout that evening I helped out in the office, running errands for the posse of FRU officers and handlers who had returned to their offices to deal with the developing situation. The RUC desk sergeant confirmed the identity of the arrested man as Frederick or Freddie Scappaticci; he was requested to avoid doing anything which would highlight the identity of the individual he had in custody. The name Scappaticci was not known to me in the context of the Troubles at that time. In truth, both Sam and I were curious –it was in our natures. We were trained to be nosy, to find things out that we weren’t supposed to, and we were both delighted that we were allowed and trusted to remain in the background whilst a crisis was managed.

Once Scappaticci had been safely released from RUC custody without charge and the handlers had left the offices, we ran his name through the intelligence computer system 3702. His name and his activities were clearly recorded. He was identified as being closely involved in the running of the IRA’s feared internal security unit and being linked to the IRA’s Northern Command. It was clear to Sam and me that this was a heavy-duty source at the higher echelons of the Provisional IRA. We knew even then that to have a mole inside the Provos’ own security unit was a massive coup. Sam and I were summoned the following day to a meeting with the operation officer FRU and told to keep the secret of Stakeknife’s identity. At the time both of us were frankly out of our depth, unaware why the operation officer was anxious over and above normal concerns for the source’s welfare. This was, however, to change.

Over the next few years I became friendly with one of Stakeknife’s primary handlers, a man that I will call ‘Andy’. Andy and myself were keen footballers, playing for both the local unit and in the many five-a-side competitions held on Thiepval barracks. Andy was aware that I knew the identity of his agent and was open with me concerning Stakeknife and his activities, although careful to paint Stakeknife in a positive light. I believe Andy knew even as early as the mid-1980s that this case could come back to haunt not only him but the FRU as a unit. On occasions when I suggested he be careful, he intimated that the paperwork generated would not accurately reflect much of the agent’s activities, certainly not the aspects which were clearly illegal.

Stakeknife produced high-grade intelligence, much of it read at the highest levels of the political and security establishments. He was, without doubt, the jewel in the crown. The problem was, Stakeknife could only shine if he immersed himself in the activities of those he was reporting upon, including murder and other illegal acts.

Stakeknife had knowledge of some high-profile kidnap cases, many of which ended well. One is the case of supermarket magnate Ben Dunne Jnr, kidnapped by an IRA gang in south Armagh in 1981. Scappaticci was influential in saving his life, according to FRU source reports. The then chief of Dunnes Stores, aged thirty-one, was on his way to Portadown to open a new branch of the company. He was pulled from his car by armed maverick IRA men when he stopped to help at a fake accident. During Dunne’s six-day ordeal, Father Dermod McCarthy met with the terror gang and later appealed on television for his release. As Father McCarthy tried to mediate, a fierce gun battle broke out between the IRA members and Garda Special Branch, who had located the terrorists’ secret lair in County Louth after receiving accurate intelligence. Although Gardaí and sources close to the family said no money was paid, I have read in intelligence reports that around Stg£300,000 was handed over.

Scappaticci was also a major source in the foiled kidnap attempt on Galen Weston, a Canadian-born business tycoon and friend of Britain’s Prince Charles. The Westons had set up home in Toronto, but maintained their spectacular Irish estate at Roundwood Park, a seventeenth-century castle on 245 acres in the Wicklow hills, outside Dublin. On 7 August 1983, seven terrorists approached the Westons’ mansion in their bid to kidnap him. However, a fortnight earlier the FRU had passed on information from Scappaticci to Gardaí via the RUC. The seven men walked into a Garda ambush, an elaborate trap set up to give the impression that the Westons were at the estate. Weston, then forty-two, and his wife Hilary, a former Irish model, were not at home. He was playing polo with Prince Charles. He dismissed claims that it was a kidnap attempt. ‘Anyone could have known I was in England,’ he said at the time. ‘I haven’t been to Roundwood for months. The estate is run as a farm but there are some nice paintings and furniture in the house –I suppose they were after that.’ Gardaí eventually convinced the Westons that the gang, which had cut telephone wires to the house, had more sinister motives and as a result the couple sold up and left Ireland.

Another kidnapping, in late 1983, would result in the deaths of a garda and an Irish Army soldier. Quinnsworth boss Don Tidey was stopped at what appeared to be a Garda checkpoint near his home in Rathfarnham, Dublin. However, a gun was put to his head as he was taken prisoner by the IRA. His nineteen-year-old son was beaten during the abduction, which was also witnessed by his thirteen-year-old daughter. After being held hostage for twenty-three days, Tidey was rescued in a joint Army–Garda operation in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, on 16 December. He was found in a dugout in a secluded wooded area under the guard of four armed men, all of whom escaped. Again, Scappaticci’s information had been passed on to the Gardaí by the British authorities after a tip-off to the FRU. Trainee garda Gary Sheehan, twenty-three, of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, and Private Patrick Kelly, thirty-five, of Moate, County Westmeath, were killed in the shoot-out. In 1998 IRA jail-breaker Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane was bailed on charges connected with the kidnap of the supermarket boss.

Don Tidey and Ben Dunne, among others, owe their lives to Freddie Scappaticci. But there were those who lost their lives to Scappaticci in his role as tout-finder general. The difficult part for his handlers involved manoeuvring him into the prominent and influential role as second-in-command in the internal security unit. Intelligence given to Scappaticci by the FRU aided his credibility within the IRA. Unfortunately, Scappaticci’s very position would inevitably involve him in regular murders. The price, in my opinion, for his excellent intelligence was too high –although that assessment is with the benefit of hindsight and was not my opinion fifteen years ago. Gradually and with a large degree of patience, Scappaticci was developed into an agent who was trusted and respected.

From the moment I became aware of Stakeknife’s identity I wondered what had prompted an individual like this to turn traitor and inform on his friends and comrades. A few years after I became aware of Stakeknife’s identity, Andy informed me that Scappaticci had been a ‘walk-in’ –that is, he voluntarily walked into an Army base and offered to report information on individuals who had crossed paths with him. Andy told me that either an individual or group associated with the IRA had given Scappaticci a beating. This beating to a proud man had been the Rubicon that prompted him to turn traitor. But surely, I thought, that alone could not be the sole motivating factor that was to fuel a long and successful career as an agent for the British State. In conversations with handlers it became clear that Stakeknife was also motivated by personal grudges. Andy once told me that Scappaticci hated Martin McGuinness vehemently and that in all his dealings as an IRA officer connected to Northern Command his reporting of the activities of McGuinness was always full and detailed.

This dislike was aired publicly in two interviews given during in the mid-1990s to ITV’s ‘The Cook Report’. These give a fascinating insight into the agent’s mental make-up. ‘The Cook Report’ had broadcast a previous programme, delving into the activities of Martin McGuinness and his involvement with the IRA. The programme examined McGuinness’s dual role –his political career in Sinn Féin, and his position as an IRA commander. However, Scappaticci did not believe the programme had uncovered enough of McGuinness’s activities and he sensationally decided to offer his services, under an assumed name, to journalists in the hope of really digging the dirt on McGuinness. It is unclear whether he volunteered this information with the blessing of his handlers or if he was flying solo.

