Northern Ireland

Official IRA members planned to abduct leading Provos after kidnap of Scappaticci victim Emmanuel Wilson

Abandoned plan hatched after Workers Party member ‘wrongly’ accused of informing kidnapped by Provos

An Official IRA unit in the roof space of a house in Andersonstown, west Belfast, in 1974
Members of the Official IRA in the roof space of a house in Andersonstown, west Belfast, in 1974

Official IRA members planned to abduct senior figures in the Provisional republican movement after a member of the Workers Party was kidnapped and later killed, it can be revealed.

Thomas Emmanuel Wilson (35) was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in June 1987 after being branded an informer.

Abducted from his Beechmount Avenue home in west Belfast, his body was found the next day in an alleyway off Rodney Parade, near Donegall Road, after shots were heard.

Official IRA sources now say the father-of-four was wrongly identified by the Provisional IRA as an informer more than four decades ago.

Kenova package
British army agent Freddie Scappaticci

Fresh details have emerged after Operation Kenova published a report into the British agent known as Stakeknife earlier this month.

He was Freddie Scappaticci, a former commander with the Provisional IRA’s Internal Security Unit, who also worked as an agent for the British army’s undercover Force Research Unit.

He is thought to have been involved in the killing of Mr Wilson, which at the time sparked an angry response from members of the Official movement.

Official IRA sources say that members of the organisation were planning to abduct senior Provisional figures in a bid to force Mr Wilson’s release before he was killed, however, the group’s leadership blocked the proposal.

The Provisional IRA was established after a split within the IRA in 1969, with the rival faction known as the Official IRA.

Although not a member of the Official IRA, Mr Wilson was a known sympathiser.

Sources say that at the time of his death the Official IRA’s leadership was concerned that members of their movement could be targeted by the larger Provisional grouping.

This resulted in the Official IRA’s leadership ordering members, and by extension supporters, to make them aware of any movement of arms by the Provos.

It is suggested that Mr Wilson became aware of weapons being moved to a Provisional safe house in west Belfast and subsequently made a senior member of the Official IRA aware of the development, in accordance with the leadership’s earlier instruction.,

However, within 72 hours the house where the weapons were being stored was raided by the security forces.

It is now suggested members of the Provisional movement had seen Mr Wilson in the area before the raid and concluded he provided information to the authorities.

Official IRA sources say this was wrong and the information that led to the discovery of the arms hide did not come from Mr Wilson.

It has also been revealed that in the aftermath of his abduction and before he was killed up to 25 Official IRA members gathered with the intention of abducting several senior Provos in a bid to force Mr Wilson’s release.

However, the plan was halted by the Official leadership and Mr Wilson was later shot dead.

It is understood that a large number of Officials, including several long-standing figures, later resigned in protest at the leadership’s decision not to intervene.

Concerns have also been raised about why Mr Wilson was shot dead so soon after being abducted by the Provisional IRA.

The organsiation later claimed Mr Wilson had been recruited as an informer in 1978 after being told his fingerprints were found on a gun used in a shooting in west Belfast.

The Provos also claimed he was paid £10 a week with bonuses for information.

Thomas Emmanuel Wilson was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in June 1987
Thomas Emmanuel Wilson was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in June 1987

Mr Wilson’s family, who reject any suggestion he was an informer, has been provided with information by the Operation Kenova team.

“We know as a family he wasn’t an informer,” his son Paul said.

“He was basically a scapegoat, that’s the only way it could be worded in my eyes.

“I honestly think that house was hit because of Scappaticci and the best way to cover his own tracks was to lump it onto somebody else.

“Or another informer within the Provisionals gave up the information and it was easy to pass the buck.”

Mr Wilson said the British government’s longstanding Neither Conform Nor Deny (NCND) policy regarding informers means the information made available to the family is limited.

“That’s the reason why a lot of people are getting agitated about the report, we all wanted the truth….we needed the truth and now they are coming with this NCND, a part of the truth is dying with Scappaticci.

“We as a family don’t think that’s fair.”

Mr Wilson said his family never had any doubt that his father was not working for the state.

“We knew from back then that he was never an informer, never.

“The main thing they did was pay you, we were working, working class…there was never spare money excess money.

“There was enough to get by and just enough to get by, so he was never on a payroll.

“We knew as a family that he wasn’t.”

Solicitor Kevin Winter who represents some of the families speaks to the media after The newly published report by Jon Boutcher on Friday.
Solicitor Kevin Winters