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Disappearing The Truth

Anthony McIntyre • May 18, 2003

The Steak Knife controversy rages on and is likely to capture further media interest in the week ahead as a result of today’s papers having relentlessly pursued their case against Freddie Scappaticci. On Thursday’s BBC Talk Back a promise of ‘irrefutable evidence’ was presented by one of the journalists being interviewed. It was a response to Sinn Fein jibes, the purpose of which were to pour scorn on a media that had managed to generate cynicism as a result of some inconsistent reporting. While the bar for what is irrefutable will be set at different heights depending on who most needs to refute, today’s papers have once again fanned the flame of public interest. And increasingly, it seems, the deluge has chipped away at the element of doubt and confusion the curious alliance of Sinn Fein and Freddie Scappaticci has managed to insert into the debate.

Sinn Fein may have hoped that the appearance of Freddie Scappaticci at a press conference held in the Falls Road office of his solicitor on Wednesday would douse the media’s passion for the story. The grapevine was hardly silent on the possibility of such an appearance - Gearoid O Caireallain predicted that Scappaticci would appear at a press conference with Gerry Kelly. And when he did arrive Martin McGuinness immediately praised him for having the courage to appear and put his case. But the press conference was attended by a mere two journalists, only one of whom would ask a difficult question. And he was cut short by the solicitor after three.

As soon as the Riverdale man appeared on the Falls Road the speculation began in West Belfast that the more senior Sinn Fein leaders would put in a public appearance having been uncharacteristically mute for some days. It was suggested that maybe the leadership was confident it had confused the grassroots long enough to have drawn the worst of the sting out of their restlessness and was now prepared to ‘lead’. With Scappaticci’s appearance having caused problems for those alleging that he was both Steak Knife and was already safely ensconced in a military base in England, Sinn Fein would be able to launch a counter offensive with an appearance at the hunger strike rally in the Ulster Hall.

The party president seemed to have this in mind when he took the podium. And there was no shortage of head nodders to repeat the mantra in a media vox pop that securocrats were behind the whole affair. Many journalists were reduced to laughter at this display of unity, feeling that the only people being conned were those repeating the mantra. One suggested that ‘even the DUP have more sense than this crowd.’ In any event the party game plan was to come unstuck. The broadside against the media from the Ulster Hall by the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams followed by his attempt to rile journalists at the opening of the West Belfast Taxi Association premises the following day, informing them that they were the real losers in the matter, merely spurred the media on to even greater efforts. Annoyed by the allegation from the Sinn Fein autocrat that they were the mere hacks of the spooks, the journalists have been fired up.

If the appearance by Scappaticci was to be the cross that would thwart the media vampire, it became the flame that drew the moth. This is simply a story that is unlikely to disappear. Republicans cannot expect to call for transparency on British state collusion and then put up a stop sign when that transparency threatens to invade our own furtive world.

Freddie Scappaticci back in Belfast and the IRA neither having killed him nor displayed an overt interest in him has created an image that the man is indeed the victim of a British security plot. But is the republican leadership covering up for an informer, hiding it from the grassroots in the hope that a commonality of interest with the British will lead to the thing dying out?

In a leadership-led movement the leadership are culpable for the decisions and choices it makes. But within republicanism the leadership wants to evade assuming responsibility for its actions. Despite Sinn Fein spinning on this matter growing numbers of republicans are privately expressing the view that the identity of Steak Knife has been at last disclosed. There is now a suspicion that the leadership is covering up the matter although why this should be so is far from certain. But there is a parallel. In 1972 after the post-Seamus Twomey leadership of the Belfast Brigade had struck a prestigious blow against the British military intelligence network in the city, a policy of disappearing alleged informers was introduced. The purpose seems to have been concealing the fact that the IRA itself had been penetrated. Today’s political climate doesn’t allow for a similar approach. For that reason Freddie Scappaticci is in Riverdale and not buried in the sands of some deserted beach. Disappearing the truth is more important than disappearing the person. Old habits die hard it seems.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
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in opposition, and
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Index: Current Articles

19 May 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Disappearing the Truth
Anthony McIntyre


The Undesirables
Pedram Moallemian


Shadowy Forces

Eamonn McCann


The Adventures of
Steak Knife
Brian Mór


The Death of Cu Chulainn
Brian Mór


Henri Lefebvre - French Marxist Humanist
Liam O Ruairc


What They Say
Annie Higgins


15 May 2003


Who Knew - Who Knows - Who Will Tell?
Anthony McIntyre


'Stakeknife' cuts both ways
Brendan O'Neill


Be neither shocked nor awed

Mick Finnegan


Stake Knife Logo
Brian Mór


SAS Stake Knife
Brian Mór


Super Stake Knife
Brian Mór


How Stakeknife paved way to defeat for IRA
Anthony McIntyre


'Palestine: It's hell'
IPSC Event




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