Sometimes you have got to admire the bare-cheeked audacity of the British establishment when it comes to dealing with scandals that threaten their own.
A classic example has presented itself in the shape of the Boutcher inquiry into Freddie Scappaticci and his handlers. The scandal is so huge, affecting not just British military intelligence, who ran Scap, but also MI5 and the former RUC Special Branch, who both shared his intelligence, especially MI5, and via the Tactical Co-ordinating Group structure (TCG), helped run him.
All three branches of British intelligence are thus implicated in the central allegation, viz that Scappaticci was allowed to kill by his handlers to preserve his cover and his immense value to the British government in its war against the IRA.
So serious is the allegation, implicating the State in murder, that it can’t entirely be brushed under the carpet. The classic British response in these situations is to set up an inquiry headed by a safe pair of hands. They don’t always pick the right guy, e.g. John Stalker, but one can only assume they have done their homework on Mr Boutcher.
So, now, no-one can criticise the British for not doing anything about the Scappaticci scandal. But the the truth is that we are very unlikely ever to see the full report, which will be said to be so sensitive that its contents won’t be divulged. We’ll be lucky even to see a short, sanitised summary.
That’s what happened to the Stalker report, to the Sampson report which took over from Stalker when Jack Hermon nobbled him, and it is what has happened to the various Steven’s reports, although we did get one half-decent summary from Stevens.
So a secret inquiry, held in private will produce a report which we’ll never get to read but the British will be able to say that they did something about the Scappaticci scandal.
There’s a kicker though, Apparently the PSNI and/or John Boutcher are briefing that his report will take five years to produce. That’s nearly as long as World War II.
By 2021 or even 2022, Scappaticci will be a distant memory. The man himself may even have departed for the big Internal Security Unit in the sky by then. The odds are that many people won’t care a toss about Scap by that time.
But the British will be able to say that they did something about the scandal.