Scappaticci met the journalists in the Culloden Hotel, outside Belfast. He drove there in his own car, registered in his own name. This seems frankly suicidal, although it is true that by now he was not anywhere near as active in the IRA as he had been. Journalists are generally smart creatures, skilled at identifying sources and blessed with willing sources of their own. Stakeknife was easily identified by a quick check on the registration number of his car, casually parked within the grounds of the hotel. A registration number can be checked with police sources.

The journalists were surprised that a senior republican would willingly come out into the open, even under an assumed name. This casual approach seems to imply that Scappaticci was acting with his handlers’ knowledge. He would also not have wanted to upset his employers with this type of activity if it was not authorised. This man had made a career from not making mistakes –you do not survive over two decades as an agent in the IRA by being casual and reckless. This action seems reckless at best, although it was highly unlikely any republicans would have been in the hotel, or would have had access to the journalists he was meeting. It is impossible to be sure what Scappaticci’s motivations were.

Below is a transcript of parts of Scappaticci’s conversations with the ‘Cook Report’ team. He is remarkably outspoken in his allegations, which are denied by McGuinness and others. He makes a number of statements which are inconsistent with facts, for example his claim that he was no longer in the IRA. He also makes several errors or slips of the mind regarding details, mentioning the ‘five-man’ Army council rather than seven, forgetting that Northern Command covered eleven counties rather than nine, ie, the ‘war zone’ –the six counties of Northern Ireland and the five bordering counties in the Republic of Ireland. These slips, of course, undermine his validity as a credible witness on any issue, but despite this, the interview does give us Scappaticci’s own voice and attitudes, his vindictiveness, and his hatred of McGuinness. Of course, Scappaticci was covering his own back, presenting his own case to his interviewers, but I include it here to give the flavour of his thinking at this time. I would caution readers to be circumspect regarding the allegations made by Scappaticci below. Because of his unreliability we have removed names.

The first interview took place on 26 August 1993 at the Culloden Hotel in Cultra, County Down, about six miles from Belfast. TV director and producer Clive Entwistle and award-winning ex-Daily Mirror reporter Frank Thorne were with former Daily Mirror crime correspondent Sylvia Jones. ‘The Cook Report’ had earlier broadcast allegations that Martin McGuinness was involved in the murder of FRU agent Frank Hegarty in Donegal, an agent handled by me whose case is dealt with in more detail in Chapter 6.

‘Cook Report’ team: You’ve known our friend a long …

Scappaticci: McGuinness? Oh, I know him very well. I know him about twenty years, you know. Basically, see the thing you were putting across on the programme the other night, that he’s in charge of the IRA. He’s not as such. It’s a technical thing, right. The IRA’s split in two. There’s another command, a Southern Command. He’s in charge of Northern Command. He’s the Northern Command OC. There’s a Southern Command, it has nothing to do with the Northern Command. The Northern Command basically takes in the nine counties of Ulster, right. He controls all of that. He’s also on the IRA Army Council. There’s a five-man Army Council. He’s one of them. Nothing happens in Northern Command that he doesn’t okay, and I mean nothing. Now, he’s nothing to do with England. See what happens in England, he’s nothing to do with that. The person who controls England is a south Armagh fella, right?

‘Cook Report’ team: So who would be responsible for [the bombing of] Warrington?

Scappaticci: A fella called [A] in south Armagh. He actually controls all aspects of what happens in England and on the Continent. Him and another guy called [B]. [B] is an ex-Belfast fella now living in Carlingford, right. They are the people who control what goes on in England.

‘Cook Report’ team: Does McGuinness have anything to do with that though?

Scappaticci: Well, he would have an input obviously.

‘Cook Report’ team: He’s involved?

Scappaticci: Well, I mean, yes. He’s involved as such that he’s an IRA man.

‘Cook Report’ team: And he’s on the [Army] Council?

Scappaticci: Oh, yes, he’s on the IRA Army Council. They have to give the go-ahead for what happens in England, right. Basically, I felt see, the programme itself, it didn’t go deeply enough. If you want to take in Martin McGuinness, you have to take in a couple of other people.

‘Cook Report’ team: That was one of the problems we had. We have a lot of evidence on people like [C] and so on.

Scappaticci: No, no, no, not [C]. [C] is nothing. I’m talking about the likes of a guy called [D] … I was explaining to Frank, McGuinness is on the IRA Army Council. He also controls the Northern Command which takes in the nine counties of Ulster. That was formed in 1977 by Ivor Bell, split Northern/Southern Command. There’s a five-man Army Council which McGuinness is part of. Nothing happens in Northern Command that McGuinness doesn’t okay, but there’s another person there too, who’s, I would say, more militarily involved in Northern Command. He’s his [McGuinness’s] adjutant, a fella called [D] from Beechmount. Do you know of him?

‘Cook Report’ team: We know of him.

Scappaticci: Anything that would happen, [D] would have the say-so. Right? Would okay it with McGuinness. He meets McGuinness once or twice a week in Belfast. This is a regular arrangement, right? McGuinness would come to Belfast. Used to be McGuinness would come to Belfast on a Tuesday. Every week. He stayed for two days. Him and [D] would do what they have to do. But what they’ve basically done is, they’ve cut up the Northern Command area, right? [D]’s basically looking after Belfast. [D], since he come out of jail –he’s out of jail almost seven years –he’s Adjutant of Northern Command, operates under McGuinness. He [D] more or less controls Down, Armagh, Tyrone. They sort of broke it up into two halves. McGuinness would look after the top half, Derry …

‘Cook Report’ team: Do you mind if I make some notes?

Scappaticci: No, that’s okay. Derry, Donegal. They more or less split up the Northern Command into two. It’s to facilitate both of the … because McGuinness, obviously from Derry, looks after Derry, Donegal.

‘Cook Report’ team: But is McGuinness in overall control of Northern Command?

Scappaticci: He is the Northern Command OC. There’s a five-man Army Council, he’s one of them. Adams is another.

‘Cook Report’ team: He wouldn’t be responsible for English operations, but he would be part of the team that sanctioned them?

Scappaticci: What happens is, I’ll explain the situation to you, right? The IRA Army Council says: This is what our strategy should be for the next year. We’ll have to do this, blah, blah. We think the operations should be in England or the Continent or whatever. That then filters down to the people who control it, who I told you is [A] and a guy called [B], right, who’s living in Carlingford at the minute. He moved out of Belfast.

