Soapbox: Scappaticci and the importance of reporting what we know, rather than what we think we know…

Ed Moloney has produced a puzzling critique (“Did Panorama Pull Its Punches?”) of my recent programme on the army agent StakeKnife (aka Freddie Scappaticci) to which your site recently drew attention.

He noted that I had made no mention of Scappaticci’s first handler Peter Jones, an army sergeant said to have recruited him. The reason is straightforward. Despite my best efforts, Jones refused to discuss Scappaticci with me.

Ed said he found an account by ex NI GoC General Sir John Wilsey about how Jones recruited Scappaticci to be “more credible than the version presented by Panorama reporter John Ware, which was that the RUC Fraud Squad initially had Scappaticci on their books but then handed him over to the British Army. Really?”

My actual words were that Scappaticci “graduated from being an informer for the Police fraud squad… to a paid agent with military intelligence” – nothing about him being “handed over” by the RUC to the army.

He was initially an informer for the police because they’d caught him in a VAT fraud. When it comes to General Wilsey’s account as to how Jones recruited Scappaticci, I am a little more sceptical than Ed.

In his book “Ulster Tales” the General invites us to believe that in the 1970s Sgt. Jones was “sinking pints until the early hours” in “the clubs and bars frequented by republicans” and that Jones was so adept at being a “chatter-upper” that “Kerbstone” (Wilsey’s fictionalised name for StakeKnife) had “no reason to suspect” he ”was in the security forces, still less a soldier on duty.”

The notion of a British-accented soldier frequenting at will republican clubs in the 1970s (unless able to give a plausible account of himself) does not ring true, still less when his drinking companion was a member of the IRA’s internal security unit whose task was to prevent penetration of the IRA by British agents and informers.

There’s clear evidence of Scappaticci having joined the security unit before he was recruited by military intelligence.

The General nonetheless says that the combination of Jones forging a relationship with Scappaticci and the latter being “unsympathetic to the aims and methods of the Provisional IRA” resulted in Jones “hooking and landing his fish”.

Scappaticci “unsympathetic to the IRA’s methods?” That doesn’t ring true either.

Having talked to many within the IRA who knew and sometimes worked with Scappaticci and some within the intelligence community who knew him and his intelligence product, I suspect his readiness to be “hooked” by the army had more to do with his large ego and his need to be at the centre of events.

That ego is presumably what saw him through more than a decade of Nutting Squad bloodshed in which – according to the Northern Ireland DPP Barra McGrory QC – he was linked to at least eighteen murders.

Ed refers to what he described as the programme’s “glaring hole” – the idea that three prime ministers Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher and John Major must have “given the green light” to Scappaticci’s handlers to allow him to kill fellow agents in his role as a member of the IRA’s Internal Security Unit aka the Nutting Squad.

This is based on Ed’s purely speculative assertion, namely that “Scappaticci’s activities would have to be discussed by the British Cabinet’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), whose deliberations and conclusions – and formulations of rules governing intelligence operations – are shared and endorsed by the British prime minister of the day.”

Let’s take Callaghan. Ed says Scappaticci “began spying for the British in 1976.” I am told that Scappaticci was not, in fact, recruited by the army until September 1979 – four months after Callaghan ceased to be prime minister.

He implicates John Major because Scappaticci “left the Internal Security Unit circa 1992/93.” This is true – and Major had been prime minister since November 1990.

However, by November 1990, Scappaticci had been on the run for nine months living outside Dublin after his thumbprint had been found on a battery at 124 Carrigart Avenue, Lenadoon, where he had falsely imprisoned the police agent Sandy Lynch in January 1990.

Scappaticci had wrung a confession from Lynch on a Saturday. On the Sunday morning, Scappaticci was informed by the IRA that a decision had been taken to execute Lynch after dark that evening. Scappaticci then informed his army handlers. Lynch was rescued by the police that evening.

Having cooked up a false alibi for his thumbprint, Scappaticci returned to Belfast in the autumn on 1992. Thereafter I understand he was removed from the IRA’s Internal Security Unit because questions had been raised about his role in Lynch’s rescue.

That leaves Mrs Thatcher. Ed directly implicates her in Scappaticci’s murderous Nutting Squad activity because, according to him “it is simply inconceivable that the JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee) did not know all there was to know about Steak Knife” and since the JIC’s job is to advise prime ministers on policy, Mrs Thatcher must have known.

In fact, according to Ed “the final decision” about “how to best utilise” Scappaticci’s “skills….would be made by the prime minister of the day.” In other words, Mrs Thatcher.

