A Thought Arising From Yesterday’s British Coronation

I watched a summary of yesterday’s coronation ceremony in London on the local public television station here in New York from my hospital bed and was struck by this thought: no way in the world could all those thousands of British soldiers, sailors and assorted military types, their commanders and the massed ranks of the British establishment have paraded through the streets of London in the way they did if the IRA campaign was still under way.

One well placed bomb could have devastated the event and made the first day of Charles’ reign memorable for all the wrong reasons. In all probability the coronation would, at the very least, have been drastically scaled down, possibly confined to Westminster Abbey and indoors at Buckingham palace; Charles’ ascent to the throne would have entered the history books for sure, but for all the wrong reasons.

So, will the British establishment show its gratitude to the Shinners? Possibly. But the problem with bread is that once it is swallowed and digested, it is quickly forgotten. And few people have shorter memories or greedier appetites for bread, than the people who dominated our TV sets yesterday.

Scap’s Proper Codename Was ‘Steak Knife’ Not ‘Stakeknife’….

I had known for some years that ‘Steak Knife’ was Freddie Scappaticci’s real code name but I had it in my mind that after a British court had ordered a ban of some sort on the use of the proper nom de guerre, someone had dreamed up ‘Stakeknife’ as an alternative and the media had more or less fallen into line behind this fiction, not least because it was protection for the story’s main source, former FRU handler Ian Hurst.

But the memory can play tricks and so to be sure of my ground I contacted Ian to ask how it was we ended up calling Freddie Scappaticci by a non-existent code name. His real code name was Steak Knife, but the term he and co-author Greg Harkin employed was ‘Stakeknife’.

This was Ian’s explanation, in an email sent yesterday:

‘The correct code name is Steak Knife.

‘The reason we named him Stake Knife in the book was our attempt at placating the MOD who we (Hurst & co-author, Greg Harkin) did have some very brief contact with prior to the book being published. The state never asked for that change, we just wanted to get the book out and we thought it best to play with the code name to elicit some co operation from the state given we did not want the book to be banned  – in hindsight it was a mistake because it confuses the public and in reality I now know, it would have made no difference.  

‘There was no separate legal case in regards to the name.’

So there we have it, Freddie Scappaticci was Steak Knife, not Stakeknife.

And he added, intriguingly: ‘Let us not forget that it was Liam Clarke that first wrote about this code name after he was briefed by senior members of the military at HQNI social event in mid to late 1980 – I believe the Steak Knife reference was then printed within weeks in a defunct local news paper he had once worked for, Belfast Press, Irish Press – not sure of the exact name – Liam did make reference to this in his latter years in an article.’

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.

Scappaticci Scandal Will Force A Rethink Of Adams’ Military Leadership

It is early days, relatively speaking, in what we can now justifiably call the Stakenife or Scappaticci Scandal, but already one consequence is becoming clear: any hope that MI5 might have had that the affair would die with the agent is rapidly fading. The anticipation of this twist in the story may itself help to explain why MI5 took ownership of the scandal, which they did weeks before his death, when an ailing Freddie Scappaticci was housed in an MI5 hospital, all the easier to control and keep outofreach.

So a harsh light is likely to be shone on MI5’s role in this affair and that’s simply because when you run an agent inside a group like the IRA it is in the knowledge that to succeed you must sanction murder. Scappaticci killed people – the estimates ruin as high as 30 or 40 – because the British intelligence establishment allowed him to, and for all we know encouraged him as well. No other reason.

That is one early observation from a scandal that has terrible possibilities for British spy chiefs.

The other casualty is the carefully cultivated reputation of Gerry Adams as the architect of the IRA rescue and revival of the late 1970’s. There is little doubt that when Adams, along with Ivor Bell and Martin McGuinness, took over the IRA in the late 1970’s, they rescued it from defeat. The major change was the abandonment of the companies/battalions structure and their replacement by small active service units (ASU’s), the idea being to make British penetration more difficult.

Adams and his colleagues were acutely aware that they were in a lengthy intelligence war with the British and so they created a spycatcher’s cell, called the Internal Security Unit (ISU), whose job was to hunt for British moles. The ISU was given the authority to go anywhere in the IRA and interrogate anyone. Their principal modus operandi was to interrogate IRA members whose operation(s) had somehow gone wrong, which given the propensity to commit ‘fuck-up’s’, as they were termed, would in all probability mean that at one time or another the ISU would know the IRA’s entire battle order.

