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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Will the real Stakeknife please stand up?

Several of the key points raised by my book A Very British Jihad have been missed by many people who have read the book. This fault line can be summed up by the story I tell about the notorious loyalist hardman James Pratt Craig.

James Pratt Craig, who didnt see the Jihad writing on the wall

In its own way, the murder, arranged by the security forces, of loyalist gangster James Pratt Craig is every bit as significant as the murder of Pat Finucane.

The UK state’s collusion surrounding the murder of Craig also drives a coach and horses through a myth (that has gained surprising credence) that British Military intelligence (BMI) and RUC Special Branch were supporters of the peace process and therefore sympathetic to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Indeed one of the key “pushers” of this myth is now apparently saying that McGuinness was a British spy all along.

Let us start by reading this quote:

Murray was tipped off by Craig and he's gone to ground, they're sitting up there waiting for someone like you."

This is top British spy and loyalist killer Brian Nelson being told by his FRU handler that James Pratt Craig has tipped the IRA off about an imminent hit by loyalists on Anto Murray - a leading republican from West Belfast. The Force Research Unit (FRU) had been assisting Nelson in the targeting of Murray, helping him with diagrams of Murray’s house and photo surveillance for example.

After the FRU tells Nelson about James Craig, Nelson goes straight to the leadership of the UFF (at that time Tommy "Tucker" Lyttle and John McMichael) and tells them that Craig is working hand in hand with the Provos.

“A day or two after this debrief, I seen Tucker at his office and said to him. "Craig's tipped off Anto Murray that he's being targeted - he's done a runner that's why McMichael's men were unable to get a sighting of him."

We now know that Tommy Lyttle was an RUC agent and McMichael had his own links with both military and police.

So can we be clear about this? BMI wanted James Craig whacked. And just so that we get the full picture, so did RUC Special Branch. Under the leadership of super cop Ian Phoenix who was running Operation Furlong against Craig at the time, RUC Special Branch ensured that the UFF leadership received their video surveillance footage of Craig's meetings with leading Provisional IRA members. Or as Brian Nelson puts it:

It was to take two years before this person was exposed to the UDA with the help of the RUC.”

Now why were the covert elements of the British government’s armed and paramilitary forces gunning for loyalist gangster Craig? The answer is simple – they wanted a more focused and targeted loyalist killing machine and Craig, with his finger in every pie and his wheeling and dealing with Irish Republicans (of all types) was a major obstacle to this.

Don’t just take my word for this - here is Nelson's ultimate military boss in the FRU saying the same thing with regards to Nelson’s precise role:

... (in order to) persuade the UDA to centralise their targeting through Nelson and to concentrate on known PIRA activities.

(Source – Colonel Gordon J Kerr being interviewed by the Stevens Inquiry team.)

So for those who are asleep at the back and those journalists and commentators who choose (for reasons best known to themselves) to argue differently, here is what happened during the British Jihad 1980s version:

During Margaret Thatcher's reign (roughly the ten years between 1979 – 1989), loyalists paramilitaries were trained and rearmed (via Brian Nelson and others), their intelligences files were upgraded from both RUC and British army sources and they were encouraged to go after, not just the leadership of "PIRA", but also others who were regarded as fellow travellers. Any dead wood on the loyalist side (i.e. anyone who obstructed the counter insurgency effort like James Craig) was to be rooted out.

The British government, at the highest level, has major questions to answer about the murder of James Craig.

At the start of the 90s, there was a complete policy change under British premier John Major and Northern Secretary of State Peter Brooke, but it is extremely important to understand that the covert military forces in the North were completely against this change in policy, or what they called "appeasement to terrorists". I know this from personal and journalistic experience because I was working with the BBC in Belfast at the time. These covert forces were the same people who obstructed the Stevens inquiry and burned down his police protected offices for good measure.

Three interconnecting stories linked to the Thatcher period of the covert war in Ireland have now emerged and have gained some currency in certain journalistic circles . These stories have no basis in evidential fact and they are:

Britain’s covert intelligence forces acted to save the life of Gerry Adams because he was a peacenik – a dove within the Irish republican movement.
Martin McGuiness on the other hand was almost certainly a spy for the Brits.
The life of an innocent Catholic taxi driver in Belfast who is of Italian extraction and has an Italian surname was sacrificed so as to protect a top spy within the IRA.

