The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #59844   Message #959366
Posted By: GUEST,.gargoyle
26-May-03 - 02:03 PM
Thread Name: BS: Stakeknife - Is He?
Subject: RE: BS: Stakeknife - Is He?
To help the UK-challenged understand - this is excerpted from The Guardian, Irish Times, The Observer, and The Sydney Morning Herald.

The political and media storm whipped up by the Stakeknife affair has been so intense that it's hard to see far ahead or at all clearly. What look like people turn out to be trees and what looks like truth turns out to be lies. Some believe Stakeknife is as real as the toothfairy.

The identification of a supposed British mole, codenamed "Stakeknife", high in the ranks of the IRA makes the road to a Northern Ireland settlement even longer.

Scappaticci's dual life began in 1978, several years into his career as an IRA activist and after a stint of internment in the early '70s, during which he met and befriended Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader. But knowing Adams was no guarantee of protection.

With the British and IRA locked in virtual civil war, the republican movement kept rigid internal discipline, often handing out punishment beatings. In 1978 Scappaticci, known as Scap, suffered a severe bashing after a falling out with a senior republican. Humiliated, he immediately turned himself over as an informer to get even.

Eventually, he was reportedly being paid £80,000 ($200,000) a year to tell the British about the IRA's plans. He was well placed. By the early '80s, he had become deputy head of the IRA's feared Nutting Squad - the unit which dealt with suspected informers - and it is from here his reputation, influence and access to key IRA information came. In his book, Killing Rage, Eamon Collins, a former member of the Nutting Squad eventually murdered by the IRA, recalls talking to Scappaticci about his modus operandi.

"I asked whether they always told people that they were going to be shot. Scap said it depended on the circumstances. He turned to John Joe [his boss, John Joe Magee] and started joking about one informer who had confessed after being offered an amnesty. Scap told the man he would take him home, reassuring him he had nothing to worry about. Scap had told him to keep the blindfold on for security reasons as they walked from the car.

"'It was funny,' he [Scap] said, 'watching the bastard stumbling and falling, asking me as he felt his way along railings and walls, 'Is this my house now?' and I'd say, 'No, not yet, walk on some more ... 'and then you shot the f---er in the back of the head,' said John Joe, and both of them burst out laughing."

Estimates vary, but Scappaticci has been implicated in up to 40 murders, mostly of suspected IRA informers, during the '80s and early '90s including former FRU agents, Aidan Starrs, Greg Burns and John Dignam, and Thomas Oliver, a farmer from the Irish Republic. His murder - and Stakeknife's involvement in it - will be the subject of discussion between London and Dublin. (The Irish Government does not take too kindly to having its citizens shot by spies working for another, supposedly friendly country.

Mostly young family men with children, informers were seized by the Nutting Squad, and tortured for a confession before being shot, their bodies dumped on the border. The confessions provided useful information for the British security forces.

The exposure of Stakeknife's identity - believed to have been prompted by a compensation dispute between the British and a former soldier who infiltrated the IRA - has come at a bad time for the peace process and the IRA.

By exposing a mole so close to the centre of the IRA, and whose links to the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, stretch back 30 years, the affair has given renewed voice to dissident republicans, such as the Real IRA, who are vehemently opposed to the 1998 Good Friday agreement, the basis for the province's now suspended power-sharing government.

One key political question for all parties in the peace process is how much the current British Government knew about Stakeknife's operations.

Reports suggest that his information was certainly passed around the cabinet table during Margaret Thatcher's and John Major's days but possibly not Tony Blair's, as by then Scappaticci was either in semi or full retirement. But this remains to be seen.

If Blair has been aware of Stakeknife's actions, it will cast a dark shadow over the bona fides of the British Government's push for peace and its key players.

Scappaticci knows the price an informer pays if unmasked - torture and death. In 1991 his name emerged during the trial of former Sinn Fein publicity director Danny Morrison. Morrison and several other men were found guilty of kidnapping IRA informer Sandy Lynch. During their trial. Lynch gave evidence about Scappaticci's warning during an interrogation.

Lynch told the court: 'He [Scappaticci] said that if I did not admit to being a tout [informer], I'd get a jab in the arse and wake up in South Armagh and he'd be able to talk to me the way he wanted, hung upside down in a cattle shed. He said that it didn't matter about me screaming because no one could hear.'

But it is the claim that the IRA's alleged chief spy-catcher was himself a spy that has proved the most shattering blow to the Provisionals' morale. One former IRA prisoner quipped last week that he kept meeting former comrades who confessed they never knew Scappattici.

Adams and the leadership have spent the past week trying to calm down their supporters, arguing that the saga is an invention of British intelligence using dirty tricks to undermine the peace process.

The affair is uncannily similar to Le Carre's 1963 Cold War tale, The Spy who Came in from the Cold, in which British intelligence send an agent to discredit and destroy an East German masterspy, Mundt. But the real aim is to sacrifice a genuine communist functionary, setting him up as the spy inside the Stasi to protect Mundt. It is Mundt - the Stasi spycatcher - who turns out to be the agent.

Many are now wondering if Scappaticci is the IRA's Mundt or the sacrificial lamb put into the glare of publicity to protect a more important agent inside the Provisionals.