Northern Ireland

Kenova report indictment of Britain’s ‘dirty war on this island’, MLAs told

Assembly debate follows release of Operation Kenova report into Britain’s agent within the IRA’s internal security unit

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher (centre) at Stormont Hotel in Belfast for the publication of the Operation Kenova interim report
PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher (centre) at Stormont Hotel in Belfast for the publication of the Operation Kenova interim report. (Liam McBurney/PA)

The British government’s failure to engage with the detail of the Kenova report is a “pathetic indictment” of its “shabby approach to legacy”, MLAs have heard.

A debate was held at Stormont on Monday following the release last week of the interim report on Operation Kenova, the probe into the British agent known as Stakeknife within the IRA’s internal security unit.

The report by Jon Boutcher, now the PSNI’s chief constable, found that running Stakeknife likely led to more lives being lost than were saved.

Following its release, Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said it “would not be right for the government to make any comment on the substance of the interim report until the conclusion of litigation related to it”.

Stormont Opposition leader Matthew O’Toole speaks during today's Opposition Day at Stormont
Stormont Opposition leader and SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole.

SDLP MLA and Opposition leader Matthew O’Toole said during the debate that the report highlighted the “grotesque web of deceit, torture and murder that was facilitated by both the British state and the Provisional IRA”, and said the investigation was an “indictment of the state’s dirty war on this island and of its handling of agents”.

“The UK Government’s response of simply glossing over that and not even engaging with the detail of the interim report, let alone offering the apology that Jon Boutcher asked for, is utterly unacceptable; it is offensive to the families involved and to the rest of us in this society and it is a pathetic indictment of the current UK Government and their shabby approach to legacy,” the South Belfast MLA said.

He paid tribute to “the families, many of whom have not yet been able to speak publicly, because they still live with the shame and stigma that they feel from their loved ones having been branded touts - informers - and the deaths of their loved ones being treated as something shameful to be held in secrecy”.

Solicitor Kevin Winters represents families directly impacted by the Operation Kenova report.

Stakeknife was identified in 2003 as Freddie Scappaticci, a former commander of the IRA’s internal security unit.

TUV MLA Jim Allister said victims mentioned in the report were killed by the IRA, adding there should not be “any attempt to spread the blame by some sort of phoney equivalence”.

Mr O’Toole urged Stormont’s justice minister Naomi Long to “do all she can” to push for the report’s recommendations, “and indeed to use her office to call for the other recommendations – such as a full review of the Public Prosecution Service – to be progressed”.