What The Provos’ AP-RN Said About ‘Stakeknife’:

From the pages of AP-RN, 2003 onwards:

(Thanks to ‘DE’ for compiling these quotes)

‘Stakeknife’ turns out to have blunt British blade

Date: 22 May 2003

Media begins to ask: “Where’s the beef?”


The naming of ‘Stakeknife’ exposed the way the media spreads misinformation through un-attributed sources and becomes a willing participant in the so-called ‘dirty war’. Journalists claiming to have anti-imperialist credentials have used the ‘Stakeknife’ story to launch attacks on Sinn Féin. For some, criticism of the Peace Process and of Sinn Féin has become part of the process of British propaganda.

Peace Process threat

The British Establishment considers the Process to be a threat to its rule in the North, not least because it fragments and disorientates unionism. They have sought to consolidate unionism since the Agreement was signed by continuing the overt and covert campaign against Sinn Féin. British strategy has sought to re-incorporate the Dublin government into this strategy, whose aim is to preserve the political integrity of sectarian unionism and to marginalise Irish republicanism.

Elements of the British establishment are attempting to re-engineer the political isolation and demonisation that republicans experienced prior to the Good Friday Agreement. The unionist paramilitaries have been used as part of this strategy to put continuing violent pressure on republican areas, with the hope of disrupting and destroying the republican cessartion.

MI5 speaks with forked tongue

However, the plan to ‘save Dave’ has left Britain dangerously exposed politically. It required the cancellation of an election, a basic denial of the right to vote. This action was accompanied by John Stevens’ report on British collusion with unionist paramilitaries. The revelation from Michael Stone that he was directed to Milltown Cemetery in 1988 to kill mourners by the RUC emerged the same day the Stakeknife story appeared.

An attempt at attention diversion was put in place by the ‘naming’ of Stakeknife. A large sucking sound accompanied the story, which pulled in every gullible journalist and media organisation.

The purpose of the story is to demoralise northern nationalists with the mistaken idea that they are not authors of their own political destiny and to take the focus off nationalist political anger.

Daily Torygraph

Ed Moloney wrote for the pro-unionist Daily Telegraph on 15 May supporting the Stakeknife revelations, or ‘Steak Knife’, as he insists on calling it. Moloney wrote an earlier Telegraph piece attempting to partially discredit the BBC’s Panorama, which exposed the FRU/Nelson relationship with unionist paramilitaries. Moloney deliberately undermined the expose. He wrote that Nelson’s task was to protect Stakeknife, while the UDA organised the shooting of Pat Finucane, Francisco Notorantonio and other nationalist victims. That piece deflected responsibility away from Britain’s dirty war. The Telegraph, as media representative of the right wing of the British establishment, was happy to print it.

Southern anti-republican writers like Eoghan Harris, Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tobin have promoted Moloney’s recent work, as has David Trimble’s advisor, Paul Bew and Daily Telegraph former Ireland correspondent, Toby Harnden. Now Moloney sees the Peace Process as a British plot and promotes the conspiratorial fantasy that Sinn Fein is controlled by highly placed British spies. The anti-republican commentators named above praise his delusional and patronising findings. It is classic example of persistent misinformation.

Moloney has an inflated sense of his own importance. He told The Sunday Tribune after the publication of his book on Gerry Adams, that “he would be exposing himself and his family to “obvious dangers” if he worked in the north again… “It is not that I think the IRA would order action – they are not that stupid – but that some ‘Saturday night hero’ might try to impress his bosses by taking his own action,” he said” (Irish News 7 Sept 2002).

The only people to attack and kill journalists have been unionist paramilitaries under the control of British intelligence. Moloney knows this. His comment was both self-serving, ego-fuelled and a typically casual smear.

Those who ran with the ‘revelation’ and the blatant lies and falsehoods that accompanied it continue to treat this bag of smoke in a room full of mirrors as a fact. They call on the IRA to address ‘serious’ questions. Wild-eyed Irish journalists were seen on British television demanding that the IRA conduct a prolonged investigation and enquiry into a story that fell apart within days of its appearance. Curiously, the clear evidence of penetration of dissident republican organisations, and the splits engendered, has not led to similar demands from these same ‘anti-imperialist’ media pundits.

007 school of politics

Undaunted by setbacks in the ‘outing’ of Stakeknife, proponents of the 007 school of anti-republican politics have started to claim that we should examine the whole box of cutlery. The anti-republican journalist Jim Cusack in the Sunday Independent tried to salvage the story. The IRA’s GHQ was “riddled with informers”, he said, in a futile attempt to derive more column inches from this securocrat fantasy.

Securocrat and media circles are more than happy to promote the Stakeknife theory. It has the potential to send republicans into a frenzy of self-recrimination and fruitless speculation about spectres and phantoms – if republicans were foolish enough to fall for it.

