Monthly Archives: January 2020

Does The IRA Still Call The Shots In Sinn Fein, So To Speak?

It remains to be seen whether, inspired by the likes of Una Mullally and others, The Irish Times’ leader writers are persuaded that the party led by Mary Lou McDonald is now  IRA-free, that an ocean of clear blue water separates Sinn Fein from its military wing, and that the 26 Co. electorate, due to go to the polls on February 8th, should no longer harbour reservations about that matter.

See here for the latest development.

But if the editorial team of Ireland’s paper of record is squirming with indecision and angst, its collective pen hovering hesitatingly and nervously over the opinion page, it could do worse than re-read this October, 2015 piece in their own paper by Colm Keena, then The Irish Times‘ Public Affairs correspondent (see full text below).

Keena, who was writing amid another crisis of confidence in the Good Friday Agreement caused by IRA activity, reminded his readers of a famous 1977 IRA Staff report which fell into the hands of the Gardai Special Branch.

That document set out the detail and terms of the so-called Adams’ cellular re-organisation of the IRA and definitively described the relationship between the military  and political wings of the Movement. It has never, to my knowledge, been retracted.

(This difficulty facing Mary Lou comes while in Belfast a senior republican is recovering in hospital from gunshot wounds arising from an attack believed to be linked to the Jock Davison/Kevin McGuigan IRA killings of 2015, incidents which led to Colm Keena putting pen to paper in The Irish Times in the first place. The recent victim was spared death by virtue of the bullet proof jacket he was wearing when he was shot? Why, in 2020, is such protection necessary?)

The 1977 re-organisation heralded a revival of the military side of the IRA and a rebirth of Sinn Fein under the leadership of Adams, Ivor Bell and Martin McGuinness, which in hindsight can be seen to carry the seeds of Sinn Fein’s eventual entry into electoral politics.

It needed only the life fluids of ten dead hunger strikers to nourish the growth of that plant into the abundant flora we see now, a blossom that seemingly is on the verge of sharing a shelf in the Cabinet Chamber of Government Buildings, Merrion Street.

The key sentence in that 1977 document reads: ‘Sinn Féin should come under army organisers at all levels.’ That is about as clear and unambiguous as it is possible to be.


Ted Howell, flanked by Gerry Adams during the 1998 GFA negotiations in Belfast

The significance of the episode involving Ted Howell and Martin O Muilleoir over the CHI scandal is that it was fully and absolutely consistent with that sentence in the 1977 IRA document. I have known Ted Howell for many years and I can tell you he fits the bill. If you don’t believe me, go ask Noraid. Why would Sinn Fein south of Border order its affairs any differently? And what role does the IRA Director of Intelligence play in the Dail?

And when Mary Lou says that she and all SF candidates must now sign a pledge holding themselves ‘amenable’ to SF’s Ard-Chomhairle, as evidence that the IRA link has been broken, she begs the obvious question: ‘When and by whom was that statement of IRA supremacy over Sinn Fein – ‘at all levels’ – ever retracted?’.

The answer is ‘Never’ and ‘No-one’.

Here is that 2015 piece by Colm Keena:

IRA ‘oversight’ of Sinn Féin has roots in 1977 document

Gerry Adams part of group that sought to overhaul the republican movement

Gerry Adams in Long Kesh prison with Brendan Hughes. He would know whether the IRA oversees Sinn Fein

Gerry Adams in Long Kesh prison with Brendan Hughes. He would know whether the IRA oversees Sinn Fein

After last week’s report from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, we know there is a body of congenitally conspiratorial men and women with access to guns who continue to think they control one of the most popular political movements on the island of Ireland.

However, it is typical of developments involving Sinn Féin and the IRA that the description of what is going on is ambiguous and inviting of speculation. Members of the IRA “believe” the organisation’s army council “oversees” both the IRA and Sinn Féin “with an overarching strategy”.

The report invites speculation that the men and women of the IRA might or might not be correct in their understanding as to what is going on. But if they don’t know, who does? Certainly not the electorate.

Gerry Adams is likely to have a good idea, but the extent to which anyone, inside or outside the republican movement, can comfortably rely for guidance from the man who says he was never in the IRA is itself a cause for concern.

He certainly has a clear understanding of the history of the relationship between the IRA and Sinn Féin and how it has evolved over the years. Back in the 1970s, he was part of a group that sought to overhaul the republican movement at a time when it was suffering from informers, declining morale and rejection by the communities on whose behalf it was supposedly fighting.

In late 1977, a document sketching out the new structure for the movement was found by the Garda in a flat occupied by IRA man Séamus Twomey. The malaise being experienced by the movement was to be addressed by a return to “secrecy and strict discipline”, it said.

“Army men must be in total control of all sections of the movement.” A new cell structure would help “gear ourselves towards a long-term armed struggle”.

Cells would be “specialised”, with “sniping cells, execution, bombing, robberies, etc” cells being put in place. “Sinn Féin should come under army organisers at all levels.” Sinn Féin’s work, the document said, “gains the respect of the people which in turn leads to increased support for the [IRA] cell”.

Echoes of 1970s strategy

Adams became president of Sinn Féin in 1983 and has held the position ever since. During that period, the main plot line has been that of the IRA dog being transformed into the Sinn Féin tail, and for that we can all be grateful. A lot of dying and suffering first had to occur along the way, however, and the Villiers report last week indicates the strategy being pursued by the IRA in the 1970s still has its echoes.

That the public wearily reacts to such a situation as being one of the prices to be paid for peace and almost unworthy of comment is an example of the damage the Provisional movement continues to do to public life, north and south of the Border.

Recently in this newspaper, former Fianna Fáil minister of state Martin Mansergh wrote that notwithstanding the mixed causes, motivations and results of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and the responsibilities of others, most people view the post-1969 IRA campaign as having been a major mistake from which it may take a long time to recover.

There must be very few people outside the membership files of Sinn Féin who would argue with that assessment, but that won’t stop Sinn Féin from trying to muddy the waters.

Murderous cause

In the wake of Sinn Féin’s successful performance in the 2014 local elections, Adams claimed the vote as support for the republican cause. Votes cast because of anger at social injustice, the bank bailout and other legitimate reasons were being claimed as support for a murderous cause that never received widespread support when it was under way.

It is better, of course, that people who in their early and middle adult years spent their time pursuing their political objectives by way of widespread misery and gore now spend their time delivering leaflets complaining about water charges and studying the latest Ipsos/MRBI opinion poll results in The Irish Times. That shouldn’t be allowed to take away from the dangers involved and the potential to further corrode the quality of public life north and south of the Border, however.

There was a type of lack of seriousness, and a willingness to pick and choose about rules, that lay behind the mismanagement of the economy during the boom years and the resultant economic crash. Voting for a political party with links to conspiratorial actors who occasionally indulge in murder is an odd response to a crisis with its roots in a failure of standards.