As if that was not enough access, the ISU was given authority to vet new members, meaning that the secret army was now, in reality, an open book, at least for MI5, the Force Research Unit and the RUC Special Branch – although Scappaticci appears to have drawn the line at contact with the police it is likely MI5 shared at least some of their intel with the RUC. (The current Garda Commisssioner would know a thing or two about that story). Hunting down informers was the raison d’etre for all this, the supreme irony of the Troubles, to say the least.

So, the salient feature of the Adams’ IRA re-organisation plan was to create the machine for its own destruction. The fact that Scappaticci and his boss were kept on and not replaced at regular intervals, as happens routinely in most state-controlled intelligence agencies, compounds the blunder. Only when the ISU over-reached, asking for an inquiry into the Army Council, did the IRA leadership move against Scap and his colleagues and by that stage it was too late, the damage had been done.

Any assessment of the Adams’ leadership of the Provisional IRA from the late 1970’s onwards will have to factor in the game-changing triumph by British intelligence represented by Freddie Scappaticci and the colossal blunder made by the IRA leadership.

Scappaticci Died Under MI5 Guard

Freddie Scappaticci, the former deputy chief of the IRA’s spy catcher unit, was under MI5 protection when he died and so far the British spy organisation has failed to explain what was the cause of his death, which was revealed last week by the police team headed by former Bedfordshire Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher, whose detectives are, inter alia, investigating his activities and the role played by British state agencies during the Troubles.

It is understood that the Boutcher team was not told of his death until a week afterwards, by which time Scappaticci’s funeral had been held. No explanation of Scappaticci’s death has so far been given by MI5, or his former employers in the British Army.

Scappaticci was an agent of the British Army’s intelligence outfit during the Troubles, a group known as the Force Research Unit (FRU) which ran spies in both Loyalist and Republican paramilitary groups. Regarded as the most damaging spy to betray the modern IRA he was the number two in the IRA’s spycatching outfit, the Internal Security Unit (ISU), whose access to personnel and departments in the IRA was absolute and, with one exception, beyond challenge.

Ironically, Scappaticci and his boss in the ISU, a former British soldier, lost their jobs, and the British lost their most valuable IRA spy ever when, in a classic case of overreach, they asked the Chief of Staff for permission to investigate the Army Council. The Chief of Staff was outraged, sacked Scap and his boss and appointed a new leadership. The top IRA spycatcher who took over was a graduate of one of Oxford University’s more prestigious colleges but the British lost a priceless spy at the heart of the IRA.

Scap was being held under MI5 protection ostensibly because the military does not have facilities to hold someone of Scappaticci’s status and ill health, the latter being a matter of some mystery. As in life, Scappaticci’s death is likely to be a matter of great controversy. But one thing is sure: the families of his many victims are not now going to have their day in court.

How Freddie Scappaticci Was Outed As A British Agent

Mick McGovern, author of ‘Killing Rage‘, arguably the best book written about the internal workings of the Provisional IRA, describes how Freddie Scappaticci was outed:

As you know, it was actually Martin Ingram, the former soldier in the British Army’s Force Research Unit who fingered Scap after reading Killing Rage, an account of the life of Eamon Collins, who served in the IRA’s Internal Security Unit with Scap.

Eamon didn’t to live to see the squad’s deputy Frederico Scappaticci – named as ‘Scap’ in the book – uncovered as ‘Stakeknife’, the fabled high-ranking, long-term agent of British intelligence, with whom Eamon felt a special bond because they both came from families involved in the ice-cream business.

Eamon’s maternal family had owned an ice-cream van. Scap’s extended family had owned an ice-cream parlour. Eamon told me he had once jokingly in Scap’s presence made reference to their shared Cornetto heritage. Scap had looked at him coldly and changed the subject.

Eamon would have been proud to learn that Killing Rage played an important role in leading to the exposure of ‘Stakeknife’. The whistle-blowing former British intelligence officer and army Force Research Unit handler Martin Ingram first began seriously to question what the FRU did in Northern Ireland after reading the book.