Scappaticci: … Now you see that guy Rob Friars that was caught in England with a bomb about six or seven weeks ago? Remember he was caught at the bus stop in London? Cannon fodder, know what I mean? But a big mate of this guy [D]. And it was actually [D] who recommended him for the England thing to [A], as [D] moves in and out of the south Armagh area a lot. See, if they are carrying out any interrogations of so-called informers, that’s where they do it, in that area, mostly. The likes of Derry people would be done in Donegal, but it would be the same team that would do the whole lot, right, and it’s under the control of [D] and they’re the ones that do that type of thing. So as I was trying to explain, by just saying McGuinness, I don’t think you went deeply enough into it, you know what I mean? It done no harm and exposed him [McGuinness] for what he is. And, see that woman that came on [Rose Hegarty], she was right in what she was saying, like, he is an evil person.

‘Cook Report’ team: Mrs Hegarty?

Scappaticci: Yes, because he gave the go-ahead for Frank Hegarty, right? Well, I’ll tell you what I know about it, right … There was weapons caught in Donegal. It was 150 rifles caught. Hegarty was the one that gave the information on that. He was then taken out, brought to England and missed his common-law wife. So he kept phoning back. So McGuinness got on the phone and says, “Come back, you’ll be okay, blah, blah.” Convinced him he’d be okay, convinced the mother. He [Hegarty] then came home and McGuinness was the instrument of him being taken away and shot.

‘Cook Report’ team: How do you know this?

Scappaticci: I know it because for a long time I was at the heart of things. I’m no longer at the heart of things, right. Haven’t been for two or three years, right. But I know what I’m talking about, right.

‘Cook Report’ team: When you say you were at the heart of things, how close were you to McGuinness?

Scappaticci: Well, let’s say I served on the same thing he’s on.

‘Cook Report’ team: The Army Council?

Scappaticci: No. The Northern Command.

‘Cook Report’ team: So you were part of the decision team to get Hegarty then?

Scappaticci: No, no, no. You see, that’s a totally different thing. You have to know the workings of the IRA to know what happens.

‘Cook Report’ team: What is McGuinness up to at the moment?

Scappaticci: Well, he’s still Northern Command OC, but there was a decision taken four year ago that McGuinness was going to step back from things on the military side and take a political role.

‘Cook Report’ team: Why was that?

Scappaticci: Sinn Féin, the popularity they had in the early eighties started to wane and they were realising this. McGuinness is fairly popular in Derry because he won the election up there and all that, so what was decided was that he should have a bigger role alongside Adams, to try to get Sinn Féin going and put gee-up into it, right? So they were grooming yer man [D] to take over as OC of Northern Command and what you see now is that [D] has basically taken the reins of Northern Command and McGuinness has more or less stepped out. McGuinness still has to okay everything but he’s more or less stepped back and is more in a political role. But he’s still in the IRA. Deep there, like, you know. Very deep.

‘Cook Report’ team: Were you side-by-side with McGuinness?

Scappaticci: No, no, no. He’s the type of person you don’t get side-by-side with. He’s a very cold person. He doesn’t have friends within the IRA. He has what he calls comrades. He doesn’t have friends as such. He frowns on womanising, he frowns on drinking –a very moralistic person.

Scappaticci is asked about getting his story on screen.

Scappaticci: Well, you see, things that I would be giving you would be people’s lives being taken, you see, that he [McGuinness] gave the go-ahead for doing it, you know. Bombing city centres, he gave the go-ahead for doing it. Decisions are taken, Army Council makes a decision, then there’s a Northern Command meeting called and the Northern Command meeting is told, “This is the craic, we’re gonna concentrate on city-centre bombs. This is what we have to do.” And there would be a one-day coordinated strike –that’s what they call it –in the Six Counties of bombs being put out in different towns, different cities for mass devastation. The reason they come back on this seventies thing of bombs in the city centres is because they see how hard it is hitting the British government moneywise, plus the effect it has. Now, you notice there’s not many British soldiers being killed now, because they haven’t got the expertise in Belfast to do it, the likes of that. Okay, they have in south Armagh and places like that, but they change their tactics every now and again.

At this point, the transcript notes that Scappaticci says that people thought the first post-election bomb in the city of London was a reaction to Peter Brooke, but that in fact it had been planned weeks earlier.

Scappaticci: The media love to have these theories, that the IRA are masterminds. They’re not. Okay, sometimes things fall into place and they can claim afterwards, “we did it for that reason,” but they didn’t do it for that reason.

Here the tape runs out on the first meeting. Clive Entwistle takes a shorthand note of what is said next:

Scappaticci claimed that Martin McGuinness would be paid £20 a week, plus expenses, have a car and driver provided, expenses for petrol, etc. If he went into a bar or local butcher’s he would get given drinks or meat free. So he lives for free. Scappaticci: He is ruthless. I can say this unequivocally. He has the final say on an informer, whether that person lives or dies. If it is an IRA volunteer who admits it [informing] he is court-martialled. Only two key people on the Army Council –that is, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly, who acts as Adjutant General –make the decision. If he is not an IRA volunteer, it is Martin McGuinness who gives the say-so. It just needs McGuinness, he has the final say. That is 100 percent. If McGuinness is not about, [E] gives the order. Hegarty was an affront. He [McGuinness] took it very personally. There is something quite wrong with his head. He talks to you very quietly, very softly, but he would think nothing about putting us [the three in the car] down. He would be praying in chapel one minute, go outside and think nothing about ordering a shooting. Before Hegarty was shot I knew about it. A friend of mine was to interrogate Hegarty, but McGuinness, [A] and [F] interrogated him. McGuinness ordered his shooting. The reason they gave was because of the arms shipment found in Sligo. He had to be made an example. McGuinness was instrumental in getting him back. He engineered getting him back and talking to him on the phone. He [Hegarty] was knocking around [in the early 1970s]. Ivor Bell, ex-chief of staff, blocked Hegarty coming in. Bell didn’t like his [Official IRA] background. He just didn’t fancy him. When Bell went Hegarty started working for a fella from Derry. He’s now in Strabane … Hegarty started helping on the QM [quartermaster] side and got more deeply involved.

‘Cook Report’ team: Clive asks how big a blow the arms find was.

Scappaticci: Jesus, it was a major blow, that arms find, because at that time we didn’t have many. Before that there was only a small amount of arms. It only came out then that there was all this stuff from Libya. It wasn’t McGuinness who felt responsible, it was just that Hegarty had been responsible [for Gardaí finding more than 100 weapons in Roscommon and Sligo] and something had to be done.

‘Cook Report’ team: Clive asks about current strategy.

Scappaticci: All plans have to be sanctioned by McGuinness. Any change in strategy would have to be made by McGuinness. They are very sensitive about publicity. There was a groundswell recently to shoot unionist politicians like Sammy Wilson and SDLP. But Army Council will not let them do it.

‘Cook Report’ team: Scappaticci is asked why he had left the organisation after 22 years.

Scappaticci: There are more things in life than killing.

‘Cook Report’ team: Had he killed?

Scappaticci: No answer.

