Northern Ireland news

IRA sent Scappaticci to find informer after SAS ambush at Loughgall

Freddie Scappaticci pictured at an IRA funeral in 1987

THE IRA sent its most senior British agent to investigate if there was an informer in its organisation after the deadly SAS ambush at Loughgall, according to a BBC documentary.

Freddie Scappaticci - who has been named as the agent Stakeknife - is alleged to have been tasked with investigating suspected informers who gave information that led to the IRA's biggest loss of life in a single incident during the Troubles.

The revelations were made last night in the latest episode of the documentary, Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History.

It examined how British intelligence agents infiltrated the IRA and how special forces took on one of the paramilitary organisation's deadliest units, which culminated with the Loughgall ambush.

But the programme also shows that the aftermath of the attack only made the IRA’s informer problem worse.

It looked back to May 1987 when an eight-man unit of IRA launch an attack on the RUC base in Loughgall. An IRA member drove a digger with a bomb in its bucket through the perimeter fence, while the rest of the unit fired on the building.

But SAS soldiers returned fire both from within the base and from hidden positions around it in a pre-planned ambush, killing all of the IRA attackers.

It was regarded as a major internal security breach for the IRA.

In the BBC documentary, it is alleged the IRA dispatched an internal security unit to "flush out spies", but the "man they sent to find out who betrayed their secrets was also working for their enemy" with the organisation unaware Scappaticci was a long-running spy for British intelligence.

Lord Ramsbotham, army brigadier in Belfast 1978 to 1980, told the programme: "The famous Stakeknife was handed onto me in 1978 as being an important person.

"He was obviously someone who had access to the higher levels of the IRA".

The programme also reveals details contained in a report by John Stalker, who headed up the investigation into the shooting of suspected members of the IRA in 1982.

The eight IRA men shot dead by the SAS at Loughgall. Picture by Pacemaker

His report into the so-called shoot-to-kill scandal and a follow up by another English police officer are still closely guarded state secrets, but extracts from the reports reveal a "massive cover-up", according to the documentary.

Presenter Jennifer O’Leary said: "They portray a massive cover up by the guardians of the law, one in which police officers were instructed to lie to detectives and prosecutors and in which senior police and MI5 officers destroyed evidence, all in the name of protecting an informer and other intelligence sources".

The programme also speaks to former senior police special branch officer Raymond White, who said he personally asked the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for legal clarity on the running of agents in paramilitary organisations like the IRA in 1986.

"I just took the opportunity to say that what we were engaging in was in this a grey area that hadn't been legislated for in the management of any agent," he said.

"We were asking that individual to act as a model terrorist and do whatever the terrorist leadership was asking them to do - it was just totally unchartered territory.

"We had a 10 minute conversation about that and the message at the end, it more of less came back, carry on doing what you're doing, but don't get yourself caught."

The documentary also hears extracts from a recording of Dolours Price, who in 1972 was a member of a secret IRA unit called the 'Unknowns', which she claims was "run by Gerry Adams".

The unit was responsible for 'disappearing' alleged informers.

The programme obtained a recording in which Price described driving a number of people to their deaths. She was asked if the "order always came from Gerry Adams".

"Yeah, in that period, yeah," she replied.

"That's his baby, that's his thought. I never agreed with it. I remember arguing. I said, hey, hang on a minute.

"If you're talking about informers, the thing about killing an informer, there's two reasons.

"One is you cut off the information. Two is, you make an example of them. I never got to the bottom of why Gerry Adams thought that up. I never knew why."

She also is heard discussing the disappearance of Jean McConville, who was accused of giving information on the IRA to the British army.

"She had been arrested and got into the car, as far as she was concerned she was being taken away by the Legion of Mary to a place of safety and that was unfortunate for her," she said.

Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.

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