Colm Keena is Public Affairs Correspondent

Martin Dillon On Ruby Davison, An IRA Traitor and One Of Scap’s Spycatcher Colleagues

By Martin Dillon

Image result for funeral of ira men brendan davison

Spot the spies! Sinn Fein leaders give assassinated Ruby Davison an IRA send-off. Did they know he worked for British intelligence? On the extreme left, wearing a moustache is the IRA’s head spycatcher, also a British spy, Freddie Scappaticci

When I visited Belfast last November, I made my way to Milltown Cemetery where my parents, and many of my Dillon, Clarke and Carson relatives are buried. It was a cold, early morning when I strode through the pathways between the headstones, trying to recall the steps I took on Sundays as a child with my Uncle John Clarke. He knew the cemetery like a jig-saw puzzle he had repeatedly completed, upended and reset. I gazed at Black Mountain, no longer able to discern what was once known as the Hatchet Field. The mountain and its companion Divis Mountain, both towering over the city, held memories of the Blitz when Protestants and Catholics sheltered there nightly from Hitler’s Luftwaffe. They willingly put aside historical enmity and memories of the 1920 Pogroms because when a community is assailed from without it understands what binds it from within.

As I passed the Provisional IRA monument, I stopped momentarily, my eyes straying to a name, which I knew well – Brendan Davison. Some journalists have chosen over the years to spell his name Davidson, a fact that has not drawn much criticism from his family. Standing over his shared headstone, it struck me that some might reasonably conclude that Provisional IRA leaders had either mistakenly placed his name on a plaque in their hallowed ground, or they had been conned into thinking this Brendan Davison, whose nickname was “Ruby,” was an IRA hero like the others honoured in that same space, some of them hunger strikers. The decision to give “Ruby” Davison pride of place alongside Provisional IRA “heroes” was made in the immediate aftermath of his assassination in the Markets area of Belfast in 1988. The news of his demise was marked by the IRA’s assertion that he had been the victim of a Loyalist killer squad. The Provisionals accorded him what amounted to a state burial. When I exposed him as a British agent in my book, The Dirty War, the IRA denounced me, and some of his associates threatened my life.

Related image

Brendan ‘Ruby’ Davison

I subsequently pointed out that Davison was not just a British agent – his MI5 codename was Agent Ascot – he was one of the most important agents MI5 and Special Branch ran within the IRA during the Troubles. As the IRA Commander in the Markets area of Belfast, he had links to the IRA’s leadership and is operations throughout the city. He was in a position to betray IRA bombing runs into the city centre because the bombers often laid low in houses in the Markets before, or after their bombs exploded. He was also privy to IRA leadership plans for operations in other parts of the city,  Davison was not only an active, respected and feared IRA boss, he was a paedophile. That aspect of his secretive life was known to the IRA and his Intelligence handlers. Knowledge of his sexual proclivities gave his handlers sufficient dirt on him to keep him under their control. The fact that the IRA was aware of his perverted sexual history did not prevent them lionising him before, and especially after his death when they portrayed him as an IRA hero cut down in his prime by Loyalists. When I exposed him as British agent, the IRA refused to acknowledge the truth, just as they had overlooked his abuse of young boys in the Markets when he had total control of the area. They knew that he had a fondness for punishing local boys by spanking them with a wire brush. His legacy as a hero was later promoted and protected by his nephew, Gerard “Jock” Davison who was the IRA Commander in the Markets area. In 2015, he was shot dead in an IRA feud.

I think that it is fair to conclude that the IRA’s political leaders believe that they have successfully airbrushed the past, enabling them to leave Brendan Davison’s name and remains in their elaborately decorated Milltown Plot. They clearly hope that he will be admired and remembered with awe by future generations of young Republicans. That is so ridiculous; it is almost hard to believe. If Provisional Republican leaders had any integrity they would have had him interred elsewhere in Milltown, but of course they will not do that. It would be tantamount to admitting that they have known for three decades he was a British agent and paedophile; facts they have consistently lied about it.

This brings me to another issue: Who really murdered Davison in 1988?

Immediate suspicion fell on Loyalists. A security friend of mine, who knew him well, and claims he saved many lives by betraying the IRA, is like me unsure if the Loyalists alone were the guilty party. The hit was professionally planned and carried out by people who had accurate information about Davison’s exact location in the Markets area. On the morning he was killed, a young man who had spent the night with him was in his apartment, but his identity has remained secret. He knew nothing about the killing. Someone with close knowledge of Davison’s daily habits certainly did. At the time of his death, the IRA was becoming more and more suspicious of him. If its security people had arrested and brutally interrogated him, as they did many others, he might have given up a great deal of intelligence about his role as a spy. It should be noted that at this time, his friend, Freddie Scappaticci, was rising to prominence in the ranks of the Provisionals and he, too was a British agent. In fact, I believe that in his role as head of an IRA internal security unit, known as the “nuttin” squad” he helped shield Davison from IRA elements deeply suspicious of him.

Did the IRA kill Davison? One could argue that they had the means and intelligence to do it, and it would have been better for them to kill him than to interrogate and disappear him, given his deep roots in the IRA. His absence would have raised too many questions, and any hint that such a high ranking figure was a traitor would have generated serious morale issues among the rank and file who admired him.

Did the Loyalists kill him, and if so, why? The ranks of the Loyalist paramilitaries, especially the UDA, were replete with British agents. In East Belfast, a former British soldier, Brian Nelson, working for British Intelligence, ran the UDA’s Number One assassination unit. He provided the unit and other UDA killers with Intelligence on Republicans, which had been fed to him by his British Intel bosses. While the UDA targets were Republicans, more often than not they were not IRA members. Did those Intel bosses who selected targets for Nelson’s assassins mark Davison for death? If they did not, they had to surely know he had been marked for death since they were effectively running the people in charge of Loyalist hit squads throughout the city and beyond. Any Loyalist plan to kill a senior IRA figure like Davison would have come across the desks of Nelson, or other Loyalist leaders in MI5’s employ.

A source whom I trust suspects that there may have been a “rogue security forces element” that was unaware of Davison’s importance as an agent. The source asserts that MI5 and Special Branch know this truth, which is why they have always been reluctant to answer questions about his murder, fearing it might open up controversial lines of inquiry. It is not an unreasonable hypothesis, given that security figures I have contacted over the years have shied away from discussing it. Could it be that, aside from the higher level security operations which involved supplying Loyalists like Billy Wright and others with intelligence to target Republicans, there was another secret outfit carrying out its own assassinations? There was such a lower level operation in the early 70s known as the MRF – the Military Renaissance Force, sometimes referred to as the Military Reaction Force. Its creation was a throwback to Colonial operations in Aden, Cyprus and Kenya when the British used “counter gangs” to kill their enemies and to blame the killings on the groups they were targeting. Many of the MRF murders were branded sectarian killings by the authorities and the media. MRF hit squads had, as in Colonial times, terrorists in their ranks. The MRF trained members of IRA, UVF and UDA to operate with British soldiers, some of whom were members of the SAS. Their arsenal of weapons included the Thompson submachinegun, a gun closely associated with the IRA. By using the Thompson, the MRF knew that when they left Thompson bullet casing at a murder scene, blame would fall on the Provisionals or the Officials. Equally, it was a way of setting the two wings of the IRA at each other’s throats. It is my contention that the MRF squads may have killed many more people than we know. The BBC interviewed me about the MRF in the past decade, but the subsequent documentary was in my view incomplete. I suspected that it was not the fault of the programme makers but the BBC hierarchy in London under pressure from government lawyers. Knowing the way the MRF operated and its freelance-type strategies, it is possible that there could have been a similar “rogue security element” in the late 1980s which copied the MRF operations of the early 1970. An argument, which somehow contradicts that, is that targeted assassinations by the State had become more streamlined by the 1980s. Nevertheless, the prospect of rogue assassins cannot be ruled out since there remains so much we do not know about the Dirty War. There is much that remains hidden by the authorities which we may never know. I have been told that there has been an ongoing exercise to “scrub” highly sensitive security files from the Troubles because they could expose military and intelligence figures to legal action.