In his own book, Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland, co-written with Greg Harkin, Ingram describes how he read in Killing Rage about Scap’s joking to Eamon about his murder of an informer: ‘It left him feeling sick to the pit of his stomach’. Ingram knew the ‘Scap’ referred to was Freddie Scappaticci, but more importantly, that Scappaticci was Stakeknife, an agent run by his former friends in the FRU.’

Spotlight brought me over to Belfast in 2003 for an interview when the story first broke. For a bit of pre-publicity for the doc, I wrote this article on Scap that they placed in The People:

“Will you be going down the Damascus Road, Eamon?”

The anonymous IRA interrogator sitting behind him in the darkened room wanted to know if Eamon Collins, who had just helped murder an innocent Catholic, might turn to God (and perhaps, later, the police) to repent his sins.

This was Eamon’s first encounter with the IRA’s internal police squad.

It was also – he realised later when he himself joined the internal-security unit – his first encounter with Freddie Scappaticci.

Eamon was being interviewed by Scappaticci as part of an IRA inquiry into the killing of the Catholic, shot in the head in a betting shop.

Eamon, who was intelligence officer for the Newry area (the IRA’s so-called South Down Command), had mistaken the man for an RUC Special Branch officer.

He was impressed by Scappaticci’s thoroughness – and his acceptance of the murder as a regrettable accident.

Eamon’s own cold-hearted attitude must also have impressed, because the following year he was invited to join the Nutting Squad.

For six months he spent many hours with Scappaticci – nicknamed Scap – vetting new recruits, debriefing IRA members released from police custody, conducting court-martials and tracking down suspected informers.

Eamon told me when we were writing his autobiography, Killing Rage, that Scap had a keen interest in keeping up with new police interrogation techniques.

He had been arrested and detained countless times.

He told Eamon that once, after trying the usual interrogation methods, police spent several hours telling him jokes to try and break his composed manner.

Scap said some of the jokes had been very funny, and he had had to fight hard not to crack.

IRA members feared the Nutting Squad more than they feared any police or army unit.

At first, Eamon respected and admired Scap (who was deputy to a former British marine called John Joe Magee), although later his view changed.

Scap struck him as ruthless, dedicated and methodical, the epitome of the tough guerrilla fighter that Eamon aspired to be.

Eamon felt that with more people of Scap’s calibre in the ranks, the IRA could certainly stave off military defeat, if not achieve outright victory.

Eamon asked if he personally would be expected to shoot informers. Scap said yes.

Eamon said: “I asked whether they always told people that they were going to be shot. Scap said it depended on the circumstances.

“He 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, reassuring him that he had nothing to worry about.

“Scap had told him to keep the blindfold on for security reasons as they walked away from the car.

“He said: ‘It was funny 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.”

Eamon, nonetheless, regarded Scap as someone who acted in the best interest of the Republican movement and who did not abuse his power excessively.

Although Scap was normally controlled, Eamon knew he had an explosive temper.

Eamon loathed his immediate superior in the South Down Command, a man nicknamed Hardbap.

He regarded him as a blundering incompetent, botching operations and causing unnecessary deaths to civilians and fellow IRA members.

He discovered that Scap too loathed Hardbap because of a fight they’d had many years earlier.

This may have been the incident which some have claimed pushed Scap into the arms of army intelligence.

Eamon heard that one night after a drinking session in Dundalk, Scap mounted the pavement in his car in an attempt to run over Hardbap.

Senior IRA commanders had to talk to the two men to prevent the conflict from escalating.

Eamon respected Scap as someone who, like himself, had a ‘normal’ job on top of his IRA work. He felt that other IRA members, whose freedom fighting was subsidised by dole money, had a far easier life.

But, gradually he grew to distrust Scap, although he never suspected he might be working for the British.

When Eamon found himself in the middle of a power struggle between Belfast and south Armagh units of the IRA, the latter wanted Eamon to work for him alone. In a key confrontation Scap failed to speak up for him.

Eamon realised to Scap, everyone was expendable.

Scap’s treatment of Eamon intensified a process of disillusionment that had started years earlier.

After more than six years in the IRA, with at least five murders on his conscience, Eamon cracked under interrogation in police custody after his arrest for the mortar attack on Newry Police Station which killed nine police officers.

He became a supergrass, telling the police everything he knew, causing huge damage to the IRA and leading to scores of arrests.

His former colleagues – especially those in the Nutting Squad – were not impressed. Word got to him in prison that Scap wanted personally to scalp him.

