Stakeknife details emerge in state papers
Stakeknife details emerge in state papers


Sinn Féin was aware the organisation had been infiltrated by a top-ranking British agent during peace process negotiations with the British government, according to declassified papers released this year.

British double agent ‘Stakeknife’ carried out murders of innocent civilians with the support of the Crown authorities in order to conceal his treachery from the Provisional IRA, previously confidential state files confirmed.

They also reveal that is was known by Sinn Féin negotiator Gerry Kelly in 2000 that there was a high-placed British agent who who was “prominent in the peace process”.

Freddie Scappaticci, whose death was reported last April, was named in 2003 as the agent known as Stakeknife and who was forced to flee the north of Ireland.

Secret papers released in Dublin as part of state archives noted in 2000 that British intelligence were concerned that the revelations about Stakeknife could “dwarf” the scandal over the assassination of human rights lawyer, Rosemary Nelson.

“British intelligence are reportedly fearful that this disclosure could dwarf the Rosemary Nelson scandal ... Gerry Kelly of Sinn Féin has described the disclosure as extremely serious,” according to one file.

The Department of Justice papers revealed the relatives of murder victims Tom Oliver and ­Francisco Notarantonio feared there had been collusion in the case of both killings linked to Scappaticci. Another linked Scappaticci directly to the killing of three other men in 1992 – Gregory Burns, Aidan Starr and John Dignam.

Mr Oliver, a Louth farmer and a father of seven, was killed by the IRA’s internal security unit in 1991 amid allegations, now known to be false, that he had been passing information to the police.

Allegations have mounted over the years that he was tortured and killed by Scappaticci to conceal his identity as a double agent from the IRA.

Mr Notarantonio, who was detained on the British prison ship during internment in the early 1970s, was shot dead by a UDA unionist death squad in his west Belfast home in 1987. The murder has also been linked to Scappaticci, with reports the pensioner was targeted by the authorities in order to preserve their agent due to the fact he also had an Italian origin name.

Confidential files reported that then Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams wrote to then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on January 18, 2001, asking him to meet with the Notarantonio family.

A briefing note dated April 3, 2001, stated: “We discussed the allegations that Francisco Notarantonio was killed on the basis of false information given to [the UDA] by members of the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) to divert the UDA from a planned assassination of the FRU’s top agent in the IRA, Stakeknife.”

Mr Notarantonio’s daughter Charlotte confirmed at the time she had also met with senior members of the British establishment about her father’s killing.

She revealed that in December 2000 she had met the Stevens collusion inquiry which confirmed both the existence of Stakeknife and that “that there was collusion in her father’s murder but that there was nothing in ‘black and white’”.

But the family has always believed that clear evidence did exist, contained in the files of Stakeknife’s handlers. At one meeting, Charlotte described the murder of her father as a “state-sponsored execution” of a totally innocent man and said she knew who his loyalist killers were.

Operation Kenova was launched in 2016 to investigate the activities of Stakeknife. Last month, the North’s Public Prosecution Service announced there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute 16 people who had been investigated as part of the inquiry.

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