Before his death, Brendan “Ruby” Davison was becoming a liability for British counter intelligence chiefs. His paedophile lifestyle, allied to his often violent, erratic behavior stemming from his stressful role as Agent Ascot were gradually placing him at risk, leading to increasing chatter about him in the IRA’s internal security ranks. Threats by an IRA bomber in West Belfast to expose him as a traitor, led him to him outing his accuser as a spy and personally killing him. Knowing this, as they surely did, British Intel chiefs could have concluded that his days as a top agent in the IRA were numbered. Losing Davison would not at that point have seriously impacted counter- terror operations because a much bigger agent was already at the top of the IRA leadership chain in Belfast.
He was Davison’s close buddy, Freddie Scappaticci – Agent 6126 – with the MI5 codename, Stakeknife. He was a vicious narcissist and executioner who, like Davison, was an invaluable asset to British Intelligence. He and Ruby Davison shared a special relationship, often drinking together. I tend to believe there is much we do not know about this pair and what they shared. Scappaticci had an attachment to pornography and Davison was a paedophile. They each had to know the other’s sex secrets. Did each also know the other was a spy? It is an open question.

One of my sources speculated that Davison was used by his handlers to draw Scappaticci deep into the British Intelligence web, but I have no evidence to support the hypothesis. Nevertheless, I have often wondered why Scappaticci remarked, after Davison’s death, that he had failed his friend. It implied that he was in a position to protect him. If so, how? Did Scappaticci learn who murdered Davison? He would surely have demanded the information from his handlers, with whom he was very close. If indeed, a Loyalist hit squad was responsible, it is not inconceivable that it acted on the orders of the FRU – Research Unit – a British Military Intelligence outfit that was involved in many murders. It had carte blanche authority to do whatever it chose. I had links to MI5 and Special Branch. Was it the “rogue intelligence outfit” which one of my sources speculated killed Davison? That would be something Scappaticci might have subsequently learned, leading him to conclude that he could have saved Davison by asking his handlers to protect his friend. Perhaps, he could have warned them that Ruby was a spy for MI5 and Special Branch and should not be on one of their hit lists. As I say, there is much we do not know about these two British terrorist agents.
For its part, the IRA, as it did when faced with incontrovertible evidence about Davison’s treachery, refused to believe the truth about Scappaticci, even when it was clear that he was a traitor in their ranks. Unlike Davison, Scappaticci had and continues to have leverage over IRA leaders. While dead men like Davison tell no tales, Scappaticci is a living, walking encyclopedia of incriminating evidence against his former IRA colleagues. He knows enough to put many IRA operatives and leaders behind bars. He could if he wished name those who helped him run the “nuttin’ squad” or the leaders who approved his murders. The great irony about Scapp, as he is sometimes known, is that he was in charge of identifying and eliminating spies within the IRA, and yet he was the biggest spy of all. A former IRA man, who spoke to me about him, hinted that the IRA struck a deal with him when they learned that be was a British agent. They would not harm him, or his family, if he kept his mouth shut. That kind of deal suited everyone, including those British Intelligence figures who ran him. It makes IRA leaders less nervous about the prospect of ever being linked to a wide range of murders and violent acts.

For years since he was outed, Scapp had been living in Manchester under the watchful eye of MI5. He chose Manchester because it allowed him to attend matches of his favourite football club, Manchester United. MI5 spirited him back to Belfast last November to see his wife before she died. He has since been moved by his MI5 handlers to a small town north of Blackpool.

I believe that if Scappaticci had died, or been killed during the peace process of the 1990s, the IRA would have buried him with honours in its revered Milltown Plot alongside his buddy, Brendan “Ruby” Davison. There is no reason why they will not give him pride of place there at some time in the future since they have never, and will never likely admit that he was once the biggest British spy in their ranks.

Finally, I contend that if we were we to know the kinds of automatic weapons used to assassinate Davison, we might be in a better position to solve some of the mystery surrounding his sudden demise, who ordered his death, and the allegiances of the triggermen. For example, were the weapons parts of a batch that Brian Nelson helped acquire for the UDA, UVF and other loyalist paramilitary actors? Bullets casings at the murder scene in 1988, and bullet fragments removed from Davison’s body, could be matched to weapons seized from the UDA and UVF. And what about the PP weapon – Personal Protection weapon – which Davison often carried. I know that he had one, but there was no mention of it being found and removed from his apartment during searches of the property in the hours after his death. What kind of documentation was found among his possessions, and how much cash was he really holding? I know that his PP weapon had been provided to him by MI5 and that he kept cash payments from MI5 under his bed. Was the PP weapon removed from his apartment? If so, was it ever used in subsequent murders? The histology of the weapons would be an important element in an investigation of his murder. With that in mind, in August 2019, I requested details on the histology of the weapons from the PSNI under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The PSNI responded that it would not release this information to me.
I was informed that information was being withheld under Section 30 (1) Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Public Authorities – information held by public authority is exempt information if it is held for the purpose of any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct to withhold, with a view to it being ascertained if a person is going to be charged with an offence
It was PSNI speak for “Get lost!” and no mention was made of my query about Davison’s PP.

I penned a reply, asking for a review in which pointed out the following:
“The decision is especially difficult to understand in light of the fact that this murder does not appear to be linked to a live investigation. If evidence has come to light since it happened to encourage a new
Investigation, perhaps the family of the victim, and the public, should know that such a development has occurred. If there is no live investigation, why is the PSNI withholding the information I have requested, and when is it likely to release it?
……. If there is no ongoing investigation, why is this information on lock down?”