Eamon withdrew his statements and walked free from court after the judge ruled he had been mistreated in custody.

He had another appointment with the Nutting Squad this time for a ‘debriefing.’

He knew they wanted to kill him, but the IRA had been given a public amnesty and, for practical purposes, could not go back on its word.

Eamon waited nervously in an IRA safe-house in Dundalk for Scap’s arrival.

The head of the Nutting Squad came without Scap. He told Eamon that Scap had decided against coming, because he was not sure that he would have been able to control himself.

As far as I know, Eamon, who was murdered in January 1999, never saw Scap again.

The Man Who Blew The Whistle On ‘Scap’….

His name is Ian Hurst although for a long time this former intelligence officer in the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) called himself ‘Martin Ingram’ whenever he met the media. A chirpy Mancunian who served with the FRU in Derry, he broke with the military and gradually emerged in public with secrets to tell, angered by what he believed was the shameful way an agent he ran in the IRA had been treated.

The Derry IRA’s quarter master’s department included in its ranks one Frank Hegarty, whose career in the IRA had been controversial. He had been expelled some years before by Ivor Bell, then the chief of staff, when it was discovered that he had been having an affair with the wife of a soldier in the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and had failed to tell his superiors. And so it was that eyebrows were raised when the news filtered through that Hegarty was back, a move that had been arranged by Martin McGuinness.

Ian Hurst, pictured in his days as a soldier in the Force Research Unit

Hegarty’s exposure as a spy and death at the hands of the Internal Security Department – the IRA’s spycatchers – led to more internal speculation about McGuinness’ true loyalties. The Belfast-based veteran IRA leader, Brian Keenan was one who did not keep those doubts to himself. The pair had never got on and Keenan blamed McGuinness for facilitating his arrest in Northern Ireland and subsequent deportation to a London court where he received a lengthy sentence for IRA bombings in England in the early 1970’s.

At the same time it was part of daily politics in the Provos to gut and slander rivals and potential rivals. It could be a very bitchy organisation, but it was dangerous bitchiness.

Hegarty was the Derry Quarter .Master and so he was alerted to the arrival of boxes of modern automatic rifles which had recently been smuggled from Libya, a gift from that country’s complicated leader, Col Gaddafi. Hegarty’s job was to prepare safe dumps for such weapons. But he was also working for the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) which led the military’s intelligence battle with the IRA and so the British were privy to every movement of IRA weaponry in his area of responsibility. Hegarty would later tell the IRA that his handlers ultimate aim was to install him as the IRA’s Quarter Master General.

The guns were supposed to be hidden in a safe dump, but safe it certainly was not. Via Hegarty the FRU learned of the weapons shipment and told their political masters who duly informed Dublin. Since the weapons were destined for a safe dump somewhere in Co Donegal, the Dublin government had to be informed. And since the weapons were moving from a dump in Dublin’s jurisdiction, Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald had first dibs and sought an operation to interdict the weapons, thereby inflicting a very public blow on the IRA.

Martin McGuinness: persuaded Frank Hegarty to return to Derry – and his death

But the operation came at a high cost to the British. The finger of suspicion, pointed by Southern IRA leaders, moved immediately in the direction of Hegarty and so the Derry QM ran for the hills, thereby confirming the doubts. Ever since, the British have blamed Garret Fitzgerald for squandering a potentially priceless agent at the very heart of the IRA.

Hegarty fled and was moved to a safe house somewhere across the Irish Sea, but apparently was in regular telephonic contact with his family back in Derry. The only way to explain why FRU agent Martin Ingram/Ian Hurst subsequently behaved in the way he did, breaking the omerta rule and threatening to expose the spy at the very heart of the IRA, is anger at the way he believes his agent, Frank Hegarty was betrayed by the FRU, or whoever pulled their strings.

So it was that an apparently homesick Hegarty would phone his mother’s home, apparently quite regularly, until one day it was Martin McGuinness at the other end. It would be more than astonishing if someone from British intelligence was not listening in as well but whatever about that, the upshot was that Hegarty was tricked by McGuinness’ false assurances of his safety, returned to Ireland and walked straight into his grave. Well actually not quite straight. He was taken away for questioning so he might have lived for a few more days, but not more than that. What the FRU’s reaction was to all this remains a mystery. Was Hegarty a lamb manoeuvred to slaughter, and if so, why? What efforts were made to ensure that Hegarty would not put himself in such obvious danger?

