Following the reported death of Freddie Scappaticci, Anthony McIntyre recalls the bitter divisions over the ‘Stakeknife’ allegations that the head of the Provisional IRA’s Internal Security Unit was a British agent. For The Pensive Quill.
Much of the coverage in the wake of the death of Freddie Scappaticci, focussed on how the Provisional Movement sought to cover up for the executioner in its own ranks as well as in the pay of the British state.
Scappaticci killed the same people on behalf of both the IRA and the FRU. That never stopped him denying his role as a British agent. Those denials came to be viewed in similar fashion to those of one of his bosses, Gerry Adams, who has consistently denied being a member of the IRA. The Interahamwe of the Rwandan genocide was translated as we who kill together. I wonder if a single word exists for we who lie together.
Twenty years have passed since Freddie Scappaticci’s Provisional colleagues and their friends rushed to his aid making claims that now look embarrassingly ridiculous. Vociferous then, Scap’s little helpers, large ones too, are silent today about their role in the cover up. If they mention Scap it is to finger point at the Brits, in this matter confirming the validity of the old maxim that when you point a finger there are always three pointing back.
Yet some people were taken in by the nonsense generated by the leadership lie machine. Seamus Kearney recounted his experience of meeting people who accused him of being a dissident, regurgitating smears against a veteran republican. A former O/C of Cage 11 featured in the letters page of the Andersonstown News signalling his virtue: he proclaimed to the world that he was going to believe Scap before me. One ex-prisoner I met at a funeral told me I had been taken in by the lies of sleazy securocrats. A former Sinn Fein Belfast Lord Mayor berated me on the Falls Road one evening. He wanted me to know that I was a disgrace. In all three cases I knew history would come to view them as the three stooges rather than the three wise men.
One of the funniest stories told to me was from a West Belfast bar when a documentary covering the Stakeknife affair was aired. Bastard, two Sinn Fein members were heard shouting at the screen. When the barmaid said yeah, Scap, the men said no, that bastard McIntyre. Such was the mist of derangement that had descended from Connolly House and Sevastopol Street to envelop the Sinn Fein constituency. At the time it was like living in a surreal Kafaesque world where people so convinced by the nonsense they had been fed were succumbing to the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
The anti-intellectual milieu which made this abandonment of reason possible was cranked into service by the Provisional spin & spoof secretariat. Like the Catholic Church when confronted with the pervasiveness of paedophilia within its ranks, Sinn Fein closed its own ranks. The online journal The Blanket edited by my wife, and for which I wrote frequently, was a voice in the wilderness punching holes in the false narrative manufactured to both serve Scappaticci and salvage the political careers of others, some of whom as Army Council figures had signed off on his actions.
The then Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, in accepting Scappaticci’s denial, sought to smother the efforts of investigative journalism to expose one of Britain’s lethal allies, stating that for their endeavours the media were losers who “had a big job of work to be done … to redeem yourselves.”
The disseminators of malign influence were at it as well. Denis Donaldson was telling the press that “I still can’t believe it . . My God.” His fellow envoy, Danny Morrison, claimed that the allegations were: bizarre and without any proof. Until proven otherwise I’m very sceptical about stories which emanate from sources of British military intelligence.
But even Danny Morrison had difficulty believing Danny Morrison as was demonstrated by his own claim that thirteen years prior to his professed scepticism, the IRA had provided him with a version of events about Scappaticci which he believed.
The Andersonstown News did not cover itself in glory, engaging in what one of its own journalists at the time would later describe as a farcical cover up. In a piece of non-investigative journalism, it scooped an interview with Scappaticci in which it represented him rather than the community it was meant to serve. It simply never asked him one challenging question, for which it has been scorned ever since.
Poor as that was, there were even lower depths to be reached elsewhere. A piece in An Phoblacht by Adam O’Toole from the Fawlty Towers School of Journalism remains peerless for the stupidity it served up. If ever a writer went on a search and destroy his own reputation mission, this was it.
The thing about nonsense is that it never takes long for it all to come tumbling down in the face of sustained rigorous critique, while the reputations of those responsible for churning it out can sometimes never recover.