A reply was not long in coming. In October, I was again told my request had been rejected. However, the PSNI admitted that there was no live investigation, making my point that it was absurd that they were continuing to hide information about this murder almost three decades after it occurred. Who had placed a hold on it and why? One can only speculate. Clearly, there is something dirty in the shadows of this murder which some in the Intel community would prefer to remain classified. If this was simply an assassination carried out independently by UDA killers there would be no reason to deny my request for histology of the weapons. I contend that this killing falls neatly into the dirty war which has ongoing tentacles. For those who like detail, here is the reply, which I received from the PSNI:

This investigation is not currently a live investigation. However, the PSNI has a duty to protect all evidential/investigative information should further evidence come to light and as this was adequately explained within the response issued to you; I will not reiterate the rationale. In carrying out my review I have referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) guidance on Section 30. PSNI is bound to deal with your request under the terms of the legislation which you have triggered when you submitted your request to us i.e. the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I would like to advise you that any information released under this legislation is considered to be a release into the public domain and not just to you as the requester. PSNI must therefore consider with all FOI requests whether the requested information is suitable to be placed into the public domain.

The ICO guidance advises that Section 30(1)(a)(i) is engaged if the information has been held “at any time” for the purpose of criminal investigations and proceedings. I have referred to the ICO guidance in relation to Section 30 which advises:

“8. Section 30(1) provides an exemption from the duty to disclose information that a public authority has held at any time for certain investigations or proceedings. As long as the other requirements of the exemption are satisfied, the exemption will apply to information even if it was not originally obtained or generated for one of those purposes and it will continue to protect information even if it is no longer being used for the specified investigation or proceeding. It is only necessary for the information to have been held at some point for those purposes.”

I have included the link to the ICO guidance on Section 30 Investigations and Proceedings which you may find helpful.

Click to access investigations-and-proceedings-foi-section-30.pdf

I have independently reviewed your request and I would agree that Section 30 (1)(a)(i) is engaged to your request for information.

If you remain unhappy about how your request has been handled you have the right to apply directly to the information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner’s local address is:-

Information Commissioner’s Office
3rd Floor
14 Cromac Place

I am unhappy about the response. There is no reasonable justification for it, but I think that those of us who have carefully studied the dirty war know that this is a predictable response from hidden figures and organisations that ran part of that war.

I also know that seeking information about these issues under the Freedom of Information Act is a waste of time.

©Martin Dillon

Is There A Twist In The Robert Nairac/Irish News Story?

I’m told there is. We shall see,,,,,,,,

The Irish News And Robert Nairac: Where’s The Beef?

The Irish News led with the story (see above) this morning alleging that redacted Ministry of Defence documents handed over to a lawyer by the London government had named the missing – presumed killed and secretly buried by the IRA – British soldier, Robert Nairac as being involved in the Miami Showband massacre of 1975.

Three members of the popular band were killed and two UVF members died when the bomb they planted on the band’s van, designed to explode later and make it seem the band was involved in smuggling explosives, detonated prematurely, allegedly because of a faulty timer.

The Irish News story, which was by-lined by Connla Young and can be read below, is allegedly based on redacted Ministry of Defence documents which were handed over to a lawyer for a widow of one of the slain band members.

If true, the story is nothing short of sensational and scandalous, except that the story fails to back up this claim by quoting any passages from the British document(s) that support the story; nor does the paper reproduce any portions of the document(s), which would be normal journalistic practice. In short  no evidence was presented by the paper that the document(s) even exist or if they do that they genuinely reflect the thrust of The Irish News’ story.

So the question must be asked, why did The Irish News not follow standard journalistic practice? If the story is sound then it should be full of quotes from the document. But it is not. The Irish News needs to explain what happened. If the story is true then show us the evidence. If not, then the paper needs either to explain why no quotes from the document(s) were used or apologise to its readers for misleading them. emailed the author earlier today seeking access to the documents but late this evening Connla Young replied, saying she could not help.

This is an important issue for another reason. If The Irish News did not have evidence to support its story, such sloppiness undermines genuine efforts to discover the truth about controversial events involving British forces and discredits the journalistic profession as a whole. So the paper should produce the evidence if it has it, or explain why it ran with a story unsupported by independent facts.

Here is the text of The Irish News story:

Previously unseen British army intelligence documents have linked undercover British soldier Robert Nairac to the Miami Showband Massacre.

Three members of the band, including lead singer Fran O’Toole, died when loyalist killers stopped their minibus at a bogus UDR check point near Banbridge in Co Down in July 1975.

The attack was carried out by members the Glenanne Gang, which included RUC, UDR and UVF personnel.

Two loyalists also died when the bomb they were planting exploded prematurely.

British army documents have now linked SAS trained officer Robert Nairac to the atrocity.

While he has previously been connected to loyalist murders this is believed to be the first time MoD documents naming him have been made public.

Captain Nairac was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1977 and his body has never been found.

He is one of three people belonging to the group known as The Disappeared whose remains have yet to be located.

The Ministry of Defence papers were recently disclosed to solicitor Michael Flanigan who represents Fran O’Toole’s widow Valerie Andersen.

She is taking legal action against the MoD and PSNI chief constable.

It is understood the redacted documents contain suggestions that Captain Nairac obtained equipment and uniforms for the killers.

The file also claims that the British solider was responsible for the planning and execution of the attack.

Miami Showband massacre survivor Stephen Travers

Survivors, including justice campaigner Stephen Travers, have previously insisted a member of the killer gang spoke with an English accent.

In his 2015 book about the life of Captain Nairac, Alistair Kerr claimed the British soldier went on leave to Scotland on the same day as the Miami massacre.

Mr Travers last night said that when he learned of the document it was a “huge disappointment to me that I was right.

“It was the British army involved in the planning an execution,” he said.

It is believed many of the documents provided to Mr Flanigan have been redacted and that public interest immunity certificates have also been issued.

A hearing linked to the case is due to be heard in Belfast this morning.

Mr Flanigan last night said collusion was a feature.

“This is a case where collusion is self-evident and in those circumstances it is of concern that the defendants are seeking to rely so heavily on Public Interest immunity,” he said.

“We feel the state should be as open as possible in a case of this nature and will be asking the court to look at this issue.”

Kevin Myers On The Meaning Of Freddie Scappaticci, The IRA Spy Hunter Turned Spy

Last November, Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, issued a public apology to journalist and writer Kevin Myers, along with a promise to pay substantial damages, for falsely labeling him a Holocaust denier in July 2017, thus bringing to a close a more than two-year long ordeal for one of the country’s more notable, talented and colourful wordsmiths.

During that exile he was shunned by the mainstream Irish and British media, and  libeled by RTE. Shamefully (at the time of writing), only one mainstream outlet, The Irish Independent, has reported the RTE apology. Silence also, and most contemptibly, from The Irish Times, where for some years Kevin made his daily column, ‘An Irishman’s Diary‘, a must-read.

In one of his first major pieces of writing since the RTE climb-down, Myers dissects for, in his own distinctive way, the story of the IRA’s spycatcher, Freddie Scappaticci.

(Readers should know that I first met Kevin in Belfast circa 1972/73 and have counted him a friend ever since, even though our views of the world might only occasionally coincide)

Kevin Myers

The central truth about Northern Ireland, which stands as the primary enabler that makes the utterly impossible often perfectly probable, is that it is a society based on lies. Everyone lies there. Everyone. They lie to themselves, they lie to one another, they lie to their children, they lie to their friends, they lie to their enemies. Lies are the currency of almost all intellectual exchanges. A body of commonly-held truths, whose strength is that they are empirically-provable and which elsewhere serve to bind the individuals in any society together, is almost completely absent from Northern Ireland.