No-one was more angered by, and suspicious of Hegarty’s fate than his FRU handler Ian Hurst/Martin Ingram who slowly but surely, with the deftness of a skilled tradesman, and the patience of a trout fly fisherman, eased the full story out, or as much of it as he can safely tell and this after years of harassment from government agencies and lawyers. Many questions remain to be answered to be sure, but the essence of what happened or at least is suspected to have happened, is now known and it smells.

This is how we know that Hegarty was allowed to walk himself back to death. The question still hanging unanswered in the air quite simply is: was he sacrificed and if so, why?

Statement on ‘Scap’ From Kenova Team:

Can I be so bold as to suggest that it was not Scap who was silencing people but those who appointed and kept him on as a senior figure in the so-called ‘nutting squad’?

11 April 2023For immediate release

Kenova: Statement released following death of Frederick Scappaticci

Kenova lead, former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said: “We were made aware last week of the passing of Frederick Scappaticci. We are working through the implications of his death with regards to our ongoing casework, which will be progressed in consultation with victims, bereaved families, advocacy support groups and a wide range of statutory and non-statutory partners.

“The very nature of historical investigations will mean a higher likelihood that old age may catch up with those affected, be they perpetrators, witnesses, victims, family members, or those who simply lived through those times, before matters are concluded. We remain committed to providing families with the truth of what happened to their loved ones and continue to actively pursue criminal charges against several individuals. We will publish an interim report on Kenova’s findings this year.

“We also recognise that people may now feel more able to talk to the Kenova team following the death of Mr Scappaticci, who had long accused by many of being involved in the kidnap, murder and torture of potential PIRA informants during The Troubles. I appeal to anyone with information that might help those impacted by the events we are investigating to contact us in confidence to help families understand what happened during these difficult times.”


Freddie Scappaticci Takes His Greatest Secret To The Grave….

And what was that secret? It was which animal he most liked to fuck. Now, we’ll never know. Shit!

Rita O’Hare, RIP

When the late Cathleen Knowles, who was Secretary of Sinn Fein until the 1986 split with RSF, asked Rita O’Hare why she was planning to go with the Adams’ leadership after Sinn Fein dropped abstentionism in Dail Eireann and agreed to take seats in Leinster House, Rita’s reply was simple.”Because they’re my people”.

The unspoken truth embedded in that answer is that the Provos were a different sort of IRA than we had ever known. To be sure they paid lip service to the same ideals and goals as did the traditionalists, especially ‘Brits Out’ and the demand for unification; and they believed in the use of armed force. But what really bugged the Provos, what acted as their recruiting sergeants, what made them both powerful and different, were the Unionists and their hard-line cousins, the Loyalists.

The reality of British rule in the North was not the Union Jack fluttering over Dublin Castle but Orange parades strutting their supremacy through Catholic streets, and discrimination in jobs and housing. Most Catholics kept their heads down in these early years of the Northern state and while there was an IRA active in the North, it was careful not to push things too far, knowing that support was conditional in their communities.

These were the years when, in the main, the Catholics voted Nationalist and the IRA was a tiny minority, to be shunned if one wanted to keep a job outside the ghetto. I remember the late Dolours Price telling me that in those days it would be a feat to fill two single-decker buses of supporters to the annual pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone’s grave in Bodenstown. What’s that? Perhaps fifty or seventy-five people. Republicans also tended to marry fellow republicans, evidence of a reluctance on the part of non-republicans to associate too closely.

So the need to defend their areas and then to emasculate Unionism was the real, if unspoken, unacknowledged priority of the people who many years later led and directed the Provisional IRA after August 1969; Brits Out and a 32 County Republic were secondary aims. But that’s also why, fundamentally, we have a peace process and the absorption of the Provos into constitutional politics.

And that’s what Rita O’Hare really meant when she told Cathleen Knowles in 1986 that she was going with her people.

I have to say that I always found Rita good company and a fundamentally decent person, fun to be with. She was also undeniably brave. On one occasion she tried to smuggle a stick of gelignite into Portlaoise jail, apparently to facilitate a jailbreak. There is really only one place a woman can secrete such a thing and hope to get away with it, and that is inside her body. Think about it. Now, you need balls, for that!