I know that to republicans and many nationalists Mrs Thatcher is the bete noir of the conflict. But I can’t see what purpose is served by following a pack narrative just because that’s how they might want the evidence to fall.

So dealing with the evidence to date of what Mrs Thatcher did or did not know, as I understand it the JIC focused primarily on the terrorist threat in Britain (as opposed to Northern Ireland) and in continental Europe.

Second, the names of agents and even their precise location in IRA or loyalist groups was not something that was shared with ministers – for two reasons:

a) there was no need for ministers to know, and

b) ministers didn’t want to know.

The reason ministers didn’t want to know was because they knew that getting operational intelligence from within the IRA or loyalist groups necessarily involved those agents getting blood on their hands, sometimes to the point of murder.

Ministers seem to have preferred the intelligence services in Belfast rather than ministers and mandarins in Whitehall carry the can for any such illegality.

Attempts by the RUC and MI5 from the late 1980s to draw up a legal framework by which to run agents, foundered.

All the wet towels in the world wrapped round the heads of government legal draftsmen failed to inspire them to find a way of making legal what was manifestly illegal. Which is not surprising. Murder is murder is murder.

Despairing of one of the many failed attempts to draft a workable and also lawful set of agent running guidelines, in August 1992 the Solicitor General wrote:

“… the thrust of para[graph] 4 appears to be ‘Don’t get caught’! This is unpromising territory for Ministerial approval.”

Scappaticci was run by the army’s Force Research Unit, or FRU. Which minister knew what about the identity, action and positioning within republican and loyalist groups of individual agents (including FRU agents) was covered by the human rights barrister Sir Desmond de Silva QC in his 2012 review of the murder of Pat Finucane and the FRU agent Brian Nelson’s role in it.

As with the assertion that Mrs Thatcher “must have” sanctioned Scappaticci’s role in the “execution” of fellow agents, so others have asserted she “must have” also sanctioned the murder of Pat Finucane because Nelson who helped target Finucane was also a FRU agent.

De Silva rejects this. He says he saw thousands of intelligence papers (including reports from the Joint Intelligence Committee) and communications between the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers.

In none of these documents did he see…

any material to suggest that Ministers became involved in decisions as to the extent to which specific agents should become involved in criminal conspiracies, or whether threat intelligence against a particular individual should be acted on (both of which have been key themes of this Review).

De Silva explains that these…

…briefing papers would not deal with the identity of particular agents because such operational details were not considered to be the domain of the political leadership; indeed, [R/16 – a special branch officer] considered that if they were wise the political leadership would steer clear of such details.

De Silva concludes:

“….there is no evidence that Ministers sought to direct the security forces to take a relaxed or permissive approach to loyalist paramilitaries; Ministers do not appear to have been aware of Brian Nelson’s targeting activities prior to September 1990; and there is no evidence that Ministers had any foreknowledge of the murder of Patrick Finucane, nor that Ministers were subsequently provided with any intelligence briefing suggesting that the intelligence agencies had foreknowledge of a threat to Mr Finucane’s life.”

I appreciate there must always be the possibility that what De Silva has had to say may exceptionally not have applied to StakeKnife.

On the other hand, it is similar fact evidence inasmuch as both StakeKnife and Nelson were FRU agents, and what De Silva addresses are the principles governing the extent of what ministers, including the prime minister, knew about what exactly they did and how they were run.

I know also that what De Silva has had to say about this has been greeted by some with wide-eyed scepticism. It may yet prove not to be the definitive version of who in government knew what and when about what StakeKnife was up to. But those are the facts to date.

Had I facts to gainsay them, I would have been the first to report them. But I don’t have them (yet) and nor (yet) does Ed Moloney.

Where does all this leave Northern Ireland?

John Ware is now a freelance journalist who has reported from Northern Ireland since 1974. His investigative work on the conflict for World In Action and BBC Panorama won four Royal Television Society Awards. In 2004 he won the James Cameroon Prize for “work as a journalist that combined moral vision and professional integrity.

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  • Gopher

    “The notion of a British-accented soldier frequenting at will republican clubs in the 1970s (unless able to give a plausible account of himself) does not ring true, still less when his drinking companion was a member of the IRA’s internal security unit whose task was to prevent penetration of the IRA by British agents and informers.”

    When you go to such lengths to write a piece its always good to have solid foundations. I believe the late Captain Robert Nirac used this very tactic which undermines the attempt to undermine the General.

