Harkin and the Sunday Herald believe their identification is correct
The People is to print that it does not believe the assertion of Alfred Scappaticci that he is not Stakeknife – the British double agent who infiltrated the highest echelons of the IRA.
This week, Scappaticci’s solicitor issued a statement that his client denied “each and every one of the allegations” against him, which include his role as part of a “nutting squad” – IRA members who execute by a bullet in the head.
The People’s Irish, editor Greg Harkin, the man who tipped off the Ministry of Defence that its agent was about to be named on websites, is still convinced the man he interviewed at his West Belfast home on Saturday is Scappaticci and his denials are a smokescreen.
Harkin believes Scappaticci, now in a safe house, according to Whitehall, is protecting his own safety. The IRA has strict rules, he said. “It does not execute members for treachery unless they admit it.”
The Sunday Herald, the only paper outside Ireland to identify him last Sunday, also remains confident he is the named agent and does not expect legal repercussions to follow from his statement.
Its investigations editor Neil Mackay has been working on the story for three years, said editor Andrew Jaspan, and has impeccable intelligence sources in Northern Ireland. The previous weekend, the Scottish paper had revealed that Stakeknife was about to be named.
Both The People and Sunday Herald have MoD injunctions outstanding against them, stopping them reporting secret British Army unit activities in Northern Ireland.
Four newspapers (two in the Republic of Ireland) named Stake-knife, one of which was the Sunday Tribune. Mysteriously, Harkin’s copy turned up in the Sunday Tribune. The Tribune is published an hour before The People, which enabled The People to go ahead with its story.
Harkin claims he has known the identity of Stakeknife for years. He has a book entitled Stakeknife coming out and was able to turn around nine pages for The People once the agent’s name had been published outside UK jurisdiction.
He tipped off the MoD on Friday, via the Secretary of the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee, Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson. Other media queries followed.
Wilkinson, who gave advice to the media to pixelate photographs of Scappaticci, said he was sometimes used as an independent conduit for the transfer of information. He passed it on only if he was asked or if it would preserve life.
Harkin said the MoD told him they were extremely grateful for his tip-off and that they were moving Scappaticci that evening.
“So, surprise, surprise, there he was when I went to to his house on Saturday,” said Harkin. Scappaticci denied he was the agent but a photograph taken of him at his front door was identified as him by Harkin’s contacts.
By Jean Morgan