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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

Chapter 15 of the De Silva Report has destroyed the final spook infiltration myth - and tells us why these stories were put into circulation

The author - more than just a Troubled face

Having worked for BBC Northern Ireland from the late 1980s through to 1994 as a journalist and film maker, mostly for the much respected Spotlight programme, I saw certain Troubles related stories begin to appear in the late 1990s that made me sit back, scratch my head and say – that doesn’t sound right, does not match my experience, or is not what I was told by the IRA, loyalists or the security forces.

At first I just shrugged my shoulders and got on with a film making and writing career that had no connection with the Troubles. So for example, I wrote and directed a six part music series for TG4 Abair Amhráin and a series on architecture called Nation Building, both of which were well received. My television series on Ireland’s historical ties with Europe made for RTÉ in the 90s (The Gap In The Mountain) gained for me the great accolade of being awarded the European Journalist of the Year Award in 1997.

All the above is simply to demonstrate that I have not spent my journalistic and film making life obsessing about the Troubles.

However, as someone who voted and argued for the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement as a badly needed alternative to armed conflict, I noticed that those dodgy stories I had been hearing became more strident and were repeated more often as the 2000s progressed. Thus, I decided some eighteen months ago to scrutinise these myths in much more detail - they were not born in a manger, but rather in the backrooms of the MOD and Whitehall and then picked up by anti peace process media outlets, which seem to have allowed their anti Sinn Féin animus to dull their usually sharp and critical faculties. The widely ignored, or passed over, Chapter 15 of the De Silva report into the state sponsored murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane deals with MI5 Propaganda tactics and demolishes the biggest spook lie of all.

But first, a list of the primary spook myths:

Myth Number 1
The FRU saved Gerry Adams's life in a 1984 shooting
Myth Number 2
The FRU sacrificed the life of Francisco Notorantonio in order to save a British agent in the IRA - Fred Scappaticci
Myth Number 3
At the time two senior RUC officers were killed outside Dundalk in March 1989, British agent Fred Scappaticci was "handling" a senior southern Irish police officer based in Dundalk.
Myth Number 4
The actions of former IRA commander and Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness were contributory factors in the Bloody Sunday slaughter in Derry.
Myth Number 5
Martin McGuinness was an MI6 spy and MI6 had prior knowledge of IRA human bomb atrocities.
Myth Number 6
The IRA was effectively being run by the FRU and MI5 because it was “riddled with spies”.

Each myth is easily rubbished:

Myth number 1 has it that in 1984 the FRU (or a 14th Intelligence unit) doctored the bullets used to shoot Gerry Adams whilst he was travelling in a car. In fact, Adams was inches away from death because two of the bullets nearly went through the Sinn Fein leader's heart, as one of the surgeons who tended to Adams, (William Rutherford) explained to the BBC:

"I don't think he was particularly close to death from the actual injury he sustained. A few inches one way or another, it wouldn't have taken the bullet wounds to have been very different, slightly shifted down the chest, and they would have been right through the heart."
Source - BBC reporter Mark Devenport both in a BBC World Service report and in correspondence with this author.

Myth number 2 is that the name of the veteran Belfast republican Francisco Notorantonio was inserted into a death squad targeting form in place of British agent Fred Scappaticci because it too was an Italian name. Thus the FRU saved Scappaticci but sacrificed Francisco who was shot dead at his home in October 1987. This cock and bull story gained widespread credence until wiser heads began to study events properly. The UFF who shot Francisco issued a statement saying that though they were aware of Fred Scappaticci he was not on their target list and thus there was no reason for a name swap. British agent Brian Nelson, meanwhile, who was the man who was supposed to have swapped the names, says in his diary that he had never heard of Francisco Notorantonio. This is what he says:

"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...”

Not only was there no name swap - Nelson says that he had never heard of Francisco Notorantonio.

Myth number 3 is easily dismissed because the spooks who place British agent Fred Scappaticci in Dundalk at the start of 1989 (when the two police officers were shot) did not check that Scappaticci was in fact in Belfast at that point and did not move to Dundalk until January 1990 - almost a year after the spook story places him there. Moreover, my usually reliable sources tell me that Scappaticci was “stood down” from the IRA in January 1990, so all the murders and dark spook deeds attributed to him after that date are just more cock and bull.

Myth number 4 is the FRU "smear" that Martin McGuinness’s actions in and around the time of Bloody Sunday (January 1972) formed part of the context for an “overreaction” (my quotes) by paratroopers. This story has been dismissed by all sides, not only as the fiction it is but an insult to the innocent victims who died that day.

Myth Number 5 stays with Martin McGuinness and the spook inspired allegation that he was an MI6 agent. In 2006 an allegedly top secret document was produced purporting to show McGuinness in conversation with his handlers. This document was very quickly shown to be a fake and, at this point (to be fair to the journalist community) many scribes began to realise that there was a problem with the stories emanating from the security services, or former FRU agents.

Myth Number 6, and possibly the most relentless message put out by the FRU and covert agencies told us that the IRA was "riddled with spies" to the extent that the security services were effectively helping to run the IRA and that therefore the peace process was a stitch up. It is therefore ironic that the "1 in 4 IRA volunteers were informers" legend is demolished by MI5 itself. Chapter 15 of the De Silva report deals with "Security Service propaganda initiatives" and shows an internal MI5 document clearly stating that the covert agencies in Ireland actually found it very difficult to recruit IRA spies - The IRA was not being run by the Security Service at all:

Chapter 15: Security Service propaganda initiatives:

"It has been agreed that disruption is the alternative as recruitment of PIRA players has proved impossible, and this would provide an ideal opportunity for unnerving the unrecruitable."

[8] Internal note from Head of Security Service operational section

In other words, a propaganda campaign was being proposed because the security forces found PIRA difficult to penetrate. And propaganda, it seems, is what we got.

With the final demolition of this Pysops wall, it is not only time for many journalists to put their hands up and say they got it wrong but also to find out how they were duped. Is is it possible, for example, that News International (with its very close contacts in the security forces) was manipulated into becoming little more than a propaganda organ for the secret state?

Paul Larkin
Carraic, Gaoth Dobhair
Mí na Nollag. 2012
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Title: Chapter 15 of the De Silva Report has destroyed the final spook infiltration myth - and tells us why these stories were put into circulation
Date posted: 17 Dec '12 - 12:22
Filed under: General
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