  • Zig70

    Actually I was going to mention Nirac. I was told the locals viewed him as a Walter Mitty character and the reality was he stood out like a sore thumb. It is possible Jones was a similar plank. It then brings the question of who recruited who?

  • Jag

    Freddie was originally recruited because he was carrying out a “VAT fraud”? Which presumably means claiming VAT from HMRC that hasn’t properly been incurred? Was Freddie running a business then, and in a position to lodge VAT returns with HMRC? A senior member of the IRA’s internal security landed because of a VAT fraud? Well that doesn’t ring true. Are you sure it wasn’t a handful of unpaid parking fines.

    Though, on the offchance it is true, I hope HMRC go after him for the VAT refund. Plus interest.

  • Gopher

    In the field of inteligence just about anything is possible. Churchill always springs to my mind on these reporters who come up with conjectures

    “In war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

    Nicholas Taleb comments pretty well on the likelyhood of getting to the truth with limited information which is just about zero. I believe with cases like Scap your driven by your own imagination and should only apply the broadest lesson which the very under rated Henrik O Lunde recomends which is “what happened next” or apply Sherlocks Holmes “Dog in the night time” test. In the case of Scap, the most interesting thing is he is still alive.

  • ted hagan

    Minor point, I guess, but it’s Moloney, not Maloney.

  • Ballyglass

    Scap still alive – has he written an incriminating letter to be published in the event of his premature demise – one wonders!

  • Granni Trixie

    From living and working in WB at the height of the troubles I do think that it is plausable that an English sounding, soldierly looking man drinking in a local pub would draw attention as claimed in the post. Indeed a poet and journalist Englishman with military bearing told me a story about being lifted from a pub near Fruithill in the 70s and brought to someone he called “the Lord High Exeuctioner”. Fortunately he had some journalistic id docs which passed scrutiny and he was allowed to go on his way. He felt he was lucky.
    Nirac was not.

  • Granni Trixie

    We all wonder about that likelihood.

  • wild turkey

    “Where does all this leave Northern Ireland?”

    Probably or possibly at the Mayo Clinic?

    Narcissistic personal disorders. ring a bell with anyone?

    Perhaps Slugger/Mick can arrange a cost effective mass booking

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20025568

  • AntrimGael

    VAT fraud??? Aye right. An alleged senior Chuck having sleepless nights over a few grand owed to the taxman where if it HAD gone to Court he may have got 6 months or a suspended sentence at the most!!!
    Do Smiley’s People think we all zip up at the back? Didn’t Scap get the crap kicked out of him by another senior Republican, couldn’t take the loss of face and walked into a cop station in rage where he turned tout?

  • Granni Trixie

    You obviously know things that the rest of us don’t.

  • AntrimGael

    Not really, it was common knowledge in Republican/Nationalist districts when the story first broke in 2003.

  • Nevin

    AG, it would depend on who was telling the story, where it was told and for what purpose. It could be an accurate account, a speculative one, a flight of the imagination or a diversionary smokescreen.

  • AntrimGael

    Absolutely. This place is a big maelstrom of smoke and mirrors and I wouldn’t know who to believe or what to believe. I think the three people who came closest to the truth about the Dirty War were John Stalker, John Stevens and Martin Dillon.

  • Nevin

    AG, I don’t just tell stories, I sometimes manipulate them, aided by some judicious networking.

    In the case of potential cover-ups, it’s useful to get accounts from a range of independent witnesses before an official version of events is concocted. Some years ago I was sent an official report with a note suggesting it would help correct some errors in my blog; I filed the report under ‘whitewash’.

  • mickfealty

    Awful lot of assumptions are in there Jag.

  • Gopher

    The second most interesting thing about the Scap story which makes his continued existence even more interesting is the Cook report.

  • Jag

    Tsk, tsk, Mick, let me assure you I’m slapping my wrists!

    This entire article/blogpost/thread is based on presumptions, primarily that Freddie Scappattici worked for British Intelligence, something both he and the IRA reject.

    And what’s the evidence that Freddie did work for the British? The word of someone from the discredited FRU? Circumstantial evidence?

    The best circumstantial evidence pointing to the contrary is, Freddie is still alive today. Unlike say, Denis Donaldson.

    I actually watched the John Ware Panorama programme on Youtube

    It is feculent journalism, in my opinion and reminds me of those British secret service attempts to smear several republicans as devil worshippers.

  • Jag

    VAT fraud? Falling out with an IRA member over a woman? Distaste towards the IRA’s methods? Caught drink driving? Hadn’t paid his TV licence? These are fantastic grounds for a senior Republican to succumb to the charms of the British secret service (okay the last one is made up, what about the others though).