To be sure, in such other societies, people constantly deceive one another, but largely in the form of white lies in order to diminish discord and enhance harmony. These are the low-grade fictions which, when given credentials, a plumed hat and motor-cycle outriders to the presidential palace, go by the name of diplomacy. But in Northern Ireland, people lie to one another to achieve opposite ends. Freud’s concept of the narcissism of small differences takes on pathological dimensions there. White Christians of almost identical gene pools who largely dress the same, talk the same, eat the same atrocious diet, listen to the same popular music, support the same English football clubs and have so much in common in their private lives, nonetheless prefer to enter a vast conspiracy of mutually-agreed public dishonesty that will enable them to exaggerate the tiny, often almost invisible elements that they do not have in common.

Such a lacuna-peppered society was almost tailor-made for a serial killer and skilled psychopath like Freddie Scappaticci. This senior IRA-man turned British agent was able for decades to prosper in the many gaps between truth and fantasy that existed in the minds of every single participant in the Troubles – and these include the many British soldiers, police and intelligence personnel engaged in the war against republican terrorism.

Only by imbibing Northern Ireland’s “culture” can outsiders come to terms with the place; but that very act then corrupts their own ability both to grasp reality and even more importantly to retain their own moral standards. What was intended to make understanding easier actually makes it impossible. There is no remedy here. The so-called peace-process similarly obliged everyone involved to lie, just as the war that it was intended to end required the same. The cure required everyone to be infected: you can only understand vampires by allowing yourself to be bitten, just a little.

But of course, there is no such thing as a little bite in this disordered world. And for the second half of the Troubles, the primary-vampire, inoculating the entire IRA and British intelligence community with the virus of self-deceit and moral depravity, was Freddie Scappaticci, the son of Italian immigrant family, and owner of a deep, unwavering, Manson-like stare. But despite the tempting stereotypes that beckon from the US, the Italian background was probably of lesser importance than his local origins, in the Markets area of Belfast.

Even more than most parts of the complex mosaic of identity in Northern Ireland, the Markets spins lies about itself in spectacular quantities. Consider the names some of the well-known Catholics and Republicans from this area: Davison, McKnight, Maxwell, Rice, Cunningham, Scott, Stilges and Elliman.

These are planter-names, not aboriginal Gaelic names. They are testimony to the once-common cross-community pastimes, in which dark nights had a vital role, as did alleyway walls, against which Catholic girls from the Markets courted Protestant males from the nearby Sandy Row, and often with seminal outcomes. The resulting children were raised as Catholics. Comparable walls, with slightly different bottoms against them, produced Protestant paramilitaries with Irish names like Murphy, Doyle, McCann and Gilmore.

So, the Protestant Sandy Row and the Catholics Markets are not just neighbouring districts in Belfast’s city centre: they are also where the in-laws live. It needs spectacular quantities of self-deceit to turn such cultural, geographical, genetic and nomenclatural contiguity into a state of permanent hostility, though admittedly admixed with regular doses of copulation. This is bizarre social dysfunctionality writ large, and none embodied the delusional qualities of the Markets so much as Freddie Scappaticci.

There was one yet further detail that went into the making of that little enclave: as its name implies, the people there are dealers, whose slyly intrusive fingers are adept at rigging the scales, hiding the bad apples at the bottom of the bag and miscounting your change (though curiously enough, always to their own advantage).

In other words, the Markets would alone and in their own perverse way embody all the contradictions and the lies of Northern Ireland, and so indeed does Freddie Scappatticci. However, Scappaticcologists, would look in vain today to find the Markets of his childhood, for they have been redeveloped beyond all recognition. Indeed, the squalor of the little brick-kennels of the Markets that he grew up in begs the question, what in the name of God were conditions like in Italy that this dire place should be considered an improvement?

These were slums which were beyond any 21st century imagination: made of crumbling, porous red-brick that inhaled moisture vertically from the soil and horizontally from the endless Belfast rain, they were almost completely without indoor plumbing: residents had to wash themselves at the only tap, cold, over the kitchen sink. There were no baths. Toilets were chilly, damp and unlit outhouses attached to tiny soot-encrusted backyards. The box-like living-rooms of their homes would be over-crowded if four grown-men stood alongside one another. To be sure, many good and honest people were raised in such conditions: Freddie Scappaticci was not one of them.

It is reported that in the 1970s he was an effective IRA sniper. No doubt he said as much, but as a Markets man, he would do, wouldn’t he? But as Markets man, he would also have had a mind for deals and details. Enterprise and dishonesty were (and are) indistinguishable within the Markets code of honour, an oxymoron that also manages to be a tautology.

No doubt these qualities, as well as a deeply menacing charisma and blackly unwavering eyes, led to his appointment to, and rapid promotion within, the IRA’s Internal Security Unit, also known as the Nutting Squad. Its duty was to sniff out informers, interrogate (ie, torture) them and then shoot them through the head, KGB-style, or in Belfast-speak, “nut them”. He was good at this simple task. His steady unwavering eyes usually got people to talk. His manner could be gentle and persuasive, as such manners often are when backed up with the possibility of a hammer smashing the fingers of the interviewee. And when charm failed to persuade someone to open up, the hammer probably didn’t.

Freddie Scappaticci

Through the 1970s, the IRA fought a long, complex and astoundingly dirty intelligence war with the British. Maybe someone was keeping notes, and one day that someone will detail who did what to whom during this war, but that’s highly unlikely. Either way, at the very centre of these truly terrible deeds was the Markets man, Freddie Scapatticci, whose many interrogative skills proved extremely useful to the IRA, firstly in the streets of Belfast, and later in the Long Kesh internment camp after his arrest. It was here that the IRA learnt the limitations of torture, as IRA leaders got it into their heads that many of their republican fellow-prisoners were not merely working for the British, but were doing so in conjunction with loyalist prisoners, who between them constituted a new “third force”.

This was fantasy, a Gothic paranoia along the lines of a Mossad-Iranian alliance, but it was confirmed by beating prisoners until they confessed to whatever was necessary to end the beatings. Meanwhile, in the loyalist wings, the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force were doing similar things, only worse (naturally) and with similar results. In order to end the torture, desperate prisoners would even finger paramilitaries not in the jail, and these were promptly shot. Scores of men were beaten senseless, and maybe a dozen murdered before both loyalists and republicans finally realised – and finally took a long time, because for many paramilitaries, sanctimonious, self-righteous brutality is such manly fun – that it had all been an exotic illusion, perhaps confabulated by the British. Thereafter, Scap fully understood the value of the gently-worded threat (matched with the empty promise of freedom) in the course of an interrogation.

