NORTHERN IRELAND: More evidence of state-sponsored terrorism



There have been more sensational revelations about British state-sponsored terrorism in Northern Ireland following the publication on April 17 of an official report — by Metropolitan Police chief Sir John Stevens — that found that British army agents were directly involved in the killing of civil rights lawyer Patrick Finucane in 1989.

More evidence has come to light which shows that the level of British security service infiltration and dominance within Loyalist terrorist groups in Northern Ireland was of staggering proportions.

Stevens' revelations prompted Tom McGurk, writing in the April 20 Irish Sunday Business Post, to conclude that "almost all of the Loyalist paramilitary activity over the last 30 years was largely, secretly and carefully controlled and organised by British intelligence".

The Stevens' Report identified a man called Brian Nelson as being instrumental in the killing of Finucane in 1989. Nelson was an agent for British intelligence.

On April 20, the British Observer named Ned Greer as another British spy who was "at the helm of a death squad". Greer was a member of the army's Force Research Unit (FRU) operating within the terrorist Ulster Defence Association. Greer passed information to the UDA and used to select leading republicans to be killed. These killings included local councilor Eddie Fullerton in May 1991 and Padraig O Seanachain in August 1991.


Following the Greer revelation, several reputable Irish newspapers in late April named Northern Ireland resident Alfredo Scappaticci as being a British agent within the Irish Republican Army, codenamed "Stakeknife". Scappaticci, who rose to the top echelons of the IRA in his 25-year career, is accused of being involved in the killing of up to 40 people, all with British government approval. This included the assassination of three unarmed republicans in 1988 by an undercover SAS hit squad in Gibraltar (a British protectorate).

Stakeknife's victims are said to have included civilians and members of the British Army, killed to protect his cover. There is no 007-like "license to kill" in British or Irish law which allows British agents to kill like this. Stakeknife was a state-sponsored serial murderer.

However, Scappaticci's identification as Stakeknife may be an elaborate British counter-intelligence propaganda operation. Anonymous British "officials" have "confirmed" that Scappaticci is Stakeknife. However, the May 15 British Guardian reported that the journalists who first identified Stakeknife are now saying that there have been so many conflicting stories "riddled with spin and black propaganda" from so many official sources that it is now difficult to know who is telling the truth. Scappaticci denies that he is Stakeknife.

The timing of the identification of Stakeknife by British authorities came within days of the unilateral cancellation by the British government of elections to the fixed-term Northern Ireland assembly and in the wake of the findings of the Stevens report. The cancellation of the elections was opposed by all parties, north and south, except for David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party.

Bloody Sunday

Meanwhile, the inquiry into Bloody Sunday is continuing to reveal human rights abuses. On Bloody Sunday — January 30, 1972 — British troops shot dead 13 unarmed protesters in the Northern Ireland city of Derry during a civil rights' march.

Eileen Doherty, whose husband Paddy was killed on Bloody Sunday, walked out of the inquiry on May 13 in protest at the measures being taken to conceal the identity of the former MI5 director of intelligence for Northern Ireland. Doherty has said that the inquiry has become a "farce". It emerged during evidence that the former MI5 director had not given evidence according to his own memory, but had received "help" from MI5 to draw up his statement.

Despite the revelations, the state structures responsible for the murders and human rights abuses are still in place. The FRU, which is at the centre of the British state's collusion with loyalist terrorists, continues to exist as the Joint Services Group.

Many of the killings and abuses cannot be investigated by the Policing Board, as it has no powers to investigate MI5/British army/Special Branch incidents prior to 1999. The Ombudsman cannot investigate either, as she has stated publicly that her office doesn't have the financial resources.

Even where investigations are a possibility, much evidence has been destroyed. For example, the weapons used by soldiers during the Bloody Sunday shootings can't be forensically examined as the weapons have been destroyed. Nevertheless, as a result of Stevens' revelations, nine members of the FRU, including Brigadier Gordon Kerr, the army officer who led the unit, could face prosecution.

Pat Finucane's murder

On May 29, Ken Barrett was arrested for the murder of Pat Finucane. He was also charged with two attempted murders. Barrett denied all charges and has been remanded in custody until June 27. Barrett previously confessed to the murder of Finucane but later retracted his statement. The original tape recording of his confession has either been destroyed or gone "missing".

The Stevens report found that Finucane's murder was planned by using intelligence gathered by the FRU. Barrett was supplied with an intelligence file, including a photograph, by FRU agent Brian Nelson. Nelson possessed files on at least 80 other people, 29 of whom have been shot dead. No member of the FRU or the Special Branch in Northern Ireland has been charged with an offence relating to the files and the subsequent attacks.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government continues to refuse to allow a public inquiry into Finucane's assassination or the security services' systematic collusion with loyalist terrorists.

[Comprehensive coverage of Britain's collusion with terrorists in Northern Ireland is available at <>.]

From Green Left Weekly, June 18, 2003.

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