Martin McGuinness ate my hamster

Anther curious example of persistent misinformation is from Anthony Macintyre’s dissident anti-Sinn Féin website. This website hosts mutually self-reinforcing praise from Bew and Harnden for the Stakeknife theory, reprinted from the Daily Telegraph – not usually thought of as a source of pro-Irish nationalist, never mind republican, information.

An uncritical response to British propaganda has developed alongside a relationship with Liam Clarke (Ireland Editor of The Sunday Times) and his partner Kathryn Johnston. Clarke openly claims to write for a paper with “a robust anti-nationalist line”. He regularly contributes uncheckable ‘security’ sourced stories, in which factsí are not facts at all, just guesswork. Clarke ‘revealed’ the existence of Stakeknife four years ago in The Sunday Times.

A recent interview with Clarke and Johnston, after their arrest by the PSNI team investigating the publication of the McGuinness-Mowlam tapes, turned into a diatribe against Martin McGuinness.

The website’s friendly association with Clarke & Johnston began with the publication of a positive review of Clarke and Johnston’s ‘biography’ of Martin McGuinness. The book claimed that Martin McGuinness started the Bloody Sunday massacre. The review was written by a member of Republican Sinn Féin and said that McGuinness was a “censor” for advising people not to talk to Clarke and Johnston.

It’s the PSNI and British Army, stupid!

The interview tries to shift responsibility for the PSNI’s treatment of the intrepid pair on to Martin McGuinness. This is the way Clarke-Johnston wrote about Bloody Sunday. The Irish Democrat noted that “smears are delivered without fanfare [and] arrive in the company of known facts”. This latest smear is published without critical comment. Perhaps, to borrow a phrase from the piece, this is an example of how “chummy” relations have become.

It should be obvious, but Sinn Féin is not responsible for treatment meted out by the PSNI and the British state or, for that matter, for what happened on Bloody Sunday. The Brits are to blame.

Provos, Paras – spot the difference

It remains for us to speculate about the upcoming participation by Clarke and Johnston in the Saville Tribunal, announced by Johnston on a TV programme. In it, Johnston tried to rehabilitate the Widgery Tribunal and consistently attacked the IRA, whose guns were silent during the march.

Clarke and Johnston plan to contradict the evidence of Derry people and will support the British view that ‘the Provos’ were partly to blame for Bloody Sunday – if it were not so serious this ‘evidence’ should turn out to be a real laugh (and a half). It has to be asked if the participants in this website are going to continue to collude in a gross historical fabrication.

The attempt to deflect British responsibility for Bloody Sunday on to the IRA is part of Britain’s dirty war. The attempt to conceal, or to deflect attention away from, collusion with unionist paramilitaries is also part of that war. Unfortunately, there are some who claim to know better who have been deflected into the political cul-de-sac of an endless spy hunt.

Where’s the beef?

Two questions can be asked. Why did British sources release the ‘name’ of Stakeknife and then do nothing to protect their ‘superspy’ – did they want a dead body on republican hands? Second, why do so-called purer-than-the-driven-snow dissident ‘republicans’ promote pro-British propaganda and propagandists? Those who are blind to the relevance of the first question are incapable of self-reflection in relation to the second.

British spies and informers are a fact of British rule in Ireland. So too is misinformation and the tactic of divide and rule. The British still carry out both an open and a clandestine struggle against the advance of Sinn Féin. Open in the demand for sanctions and the denial of the right to vote. Clandestine in the direction of unionist paramilitaries, attacks on nationalist areas and the continuation of the dirty war and the media war.

This is not the action of people who think their opponent has sold out. You don’t fight a dirty war against an enemy that has given up.

The securocrats will not succeed. Exposure of their activities will enable more people to open their eyes to the nature of British rule in Ireland.

Commentators like Liam Clarke and Ed Moloney are so fixated on tripping up their biographical subjects, Adams and McGuinness, that they are increasingly blind to political reality. Luckily most of the rest of us can read between the lines.

‘Stakeknife’ story full of holes


Consider for a moment the wider political events that immediately preceded the ‘outing’ of Stakeknife. First came the collapsing of the Assembly, when the realisation finally hit David Trimble that his supply of obstacles had run out and that he and his party were, at some point in the foreseeable future, actually going to have to deal with Catholics on an equal basis.

Then, faced with the visible determination of Sinn Féin to restore the institutions, the British government and UUP fell back on the familiar tactic of demanding ‘clarification’ from the IRA – although Trimble qualified this by also demanding surrender. The absurdity of these demands were duly exposed by the publication of the IRA statement, which demonstrated its commitment to the peace process and explained in terms understandable to even the slowest member of the UUP what it was prepared to do in order to secure the peace.