    The best one must surely be from the Irish Times
    “Equally, he was open to blackmail because of his notorious interest in pornography, including watching videos in his two-up, two-down terraced house in Farnham Street off Belfast’s Ormeau Road.”

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/how-and-why-did-scappaticci-survive-the-ira-s-wrath-1.3049139

    Two-up, two-down? Sylvia Krystal? Deep Throat? Jaysus, shure that would turn anyone.

  • Jag

    “zip up at the back”? Is that a north Belfast saying? What does it mean?

  • Jag

    “Soapbox: Scappaticci and the importance of reporting what we know, rather than what we think we know…”

    HahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahahaHahaha

  • aquifer

    All of the Alphabet soup brigades, red white and blue and green white and gold, were involved in extortion and fraud around building subcontracting. They divided up territories so that they could profit while avoiding attracting the attention of the law by avoiding armed disputes. A key part of this was forged tax self-employed exemption certificates. VAT would come into it as well when turnover rose or when they tried to reclaim it on what was paid for materials, supplies, or labour.

  • Jag

    Come off it Aquifer, you know fine well that Freddie was caught by a litter warden after dropping a cigarette butt on the upper Falls Road, and immediately turned tout afterwards. All this talk about VAT is just a smokescreen.

  • aquifer

    It is hard to extort money tax-free, and perhaps harder to resist taking the (Brit) taxman’s share. Avoided tax did for Al Capone remember.

  • johnny lately

    He was always an RUC informer, he was a petty thief and a housebreaker who always carried a knife and was in Borstal a few times when he was a teenager. Like many before him he was carefully placed and eased up the ranks with the aid of his handlers who allowed him a free hand to do as he liked.

  • Granni Trixie

    As far as I can gather Moloney really does believe on the basis of story gathering (possibly for the Boston project) that Mrs McConville was lifted by the IRA because she was a ‘tout’ something her family strongly refute. Having read and listened to their reasons I believe them (and incase it needs saying, her abduction and death were wrong in either case).
    However, I do think Moloney has been reporting what he honestly believes he ‘knows’ about the case. It is therefore another example of where lies the truth when we have conflicting accounts. It points to the necessity of gathering multiple sfories from various perspectives,which as a composite, produce fuller explanations of what was going on. It also brings up questions concerning whose stories are collected and reported.

  • Gopher

    Point of broad interest number 3, is the biography of the FRU Agent Hurst which can be read on Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Ingram Reporters fail to mention certain facts about the mans later life which I would imagine make his utility as a credible source open to debate and somewhat dilute the program.

  • johnny lately

    ” Reporters fail to mention certain facts about the mans later life which I would imagine make his utility as a credible source open to debate and somewhat dilute the program”

    yet the below is still in place, obviously not everyone thinks he’s as crazy as some make him out to be.

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/mod-refuses-to-lift-murder-gag-25rq6ss2h

  • Neil

    = came down the Lagan in a bubble/in the last shower.

  • Jag

    Thanks Neil, what’s its origin, do you know? Wearing a dress with a zip on the back? Cross dressing? Something to do with the backside, ooh-errr Missus?

  • Neil

    I always took it to mean like Zippy from Rainbow, but I dunno why… We do love a wee bit of slang around these here parts. 😉

  • Cináed mac Artri

    The saying is not confined to Belfast it’s also well known in other places, particularly Scotland where I’ve heard/read it online.

    There is a variant, ‘buttoned up the back of the head’.

    I always thought it derives from the aftermath of serious brain surgery back in the day. The Jack Nicholson character in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ springs to mind, the old style black sutures gave the impression of a zip. The suggestion being that following the surgery, a lobotomy in the fictional example I’ve given, the subject is no longer cognitively fully functioning.

    In short: ‘do you think I’m zipped up at the back of my head?’, ‘do you think I’m stupid?’ Not a particularly acceptable contemporary turn of phrase imho.

    Perhaps the zip/button ‘option’ is also meant to suggest the need for ready access to the brain as the ‘work’ is ongoing?

  • Mirrorballman

    I think this rings true also. An old manager of mine used to tell me of his time in British Army over here after a few pints. Seems most of his time was spent visiting pubs and chatting up the locals. Told me it was the best way to gather intelligence.

  • the rich get richer

    A great job for an Alcoholic with a danger fetish………..