In the mid-seventies, he was released from internment, and continued about his merry business, well-respected amongst the republican “community”, but otherwise, unknown to the ordinary people of Belfast and the province generally. Anonymity is usually preferable in his line of work. And then one day in 1979, driven by whatever impulse resides in a mind as complex and deranged as his, he walked into a police-station and offered to become a British government informer within the IRA. Over the coming years, he acquired the codename Steak-knife/Stake-knife and supplied his handlers with vast amounts of intelligence.

In terms of the Second World War, this was like a German code-book falling into the hands of the cryptanalysts of Bletchley Park. With his knowledge of the IRA’s personnel and operations, the entire IRA could and surely should have been rolled up like an SS Division whose advance to Normandy was being systematically betrayed by its own signals. Instead, despite the presence at the heart of the IRA’s decision-making of a British agent, the IRA campaign lasted essentially another twenty years. This single sentence is not compatible with common-sense and could only have been made possible within a society that lives, breathes, eats and excretes lies, and which in turn infect all those who come to close to it.

One core (if sub-conscious) ingredient of the Irish republican delusion is the powerful desire for defeat and betrayal. Defeat has always been a certainty for all republican insurrections. Nobody could ever have doubted the outcome of any of the IRA campaigns, from 1916 – before the IRA, as such, even existed – up to today would be a settlement that would suit the British, to be followed by a republican split. Any settlement short of the utterly unattainable united 32-county Irish Republic is of course a betrayal: and meanwhile, another betrayal, that of Judas, would be systematically eating away at the IRA’s vitals. The informer is as Irish as the republican: Leonard McNally swore dupes into membership of the United Irishmen before the 1798 Rising, and then betrayed them to Dublin Castle and the gallows, before retiring to live a life of grace in London. Even the plans for the Easter Rising in April 1916 had been leaked to the authorities, and every IRA campaign since then has characterised by systematic inner betrayal.

The crest of the Force Research Unit, the British Army outfit which recruited and ran Scap

There is yet another betrayal which is intrinsic to Irish republicanism, and which sets it firmly amid its iron-age, Fenian roots: its murderous hatred of those who disagree with it. Republicanism notionally aspired to bring Irishmen (and somewhat later) women together, and the means they chose to do that was to kill a few of them. That homicide is not usually a social adhesive seems to have escaped republicans’ attention – or more probably, it was central to their desire to lose, for they themselves would in defeat become both martyrs and victims, with their original victims being prudently forgotten.

The first people to be killed as the Provisional IRA’s campaign got underway were all Irish: in 1970, two Catholic dealers in Ballymurphy named McKenna and McVicar, a group of Protestant rioters in East Belfast, a couple of policemen in South Armagh. These killings were done in the name of “unity” – just like the first killings in Dublin in 1916, of unarmed policemen such as Constables Lahiff and O’Brien, and civilians like fifteen-year old Eleanor Warbrook, shot in cold blood by an insurgent outside Jacob’s factory. Since the method dooms the proclaimed outcome from the start, that proclaimed outcome cannot be considered the real objective. The method is. For “republicans” war was, and remains, fun. It is purgative. It is exhilarating. It is the ultimate existential drama, set in the iron-age, and with morals to match.

Scappaticci, as a relic from the Iron Age, in his own inimitable way is quite a plausible concept. He is, after all, Cain, and for nearly three decades, he repeatedly killed Abel, and occasionally Abel’s wife Awan, and only he knows how many people he was responsible for personally disposing of. Journalists airily say forty, largely because it is a nice round number. But of course, the Scappaticci death-toll consists of not just the people he killed, but also the people who were killed by others to safeguard his position as informer and executioner within the IRA, as well as those terrorists who were allowed to remain at large in order to protect him, and who thus continued to kill people, and so on and so forth. It is possible that his various security force handlers know how many people were murdered as part of the Great Scappaticci Project but rather unlikely; it is probably only within the powers of Divine Wisdom to assess the total death-toll caused by this ghastly enterprise. More simply, less wisely, and certainly undivinely, we can confidently say, A Lot.

His life resembled something from The Sopranos, though of course his richly dark humour was at the expense of real people, not of studio inventions. Eamon Collins, an IRA-man who would later turn-coat and start working for the British, before being murdered by his former colleagues, in his memoir, Killing Rage, wrote an account of meeting Scappaticci with John Joe, one of the Nutting Squad’s senior executioners. Collins asked them if they always told people they were going to be shot.

“He (Scappaticci) turned to (John Joe)and started joking about one informer who had confessed after being offered an amnesty. Scap told the man that he would take him home… Scap had told him to keep the blindfold on for security reasons as they walked away from the car.

“‘It was funny,’ he said, ‘watching the bastard stumbling and falling, asking me as he felt his way along the railings and walls, ‘Is this my house now?’ and I’d say, ‘No, not yet, walk on some more…’

“‘… and then you shot the fucker in the back of the head,’ said John Joe, and both of them burst out laughing.”

My, that is funny.

Scap’s handiwork – the remains of an alleged informer, dumped by the side of a country road

Moreover, that innocent-sounding name John Joe evokes something from another television series, The Waltons, from the 1970s. The grandfather-figure was played by Will Geer, who when not being winsomely folksy on screen, was a foremost fundraiser for Noraid, the republican front-group in the US. It is one of the great shames about the Northern Troubles that those Americans who gave so much money in order to prolong them never had the chance to sit with any of the many IRA victims – and Scap’s in particular – in those final moments before their execution and secret burial. Maybe, just maybe, they might have got some sense of the iron age barbarism they were not merely consorting with, but were also prolonging. But maybe not.

Just to keep you in the picture, if interrupting the narrative flow somewhat, Eamon Collins was later knifed to death by the IRA one morning while out on his daily run. And though this was in violation of every single undertaking given by the IRA and by their negotiators with the British and Irish governments, talks with Sinn Fein resumed later that day without pausing to administer a fond rebuke for the republican delegates or dispatching them to spend a few minutes on the naughty-step. The murder of this servant of the British crown was simply accepted as part of what Northern Secretary Mo Mowlam would memorably term “housekeeping”. Yes, the vampire had nibbled at her neck also.

Back to Scappaticci. It is often alleged that he worked alongside the IRA in South Armagh, but that is unlikely. You had to have had several generations’ lineage within a few square miles of Crossmaglen to qualify for a work-permit with the local IRA, and Scap’s name gives a small clue why he didn’t make the cut. But overall, in his hunt for informers, he would have had access to the secrets of operations by IRA units throughout Northern Ireland, including some in South Armagh. He would have known the names of very many volunteers, their operational skills and their personal records: a who-did-what thesaurus that should have opened up the IRA like filleting knife moving down a trout’s belly, leaving the organisation thoroughly gutted – lung, lights, liver and all.

Nothing of the kind happened. Instead, Scappaticci’s handlers seem to have played him in Northern Ireland’s foetid waters like an angler who has hooked a fish but is mysteriously reluctant to land it. Keeping him alive and productive seems to have been more important to them than defeating the IRA. They certainly learnt vast amounts from him, some of which was then fed to loyalist paramilitaries, who then occasionally killed an IRA suspect, such as the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. However, generally speaking, these handlers seemed “content” – an adjective whose many ambiguities seem peculiarly appropriate to Northern Ireland – to let Scappaticci provide the information to them about the IRA, but then not always act on it. This perpetual game was played for decades, even at the repeated expense of London’s financial centre, which makes the whole business utterly incomprehensible.

