A sort of 'Book of Revelations' seems to have been opened up, spilling out the beans, divulging strange sounding names of alleged moles working as double agents in the
higher echelons of the IRA.
It appears that even 'Mad Dog Adair' was considered as a possible candidate to play a similar role in the Loyalist paramilitary camp.
We have always known of the cloak and dagger nature of the various state intelligence gathering agencies of the British political system in respect of Ireland and the murky
waters it fished and swam in. We also are aware of the denials of a 'shoot to kill' policy despite many events pointing in that direction.
Despite changes over the years in the composition of British governments and parties they seem to have bequeathed to their successors a series of units in all the secret
agencies, well entrenched, well paid undercover information providers inside the Republican paramilitary organisation.
These connections may, of course, have facilitated contacts on the occasions when governments wanted to test the chance of ceasefires and the possibility of dialogue by
knowing something of the thinking within the 'Army Council' and its political expression, Sinn Féin.
When the news broke in both tabloids and broadsheets that they knew the name and double role played by an alleged high placed member of the IRA who was on the
British Army Intelligence payroll to the tune of £80,000 per year, there were rumours that he had been spirited away out of Northern Ireland to a military base in England for
his own safety.
Then a few days later he appeared on television, accompanied by his solicitor, denying that he was a double agent whilst admitting connections with the IRA thirteen years
ago and threatening to sue newspapers who alleged that he was.
Since then there has been a flurry of action and the house of a former of the British intelligence Service who had threatened to divulge what he knew was raided by the
police. The man, who was not even at home at the time, was not arrested and no charge has as yet been made. Presumably it was just a warning of his obligation to
observe the Official Secrets Act.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has publicly stated that he accepts Freddie (Alfredo) Scappatici's denial that he is, or was, a 'double agent stakeknife'. Assistant
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Stevens, whose Inquiry into alleged collusion between the RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries is due to be published, has stated that he
wants to question the alleged double agent.
The mind boggles to contemplate the ramifications if Mr. Scappaticci institutes a libel action. How could secret members of secret state intelligence agencies and secret
members of the IRA be called or induced to give evidence even in a civil court action dealing with the case?
Would former ministers and past and present prime ministers in both jurisdictions be required or enforced to give evidence of their involvement. Adherence to the Official
Secrets Act in the case of politicians and state agents would ensure their silence and the rules of that organisation the silence of the IRA's agents likewise.
The newspapers and other sections of the media could hardly defend themselves against a libel action if unable to produce compelling evidence from actual witnesses. Can
the mere threat of such action force the press to withdraw their accusation or tempt them to make a payment to Mr. Scappaticci in compensation?
Can the British government relish the publicity attached to the issue and, in the absence of a comprehensive Freedom of Information Act, can the public ever hope to hear
the truth of the whole matter.
Is it possible by any chance that access to the truth might be obtained in the USA, under their Information Act?
Mr. Scappaticci, I'm afraid, will find himself out on a limb, unable to clear himself, to prove his innocence (if he is really not Stakeknife) and unable to find the money to fund
the action anyway.
The best he can hope for is to be able to slip quietly away into anonymity and that the peace process is not adversely affected by the revelations and that he is not in some
way blamed for it.
In their work double agents must by its nature live a lie and to lie, so perhaps, as the old sayings go, 'let sleeping dogs lie' and 'let old soldiers quietly fade away', if I may
mix my metaphors.