  • GS

    Ah that’s a very interesting perspective, would love to read more of something like that, are there any autobiographies of soldiers who serve din NI?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    a smokescreen for what?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and yet we know other senior paramilitaries have turned over seemingly petty things. Perhaps here we are confusing triggers and deeper motivations. As John Ware says, the deeper motivation almost certainly wasn’t the money, it was ego, thrill and perhaps some personal antagonism towards rivals. But it’s quite possible anything he was picked up for could have provided the moment where he decided, do you know what, I’m going to do it now. All it takes is some time alone with the relevant people. After all paramilitaries couldn’t really initiate it by just walking into a police stattion; if they were minded to turn, they generally did it while in for questioning about something. Should it really surprise us he was opportunistic in that regard?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    English accents perhaps weren’t as unheard of as all that in Republican bars – there was a certain man born John Stevenson, for example …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    In Derry, there is the late A.A. Gill’s story from his days as an alcoholic journalist – pretty hair-raising: http://www.esquire.co.uk/culture/news/a9097/aa-gill-book-pour-me/
    Is it fair to say there would have been deep suspicion, but a good bluffer could manage a few nights in pubs on the sauce in West Belfast before being definitively rumbled? For example, you could pose as a young Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell type …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Interesting to read some Republican posters questioning Mr Ware’s account. May or may not be accurate, but why the aggression against Ware?

  • file

    Please call him Steak Knife.

  • Neil

    I live and learn. 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I gather Mr Moloney is often referred to in academic historian circles as Ed Boloney. Possibly harsh. But this seems further grist to that mill.

  • Gopher

    Standard operating procedure, you might not be old enough to remember Peter Wright and the lengths the government went to in that case. Don’t matter if your dead right or dead wrong blanket censorship is the norm.

  • Deeman

    Ed Boloney identifies 2 facts, but then he fills in the gap with fiction or his version of events. He is a great novelist but a terrible historian.
    His republican sources must come from the Gerry Adams school of “truth”.

  • Deeman

    Its Nairac and not Nirac.
    Nairac used a West Belfast accent, his cover story was a belfast stickie on the run.
    He used to stand up and sing “chuckie” songs in the bar.
    You have to admire the mans front and character even if he was naive and foolish.

  • Brian Walker

    Thanks yet again to John Ware the relentless investigator into the Omagh bomb and so much pre- GFA, for another great programme. I’m pleased to see it was cleared internally in the light of the Boutcher inquiry. When we add Stevens availability in court to de Silva and ongoing Boutcher and with inquests to come, a good deal is emerging piecemeal.

    John asks: where does this all leave Northern Ireland?

    With opportunist pressure continuing from SF to try to assert equivalence between the security forces and the IRA in particular as part of their narrative to justify the armed struggle. But not too much pressure, as too much would reveal as much about embarrassing informers as high end collusion.

    People will believe what they want to believe on the basis of selective evidence. Of which there is plenty.

    Victims and survivors are essentially pawns in a political game, otherwise they would have been better compensated long ago on the basis of need.

    I am a sceptic about the emphasis on disclosure to them. Be careful for you wish for. And in many cases what more do you need to know or can be allowed to know? The reason for the assault lies as much in the nature of the victim as in the identity of the assailant.

    The 1998 prisoner release mechanism all but abolished a key element of justice for any revived cases – condign punishment.

    The local parties can never agree an approach to the legacy. The British government hide behind the devolution of justice to avoid taking the responsibility they legally bore for 30 years. They should amend the Justice Act to fund the
    inquests, set up the HIU and leave the rest to due process for the five years for which £150 million extra funding from London is available.

    A judicial filter for disclosure in key case studies is worth considering.

    Towards the end of five years, immunity should be granted for voluntary disclosure compatible with Art 2 ECHR the right to life. A statute of limitations should be prepared simultaneously . While the politicians might fume this would
    have widespread support if accompanied by some “confessions.” As time passes, the legacy has become a second order problem, although for many, still a moral imperative.

    Typically wise words from the illustrious Maurice Hayes today:

    http://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/04/24/news/maurice-hayes-settlement-in-ni-can-only-be-achieved-if-some-kind-of-confessional-takes-place-1005021/

    Asked if it was possible to reach a real settlement without resolving historical cases, he said “everything cannot always be neat and tidy”.
    “I’d prefer to draw a line in the sand. Eventually, I mean,” he said.
    “You can’t keep going over it. The community needs a period of calm for a generation or two perhaps.
    “I understand it is very tough for victims, for those who have suffered.
    “That may be the price they will be asked to pay. I’d be happier if there was some kind of confessional.
    “People could tell their stories if they wanted to, and they would be left there for a number of years and allow historians to interpret them.”

