Northern Ireland

Kenova: Republican leaders would ‘routinely grandstand and intimidate’ families after abduction, torture and murder of accused informers

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness cited in report arguing the acts committed by ‘nutting squad’ among the worst atrocities of the conflict

Gerry Adams at Stormont  , as Northern Ireland's devolved government is restored, Two years to the day since it collapsed. PICTURE:  COLM LENAGHAN
Executive at Stormont Gerry Adams at Stormont at the restoration of the Executive and Assembly PICTURE:  COLM LENAGHAN

Republican leaders would “routinely grandstand and intimidate” victims’ families after the IRA’s Internal Security Unit, or nutting squad, murdered someone accused of being an agent, the Kenova report concludes.

The report then goes on to refer to former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, citing a news conference held close to the family home of a man murdered for allegedly being an agent.

He “like anyone else living in West Belfast [knew] that the consequence for informing is death”, the report quotes Mr Adams saying.

Kenova package
Kenova package IRA and Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness, with Freddie Scappaticci

It adds that Martin McGuinness, a “PIRA leader, echoed this view in a TV interview with Peter Taylor for BBC Spotlight, after the murder of another alleged agent”.

The report states: “Some in the republican movement consider that these activities were legitimate acts of warfare. They were not.

“Having examined in detail what the ISU did to its victims, no one should be in any doubt that these crimes amount to some of the worst atrocities of the conflict.

“The republican leadership gave carte blanche to the ISU to commit acts of torture and murder, there was no internal accountability whatsoever.”

Those involved in the ISU and the leadership that “commissioned and oversaw” the abduction, torture and murder “should find a way to acknowledge without further delay the impact their crimes had on victims and families and issue a public apology”.



Audio recordings and written statements of some of the ISU victims should be disregarded as “these people were under extreme duress, suffering physical mistreatment and torture to extract confessions”.

“We also have evidence that PIRA took violent and punitive action against women and children in their family homes while detaining and torturing loved ones suspected of being agents,” the report states.

“Some of the PIRA senior leadership who commissioned the ISU would later be active in seeking fairness and human rights protections,” it adds.

“There is a stark contrast between their public position and the wanton use of torture and murder against people from their community who were often innocent of the accusations made against them.”

The ISU had wide powers, vetting new recruits, reviewing compromised operations, investigating, interrogating and debriefing suspected agents, and killing many.

The report accuses the PIRA of being unconcerned “as to the actual involvement of its victims in assisting the security forces”, with Kenova investigators concluding some of them were not working for the army, police or secret service.

“Indeed, the motivation behind allegations that some people were agents was often linked to PIRA hierarchal disputes, clashes over PIRA criminal activities and, on occasion, even intended to eliminate partners for those involved in extra-marital relationships,” the report concludes.