The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents In Ireland.
By Martin Ingram & Greg Harkin. O’Brien Press.
ISBN: 0-86278-843-9
Anthony McIntyre • Fortnight, April 2004

This book has been long awaited. Since 1999 when allusions to a senior British agent operating in the highest echelons of the IRA, began to filter into public discourse, unease mixed with fascination has permeated the psyche of the republican constituency. Many believed and some hoped that once Stakeknife was unmasked it would reveal a high profile politician. Uninformed critics of the Sinn Fein leadership harboured hopes that from within its midst a prestigious figure and formidable advocate of the peace process would be dragged shouting, screaming and lying into the public spotlight. Others more inclined to read Ed Mooney, and therefore more attuned to the background, appreciated that such a ‘sensational’, if it were to materialise, would be for another day. When the outing came last May, name recognition for Freddie Scappaticci hardly registered amongst the uninitiated.

In the days following the public revelation Scappaticci managed to beguile a sizeable section of republican opinion. While assisted in this by some weak journalism, a more substantial source of succour came from the Sinn Fein leadership, which, in uncharacteristic fashion, decided that those accused of working for the other side should be provided with a solicitor rather than a unit from the IRA’s internal security department. But as the months dragged by, and despite shrill attempts by some subservient local hacks to bounce their readers into believing the story had died within a week of it first appearing, there were few prepared to wager even a small bet that ‘Scap’ was the innocent victim of a ‘securocrat’ conspiracy. What residual sympathy remained for him is likely to be torpedoed by the publication of Stakeknife.

Jointly written by The People’s Northern editor Greg Harkin and former British Army agent handler Martin Ingram, the book sets out to chart Scappaticci’s career as Britain’s most important ‘civil servant’ in the North. It contains little that is new. One of the authors, Greg Harkin, has extensively covered the detail elsewhere. Ingram’s imprimatur is what lends the book its explosive authenticity. Once the darling of elements within the nationalist press for his exposure of British- loyalist collusion, allegations by him of similar activity between the British and republicans cannot be lightly dismissed.

An immediate deficiency in the book is the lack of documented evidence. Nothing that a forensic mind could work with is forthcoming. Yet the authors provide an entirely plausible explanation for this – British security personnel, out of pure self-interest destroyed anything that could prove detrimental to their man’s wellbeing. And the circumstantial case against Scappaticci is powerful. All the leads point in only one direction. While the existence of taped recordings of the former numero uno head hunter talking to journalists from the Cook Report team do not prove Scap is an agent, his denials that he ever met the journalists prove that on the matter of compromising IRA security he is unworthy of belief.

In circumstances where the republican grassroots were to behave as something other than blind adherents to the leadership line, this book would lead many of them to confront their leaders with difficult questions. Not least of all why the leadership strata would seek to cover up for one of its own, when it was clear that all was not rosy in the garden husbanded by Scappaticci. The most plausible reason for such a cover up is the self-serving one of public-image. For decades the leadership liked to cultivate the myth that it had directed the most professional and efficient guerrilla army the western world had played host to. And for it to admit that the man it entrusted with the security of its organisation and the lives and freedom of its volunteers was a senior agent of the British state, would leave it to carry the mark of Cain. That leadership in suggesting Scap was a victim was not in fact covering for him, but for itself, its incompetence and bungling - which was anything but professional and efficient.

Those put to the sword on Scappaticci’s watch – the book claims there were 35 – can no longer be regarded as the collaborators the republican leadership alleged them to be. Undoubtedly some were, but an army council that gave the nod for people to be killed on the basis of information provided to it by a British agent itself carries much more culpability than the people it despatched to early graves.

Some still ask if Scap was so dangerous a tout why is he still alive? That answer to that question will be debated and mulled over for some time to come. But what ethical justification would the republican leadership have for doing to him what it and he colluded in doing to so many others? After all, did he not hanker after the very things the leadership sought? Affluence, a house in another jurisdiction, divesting the IRA of its guns, and the ultimate dissolution of the IRA. No, Freddie Scappaticci should not be killed – he should be on the Sinn Fein negotiating team.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

16 April 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Two Codes of Ignoble Submission
Kathleen O'Halloran


32CSM Easter Oration, Derry
Marian Price


Threat to Dissident...?
J. Doherty


Another Recruit
Brian Mór


R = PB -C
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain


The Public, Private and Academic Partnership:
Towards a New Paradigm of Public Protection

Terry O'Neill


Anthony McIntyre


"Colombia-US Free Trade Treaty - far more than trade"
Emilio Sardi (with reflections by Toni Solo)


11 April 2004


Easter 2004, Arbour Hill, Dublin
Francis Mackey


Good Friday to Easter Sunday, 2 Days and Light Years
Anthony McIntyre


Is there a Republican Alternative to the Good Friday Agreement?
Gerry Ruddy


Bail For Sale - Nationalists Need Not Apply
Anthony McIntyre


Is the British State Neutral?
Liam O Ruairc


Lost Sheep or Shepherd?

Tom Luby


A Person I Admire
Miss O'Dee


Lerner, Said and the Palestinians
M. Shahid Alam




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