The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Who Knew - Who Knows - Who Will Tell?
In a nation where hypocrisy is rewarded, expect more lies
- Robert Steinback

Anthony McIntyre • May 15, 2003

The nature of Freddie Scappaticci’s relationship to the British state security services remains a source of contention. Whether agent or victim the debate rages on. For the most part, only those who handled the man that penetrated the IRA on behalf of the British state and those they reported to, know for certain the identity of the agent. Unless of course the IRA already knew his identity, debriefed him some time ago and have remained silent since - a bit like the British did in the case of Anthony Blunt. The rest of us can merely speculate on the identity. And regardless of what position we may take on the issue, ultimately the debate is largely generated and continues to be fuelled by promptings, leaks or briefs from British security personnel. As a measure of our continuing uncertainty on the matter the journalist Ed Moloney has today reminded us that even the commonly used spelling of the agent’s codename S-t-a-k-e-k-n-i-f-e is incorrect, it in fact being Steak Knife. Until such times as proven otherwise, Freddie Scappaticci - like anyone in a similar predicament - may, formally at any rate, be given the benefit of whatever doubt there is.

The media, so confident that they had their man, zeroed in on their quarry with a gusto. At times it seemed they had thrown caution to the wind and were prepared to risk their insurance against libel in an almost frenzied onslaught. While Sinn Fein’s Arthur Morgan alone seemed to believe that Freddie Scappaticci was at his home on Monday evening eating dinner, the appearance of the alleged agent at his solicitor’s office yesterday afternoon in full view of BBC cameras has, in the words of David McKittrick, 'confounded those who thought he had been spirited to Britain by the authorities to escape a vengeful IRA.’ It has helped persuade many that the British military sources informing some journalists have been lying through their teeth when claiming that Scappaticci was in a secure military base in Britain. In turn those eager to rubbish claims that Stakeknife is Freddie Scappaticci are able to point to the claims that he is in fact the spy at the heart of the IRA, as having their origins in the same dubious sources.

None of this should be allowed to infringe on public debate. It merely underlines the need to approach the matter with prudence. Getting the core but tripping on the peripherals provides the blur which compromises the clarity. While I do not know for certain the identity of Stakeknife there is little doubt that such an agent does exist. We can afford to ignore the nests of self-important liars who infest the British security services - Thiepval barracks did not acquire its status as the Lisburn Lie Machine on the basis of its reputation for honesty. These barroom braggers seem more concerned with inflating their own standing in the eyes of journalists as men at the epicentre of great system shaking events rather than being the purveyors of mess hall tittle-tattle.

More persuasive than anything the spooks may float is the following: Geoff Hoon the British Defence Secretary, for the past three years persistently pushed a series of ‘extraordinary’ gagging attempts on media exposure of the Force Research Unit and its agent in the IRA. Hugh Orde, boss of the renamed RUC, has informed the Notorantonio family that Stakeknife exists. John Stevens had stated that he intends to interview the agent. Martin Ingram, who recently gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry that would have been beneficial to the position of Martin McGuinness, has long confirmed the existence of Stakeknife. Bertie Ahern told the Irish Dáil, “I am afraid to say it but there appear to be two individuals with similar titles."

We can be assured that every possible angle was considered by the British state in order to find a way to deny the existence of the agent and ultimately it was impossible to square the circle. The Stevens inquiry has met serious obstacles along the way, so it is unlikely that Stevens or Orde are going to add insult to injury by burning their own office containing files on the matter as a means to retrieve the situation for Stakeknife.

The British state has many questions to answer arising from the events of the past week. But to allow this line of investigation to become the sole narrative would be as disingenuous as it would be self-serving for those who wish to avoid accountability and responsibility for their own shortcomings in this affair.

That Sinn Fein do not want to talk to Freddie Scappaticci - a man described by David McKittrick as ‘a stalwart of the Republican Movement’ - defies credulity. When did the party ever accept willy nilly a man’s word that he was not an informer? That party leaders are not to be seen flanking him as he denounces British dirty tricks invites many questions, not least of all when did they first become aware of the allegations against Scappaticci? Those commentators who at present are trying to publicly distance the republican leadership from the Stakeknife saga may themselves have questions to answer at a future date, if it transpires that they were consciously part of a cover up.

Many republicans on the ground are not happy with the manner in which the republican leadership has responded to the events of the past week, something underlined by an event today. Three media figures - Greg Harkin, Rosie Cowan and Derek Henderson - made a spirited defence of the accuracy of the media’s claims on BBC’s Talkback this afternoon, making today’s lame critique of their position in a West Belfast newspaper look pathetic. Republicans on the ground who heard their account and with whom I spoke described it as ‘brilliant’, ‘powerful’, ‘compelling.’ They want answers and the longer they go without them on a nudge nudge wink wink basis, the more their suspicions are roused.

Gerry Kelly is to be supported in his call for British military intelligence to release all the files they contain. These files pertain to the deaths of nationalist and republicans. But even if the British were to respond positively, they alone can not provide the answers. The gaps, of which there may be many, need to be filled in by republicans. There is little appetite for yet another fudge of the type embedded in the logic of Jim Gibney who proclaims:

Give me the language of ambiguity. It has served the people of this country well over the last ten years. It has oiled the engine of the peace process. Long may it continue to do so.



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
many years of my life
in opposition, and
I rather like the role.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Index: Current Articles

15 May 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


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


11 May 2003


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




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to: