IN 2003 Freddie Scappaticci was outed as being the highest-ranking British agent within the IRA, codenamed Stakeknife. The West Belfast man always denied the allegation and died in hiding in April this year.
Former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe was interned at the same time as Scappaticci back in 1973. Now a successful writer, he was finishing his latest novel when he was approached by Merrion Press to write a biography on the man known to his comrades as ‘Scap’. This week ‘Stakeknife’s Dirty War’ was published.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Richard said: “It’s a biography of Scap but also an analysis of what Scap was up to and the big revelation in the book is that Scap was controlled by a group called the Tasking & Co-ordinating Group.
"When Maurice Oldfield took over as head of MI6 he united all the British intelligence agencies. Up until then they were all fighting with each other – the Branch was fighting with the FRU (Force Research Unit ) and MI5 etc. He brought them all under the one umbrella called the Tasking & Co-ordinating Group and their job was to collate intelligence and action it, where they thought it appropriate.”
Richard added: “Freddie Scappaticci came under FRU control in 1978 when he joined the Internal Security Unit [of the IRA] where he was Adjutant until 1984 and then he became OC of it and he was OC up until 1989 and the Sandy Lynch affair. So for those 11 years he was integrally involved with the Nutting Squad – call them what you want – and during that time it is chronicled that the Internal Security carried out 35 killings.
“Scap told his handlers about every stiff before they happened and they sat back and let them all get killed. So the British state and the Tasking & Coordinating Group were up to their necks in murder. They had 35 opportunities to save lives – many of them their own agents – and they sat back and they allowed it – the killings – to go ahead in order to keep Scap and whoever else who was working off him in place."
Richard said he had no idea about half of the things he would uncover before he began writing the book.
“He [Scappaticci] was the Robespierre of the Republican Movement,” he said. “See when he came into town, everybody ducked. When he came into town you knew there was trouble.
"He was also central to vetting new recruits. So every new recruit that went into the IRA had to go through him and if they went through him the Brits were already aware of their identities before they even took the oath.
“Internal Security was also debriefing volunteers coming out of Castlereagh, so they [the British] knew about operations, they knew who was out on operations and they knew why operations failed – they [volunteers] might as well have just told everything they knew in the barracks. There was a whole range of tasks that Scappaticci and Internal Security were doing and he was extremely important to the Brits.”
Richard says that twenty years ago when Scappaticci was eventually outed as a British agent there was “total and utter shock”.
“People couldn’t believe it. Freddie Scap was held up there in the upper echelons of republican respectability.”
Richard said that his own IRA past opened doors for him when he approached former IRA volunteers to speak about Scappaticci – something which wouldn't necessarily have been available for other authors.
“You needed to know the jargon and you also need to have the confidence of the people whose testimony you are trying to get and you need to hear their stories and by and large the guys who spoke to me were very keen to talk.”
Stakeknife's Dirty War by Richard O'Rawe is published by Merrion Press, priced £17.99.