‘Cook Report’ team: Clive asks more questions.

Scappaticci: A culture has built up. McGuinness is now famous. He gets a kick out of it, out of killing. Where would he be today? Still a butcher’s boy. Where would Gerry Adams be? Working behind a bar. He was a barman. I would say if there was a free vote tomorrow it would be a massive yes to stop the violence. Adams would stop it but McGuinness would not. I have been at meetings with him, Adams and Sean Maguire, and the whole atmosphere of the armed struggle and how it was going to be developed was discussed. I was at two meetings. He [McGuinness] is a cold person. One minute he would be in church and next he would say ‘stiff him’. We tried to get conversation going again, but he just wasn’t interested. All he wanted to do was get away –so did we.

‘Cook Report’ team: Clive is told that Scappaticci attended meetings to discuss targeting Wimbledon, Buckingham Palace and the attack on Downing Street. Killing Thatcher was also discussed.

Scappaticci: But she was too well guarded. You might get a meeting where everything is in the melting pot.

‘Cook Report’ team: Was McGuinness involved in the mortar bomb attack on Downing Street?

Scappaticci: [A] and [B] worked out the strategy. Rob Friars welded up the mortar. They use people not known in England who can come and go unnoticed, who are not going to break. Bombings … would come personally from Northern Command, so McGuinness would automatically know about them. If [A] or [B] wanted, say, six men who were unknown, they would go to McGuinness who would go around the local OCs in Northern Command and ask them to find six suitable men. They would be told to say they had got disillusioned with the organisation and dropped out, or say they had got a job in Germany or Dublin or wherever. We used to take people across [to Britain] in fishing boats but I don’t know how they travel there now.

Scappaticci says the meeting has gone on too long and ends that meeting.

Next meeting: 28 August 1993, east Belfast. Present: Clive Entwistle, Sylvia Jones, Frank Thorne and ‘Jack’, aka Freddie Scappaticci.

Scappaticci: Hegarty came back because he was given assurances that he would be safe. You think life is sweet when those assurances come from the top man –Martin McGuinness. He gave his word of honour. McGuinness told Frank and his family he would be taken over the border to meet three prominent people in the IRA Army Council. McGuinness was part of the Army Council who first interrogated Hegarty, court-martialled him and then ordered him to be shot. Inside the IRA it was known from the moment those guns were found that Frankie was ‘going for his tea’. That was it. He was a dead man. It’s not important who pulled the trigger. McGuinness wouldn’t dirty his hands with that. Hegarty was court-martialled because he was an IRA volunteer. He threw himself on the mercy of the Army Council. They went into another room, said, ‘No –take him out and give him it.’ A real kangaroo court. They would have blindfolded him and assured him they were taking him home, then would have taken him from the car and told him to keep walking … a bullet in the back of the head. Four bullets is normal, usually by two people so that they are both implicated in the murder.

On McGuinness giving Hegarty and his family the word that Frank would be safe, Scappaticci scoffed:

Scappaticci: See if someone in the IRA says, ‘I swear to God,’ or, ‘I swear on my mother’s life,’ then you know you are getting double-crossed. That’s the code word. You say, right –bolt. Bolt. He said McGuinness would not normally be personally involved in interrogations.

Scappaticci: In the final analysis in the Northern Command, he [McGuinness] would have to give the go-ahead for them to be shot.

Entwistle: How many executions would you say McGuinness has authorised over the years?

Scappaticci: How many executions have there been, you tell me? I can’t keep a score of them. Forty? Fifty? Sixty? A hundred? You look at every British soldier shot, every policeman shot, every booby trap or whatever. McGuinness is ultimately responsible for all of it. It’s all under his control.

Entwistle: So the thousands of people who have died, McGuinness is responsible for their deaths?

Scappaticci: He’s responsible for the majority. If you met him in his role in Sinn Féin, he is a nice plausible person. But in his role in the IRA, he is a cold, ruthless person. He sends a shiver down your back. At IRA meetings, he is businesslike. You don’t get much chit-chat out of him.

Entwistle: How damaging was the arms find? How damaging was that information which Frank [Hegarty] had given at that time?

Scappaticci: The decision was taken for McGuinness to be more political. Sinn Féin had started to decline. They thought that Adams had too much of a workload and needed more help. And there was also schemes brought forward for the IRA to contribute to help pull them back together again. The IRA appointed a person in Belfast and his sole job was to look after Sinn Féin/IRA-type things – coordinate publicity campaigns, etc. If Sinn Féin wasn’t doing too well in an area, the IRA could be deployed in that area to do various things, to work alongside Sinn Féin.

Entwistle: To whip up support?

Scappaticci: Oh, aye.

Entwistle: Was it done as threats?

Scappaticci: Part of this coordination would have been ‘civil administration’ – that is, the people who knee-cap people, baseball-bat people who break legs, arms, is what their ‘civil administration’ is. There you are. The IRA made a conscious decision along with Sinn Féin to clean up the Divis Flats because of the crime and drug dealing. An IRA man was put in to call on people to band together and make the Divis Flats a hoods-free area. The hoods showed out and the IRA moved in and knee-capped four or five people. Then they gave a particular drug-dealing family forty-eight hours to get out of Belfast or be ‘stiffed’. They left. The Lower Falls became quiet. Sinn Féin got their act together and got two seats in the Lower Falls.

Entwistle: People have told us the link between Sinn Féin and the IRA is inseparable.

Scappaticci: It’s inseparable. Many Sinn Féin councillors are in the IRA. Martin McGuinness is on the IRA Army Council. [He names others but adds that some councillors are not IRA.] If you look at the IRA – you look at the 1970s – it’s still the same people who are coordinating and controlling things who were operating in the seventies and they are set in their ways.

Scappaticci was more nervous this time. He cut the meeting short. His claims were clearly designed to damage the republican movement, and in particular Martin McGuinness, at a time when republicans were moving towards calling a ceasefire and kick-starting the peace process. His animosity towards McGuinness is clear and not in any way guarded, and his intent is evidently to place pressure upon McGuinness at what was a very delicate time, with the fledgling peace process still finding its feet. If this meeting with the journalist was authorised by FRU operations, it would seem to be an attempt to destabilise the buds of peace from flourishing by the very people who are invested with the responsibility to establish peace. If it was not authorised, it is transparent evidence of one element of the agent’s motivation.

What makes Scappaticci’s conversations with these journalists truly remarkable was that Scappaticci had told his handler in the FRU that the man who actually pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Frank Hegarty was none other than Scappaticci himself. The FRU were well aware that he would be involved in the interrogation of Hegarty. One FRU agent had killed another. Hegarty could have been saved, but somewhere a decision had been taken that it was better for him to die to help maintain Scappaticci’s position. The Gardaí could have rescued Hegarty if they had been given details from the northern side of the border, but that information was never passed on. Coincidentally, his demise saved the State quite a lot of money in pension and resettlement payments.