No matter. Adopting a mindset that would have done credit to any right-wing dictatorship, the British government cancelled the forthcoming elections because it could not engineer the outcome to both its own and the UUP’s satisfaction, forcing legislation through a supine British parliament to ensure it got its way. Having got a result, one unionist declared with undisguised relish that there would be no devolved government “for a generation”.

In the midst of this came the part-publication of the Stevens’ Report and the acknowledgement that the British state was involved in the murder of its own citizens, closely followed by the question marks over the MoD’s refusal to provide concrete evidence that the agent Brian Nelson is actually dead, as it is claiming. As a backdrop to it all, the daily exposure of the corruption of the British state at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry began to reach its nadir, with the misuse of the legal process and interference by the MoD in the questioning of MI5 witnesses.

This torrent of revelations, and the whisking away of the fig leaf of implausible excuses for its increasingly poor handling of the peace process in the form of the IRA statement, created a problem for the British government and its securocrats, particularly those within each who want to derail the peace process once and for all whilst ensuring that republicans take the blame. In an attempt to refocus attention on the IRA, it was decided to play what was believed to be British state’s trump card; Stakeknife.

With Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times seemingly having fallen out of favour, The Sunday Herald was chosen as the principle conduit for the Stakeknife story, which in turn exploded onto the front pages of the world media. And initially at least, all seemed to go to plan. Republicans, the world was told, were either bouncing off the walls in panic or adopting a foetal position in despair. Anonymous sources were quoted as saying that this really spelled the end of the IRA. In reality of course, most republicans were rolling their eyes, shrugging their shoulders and getting on with business.

After this disappointing republican failure to fall apart at the seams, together with the public appearance of Alfredo Scapatticci and his interview with the Andersonstown News, the securocrats – and those sections of the media which unquestioningly repeated what they were told by them – have been forced onto the defensive, churning out more unsourced, unsubstantiated, increasingly outlandish claims about the penetration of the IRA by British agents. One contact even told the Observer that Stakeknife was only one of five agents at the “very highest level” of the Republican Movement.

This week, the Sundary Herald carried an ‘interview’ with a “member of the FRU” under the headline “Why this man is Stakeknife”. It reads more like a wish list of the things the fantasists in the British security services would dearly like to have done but couldn’t. Stakeknife, apparently, is “still an asset to the British as they can now keep using him as a whip to beat and terrify the IRA”. For how long have the security forces yearned, but failed dismally, to “beat and terrify” the IRA?

The reason republicans cannot “admit” to the existence of Stakeknife, claims this source, is because to do so would be to admit “that the IRA were our plaything… It was hard for a trigger to be pulled or a bomb to be planted without us knowing about it since the late 1970s,” he continues. Really? If this astonishing claim and his associated claim that the British cabinet was informed of everything are true, it would lay every British Secretary of State and Prime Minister since then open to criminal charges. Indeed, in the light of this information, perhaps John Stevens should add them to his list of those he wants to question.

Because what our mysterious friend is claiming is that the security services, and by extension the British government, knew that the IRA was going to, for example, flatten (repeatedly) great swathes of London, knew that it was going to bomb Manchester, knew about the van bomb in Lisburn barracks and knew about most, if not all, of the thousands of other operations which were carried out, but that it chose not to prevent. Why they chose not to is anybody’s guess because, inexplicably, Neil McKay neglects to ask the question. Perhaps – like Omagh – it was for political reasons. Or perhaps the FRU man is just talking through his hat.

Added to this are some amateurish attempts to out-psyche republicans. According to this source, “‘Stakey’ knows all about the past and about the main players and what they’ve done – the killings theyíve arranged, the bombings theyíve arranged and he could bring the whole f***ing lot down”. Strange that someone as cooperative as Stakeknife should have been so reticent about the “main players”. If he had all this devastating information, why did he not pass it on as he, supposedly, passed other information on. If he could have brought the whole f***ing lot down, then why didn’t he?

Even Freddie Scappaticci’s appearance before the television cameras and his interview with the Andersonstown News, in which he again denied all allegations against him, have been hastily rationalised. “Scap has repeatedly said that if he was ever compromised he would tough it out” explains our man; “he always believed he could call their [the IRA’s] bluff.”

The fact is, this unattributed story is full of gaping holes which many journalists, in their excitement, have simply decided to ignore. It undoubtedly suits the agenda of some within the British government and the security services to try and plant the idea that the British have been covertly ‘steering’ the direction taken by republicanism for at least two decades. Their increasingly transparent hope is that republicans will walk at away from the peace process and that all fingers of blame for its failure can then be pointed at the IRA. But when even the Irish government, usually such a willing stooge to the British government, voices suspicions about the timing and political motives behind the Stakeknife story, as it did this week, it is a certain sign that the strategy is falling apart.

© 2023 An Phoblacht.

3 responses to “What The Provos’ AP-RN Said About ‘Stakeknife’:

  1. Throughout your career were you often the subject of attacks in AP-RN?

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