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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
StakeKnife - Shock and Awe.

Anthony McIntyre • May 11, 2003

In a welter of media activity today’s papers made the codename Stakeknife synonymous with that of a former republican prisoner, Freddie Scappaticci. Despite briefings by British state security personnel that Freddie Scappaticci had been spirited away to the safety of some British military base, the man at the centre of today’s media frenzy was still reported to be in Belfast on Saturday. Ironically, one of the papers making the allegations against him provided interview and photographic evidence that he had not yet fled the city.

Much of the parrying of the media thrust from the republican perspective has been conducted by Danny Morrison. His approach has been prudently governed by caution. He has expressed reluctance to accept media claims that Stakeknife has been definitively unmasked until substantial evidence is forthcoming. Few could fault him for that. His hesitancy is based on experience of the media which in the past alleged that a West Belfast republican, Con McHugh, was engaged in an English bombing campaign when it was conclusively demonstrated that McHugh had in fact been signing on the dole in Belfast. Morrison cannot be accused of evasiveness by his use of such evidence. My own response was exactly the same when asked earlier about the Stakeknife allegations - I too referred to the case of Con McHugh. And it can hardly be suggested that myself and Morrison worked out an agreed line on the matter. We are not in contact with each other. Nor do our views on the general state of republicanism coalesce. Our shared view on this matter has been shaped by a republican experience of the media having in the past been improperly eager to engage in speculation without consideration to the facts of a particular case or concern for the consequences of ‘name and shame.’

In other briefings to the media Sinn Fein have been attempting to minimise the significance of Freddie Scappaticci. Additionally, the RM Distribution described him as an ‘unfamiliar individual.’ Seemingly, if press interviews with republicans throughout the North are to be believed, this has not offset the ‘shock and awe’ experienced by them at the possibility of the IRA having been so extensively compromised by the existence of Stakeknife, whoever he is, within its ranks. Nevertheless, Danny Morrison appears to have taken considerable solace from the dismissal of Scappaticci’s relevance when he claimed that the man alleged to be Stakeknife was not close to the leadership of Sinn Fein. Morrison’s concern here is prompted by a desire to protect Sinn Fein from unsubstantiated insinuations that Stakeknife was one of its leaders who was central to guiding the party’s peace strategy. There is no evidence to suggest that Morrison is anything other than right on this matter.

But, unfortunately, from the point of view of the republican leadership, this is a hurdle that is not going to be easily crossed, shaken off and left behind in the distance. In their considerations it matters not that Freddie Scappaticci may be the much maligned victim of media sensationalism and could in fact be totally blameless. Of greater concern is a growing public belief that Stakeknife has been central to the IRA’s internal security department for the best part of two decades.

Strategically positioned in such a commanding height Stakeknife would have had unmitigated access to the innermost workings of the IRA. His ability to inflict havoc on the organisation’s structural integrity and its military capacity would have been unparalleled. His information, passed as it is alleged to have been, to the British cabinet would have enabled the latter to formulate a dual track strategy aimed at emasculating the IRA while simultaneously encouraging political movement in a direction conducive to British state designs rather than republican political objectives. In this perspective, running Stakeknife was integral to the overall British game plan of managing their end of the peace process. When republicans confidently assert that Stakeknife was not part of the republican management of the Sinn Fein peace strategy, they are most likely right. Yet they miss the point. He did not have to constitute a physical presence in the ‘think tank’ nor function as an intellectual lynchpin of its strategy - his information and the people to whom he imparted it were all that was required to effectively constrain Sinn Fein and narrow down the party’s options.

Those critics of the republican leadership who are tempted to hope that the allegations pertaining to Stakeknife may cause incalculable and insurmountable problems for it will be disappointed. Despite the potentially devastating effect on IRA morale the leadership will weather the storm both in terms of its peace strategy and its own hegemony within republicanism. Where it will face difficulties is in the serious embarrassment resulting from accusations that the British state in collusion with a senior republican operative engaged in activities that led to the deaths of many people including IRA volunteers. Can the party continue to occupy the moral high ground afforded it as a result of the demands it has made on the British for transparency on matters of undoubted collusion in the deaths of people like Pat Finucane and at the same time thwart or fail to support similar demands for clarity when the victims were killed by the IRA?

The families of many IRA volunteers including those executed for allegedly informing will have every reason to demand explanations. Can it now be said with any certainty that they were not the expendable victims of British state strategy who were put to death or set up for death by a British agent deep within the heart of the IRA? It is an appalling vista but one which the republican leadership cannot be allowed to approach with eyes wide shut.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
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Index: Current Articles

11 May 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Stakeknife - Shock and Awe.
Anthony McIntyre


In the name of womanhood

Michael Youlton


Brendan Hughes


Death Threats and Harassment by the RUC/PSNI
Joe Dillon


Election Delay Shows Dubious Democracy
Eamon Lynch


8 May 2003


Volunteer Patricia McKay
Brendan Hughes


Death of Barbara Reilly

The Clinton Family


Republicans and the Protestant Working Class
Gerry Ruddy


Suicide is Painless?
Sean Smyth


The Politics of the Undecidable
Liam O Ruairc


Patriotism Polluting Journalism
Anthony McIntyre


At the Theatre

Annie Higgins




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