The standard IRA myth about the troubles, now amounting to a binding, blinding dogma, is that they were sustained by collusion between the British security forces and Protestant paramilitaries. And there was indeed some such collusion, occasionally reaching deep into the upper echelons of the British army. However, the more one probes, the more mysterious Project Scappaticci becomes, because in actual fact, not many IRA men were killed by loyalists on the strength of information given them by the British. Indeed, that is one of the most mysterious – and indeed sinister – aspects of the Troubles: how few paramilitaries of either side were murdered by their opposite numbers. Each seems to have preferred to kill innocent members of the “other” community, as the Northern Ireland lie-culture caused two rival campaigns of violence against innocent proxies. The classic case of this as the IRA’s massacre of ten Protestant workmen in South Armagh, without the least pretence that they were members of the security forces or involved in paramilitarism. Indeed, it was their very innocence which doomed them in the IRA’s eyes. There would presumably be no revenge for their slaughter, and indeed there was none.

Another of Scap’s victims

Thus the province became almost a Petrie-dish experiment in deranged human behaviour, as viewed through a very perverse microscope: on the one hand you have the eyepiece through which the intelligence service are gazing and on the other, you have the objective lens which captures the actions of the paramilitaries. But instead of scientific clarity and resolution, you get complete moral corruption at both ends of the microscope, as the virus in the Petrie dish crawls up the tube and infects the watchers.

The Scappaticci Project thus seems to have been to keep him alive and see how long this weird experiment in survival against-the-odds could be continued, regardless of the loss of life, or even the fate of London’s Docklands. It is almost viral behaviour, as the invasive tumor requisitions the host’s tissues and makes them behave like cancer-cells.

This writer does not know enough about the divisions and demarcations between Army units, such as 14th Intelligence Company, the Force Research Unit and its predecessor, the Military Reaction Force, the RUC Special Branch and its various sub-divisions, and MI5, the domestic intelligence arm of the British government, to offer any useful insights into how any of them operated. What they had in common was Freddie: for Scapatticci seems to have been employed by them all. Those interested in such deleteria may follow the some of the viler details here and

No doubt other details have been shredded or burnt in the deliberate-accidental fires that erupted amongst files as the official enquiry into collusion, led by Sir John Stevens, closed in on them. What remains reasonably certain is that the various handlers of Scappaticci crossed lines that not even the Special Operations Executive would have permitted in its operations in occupied Europe, 1940-45. SOE’s guiding principle was that under no circumstances and at no time may one SOE operative be involved in any way in killing a colleague, either to save his or her own neck, or anyone else’s.

This was absolutely not the case with Scappaticci, who actively pursued fellow-agents within the IRA and then murdered them. For example, along with Martin McGuinness, he was intimately involved in the murder of Garda Special branch agent, Derryman Frank Hegarty. The latter had informed the Gardai of a Libyan army shipment that had been stashed in Donegal. Hegarty then fell under suspicion of the IRA, and the British duly gave him a safe billet in Sittingbourne in Kent. McGuinness was nonetheless able to get through to him, via his wife, by telephone and duly promised this homesick, lovelorn dupe safety and sanctuary if he returned to Ireland and confessed all. He duly did, was duly abducted, duly interrogated, duly tortured and duly shot, his eyes being neatly sealed in place with sticking-plasters so that when his skull was shattered by his executioner’s Ruger .44 Magnum bullet, they didn’t pop out. So messy.

Before that final, and merciful deliverance, he had been Scapatticci’s guest for over two weeks. If any prospect could chill even the hardest heart, it is surely that. Though perhaps the Queen being later persuaded to shake hands with his co-executioner, Martin McGuinness, at a royal banquet in 2015 might well have a similar effect.

And that’s the ghastly truth behind the Scappaticci Project. It involved so many compromises. Though some senior British army officers knew of the Project, as did some Special Branch, as did some MI5 case-officers, most of the upper echelons of the security forces would probably have been in the dark about it, as of course would the Queen herself. Probably no-one knows the whole story – not even the man himself, because he would not have been privy to the countless compromises and deceits that were used to keep him alive for decades, while so many others died.

Former Bedfordshire Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher, charged with digging up the dirt on Freddie Scappaticci

Scappaticci’s end-days have been as sordid as most of the rest of his time on this earth. In hiding in Britain with some sort of semi-permanent special branch protection, he was nonetheless prosecuted for possessing extreme “animal-pornography”, whatever that might; it is, presumably, best left to the imagination, and even that will not get the rest of us very far. However, that such imagery is even “criminal”, in an era when virtually all child-free pornography is not, suggests carnal appetites too depraved, pitiful and wicked for ordinary human contemplation.

No doubt, this is what serial killers resort to when they are too old to break people’s legs or can no longer put a .44 round into the skull above the temporal lobe behind the ear, with an outcome that is not the least temporal. That, after all, is how Scappaticci spent his twenties, thirties and even his forties. Now all that is left him is the fond memories of those whom he killed, perhaps revived in his happier, more virile moments by winsome images of Dobbin the Horse, Peter Rabbit and Pigling Bland doing whatever it is that they would have to do to turn their frolics into criminal offences.

Nonetheless, there is a certain purity of vision here, unclouded by rosy romance or republican myth. For Scappaticci was the moral and executive centre of the Northern Ireland troubles, the point of convergence of the IRA’s campaign, the cutting edge of British and RUC intelligence operations, and loyalist terrorism. It is a cliché to refer to the heart of darkness in such matters – but such cardiac metaphors about lightlessness somehow fail to capture the sound of a shinbone cracking, which was one of the many fractures that the IRA – and some say Scap himself – reserved for the limbs and ribs of the Louth farmer (and alleged informer) Tom Oliver on his terrible if leisurely journey to death in 1989. Nor can they match the hideous terror of Caroline Moreland during her ten days of IRA captivity, with the IRA ceasefire just weeks away, before she too was despatched into the eternity that now patiently awaits Freddie Scappaticci, the personal and moral embodiment of Northern Ireland’s troubles.

But let us not forget that it was another Belfast man who appointed him, who ruthlessly exploited the material he gained from his iron-bound forays into human misery, who employed him to protect his own apical position in the IRA pyramid and who is morally answerable for his assaults on human life, bodily integrity and the health of Northern Irish society as a whole. This – to use another metaphor – is the Jekyll and Hyde dualism that was behind the IRA campaign from the outset. On the one hand, you had the pipe-smoking, benignly-bearded frontman of Sinn Fein-IRA complete with tailored-tweeds – all in all, rather resembling an affable professor from a minor New England college: on the other you had this dead-eyed, conscienceless serial-killer stalking the alleys and the byways of republicanism.

