Government should pay for probe into Stakeknife murders, says David Ford
Northern Ireland's justice minister David Ford has called on the British Government to directly fund a murder investigation into the IRA's most senior security force informer.
The Army double agent was known as Stakeknife, a shadowy figure responsible for finding and killing those it believed passed information to the British security services during the Troubles. Freddie Scappaticci has strongly denied being the man behind the codename.
A police watchdog passed information to prosecutors after examining the circumstances of at least 24 murders attributed to Stakeknife's IRA "internal security team". It is thought the Army agent could ultimately be linked to twice that number of Troubles killings.
At the heart of victims' concerns is whether those deaths could have been prevented and whether collusion in murder penetrated to the top of the British Government.
Mr Ford told RTE the British Government, not the Stormont power-sharing administration, must pay for the investigation.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory QC, asked police to investigate potential offences committed by Stakeknife.
Recently, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it wanted to bring in detectives and staff from other UK police forces to investigate the activities of Stakeknife, given the size, scale and complexity of any investigation.
"Such an option would contribute towards community confidence and reduce the impact on the organisation's ability to provide a policing service today," the force said.
The investigation is expected to be one of the largest ever conducted in Northern Ireland into the activities of a single individual and could cost millions of pounds.
Former Met Police commissioner Lord Stevens led three government investigations into security force collusion.
Relatives of the victims have pressed for a fourth more comprehensive and independent probe or public inquiry.
Frank Mulhern, whose IRA member son Joe was discovered in 1993 in a ditch near the Irish border in Co Tyrone, with his body riddled by bullets, has said there needed to be an independent investigation by an international police force.
Mr McGrory requested two separate investigations, a probe of broad scope, seeking to examine the full range of potential offences that may have been committed by Stakeknife.
It will also include an investigation into any potential criminal activity that may have been carried out by security service agents, the senior law officer said.
A Northern Ireland Office spokeswoman said: "Any such investigation is a matter for the PSNI. It is the Department of Justice and the wider Northern Ireland Executive who have the responsibility for funding the PSNI.
"This is another reason why we need to build the necessary political consensus to deal with all aspects of Northern Ireland's past - and we believe we are closer to this than ever before.
"The Government has made it clear that there is an additional £150 million available over five years to support new bodies to be set up to investigate the past."