After the ‘Cook Report’ programme was broadcast, Martin McGuinness hit back at his accusers. In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph on 25 August 1993 the Sinn Féin man, clearly angry, rejected all the allegations levelled against him. He said the programme was ‘tabloid journalism of the worst kind – sleaze, based on perjurers, people prepared to be used as stooges of the British.’ The allegations in the report were ‘inconsistent and could not be true,’ he insisted. Referring to one claim that he (McGuinness) had been present when people were held against their will, he said the claim was ‘absolute lies’. He went on: ‘There is no way I would have taken part in anything of that nature. They are total and absolute lies. I knew nothing about it.’ The reporters asked him about allegations from Frank Hegarty’s mother, Rose, and McGuinness responded: ‘Of all the people [interviewed] she was the one that came across as the most plausible but I am afraid she is somewhat confused about what happened at the time.’ Mr McGuinness said that her allegation that he had guaranteed her son’s safety if he returned to Northern Ireland were wrong and he claimed that he had in fact warned Hegarty that he was ‘very fearful of his life if he returned to Ireland’. Referring to the programme he said it was ‘British black propaganda’ and added: ‘It is part of a dirty tricks campaign which I believe will fail.’ He was immediately backed up by the party president Gerry Adams who told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘It was a programme full of lies and innuendo with Roger Cook manipulating political opponents, self-confessed liars and grieving relatives.’

There were other victims of Scappaticci, John Joe Magee and the Nutting Squad. Some of those victims were informers. Some were not. But the following people also died while Army intelligence ran the man behind the interrogations, the beatings, the torture and the shootings. My experience of handling agents in Northern Ireland suggests that Freddie Scappaticci would have been involved in the majority of the murders listed. But it would also suggest that he would have had knowledge of most of these deaths, when and where they were to take place. The British State therefore could also have been aware of many of these killings.

The killing of a relative as an informer was always a massive stigma for a republican family, a black mark that would continue for generations. The IRA has recently been conducting investigations into a number of executions by the Nutting Squad, at the behest of relatives who have always insisted that their loved ones were unjustly murdered. They have evidently known for some time that the wrong people were killed on some occasions.

The discovery of informers in their ranks was also very dispiriting and demoralising for IRA members. It was very much in the interests of British intelligence agencies to sow alarm, despondency and paranoia in IRA ranks by having a regular supply of informers allegedly ‘unmasked’. Considering what is now known about Scappaticci, it is likely that some of these people were killed to protect him, to throw the IRA off his scent, as his information would have compromised many IRA operations. There were thirty-five victims while Scappaticci worked in the Nutting Squad:

Paul Valente, a thirty-three-year-old married father of four, was from Stanhope Drive in Unity Flats, Belfast. He was shot dead on 14 November 1980 by the Nutting Squad. His body was dumped in the loyalist Highfield estate, and republicans claimed he was killed by loyalists, but it later emerged that he was killed by the IRA. It was also claimed that he had told RUC Special Branch about an IRA mole inside the police. I believe Scappaticci would have been involved in this inquiry, giving the security forces vital information.

Maurice Gilvarry, twenty-four years old, was abducted, tortured and shot dead by the IRA. His body was dumped on a road in south Armagh. Gilvarry, from Butler Street in north Belfast, was found on 20 January 1981. He had been providing information to the security forces for a number of years. His information had led to the deaths of three IRA members and a Protestant civilian in an SAS ambush at a post office in north Belfast in June 1978.

Patrick Gerard Trainor, a twenty-eight-year-old father of three from Farset Walk in Divis, Lower Falls, west Belfast. His body was found dumped on waste ground off the Glen Road in the city on 22 February 1981. His family denied claims that he had been an informer.

Vincent Robinson, twenty-nine, a father of two from Suffolk in west Belfast, was found dead in a rubbish chute in Divis Flats on 26 June 1981. He had been shot once in the head. His family and the priest Father Denis Faul denied he was an informer. Father Faul said, ‘Vincent Robinson was not murdered because he was an informer, for he was not. The accusation … is patently false.’

Anthony Braniff, twenty-seven, from Ardoyne in north Belfast, was a senior member of the Provisional IRA. His body was found dumped at Odessa Street in the Falls Road area on 27 September 1981. His relatives vehemently denied that he had worked for the security forces, a denial they maintain to this day. It was not unusual for the FRU to target senior republicans in this way – to get their agents to target such people as informers. Based on information from Scappaticci, the IRA later issued a statement claiming that Braniff was an informer. Braniff’s father, David, was murdered by the UVF eight years later. The IRA have recently issued an apology and stated that Anthony Braniff was not an informer.

John Torbett, twenty-nine, was shot at his home in Horn Drive in Lenadoon on 2 January 1982, after defying an IRA exclusion order, an order to go into exile indefinitely. He died in hospital from his injuries on 19 January. His family denied that the father of four young children had worked for the security forces, and the RUC stated that the accusation was ‘totally without foundation’.

Seamus Morgan, a twenty-four-year-old father of four, was from Dungannon, County Tyrone. In February 1982 Morgan, an IRA member, who had been an election worker for the hunger striker Bobby Sands, had moved to County Monaghan, claiming his life had been threatened by the security forces. He was abducted by members of the IRA’s internal security unit, questioned and shot dead. His body was found dumped near Forkhill, south Armagh, on 6 March 1982. His family and close friends denied he had worked for the security forces.

Patrick Scott, twenty-seven, was from Ramoan Drive in Andersonstown. His body was found near Dunville Street in the Lower Falls area of west Belfast on 3 April 1982. His legs and hands were tied, his eyes were taped shut and he had been shot a number of times in the head. Scott, a former member of the IRA, had told family members that he had been accused of being an informer and had gone to the IRA leadership to protest his innocence. His family still deny he was an informer.

James Young, forty-one, was an IRA member from Portaferry, County Down. His body was found dumped near Crossmaglen, south Armagh, on 13 February 1984. Young had worked for the RUC for a number of years and had successfully ‘jarked’ (made inoperable or fitted with tracking devices) a number of weapons used by the IRA in Belfast. He had been shot several times in the head.

Brian McNally, twenty-five, was an IRA member from Beech Lodge Road in Warrenpoint, south Down. His body was found dumped on the side of a road near Meigh in south Armagh on 26 July 1984. He had been tortured for a number of days by the internal security unit, who had broken both his arms and crushed his fingers. McNally, who had claimed in a Republican News article several weeks earlier that he had been beaten up by police, had vehemently denied being an informer. He was shot several times. His family insist he was not an informer.

John Corcoran, a forty-five-year-old father of eight from Ballyvolac, County Cork, was a senior member of the IRA in Munster. His body was dumped in a field near Ballincolig on 23 March 1985. He had worked as an informer for the Gardaí for up to ten years. It has been suggested that Corcoran was sacrificed to save another garda informer, Seán O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan told gardaí that Corcoran was being interrogated in County Kerry. Corcoran’s garda handler has strenuously denied that Corcoran was sacrificed.

