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Ex-officer probing IRA agent shouldn't attend Troubles legacy talks, says Mike Nesbitt


Mike Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt

A former senior police officer investigating the activities of an IRA double agent accused of murdering dozens of people should reconsider his decision to attend the Lambeth Palace Troubles legacy talks, it has been claimed.

Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Mike Nesbitt MLA believes Jon Boutcher, who heads the Operation Kenova investigation into Stakeknife, should reconsider his involvement in any further such talks.

A meeting was held on November 2 at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss a report into how legacy issues from the Troubles should be handled, and other matters.

But the meeting has angered relatives of victims as none of their representative were present, or even knew it had taken place until details emerged last week. "I was very surprised to hear that Jon Boutcher had attended the Lambeth Palace legacy talks given the position that he holds in heading up Operation Kenova," said Mr Nesbitt.

Mr Nesbitt noted that Mr Boutcher leads an "independent team to conduct the investigation into a range of activities surrounding an alleged individual codenamed Stakeknife".

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, who led the IRA's 'nutting squad' that rooted out and killed informers for many years, has been widely reported to be Stakeknife, though he denies the allegations.

"Jon Boutcher came to the Policing Board recently and stressed how victim-centred he was in how he approaches his work, yet he was part of a group which met at Lambeth Palace to discuss legacy that starkly did not include victims," the Strangford MLA said.

He said he would ask Mr Boutcher to "make clear whether he will be participating in future talks".

Two of those who organised the meeting - Derry City Centre manager Jim Roddy and Rev Harold Good, a former president of Ireland's Methodist Church - described it is a "seminar" to discuss a report on legacy matters by Queen's University academic Kieron McEvoy, who also attended.

In a statement, the two insisted no political parties were invited, though it was attended by former IRA prisoner Sean Murray, a member of Sinn Fein, and former UVF leader Winston Irvine. Veterans' commissioner Danny Kinahan and representatives of the UK and Irish governments also attended.

The statement read: "Following the presentations, there was a useful discussion between the participants on the contents of the research."

Mr Roddy and Rev Good said the meeting was a continuation of "serious conversations relating to legacy and our troubled past".

"We did not invite political parties to this seminar as discussions between the parties are the responsibilities of the two governments and the parties themselves."

One group, Innocent Victims United said it was "maddening" to be excluded.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie MLA said any future talks on legacy should include victims of terrorism.

"Terrorist victims who opposed the Stormont House Agreement since its inception have been disgracefully ignored," he said.

Belfast Telegraph