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IRA must clear names of Stakeknife's 'informer' victims with pardon, says ex-Provo

By Suzanne Breen

The IRA should issue “posthumous pardons” to all those killed by its security department on the watch of British agent Freddie Scappaticci, a former republican prisoner has said.

Anthony McIntyre last night said it would be hypocritical for republicans who campaigned against other miscarriages of justice to continue to rely on “corrupted and contaminated evidence”.

And he accused IRA and Sinn Fein leaders of engaging in a “massive cover-up” when Scappaticci was identified in the media as the top British agent Stakeknife.

Mr McIntyre was speaking after a BBC Panorama investigation linked Stakeknife to at least 18 murders.

A £35m inquiry — Operation Kenova — has been set up to investigate his activities.

The Ulster Unionist Party yesterday said that the inquiry, led by Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, would be “very uncomfortable” for senior Sinn Fein figures.

And the party warned that the probe must not be compromised for the sake of the peace process.

Scappaticci was identified in the media in 2003 as Stakeknife, the Army’s most senior known agent in the IRA. He has denied the allegation.

The Belfast bricklayer ran the IRA’s security department, known as the ‘nutting squad’, for over a decade while working for Army intelligence.

Former IRA member McIntyre, who knew Scappaticci, said that the Provisional leadership had “behaved disgracefully” after the spy had been unmasked.

“Like the Catholic Church hierarchy in sex abuse cases, the IRA leadership acted to protect themselves and their own reputations by covering up the truth about Stakeknife, rather than reaching out to help those who had been wronged,” he said.

“Stakeknife sent dozens of people to their deaths as alleged informers.

“Surely the IRA leadership is not going to continue to rely on the evidence of a British agent?

“Any case he was involved with is tainted beyond salvation.

“The evidence can’t be relied upon.”

Mr McIntyre said there should be a “posthumous pardon” for everyone killed by the IRA’s security department on Scappaticci’s watch.

“Republicans who were screaming about miscarriages of justice in the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cannot remain silent on this,” he added.

“Stakeknife’s involvement makes the verdict reached against dozens of men and women gravely unsafe. I’m thinking in particular of the executions of Charlie McIlmurray, Michael Kearney, Vincent Robinson and Anthony McKiernan.”

BBC Panorama reporter John Ware has claimed that when Scappaticci was outed by the media, he decided not to flee the country but instead met two senior IRA figures.

They reached “an understanding” that he would issue a firm denial that he was Stakeknife, which the Provisionals wouldn’t challenge.

After Stakeknife’s outing, the Sinn Fein PR machine also swung into action. Martin McGuinness denounced the “nameless, faceless securocrats” making outrageous allegations against the west Belfast man.

Gerry Adams said that he would “have to accept” Scappaticci’s claims of innocence and rebuked those journalists who had pursued the story.

Mr McIntyre said: “The IRA leadership, who put people down holes for the slightest misdemeanour, effectively colluded with a top British agent to cover up his nefarious role in the deaths of Irish citizens.

“Freddie Scappaticci continued to live in west Belfast and no senior Sinn Fein or IRA figure said a single bad word about him.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie yesterday said that the current investigation into Stakeknife’s activities would be “very uncomfortable for a number of senior republicans”.

He insisted that, if there was any “evidence of wrongdoing”, then those responsible must be brought before the courts.

“I sincerely hope that the Operation Kenova investigation into the activities of Stakeknife covers all angles, including looking at the inner workings of the republican movement,” Mr Beattie said. “It is crucially important that this investigation is allowed to proceed unhindered, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient that may be for Sinn Fein.

“In the past we have seen investigations dropped to facilitate the peace process. In terms of Stakeknife, it looks like the tentacles go right to the top of the republican movement in both the IRA and Sinn Fein.”

Mr Beattie said he had received reassurance from the Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory that the investigation would examine IRA structures “right up to Army Council level”.

The UUP man said that there must be a “clear and unambiguous statement” from Sinn Fein that it would co-operate with the inquiry.

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