Let us take each one in turn,

1) Gerry Adams – Peacenik – saved by Brian Nelson's FRU

Point one seems to have arisen from a proposed limpet mine attack that the UFF planned to carry out in 1985. This was to be placed on top of Adam's armour plated car (the top was not reinforced).

Brian Nelson describes the planning for this attack very clearly, but also says very clearly that it was the UFF’s Inner Council that called the job off. It is true that his handlers tell him to keep away from the operation but Adams was never warned about this impending assassination attempt and the blame for the Adams hit being aborted was laid squarely at the cowardice of the UDA/UFF leadership.

This what FRU agent Brian Nelson says in his diary:

"A day or two after I had returned from completing the final phase of moving back to Belfast I sought out McKee and asked him how he was getting on with Adams. He told me it was off. When I asked why he told me that the Council got to hear about it and they ordered him to drop it. I could tell he was utterly disgusted and furious and told me that in his opinion the Inner Council hadn't a pair of balls between them."

The “McKee” to whom Nelson is referring is Eric McKee - one of the UFF's most effective (i.e. lethal) commanders in West Belfast at that time.

It is true that the limpet mine in question was seized by the security forces some weeks later but, in this period, the British had a general policy of not allowing weapons of broadly indiscriminate destruction into the hands of loyalists. The best example of this is the arms cache given to the UDA by UDR man John Fletcher – all his arms were allowed through to the likes of Eric McKee, including the gun used to kill Pat Finucane; all the arms that is, except the two GPMs (General Purpose Machine Guns) that Fletcher had handed across. There was intense pressure on Brian Nelson and other spies to get these back and they were duly given up.

Where did this myth come about that the FRU and RUC Special Branch were protecting Adams? Michael Stone made it very clear that his RUC assisted gun and bomb attack on Milltown cemetery in the same period was targeted at Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. The weapons used by Stone had been provided by the FRU (via FRU agent Brian Nelson and MI6 agent Charlie Simpson). This is the same Force Research Unit who we are now being told was actually protecting the two Sinn Féin leaders!

Adams had already survived an assassination attempt in 1984 when a car in which he was travelling was riddled with bullets. In a similar manner this assassination attempt has also been described as evidence of BMI wanting to save Adams. The argument has gained currency that the bullets, which hit Adams’s car had been doctored by British Intelligence so as to partially incapacitate them. If I may speak bluntly, this is utter rubbish, and worthy of one of Colin Wallace’s exploding knickers stories that he put into circulation when he was running BMI’s psyops department in the early 1970s. IRA veteran Sean Keenan was shot in the face in this attack and the skin cancer that would eventually take his life came as a direct result of the bullet that hit him.

In fact, during the whole of the Thatcher Jihad period, and particularly after Sinn Féin took the decision to begin standing in council and parliamentary elections, the party and its membership was subject to a concerted campaign of murder and attempted murder. This brings me to point two

2) Martin McGuinness - British Agent

During the whole time that I was in Belfast it is safe to say that if Gerry Adams was detested by the “great and the good”, Martin McGuinness was despised. The hatred of McGuinness only increased when it became clear that the British had initiated talks with him as a precursor to a full blown peace process. FRU agent Brian Nelson talks at length in his diary about the targeting of McGuinness and at all times describes him as a "hawk". Never at any point does he say that he was told to leave McGuinness alone. It was not McGuinness who was protected during the run up to the peace process but anti peace process loyalists like King Rat - Billy Wright.

3) Francisco Notarantonio shot dead in October 1987 was not the intended victim. He was sacrificed to save Stakeknife spy Freddie Scappatici.

The story that has been peddled about regarding Scappatici (whom senior republicans accept was a spy), is that the UFF were about to shoot him when Brian Nelson intervened and swapped the name of the target to Notarantonio. This ridiculous scenario is actually stated as fact on Wikipedia pages and in other formats on the internet.