Kevin Coyle, a twenty-four-year-old father of three, confessed to being an informer for the security forces in one of the Nutting Squad’s notorious taped confessions, which was later given to his family. He was taken from his home in Deanery Street in Derry city on 21 February 1985. His body was found in the city’s Bogside area two days later. Coyle had told a Sinn Féin press conference earlier in February that he had refused to work for the security forces.

Catherine and Gerard Mahon were murdered on 8 September 1985. Their deaths are examined elsewhere in this book.

Damien McCrory, a twenty-year-old from Strabane in County Tyrone, was found with two bullet wounds to his head on 7 October 1985. Damien, one of eleven children whose parents were both dead, was of low intelligence. His family denied claims by the IRA that he had worked for the security forces. The IRA however, who had questioned him for almost two days before his death, said he had confessed to working for the RUC. Family members pointed out that Damien was educationally subnormal and easily misled. His death angered many republicans in Strabane at the time.

Frank Hegarty was murdered on 25 May 1986. His murder is dealt with in detail elsewhere in this book.

Patrick Murray was a thirty-year-old IRA member from the Short Strand area of east Belfast. His body was found in an entry in the Clonard area of west Belfast in the early hours of 15 August 1986. His legs and hands were tied and his eyes taped shut, and he had been shot three times in the head. His family vehemently denied that he was an informer. The IRA said he had confessed during a ‘trial’ to working for the security forces for eight years.

David McVeigh, forty-one, was a married father of three from Lurgan in County Armagh, and a member of the IRA. He was abducted by the IRA on 5 September 1986, questioned and tortured for five days and shot on 10 September. His body was found near Carlingford, just inside Northern Ireland. His head was covered with black polythene and his hands were tied with bandages. His family denied he was an informer.

Charles McIlmurray was a thirty-two-year-old father of two from Slemish Way in Andersonstown, west Belfast. His body was found in the back of a van near the checkpoint at Killeen, south Armagh, on 12 April 1987. He had been shot twice in the back of the head. His face was covered with a black plastic bag and his hands were tied behind his back. An IRA member, McIlmurray had worked for the RUC and had admitted this to Dungannon priest Father Denis Faul. He believed he was covered by an IRA amnesty and agreed to confess. His wife was pregnant at the time. Asked by the Irish News about the murder, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: ‘I think that Mr McIlmurray, like anyone else living in west Belfast, knows that the consequences for informing is death.’

Thomas Wilson, thirty-five, was a member of the Official IRA who the Provisionals alleged had been passing information to the security forces. His body was found near Rodney Parade, west Belfast, on 24 June 1987. His family denied he was a police informer.

Eamonn Maguire, thirty-three, from Finglas in Dublin, was alleged by the IRA to have worked for the Gardaí. He was questioned for six days by the IRA’s internal security unit. His body was found in south Armagh on 1 September 1987. His family denied he was an informer and said the father of two hadn’t been involved with the IRA for a number of years. The IRA however claimed he had compromised a number of their operations in the Republic.

Anthony McKiernan, a forty-four-year-old father of four, was from Stanfield Row in the Markets area of south Belfast. His body was found dumped in Mica Street in the Beechmount area of the Falls Road, west Belfast. He had been shot in the head. In a statement, the IRA said he had been a member of the organisation between 1971 and 1987 before being dismissed for ‘misconduct’. McKiernan was known to Scappaticci as they were from the same area. Scappaticci was among those who interrogated McKiernan before he was shot dead on 19 January 1988. His family has always insisted he wasn’t an informer.

Joseph Fenton, thirty-five, from west Belfast, was murdered on 26 February 1989. His murder is examined in more detail elsewhere in this book.

John McAnulty, a forty-eight-year-old road haulier, was abducted from a pub near Dundalk, County Louth, on 17 July 1989. His body was found dumped near Cullaville the next day. Scappaticci tortured McAnulty by beating him with his fists and stubbing cigarette ends all over his body. McAnulty ‘confessed’ to working for the RUC for seventeen years. Friends denied the claims, one of which was that his information had led to the arrest of Raymond McCreesh, an IRA man who died on the 1981 hunger strike at the Maze Prison.

Paddy Flood, twenty-nine, ‘confessed’ to being an informer and his body was found dumped near Newtownhamilton on 26 July 1990. Paddy Flood was not an informer, for the FRU, the police or anyone else. His wife has consistently denied that Flood, probably one of the IRA’s most lethal members, was an informer. She deserves to know that he wasn’t. Flood, from Tyrconnell Street in Derry city, had been involved in a number of operations against the security forces in the city. It is my belief that his death was a result of work by the security forces, working in conjunction with other agents inside the Provisional IRA.

Ruari Finnis, twenty-one, also from Derry, was another IRA own goal. Finnis’s body was found dumped behind shops in the Creggan estate on 6 June 1991. His hands were tied behind his back and he wore a blindfold. I do not believe Finnis was a security force agent – any compromised operations he may have been on for the IRA were almost certainly detected via electronic surveillance rather than human intelligence sources. His family deny he was an informer. The IRA say Finnis, from Harberton Park in the Waterside, confessed to working for the security forces. But who was asking the questions?

John Dignam, Gregory Burns and Aidan Starrs were found murdered on 1 July 1992. Their deaths are dealt with elsewhere in this book.

Robin Hill was a twenty-two-year-old IRA member from Ardmore Park in Coalisland, County Tyrone. His body was found at Beechmount Gardens, west Belfast, on 12 August 1992. His hands were tied, his eyes were taped shut and his body was dressed in a white boiler suit. He had been shot twice in the back of the head. The IRA said he was an informer. His family denied the claims.

Gerard Holmes, thirty-five, was from Moore Street in Derry city. His bound body was found dumped in the Creggan estate on 22 November 1992. His family vehemently denied he had worked for the security forces as the IRA claimed, even after receiving a so-called taped ‘confession’. A relative was quoted in the Derry Journal as saying: ‘The contents of the tape are not proof of our brother’s guilt. In fact the reverse is the case. The tape lasts approximately two minutes and contains nothing that suggests Gerry had been an informer at any time.

Christopher Harte, twenty-four, was from Dermott Hill Parade in west Belfast. He was married with one child. His hooded body, with hands tied behind his back, was found dumped near Castlederg, County Tyrone, on 12 February 1993. He had been held by the IRA’s security unit for six days before his death. Was Harte an informer? The security forces may have wanted it to appear that way – murder conspiracy charges against him were reduced and he was granted bail before receiving a suspended prison sentence. This tactic was often employed to cast suspicion on IRA members who were not informers, deliberately making it appear that they were. Police knew who killed Harte within hours of his body being found.

James Gerard Kelly was a senior IRA member from Maghera in County Derry. The building worker was found shot in the head and body on 25 March 1993. The IRA alleged the twenty-five-year-old had been an informer for the security forces. His family denied the claims.