  • Granni Trixie

    There you go again.

  • johnny lately

    “Don’t matter if your dead right or dead wrong blanket censorship is the norm”

    Just in case he might be dead right ?

  • AntrimGael

    Don’t p*ss on my back and tell me it’s raining is another good one.

  • johnny lately

    “You have to admire the mans front and character ”

    Tell that to those victims of the Miami Showband and Kingsmills atrocities they might not agree with you Deeman perhaps when the British government stop hiding behind the curtain of National Security we might find out a lot more about Capt Robert Nairac,

  • Gopher

    That’s why the blanket enforcement is there, you will never know unless of course Scap confirms what he is saying. We did mention that Scap is still alive and at liberty so good luck with that. Until then he is an ex squaddie who has to make a living and visit the in laws in Donegal.

  • Gopher

    The Republican movement are infallible with regards to the 1752 people they murdered.

  • johnny lately

    I dont need Scap to confirm anything. That private letter sent to the Judge that allowed the overturning of convictions and compensation awarded to every person charged in connection with the Sandy Lynch affair confirms enough.

  • Gopher

    As I said when something is driven by the imagination it is better to rely on the broad facts and the elephant in the room is Scap is alive which given the nature of the players that are said to revolve around him makes that fact an extremely large elephant.

  • Nevin

    I agree with AG’s ‘smoke and mirrors’ context; I also take journalistic ‘revelations’ with several pinches of salt. As I’ve already said in other stories, any yarn can be spun in the absence of sufficient facts; also it’s worth considering the independence of the messenger.

  • file

    Yeah … but what exactly is wrong with being accurate? What harm did it ever do?

  • Deeman

    I have no doubt there is a massive cloud of suspicion on Nairac and the mission of creating sectarian civilian slaughter.
    I was commenting on the mans front and foolishness to turn up in a republican bar in south armagh and pretend to be a belfast stickie and sing songs!
    I agree, a truth commission may reveal incredible secrets which would shake our unionist friends to the core.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    Two things strike me – firstly if you back one thousand horses some will end up useless and get farmed out as hacks, fewer will go on to a nice steady career and help you make a couple of bob, and a very small number will go right to the top and make your fortune. So rather than pick one or two and put all your effort into helping them it may be better to pick a large number and follow the winners up through the ranks; passive rather than active. I suspect that a lot of yearlings were bought cheap in NI over the years.

    Secondly if Mr Steaknife has been outed, by whom, is that to distract and protect some bright young lad or lass further up the ladder?

  • eireanne3

    any chance of a You tube link for the Cook report?

  • tmitch57

    Didn’t the Stickies and Provos drink at separate bars, particularly after their 1975 feud?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Excellent and clear explanation, Cináed, I’d always assumed it was a twin to that old Belfast favourite, “Yer head’s cut…there’s sawdust on yer shoulder……..”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The late Frank Delaney told me once that he’d taught Nairac many of the songs as a BBC journalist reporting on the troubles, but had also warned him that his irregular “stage Belfast accent” fooled no-one. He also suggested that Nairac’s apparent “immunity” in Republican areas came from having some high up contacts within Republicanism, something his abductors were either unaware of, or, possibly, a policy their own “upper ranks” were themselves at odds with. I have, of course, no idea how accurate Frank’s stories were.

  • SeaanUiNeill
  • Gopher

    I’m not stating this for any polemic but the ethos of the BBC is steeped in the liberal left which not healthy.

    My favourite case of a yarn without facts was the loss of HMAS Sydney which got so out of control the Australians commisioned an expedition under David Mearns to find out the truth at great expense and it turned out the official reports were bang on the money when the wreck was discovered

    Alot of blame of course has to go to the gullible public ”the non-thinking herd, Vox populi, vox humbug.” as the very quotable W.T. Sherman described them.

    Of the reporters themselves

    “If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.”

  • Nevin

    I’m often asked for my opinion and the yarns I tell might be more or less accurate than those they glean from the media or other sources. Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media comes under pressure from the Government and litigious folk and some material is dropped whilst other material is a confection of lies.

  • Starviking

    I have relatives in the area where Nairac pottered about trying his amateur spycraft. One owned a shop, and it was so well-known as to what he was doing that my relative told him to turn around and get the F out of the shop when he turned up dressed as a tinker.

    From what I’ve heard of him, it was probably disbelief at his goings-on that had him protected for so long.