The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

On Whose Side: Stakeknife

Book Review

Mick Hall

When I fist received the email asking if I would write a review of the book Stakeknife, I was not keen. The books co-authors are People journalist Greg Harkin and 'Martin Ingram', a former member of the British Army in Ireland's Intel Unit, the Force Research Unit (FRU), writing under a pseudonym. Having already read the book I felt it contained little that has not been placed in the public record elsewhere and often in a far more interesting style. Although to be fair to the two authors of this book, they themselves have contributed a number of articles on this matter in newspapers such as the People, Sunday Times, Guardian, Irish News and Andersonstown News.

'Martin Ingram' is described in the book publisher's blurb, as a whistleblower. Maybe, but for all the accusations he makes in the book about informers, the British Army, the RUC Special Branch and the British security services that where running in the north of Ireland during the post 1969 troubles, those he makes concerning the man who has been publicly named by him as Stakeknife, Freddie Scappaticci, can at best, if we are to believe 'Ingram', be described as tittle tattle, more often than not seemingly gained second if not third hand. On what evidence does he name Scappaticci as the informer Stakeknife? It would have been easy to have concluded by much that has been written in the media about the Stakeknife affair that 'Ingram' himself was the Force Reaction Units handler of the PIRA source codenamed Stakeknife. One would however be mistaken in doing so. From the book it seems that all 'Ingram' claims to know about Stakeknife and his identity, he has learnt in conversations with his former FRU colleagues, some of whom actually did run Stakeknife, either in the office or in the Unit's bars, whilst winding down over a beer, after a hard day's work covertly organising murder and betrayal throughout the north eastern counties of Ireland and beyond via the agents/informers they ran.

As to 'Ingram's' professed motives for becoming a 'whistleblower', they seem to me pretty thin. He claims in the book he was out shopping with his wife and young daughter and he happened to wander into a bookshop and began flicking through the book Killing Rage, by former PIRA volunteer Eamon Collins. He brought the book and when back home he read the chapter that dealt with Collins' experiences with the IRA's Security Department (SD), in which he relates he was present when the then head of the said PIRA SD, John Joe Magee joked with his deputy, a man Collins knew as Scap, about the killing of an alleged informer. 'Ingram' claims reading this left him feeling sick to the pit of his stomach, as he knew the man named as Scap (full name Freddie Scappaticci), aka Stakeknife, the most important informer within PIRA then being run by his former colleagues within the British Army's FRU.

To me this seems improbable not to say plain silly. Soldiers of all armies are known for their gallows humour; it often helps them through difficult situations. For example amongst PIRA volunteers their security department was known as the nutting squad, for obvious reasons. Men and women who become whistleblowers sometimes have a host of often complicated reasons for becoming so. But I find it hard to believe that a professional soldier who had served over ten years in the British Army, the overwhelming majority of this time serving alongside Special Forces such as the SAS, would have a Damascus Road conversion against all he had held dear, loyalty to the regiment/corp, etc., because of a bit of banter the likes of which 'Ingram' would previously have heard on an almost daily basis in any British Army mess he visited for a drink. The FRU's closeness to Special Forces and separation from mainstream British Army Regiments is demonstrated by 'Ingram' himself in the book, when he writes that it is wholly sponsored and funded by the Director of Special Forces. However having stated the above, none of it makes what 'Ingram's' claims about the true identity of Stakeknife untrue nor calls into question anything else he writes in the book. It simple questions his motivation for doing so and means the reader should be wary and attempt to read between the lines by, if possible, checking other sources. This is not as difficult as it seems as I have previously said little of what is in the book is new to the public domain.

The more I read the book the more uncomfortable I became with 'Ingram's' decision and his publishers to allow him to write under a pseudonym. His real name is known to a number of journalists who specialise in writing about the north of Ireland, including Greg Harkin, his co-author on this book, and his former colleagues in the FRU and other sections of the British Army, plus the securocrats from the likes of MI5 who had a permanent desk within Force Reaction Unit's offices throughout the north of Ireland. There is also the UK police and members of the English and Irish judiciary who 'Ingram' would have come into contact with during various escapades, some of which he mentions in the book. In addition, certain southern Irish politicians who according to 'Ingram' championed his claim to Irish citizenship. It is not too far fetched to believe that as this list of people who know 'Ingram's' true identity is considerable, that a small number of very senior members of the Provisional Republican Movement may also have a clue as to his real name, although this is only speculation on my part. Indeed the only thing one can conclude about his true identity with any certainty is that the majority of readers of this book will not be able to deduce it.