John Mulhern, twenty-three, was from Nansen Street in the Falls Road area of west Belfast. His body, dressed in a blue boiler suit and with his hands tied, was found about twelve miles from Castlederg, just inside Northern Ireland, on 23 June 1993. He had been questioned by the IRA security unit for a week.

Michael Brown was a twenty-three-year-old IRA member from County Leitrim. His body was found at the rear of Pat’s Parlour bar on the Omeath–Newry Road on 29 April 1994. The IRA claimed he had worked for RUC Special Branch in Downpatrick. His body was dressed in a blue boiler suit and his hands were tied behind his back. The IRA had questioned him for a week before shooting him in the head.

Caroline Moreland, thirty-four, from Beechmount Grove, west Belfast, was the second woman to die at the hands of the Nutting Squad. Her body was found on 17 July 1994 at a secluded border road at Cloughmore, County Fermanagh. She had three children. The IRA claimed she had worked for the security forces for two years.

Scappaticci has made repeated denials since his exposure as the British agent Stakeknife. These denials are to be expected, if for no other reason than to protect both his own and his family’s reputation within the close republican community. Early in the evening on the Monday after Scappaticci had been named as Stakeknife in three leading newspapers, I was at Heathrow airport, having just given evidence to the Bloody Sunday inquiry in London. I received a phone call from Rosie Cowan, a journalist with the Guardian newspaper. Rosie wanted to know what developments could be expected over the coming days and weeks. She was astounded when I predicted that Scappaticci would return home in the next few days and attempt to ‘brass-neck’ his way out of his predicament. Scappaticci returned home some forty-eight hours later, professing his innocence, and that was when the charade started.

At this point I want to make it abundantly clear that Scappaticci is not entirely responsible for the misery that has been caused by the agent Stakeknife. The FRU must be held to account for its involvement in this killing machine. The fact that Scappaticci was an agent of the state is to be celebrated; the callous and immoral orders given by the FRU should not. While some of Scappaticci’s crimes might be covered by the Good Friday Agreement, the same cannot be said of the FRU, which, I believe, will never be brought to task for its involvement in state-sponsored murder. Terrorism is wrong. State-sponsored terrorism is equally wrong, end of story.

Harkin, Greg. Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland (pp. 60-94). The O’Brien Press. Kindle Edition.

Trump’s America (cont’d)

Jair Messias Bolsonaro, who has criticized his country’s military dictatorship for “only torturing but not killing,” remarked that “a policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a policeman,” and threatened to shoot Workers’ Party members, was inaugurated as Brazil’s 38th president in a ceremony attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. After being sworn in, Bolsonaro hugged Netanyahu, who has praised the ultranationalist Orbán as “a true friend of Israel,” before anyone else. “We have an opportunity to work alongside each other against authoritarian regimes,” Pompeo said. The new Brazilian president, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, signed a decree that grants the Agriculture Ministry responsibility for “identification, delimitation, demarcation, and registration of lands traditionally occupied by indigenous people”; put all forests under the control of the Agriculture Ministry; eliminated the Labor Ministry; and stated on television that he would welcome a US Army base in the country. Saudi Arabia passed a law requiring women to be notified by text message if their husbands file for divorce, and the kingdom’s state prosecutor, who exonerated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, stated that the trial for the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi had begun, but has refused to name the 11 defendants. An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled to Thailand to escape her family has been granted asylum there, and Cambodia, which has convicted only three members of the Khmer Rouge in a 10-year-long United Nations–backed tribunal, celebrated “Victory Over Genocide Day.” The Pope denounced “the resurgence of nationalistic tendencies.”

Legal abortions began in Ireland. In Perunad, India, two women entered the Sabarimala shrine under heavy police protection after it had been opened to women of “menstruating age,” which sparked a spate of right-wing violence and prompted women to link arms to form a 385-mile “women’s wall” in support of gender equality across the state of Kerala. Coal use in 2018 dropped 4 percent from the year before in the United States, where 27 tons of trash has been left in Yosemite National Park since the government shutdown. In Germany, where hackers have been releasing politicians’ private data on Twitter using the display name G0d, renewable energy sources created 40 percent of all electricity in 2018. Five army officers who declared they had successfully toppled Gabon’s government on state radio and television were arrested, the British Army unveiled a new recruitment campaign which includes the slogan ME ME ME MILLENNIALS: YOUR ARMY NEEDS YOU AND YOUR SELF-BELIEF, and the US Strategic Command apologized for a tweet that read, “#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball . . . if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger. . . .” “Yellow vest” protesters erected a wall in front of a member of Parliament’s garage in Talmont-Saint-Hilaire. “My home is walled up by fools!” the legislator wrote on Facebook. A report showed a decline in migrants dying while attempting to reach Europe last year, but the fatality rates among the reduced number making the journey have risen.

The king of Malaysia abdicated after returning from medical leave, and a man in Portland, Oregon, is suing Burger King for $9,000 for reneging on its agreement to give him free food for life in compensation for being trapped in one of the chain’s bathrooms. A 14-year-old boy in Houston was arrested after he threw eggs at a passing car and, after the other driver flashed a handgun, hit a pickup truck as he attempted to flee. In Philadelphia, a man at a dog park was fatally struck when he asked another man to keep his pet on a leash. The police in Wanneroo, Australia, were called when neighbors overheard a toddler crying and a man screaming “Why don’t you die?” at a spider he was trying to kill. During an interview with Anderson Cooper, the great-great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested that a “Green New Deal” could be funded with a top marginal income-tax rate between 60 and 70 percent. “What you are talking about, just big picture, is a radical agenda,” responded Cooper.
—Violet Lucca

Bolsonaro Set To Destroy Amazonian Rain Forest – And The Global Climate

One day a statue will be erected to the man who nearly stabbed Bolsonaro to death. This article comes courtesy of The Lobe Log:

Bolsonaro and the Rainforest

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Wikimedia Commons)Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Wikimedia Commons)

by Paul R. Pillar

Newly inaugurated Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro lives up to the label “Trump of the tropics” in many ways, including his misogynistic comments and a racist streak that surfaces in his disparaging treatment of minorities. But the similarity that is likely to have the broadest and most destructive effects is his disregard of the danger of planetary catastrophe through climate change. The presidency of Brazil is an especially important office in this regard because of its power over the fate of most of the Amazon rainforest.

Bolsonaro has long made clear his intention to destroy more of the forest, supposedly in the name of economic development and with visions of ever more cattle ranches and soybean farms. He has wasted no time in using his powers to that end. On his first full day in office, he issued an executive order giving the agriculture ministry authority to dispose of lands claimed by indigenous peoples. This measure clearly is a first step toward greater exploitation of the Amazon region by agribusiness. Besides reflecting Bolsonaro’s lack of concern for the environment, it also reflected his disdain for the native peoples of the region. He sees no value in protecting their cultures and way of life.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest. It is an enormous carbon sink that breathes in carbon dioxide and breathes out twenty percent of the world’s oxygen. There is no other single ecosystem that is as important in preventing a runaway planetary greenhouse effect. Although parts of the rainforest are in other South American countries, sixty percent of it is in Brazil.

