A row has broken out among republicans in Belfast over the impact of infiltration by informers in the aftermath of the apparent exposure of another highly-placed double agent within the Provisional IRA.
The row began when former Sinn Fein director of publicity Danny Morrison unexpectedly claimed that double agent Freddie Scappaticci was stood down from the organisation in 1990 under suspicion that he was an informer, long before many of the killings which he has been accused of being involved in.
In a blog post, he sought to play down the damage done to the IRA by the agent known as ‘Stakeknife’. He said that while the directing of informers at a high level by the British government had been “immoral” and had caused “ordinary suffering and long-lasting grief”, it had “never deflected the course of Irish history”
He said he did not believe allegations about Scappaticci’s activities in the 1990s and his alleged involvement in the arrest and interrogations of suspected informers, or telling relatives about the killings of their loved ones.
“I do not believe this to be true,” he wrote. “The IRA told me that Scappaticci was redundant after 7th January 1990.”
The new claims by the former Sinn Fein spokesman contrast sharply with the previous statements of party figures, including Morrison himself, who expressed doubt about the allegations against Scappaticci when they surfaced in 2003. They came just days after the PSNI said they plans to bring an outside police force in to investigate the activities of ‘Stakeknife’.
But a former IRA prisoner, once jailed alongside Morrison, has disputed the claims.
Gerard Hodgins said the first he knew Scappaticci was a British agent was when he was outed in the media in 2003.
Mr Hodgins said; “There was never any word sent in to the prison that Scap had been stood down and never any suggestion he’d been the informer in our case.
“When the news about Scap did eventually break I read it in the paper like everyone else, it was a bit of a relief to finally know because I’d always been sure that there was at least one informer involved.
“I’ve no idea why these claims are only surfacing now, but you can be sure someone, somewhere has decided it would be politically advantageous to claim Scap was out of the loop by 1990,” he added.
Amid claims that up to twenty IRA figures were exposed as agents by the papers taken from Castlereagh, Sinn Fein has come under pressure to reveal what the party knows about the level of penetration of the republican movement by informers.
Scappaticci is reported to be living in England under a false identity. Although the PSNI have said he is to be investigated for his alleged role in more than two dozen killings, he has never been arrested. Last Friday a court heard claims by the authorities that there was no money to fund the investigation.
Kevin Winters who represents a number of families, including that of Caroline Moreland, allegedly killed by Scappaticci in 1994 amid accusations she was an informer, said the families are frustrated by the delays and excuses.
“We will be back in the High Court in February as part of the challenge taken by the family of Caroline Moreland at which time we expect details of what steps have been taken to resource a fully independent investigation”, Mr Winters said.