Greg Harkin is doing the spade-work on unearthing the dirty secrets of the world of IRA informers, as seen in his weekly series currently running in the Sunday Life. This week, he looks at the Sandy Lynch case, which sentenced Danny Morrison to jail for eight years. He reveals the farce of two informers interrogating a third informer. What makes this week’s article different from previous allegations (see below) is this: “Three separate, reliable sources – none of them known to each other – have now confirmed that his other interrogator was also working for Special Branch.” Previously, it had only been Kevin Fulton publicly making the claim. Now Harkin has three other reliable sources confirming the allegation.
This is bittersweet but good news for Morrison, who is in position to have his conviction overturned.
Once there, there are two options for the Crown – a re-trial, which would expose the role of agents in the case, giving official and public confirmation to the roles of Scappaticci and the second IRA man as informers and chief prosecution witness Lynch as a double murderer. Or the Crown agrees to drop all charges and Morrison’s conviction is quashed. Few would be surprised if the second option is preferred.
Bad news continues all around for those who ran dodgy informers as it is also revealed that Lynch was a double murderer.
When questioned about his role in the double-murder, Lynch admitted his involvement. Special Branch detectives reported this admission but were ordered by senior officers to keep using Lynch as an agent. Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan did investigate the Morrison case, but the investigation was cut short when it was taken over by the Stevens Inquiry because of Scappaticci’s involvement in the case.
The bloody history of Scappaticci is now well known. The messy question of where the moral lines get drawn is still up in the air.
Background: Cryptome (also carries denials)
West Belfast bricklayer Freddy Scappaticci, said to have been second-in-command of the IRA’s feared nutting squad, has denied the allegations that he was a paid informer. Senior republicans now accept he was.
It was Scappaticci who helped set up the arrest of former Sinn Fein publicity director Danny Morrison in January 1990 at a house in west Belfast where informer Sandy Lynch was being held.
Maguidhir had been at the same house that weekend and, like Scappaticci, had escaped the subsequent police operation. He went on the run after being named by Lynch as the IRA’s No2 in Ardoyne. He had been best man at Lynch’s wedding as well as a friend and IRA colleague of Fulton’s.He returned to Belfast following the ceasefires and trained as a journalist.
Background: Agent names second IRA chief as key British mole
More recently, Maguire was involved with Scappaticci in the abduction in 1990 of Sandy Lynch, a police agent. Police and troops swooped on the house where Lynch was being held, arresting those who were holding him. Both Maguire and Scappaticci had left before Lynch’s rescuers arrived.
Neither Maguire nor Scappaticci was aware that the other was being run as an informer by the army’s secretive Force Research Unit.
Background: Man ‘shocked’ at agent claims (BBC)
Maguire has been an editor of the North Belfast News and a director of the Andersonstown News Group. This is what the management of the Andersonstown News Group had to say when the claims first surfaced:
In a joint statement Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Managing Editor and Robin Livingstone, Group Editor Andersonstown News Group, condemned the report as scurrilous and irresponsible gutter journalism.
“It comes as no surprise to the Andersonstown News Group that the increasingly vitriolic campaign of vilification against our newspapers by certain media outlets has culminated in this outrageous and baseless allegation against a valued and trusted senior member of staff. The journalists who publish this type of scurillous allegation based on one discredited source and without producing a scintilla of evidence are a disgrace to their profession. It is an attack on our integrity and independence and we will defend ourselves vigorously. The Andersonstown News Group will be throwing all its resources behind Sean Mag Uidhir in whatever steps he deems necessary to vindicate his reputation.”