For whatever monstrosities Scappaticci did, that other man authorised their implementation and profited from their outcome. If some modern Ultra machine were ever to crack the double-helix code encrypted within the name Scappaticci, the decrypt-teleprinter would probably – if a little hesitantly, because even machines can recognise the face of evil – tap out the letters A-D-A-M-S.

Gerry Adams exchanges words with Freddie Scappaticci during a republican demonstration in west Belfast

More Evidence Of The IRA ‘Disappearing’ People Long Before Jean McConville?

You can read about it here, in this Irish Examiner article…..

BBC Film Showed New Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey Driving Motability Car Into Stormont


Many thanks to a source who late last night emailed me the link (see above) to the BBC Spotlight film on Alex Maskey’s use of a Motability car.



I have a dog in this fight. I have to say this at the outset of this piece. For many years, when I lived in Belfast, I was a grateful recipient of cars provided by a British government scheme for disabled drivers called Motability. So I am a fan of this scheme and I wish it well.

If you were sufficiently disabled – and with polio in both legs I qualified – you could either get a weekly Motability grant to pay for taxis and the like or you could opt for a car fitted with hand controls that you could drive to work or to shop. Every three years or so, you could swap the car for a new vehicle.

The scheme, which was a brainchild of the Labour government back in the 1970’s, transformed life for thousands of disabled people, not least in Northern Ireland. It enabled them to get around, to get to work, to shop, to have holidays with their families and so on.

Needless to say, the Tories hated Motability. When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 one of her first targets was that scheme, but when she tried to scrap it there was an uproar and she had to relent.

But the Tories bided their time. Eventually under the predecessors of the current regime in Downing Street the opportunity arose, not least because disabled people were getting it in the neck thanks to the austerity regime introduced by the Cameron government. The Disabled Living Allowance, which could be exchanged for a Motability car, has since come under sustained assault with the result that the scheme itself is endangered.

But the slow and lingering death of Motability has been made all the easier when it became clear that in some places fraud was rampant. One of the worst offenders was West Belfast where Motability cars, allegedly rented by disabled people, were instead being driven by perfectly healthy people, some of whom used the cars for taxi services, many of which were under the control of paramilitary groups, not least the Provisional IRA.

I can remember, before I left Belfast in 2001, discovering that a senior Sinn Fein official in the Markets area was driving a Motability car which he was not entitled to use. The Motability tax disc was prominently displayed on his car’s windscreen.

He was not the only malefactor.

Eventually, in 2004, the BBC in Belfast decided to investigate the fraud and lo and behold who did the Beeb film driving a Motability car into the Stormont car park but Alex Maskey, who this weekend has been elevated to the Speakership of the new, revived Assembly. That job is well paid, is not exactly onerous and brings a generous pension.

Here is a report of that incident by Jim Cusack in The Sunday Independent in an article dated February 11th, 2007:

I think the BBC should dig up that clip and the interview with Maskey that accompanied it and screen it again, while those who voted him into the Speaker’s chair this weekend might care to reflect on the implications of what they have done. A lot of disabled people in Northern Ireland are now deprived of the ability to be mobile thanks to the Motability fraud.

The ‘New’ Deal At Stormont, Or Plus Ca Change….

A predictable yawn. So not an awful lot to say about this deal, which pretty much looks the same as the one before it, with one or two bells added or subtracted.

Two aspects once again strike me as worth commenting on. One is that when everything is boiled down to the bone, the Provos have once again settled for a deal that is not worth the loss of one life, much less the more than three thousand killed and tens of thousands wounded or whose lives were otherwise blighted by the decades of awful violence.

The Provos fought their war not for an Irish language Act but for Irish unity – at least that is what they told everyone, not least those who killed or were killed for that goal. So what conclusions from the deal can one come to about the Provos?

I think their willingness to accept, indeed to negotiate such a deal confirms that the Provos really belong to the Defenderist tradition rather than the republican and separatist movement that defines classical Irish republicanism.

Separatist republicans, faced with the same options, would wrap the guns in plastic, dig holes in the bog and hide the weapons away for use on a better day. Defenderists would do what the Provos have done and negotiate the best deal they could for their people, notwithstanding the political context.

This distinction between the two founding branches of Irish republicanism was never grasped by Unionists. As far as they were concerned all republicans were the same: separatists who would accept nothing less than the destruction of the union.

Had they recognised the truth – which is now so evident – that the Provos were just the armed wing of constitutional Nationalism and acted on it, by doing a deal with John Hume and Gerry Fitt’s SDLP back in the 1970’s, Northern Ireland need not have gone through the horrors of the past four decades.

The tragedy, as we can all now see clearly, is that Unionism could have killed the Troubles at their birth by embracing reforms and a place in the decision-making process for Catholics. But they could not see that. The pity is that some of them are still blind to it.

Michelle Goldberg On Trump’s ‘Wag The Dog’ War

New York Times’ columnist Michelle Goldberg is the latest American commentator to liken Trump’s strike against Iran to the satirical movie ‘Wag The Dog’, which depicted a desperate US President creating a fictional war in Albania to save his presidency, a trope first suggested on this blog hours after the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards was killed in a US drone strike.

She writes:

Beyond that, Trump, now impeached and facing trial in the Senate, has laid out his rationale over years of tweets. The president is a master of projection, and his accusations against others are a decent guide to how he himself will behave. He told us, over and over again, that he believed Barack Obama would start a war with Iran to “save face” and because his “poll numbers are in a tailspin” and he needed to “get re-elected.” To Trump, a wag-the-dog war with Iran evidently seemed like a natural move for a president in trouble.

You can read her full article here.

Elizabeth Warren Says Trump Iran Strike Is ‘Wag The Dog’ War

Impeachment: Warren accuses Trump of ‘wag the dog’ strike on Suleimani

Elizabeth Warren speaks at a rally in Iowa on Saturday.
Elizabeth Warren speaks at a rally in Iowa on Saturday. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Elizabeth Warren has suggested Donald Trump ordered the drone assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani to distract the American public from his own impeachment, taking the country “to the edge of war” for his own political purposes.

“We know Donald Trump is very upset about this upcoming impeachment trial,” the Massachusetts senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination told NBC’s Meet the Press. “But look what he’s doing now. He is taking us to the edge of war.”

Observers were quick to say Warren was accusing Trump of “wag the dog” tactics, meaning an attempt to distract public attention by launching a military strike.

A 1997 film satire starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman used the phrase as its title and similar charges were levelled against Bill Clinton in 1998, when he ordered strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan while embroiled in the scandal which led to his own impeachment.

Trump ordered the strike against Suleimani, which happened in Baghdad on Friday. It followed a rocket strike in Iraq that killed an American contractor and wounded US troops, US airstrikes in response and a siege of the US embassy in Baghdad by Iranian-backed militias.

On Sunday Iran called Trump a “terrorist in a suit” and told US media outlets retaliation would hit US military targets.

Warren told CNN’s State of the Union it was “reasonable” to ask if the strike was meant to be a distraction, “particularly when the administration, immediately after having taken this decision, offers a bunch of contradictory explanations for what’s going on.