The Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to recommend two criminal inquiries into the activities of the British state’s super-spy within the IRA codenamed Steaknife, also known as Freddie Scappaticci, doesn’t just raise embarrassing questions for Scappaticci’s handlers and his former comrades in the Provos.
Barra McGrory’s recommendation to the PSNI that they open up new investigations into the Steaknife scandal begs a big question of The Guardian newspaper: Will the left of centre, Labour party supporting (but iffy on Corbyn) news organisation now apologise to their Ireland correspondent, Henry McDonald?
In 2014, the paper’s Readers’ Editor took McDonald to task for basing a story relating to Steaknife and the IRA murder of two senior RUC officers, Harry Breen and Colin Buchanan, on a source The Guardian had previously regarded as a totally credible – a soldier, turned whistleblower, who belonged to the British Army’s secret Force Research Unit, the main agent-running organisation in the military.
The Guardian’s Readers Editor upheld a complaint from serial Steaknife denier and former BBC producer turned SF apologist-sans pareil, Paul Larkin about the use of Ian Hirst, aka ‘Martin Ingram’, in McDonald’s reporting.
Most notably the Readers’ Editor said McDonald should have mentioned that the judge in the Smithwick Tribunal into the Breen-Buchanan murder criticised Hurst and questioned his credibility.
Interestingly The Guardian indictment of McDonald paid no heed of the fact that Hirst refused to give evidence, not because he was reluctant or afraid to do so, but because he was barred from being cross examined in public and in front of the cameras covering the inquiry. Refused that, he then declined to give any testimony.
Nor did the paper ask why Hirst was not invited to give evidence to the De Silva inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, instead citing the De Silva’s investigation again as evidence of Hirst not being a credible witness – even though many previous reports in The Guardian, including those not written by McDonald, based their revelations about the Finucane murder on Hirst as a source.
Now it turns out that the DPP in Northern Ireland, a lawyer who was in a previous life Gerry Adams solicitor, believes Hirst is a credible enough source to justify a full fledged – we presume – investigation into his allegation that Scappaticci committed perjury in a Belfast court, therefore justifying a PSNI investigation into the incident.
Moreover the families of the some 24 people allegedly killed on Scappaticci’s direction weren’t the only ones who made complaints to Dr Maguire and his officers.
Ian Hirst also made a complaint and it appears that the ombudsman, Dr Maguire also regards the evidence the ex FRU soldier credible enough to force the DPP’s hand and ultimately perhaps that of PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton.
The Guardian was clearly, if indadvertedly caught in a more sinister agenda last year. As far as loyal Provos were concerned the idea that Steaknife could be, or was a British spy, was too bitter a pill to swallow and so they moved to influence the media slant on the story.
Rather like the 9/11‘ Truthers’ or Holocaust deniers, the Scap-deniers thought they had scored a major victory with The Guardian condemnation of McDonald.
DPP Barra McGrory’s decision to heed what Hirst actually said, and then act upon his complaint – at least theoretically – seriously questions The Guardian’s decision to believe Mr Larkin rather than its own correspondent.
Let’s wait and see what McGrory’s investigation brings – and the advice ‘don’t hold your breath’ leaps to mind – but this is a big defeat for Mr Larkin and his disciples inside The Guardian.