It is all very well, some might say for me to condemn 'Ingram's' use of a pseudonym; 'Ingram' was after all once a member of the FRU, whose task was to fight an often vicious war over information with PIRA. Thus, even with the current ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement seemingly at the fore of the Provisional Movements strategy, would not the PIRA still target and attempt to kill 'Ingram'? Whilst not doubting their ability to do so if they so decided, I find this doubtful. Leaving aside for a moment the GFA and the political ramifications for the Adams leadership if PIRA did kill 'Ingram,' we should not lose sight of the fact that there is little evidence of PIRA targeting former British soldiers once they have left the island of Ireland and changed their employer. Nor, come to that, is there a great deal of evidence that PIRA spent much time targeting former members who had turned and become informers but managed on exposure to go abroad. Only when these individuals have behaved recklessly after being relocated abroad, like Marty McGartland, or returned home on a false promise of amnesty from a senior Provo, as Frank Hegarty appears to have done, do they find themselves going on their last walk down a dark country lane with the likes of Freddie Scappaticci walking a short step behind them.…

In recent years the two most powerful voices within the media speaking out against the current Provisional Republican Movement leadership have been left alone, at least physically by PIRA. Despite both men having made powerful critiques of the Adams leadership, Anthony McIntrye in his twice weekly internet magazine The Blanket, rages almost weekly against the Adam's leaderships lies, pettiness and personal ambition. The author of The Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney, in his book completely exposed the Adams leadership's manipulation of the IRA's Green Book of rules that all volunteers of whatever rank must abide by under pain of court martial and the political chicanery they also used against their own membership to enable them to force through the two ceasefires of the 1990's and gain their movement's support for the Good Friday Agreement. Indeed in the case of McIntrye whilst the Provos would undoubtedly like to see the back of him, it was the British State who eventually attempted to shut down his magazine by raiding his home and confiscating the means to produce the Blanket. All to no avail as the tenacious McIntrye and his closest supporter soon had the magazine back up on the net.

Unfortunately for 'Ingram' a benchmark was set for ex-securocrats who turn against their former masters by the former CIA man Phil Agee in the 1970s. In his book Inside the Company, Agee names all those CIA agents he then knew to be working in Central and South America, plus those he knew to be either CIA informers or paid agents of influence. He also listed many of the dastardly deeds, political coups and failed workers struggles the Company had been behind by quietly pulling the strings of their agents of influence, many of whom Philip Agee by exposing their names had consigned to the dustbin of history. Finally he names some of those in positions of influence back at CIA Centre in Langley, USA.

Contrast this with whistleblower 'Martin Ingram.' He does publish in the book some photos of his ex colleagues in the FRU, but their faces are all blacked out so they serve little purpose. The only personnel he does name is the likes of the FRU one time commanding officer whose name has been in the public domain for years. He cannot even bring himself to condemn the overall work of his former employers, saying that in his opinion over 99% of the FRU work was of value and therefore presumably in his own mind on the side of the angels. The only real conclusions one can draw as to why 'Ingrams' became a self proclaimed whistleblower is that one does not know; however I would bet my measly state pension that someone back at the head office of his former employers knows only too well, as they probably originally transcribed much of what went into this book, although without Harkin's knowledge, it is only fair to add. Who gains is the big question and even here the water is murky; however, one should not overlook when dealing with the security services the colour of the water often has relevance.

Does any of the above matter when one is judging the truth of what Harkin and 'Ingram' write? Leaving aside the identity of Stakeknife, most of everything else in the book can be verified against other reliable published sources. As to Freddie Scappaticci being Stakeknife the evidence is circumstantial, but in the north of Ireland circumstantial evidence has never stopped people being sentenced to life imprisonment nor having the back of their heads blasted off. What is clear the day Scappaticci decided to speak to the team from the TV programme the Cook Report and badmouth Martin McGuiness (transcript of the conversation pp69), whether he was an informer of the FRU at that time or not his goose was truly cooked. Whatever his then status with the British, he was an active high profile PIRA player and the tape of that conversation was bound to have passed over the desks of powerful people in the British security establishment to be listened to and marked, 'For future use.'

At the beginning of this review I wrote that I was not keen to write it when first asked. What changed my mind was that just after I received the email, the British Defence Minister Hoon appeared on my TV screen, pompously proclaiming with that smugness that appears to come quite naturally to such people that of course the British Army do things differently from their US allies in Iraq. They have had after all 30 years experience of keeping the peace in the north east of Ireland. What this means in reality is that at this moment in Iraq, someone who looks and sounds very much like 'Martin Ingram' or one of his former colleagues from his days as a member of the British army's FRU will be enticing some poor, possible stupid, greedy or just plain gullible Iraqi to betray members of his community, family, friends or fellow country men and women. His reward for so doing will apart for a handful of dinars, be a lifetime of fear of exposure, relocation to a place without familiar faces and those of loved ones, or if they are no longer an asset and of use to their new masters, they will be thrown away like any useless object to meet a brutal death in a Basra back ally or on the road out of some pipeline village. How I ask myself can 99% of such work be on the side of the angels?





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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

5 July 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Can You Hear Ho Chi Minh Laughing?
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia
David Adams

On Whose Side: Stakeknife
Mick Hall

Dogs and Lampposts
Anthony McIntyre

Towards a Republican Agenda for Scotland
Seamus Reader

30 June 2004

Flying the Flag
Dolours Price

The Police Process
Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA Prisoner Left "High and Dry"
Sean Mc Aughey

James Connolly and the Reconquest of Ireland
Liam O Ruairc

Venezuela 2004: Nicaragua's Contra War Revisited
Toni Solo


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