An IRA Volunteer killed after he was accused of being an informer by the IRA’s internal security unit was later exonerated, the victim’s brother has revealed.
Michael Kearney was shot dead in 1979. His brother, Seamus, was told at the time that he was killed for informing.
Seamus has now revealed that the Provisional IRA later admitted that Michael never passed information to the authorities. His death is being linked to the British operation known as ‘Steak-Knife’ or ‘Stakeknife’. It is thought to be Britain’s codename for Freddie Scappaticci, who died in April, and who was a senior figure in the IRA unit.
RTE’s Prime Time spoke to Seamus Kearney, who gave an emotional interview regarding his brother’s death and subsequent events.
He recalled a priest visiting him in prison to tell him of his brother’s murder.
“I said: ‘Is Michael dead?’ He said: ‘Yes, he’s dead.’ And I said: ‘All I want to know is was it the British Army or the RUC?’ He said probably the worst news conceivable: ‘It wasn’t the British Army or the RUC. It was the Irish Republican Army,’” Seamus said.
“My legs buckled. I hit the chair and everything went into a spin in slow motion.”
Seamus said being branded an informer is a “terrible stigma”.
“It’s the worst stigma in the world to have been labelled an informer, especially on the island of Ireland,” he said.
Following Seamus’s release from prison in 1986, his mother, Kathleen, made him promise that he would find out if her son Michael really was an informer.
In 2001 he was able to persuade the Provisional IRA to conduct an internal investigation into his brother’s death in 2001.
In 2003 he was asked to go to a house in west Belfast, where two senior IRA men read out a prepared statement acknowledging that Michael was never an informer.
Speaking on an RTE documentary, lawyer Kevin Winters, who now represents many of Scappaticci’s alleged victims, said:
He said: “Justice here is to find not only the people who pulled triggers and killed individuals before a court, but also, significantly — and this is something that sometimes gets overlooked — the people who orchestrated and oversaw this mass process of an informant at the apex of British military intelligence inside the IRA, involved in killing people or overseeing the deaths of many, many people.”