However, what Brian Nelson says about the Notarantonio killing (though he cannot write his name) is that he was not aware of the murder and that he had never heard of this person with the Italian name.

Read this:

“Tucker mentioned something about their showing that they had proved that they could work effectively together and there was nothing to stop them from doing the same in the future. I hadn't a clue to what he was talking about. He waffled on a bit more and then said, "That last one youse worked on, the one with the funny name, what do you call him." Someone, I think Spence, said Naterannio",(?) which was echoed by the others. Tucker said, "Aye that’s the one, that proved youse could work together when youse want to." Until that moment I had no idea never mind indication that this murder had been carried out by those sitting beside me. Apart from hearing about it on the news that this person had been murdered and that he lived in New Barnsley, I knew nothing else about the murder. I'm not even sure that this murder was claimed by the UFF and I knew that had I heard such a claim I would have undoubtedly enquired from McKee if they had been involved.”

Now bear in mind that at the point when he is writing his diary, Nelson wants to discredit the FRU and highlight their misdeeds, so Nelson’s motivation in the diary is to be very clear about what he was instructed to do by his superiors. He does this with stunning effect, implicating his superiors in a myriad of ways, but he never mentions Freddie Scappatici. Anywhere.

Indeed, in all the court case papers and police depositions that I have ever seen (and they are many), not one loyalist killer has ever mentioned Freddie Scappatici. Yet we are supposed to believe that Scappatici was one of their main targets.

There is another point - Brian Nelson’s key role was to hand files over to loyalist killers. These were files that had been purged and updated by BMI and with the understanding and support of RUC Special Branch - roads cleared, overhead helicopters, the works. Now on occasion, it is true, Nelson would be centrally involved in a particular UFF murder operation, targeting a particular republican or Catholic. However, for the most part, it was just a case of handing the upgraded files over in bulk fashion and without any further knowledge on his part as to who might be picked from the murder pile. Secret intelligence documents that I have seen confirm this, describing how Nelson held regular briefing sessions with UFF leaders and then “sub commanders” (i.e. trigger pullers). At each briefing he would display charts, police army photo montages, and then issue the relevant P cards (personality cards) to those attending. All the loyalist killers present understood that Nelson had got this material from the military/police.

In other words, this backs up Nelson’s contention that he would not always know how his information was going to be used. It also shows that he was rarely in a position to alter a P Card once it had been issued. But again, don’t just take my word for it. This policy of the general issuing of security details to loyalists was confirmed at Nelson’s staged trial where he is described as issuing index cards en masse to loyalist killers.

For the record, I have been waiting for other commentators, say BBC journalists John Ware or Peter Taylor, who have done far more work on Brian Nelson than I have, to raise these issues (without of course assuming that they would agree with all that I say).

I should also say that I am surprised that Sinn Féin has not reacted with more alacrity to highlight what seem to be obvious flaws in the above three propositions, which have now become accepted fact, and grist to the mill of Sinn Féin’s enemies. Leading Sinn Féin figures tell me that they just switch off when they hear these kind of stories and that they don’t believe that they affect SF’s support base. I wonder at their complacency.

More importantly from my own point of view as a journalist, writer and filmmaker, the other obvious consequence of this focus on Adams and McGuinness is that the leaders of the covert military forces who prosecuted the British Jihad (like Gordon Kerr and Ronnie Flanagan) escape all public scrutiny. As far as I am aware, not one newspaper or journal, or individual journalist has made it their business to go for the ‘Big Boys’ within BMI and the former RUC, and yet it could be argued (speaking figuratively) that it is really in the realm of ‘Big Boys’ Rules’ (a phrase used by the SAS) that the real Troubles dynamite is still stored.

Once again the mandarins in Whitehall who hold the real power within the British state can wipe their hands clean and step back in the full knowledge that everybody is looking the other way.

@ Paul Larkin
Baile Átha Cliath
Mí an Mheithimh 2011
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Title: Will the real Stakeknife please stand up?
Date posted: 22 Jun '11 - 14:39
Filed under: General
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