Much destruction preceded Bolsonaro. Earlier deforestation has meant that the great carbon sink already is absorbing significantly less carbon than it did as recently as a decade ago. Some previous Brazilian administrations gave serious attention to the problem and slowed the pace of deforestation. But in more recent years enforcement against deforestation has lapsed amid political turmoil that included the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff.

The current precariousness of the Amazon rainforest stems not only from the cutting and burning that already has taken place but also from feedback loops in which reduction of the forest sets in train natural processes that lead to further reduction. As the term “rainforest” might suggest, the jungle makes much of its own weather. Less rainforest means less rain. Further deforestation is likely to lead to dry savanna, not to something that is as green and wet as the existing jungle.

The lushness of the rainforest disguises how fragile the ecosystem is in other respects. The biological richness is confined to a thin layer, and the soil underneath is mostly poor and infertile. Would-be growers of crops and of grass for livestock come to realize that. But by the time such realization is great enough to have political impact, it may be too late to save the rainforest.

Earlier experience has provided some lessons in this regard that should have been heeded, including lessons involving North Americans. In the 1920s the industrialist Henry Ford established an operation in the Brazilian rainforest intended to produce rubber for the tires on automobiles the Fort Motor Company manufactured. The company cleared jungle to construct an entire town, known as Fordlandia. Among the problems the company encountered was the difficulty in industrializing the relevant botanical process. Rubber trees in the wild do well when widely scattered among other species; when put close together on Ford’s plantation they were easy prey for pests and disease. Ford abandoned the project after just a few years, without producing any rubber for those tires back in the United States.

Trumps of both the tropics and temperate zones have assaulted in various ways what is often called the international order, and the assault has been destructive. But that order, important as it is, does not offer an effective means of global governance when it comes to planetary patrimony such as the Brazilian rainforest, which history and line-drawing have placed under the control of a single government. Unfortunately, Bolsonaro answers politically not to the planet or to all its current and future inhabitants, but rather to a far smaller political base that his populist rhetoric sufficiently swayed to win him the presidency.

The “butterfly in Brazil” concept comes from the branch of mathematics known as chaos theory and concerns how small changes in initial conditions can lead to much larger systemic effects. The idea is that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could be part of what leads to a tornado in Texas. Bolsonaro in Brazil threatens to have climatic effects far worse than one tornado in Texas.

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Here Is That ‘MI5 Letter’ – Make Of It What You Will

Ronan McGreevy, the author of The Irish Times article on the alleged MI5 letter claiming spookish involvement in the 1987 Enniskillen bombing, has made the full text available on his Twitter feed.

You can read the letter, which runs to two pages, below.

It makes for interesting reading and as you might expect the letter produces more questions than answers, the most puzzling question being the letter’s authenticity.

Was it a genuine cri de coeur from an disillusioned spy, or a dirty trick perpetrated – perhaps by the IRA’s intelligence department – to confuse an Irish government under pressure to respond to the twelve deaths at Enniskillen with stepped up security co-operation with the British?

First of all here is the letter which runs to two pages:

The alleged agent wrote that he joined MI5 in 1976 and for the last year and a half – since May 1986, if my maths is correct – was attached to a section of the security service which specialised in infiltrating and manipulating groups like the IRA.

Michael Bettaney

He – or she (the gender of the author is not known) – adds that he knew Michael Bettaney, the MI5 agent who was convicted of spying for the Russians, and was friendly with him, although until now, he didn’t believe all that Bettaney told him about the dirty tricks that MI5 employed in Northern Ireland.

In that paragraph lies enough biographical evidence for MI5 to narrow down the number of suspects who wrote the letter, assuming that the letter was genuine.

So the first question that jumps out of the letter is this: would a trained intelligence agent reveal so much about his or her background, knowing that if his masters in MI5 acquired a copy of the letter, this detail would considerably shrink the range of suspects and greatly increase the chances of discovery?

Mary McGlinchey, with her two boys

Or are the details deliberately false, designed to send the hounds chasing after a false scent?

He – or she – had become more and more ‘disaffected’ by his unit’s work, the letter continues, and MI5’s tinkering with the Enniskillen bomb made him/her decide he/she ‘must do something’. Hence the letter.

But what was the purpose of the letter? What did the author expect Irish Foreign Affairs minister Brian Lenihan to do with it, except to think twice before conceding to Britain’s demands for better security co-operation? Therein lies a motive, perhaps, to send a bogus letter.

He – or she – then lists a series of dirty tricks that his section of MI5 had played on the IRA, but principally against the INLA.

These included continuous monitoring of arms dumps particularly in Derry, Belfast and Sligo (why Sligo?) with a view to placing tracking devices or booby traps. The MI5’s unit manipulation of the INLA took the form principally of encouraging a vicious feud during 1987. This was done, the author claimed, by playing on Dessie O’Hare’s infatuation with his wife and child, but how this was achieved is not explained. The goal of all this was to create an atmosphere in the Republic conducive to extradition and other harsh law and order measures.

He/she writes:

My disaffection started with the shooting of Mary McGlinchey in Dundalk and I became very frightened and horrified with the treatment of Dr O’Grady.

Dr O’Grady was the Dublin dentist kidnapped by Dessie O’Hare. During his kidnapping ordeal two of Dr O’Grady’s fingers were amputated and posted along with a ransom demand sent to Gardai.

Dessie O’Hare

The author of the MI5 letter does not say how, but implies that MI5 were somehow complicit in O’Hare’s activity. Nor does he/she say what part, if any, MI5 played in the death of Mary McGlinchey, wife of the INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey.

On the Enniskillen bombing, the author writes:

Our section became aware through the use of Technical surveillance of the plans by the local I.R.A. in Enniskillen. Having gained the knowledge of where and when this I.R.A. gang was going to place this bomb, (we also knew of its size and technical make-up), our section decided to change the timing device and let the explosion take place so that the I.R.A. would score an own goal and create a massive backlash against itself. Our section also calculated that in the climate of a backlash against the I.R.A., all kinds of security measures could be implemented, including Extradition.

So there is the alleged MI5 letter. Is it a genuine expression of disenchantment with MI5, or a clever hoax designed to make the Irish government think twice before implementing tougher cross-Border security measures?

I have to say that the part of the letter that most causes me to question its authenticity is the biographical detail given by the author. There are too many clues there pointing to the writer’s identity. A more careful writer would have excluded such detail or invented a false curriculum vitae to distract and confuse his or her trackers.

But then again, perhaps that is exactly what the author of this letter did. I guess we will never know.