The Dirty War – 2

Strand 2 in the “dirty war” : Double Agents
After the failure of the “colonial strategy” the British government’s priorities were to secure effective control of the population  and to root out and destroy the IRA’s infrastructure.

How did they achieve these objectives?

Martyn Frampton

Martyn Frampton wrote
In the “dirty war” agents of the State seriously violated human rights, up to and including murder”


Catholic  Peter Keeley (aka Kevin Fulton)  from  Newry joined the Royal Irish Rangers at the age of 18. He admitted to being involved in multiple murders with the full knowledge of his handlers

One example from  1992: Constable McMurray (34), from Sixmilecross,Co Tyrone, was killed  IRA attack in Newry, using a rocket developed with the help of British agent Peter Keeley.

Constable McMurray’s husband Philip believes his wife was knowingly sacrificed to protect the informant.

Former Police Ombudsman, Baroness Nuala O’Loan said she was “fairly sure there was an informant who had been protected in the case“, but believes while her death “may have been a mistake. The murder wasn’t solved and I think that’s where the problem was“.

According to Panorama, all evidence from the murder scene has disappeared, including a crucial police log recording the threat made against officers.

Keeley, also known as Kevin Fulton, told the programme: “I got a brave few people caught and jailed“, but refused to go into details of any murders he may have been directly involved in because of “an ongoing police investigation“.

He claimed that he told his handlers who “had control” of the bomb “two weeks before the killing” and that they knew an attack would happen that day.

Here we’ll consider the most (in)famous double agents. There were others.

Alfredo ( Freddie) Scappaticci (allegedly Steak/Stake- knife)  and Denis Donaldson were “career agents,” in so far as they were at the heart of the republican movement and survived undetected for about 20-30 years



Who was Alfredo Scappaticci?
Born around 1946 he grew up in the Markets ( or Andersonstown? Or the New Lodge? ) in Belfast, and worked as a bricklayer. He was said to be a petty thief and a house breaker during the early 60s late 50s and was in Borstal for his criminal activities.

Comment: So he had already been under the attention of the RUC before he was in the IRA.

He was also well known for carrying a knife in those days. His boss and OC of the IRA internal security unit that Scap was Adjutant of was John Joe Magee an ex member of the British Special Boat Squadron.

The SBS is the marine equivalent to the SAS, with many in its ranks drafted from the Royal Marines. Consequently Magee  was also suspected of being a British and Irish government agent. But he’s dead now and the truth about his life is probably buried with him.

1970:  Scappaticci  was fined for riotous assembly  after being caught up in “the Troubles”

1971: He  was interned without trial at the age of 25 as part of Operation Demetrius. Following his release, Scappaticci went back to the building trade but was arrested by the RUC over a VAT fraud. Spared prosecution, he agreed to hand over information.

Alternatively  . . .

1978: He was recruited to the British when he walked in and offered his services  after being assaulted in an argument with a fellow IRA member. He had driven a car into a group in a road rage type incident and got a beating for it. What was the reason for his rage? Lost in the mists of time!!

In other words an individual or group associated with the IRA had given Scappaticci a beating which prompted him to turn traitor.

Comment: He was clearly motivated by pride and personal grudges.

He was paid £80,000 a year for passing information to the Force Research Unit (FRU).

Comment: He was clearly money-hungry too!

The FRU  and “Martin Ingram”  (aka  Jack Grantham or Ian Hurst)

Here he is  – Martin Ingram’, real name Ian Hirst?, a former FRU soldier – in his FRU days


“Ingram” insisted Scappaticci  was responsible for dozens of murders – many carried out when he was deputy head of the IRA’s notorious internal security unit, known as the Nutting Squad, which tortured and executed suspected informers – and that innocent people died to protect his identity.

dead tout
His position within the IRA meant that murder was a routine part of his paramilitary existence which  was  sanctioned by Scappaticci’s handlers  “The one preconception that the IRA had was that if you are dirty—that is, if you have killed—then you cannot be an agent. [Therefore] his best protection was to keep killing.”

Update 26/2/2015: Case history: 22 year old Joe Mulhern  was abducted by the IRA and accused of passing information to Special Branch. He was  interrogated for 10 days, shot and his body dumped near Castlederg, Co Tyrone.No-one has ever been charged or convicted of the murder.

Six weeks after he was buried his father Frank  said Freddie Scappaticci told him about his son’s murder.

Frank Mulhern said: “I asked him again how he died and Scap said that the first shot had hit my son in the back of the neck and he told the guy whoever shot him to shoot him again, so the second shot hit him on the back of the head and apparently that’s what killed him.

Frank Mulhern is convinced the security forces could have saved his son but chose to protect their spy codenamed ‘Stakeknife’.

It’s about time Scap was brought to court and that’s all I really want,” .

Outcome: Mr Scapatticci has allegedly undergone facial plastic surgery and is living in Europe. He  denies all allegations

donaldson 2

2002:    Denis Donaldson, head of administration for Sinn Fein at Stormont, was exposed after his arrest in connection with an IRA spy-ring within the Northern Ireland Assembly .

Who was Denis Donaldson?

Denis Martin Donaldson (1950 – 2006) came from the Short Strand, a Catholic enclave in East Belfast.

mid-1960s: He joined the IRA

1970:  He took part in the gun battle between loyalists and republicans at St. Matthew’s Chapel

1981: He attended a Hezbollah training camp in Lebanon

He  helped establish Friends of Sinn Fein  in  New York City.

He was imprisoned with Bobby Sands


Like Bobby Sands,  Kieran Conway, author of

kieran conway

was imprisoned with Donaldson:
“ in relation to Denis . . . . I knew him. I was in gaol with him both in Crumlin Road when there were fewer us and in Long Kesh and I liked him – I liked him a lot. He was on the extreme-left of the movement, as was I . . .. I was shocked at the revelation that Denis had been an informer for many years”.

Denis Donaldson  admitted to having been “turned” in the eighties.

Over that period I was paid money” he said

Comment: So was he money-hungry too? 

Not necessarily.

The handlers would start off slow,” said Richard English, a professor of politics and the author of a history of the I.R.A. “They would say: every so often you will give us a bit of something and you will get a bit of money.

Comment: Once he had taken the money, “it was difficult for him to get out” without risking execution by the Irish Republican Army.

After that press conference Denis Donaldson went into hiding in a cottage in Donegal. He continued to meet with senior Sinn Fein officials for a further seven days to give detailed accounts of his life as an informer.

Outcome:  Denis Donaldson was tracked down to his Donegal cottage  and shot dead by the Real IRA

Query: What was used to turn him?


Danny Morrison: “There had to be a moment when he was compromised. He would have had to make a choice – between living with the consequences of what they were going to expose about him, or deciding to enter into a pact with people who had inflicted so much suffering on his own community, his friends, himself.”

Comment: Any minor infraction– shop-lifting, a mistress, cross-dressing – of the social and legal mores of the time could have been used as leverage, considering the prevailing mentality and the fear of being shamed before the community.

 “Ingram”  affirmed, “a free-spending wife, or an accident in a third-party-only insured vehicle, were common starting points for an approach.
Yet, perhaps more disturbingly,  such problems may have been fashioned by the security services  to facilitate an approach.

army officer
A former senior army officer, “The key to “turning” someone was to identify a weakness—be it women, drink, gambling, whatever . . . And if we couldn’t find a weakness there were ways to create one. An example of this would be: if we knew a target was going into a pub for a few drinks, we might ensure his problems might become more apparent driving home. He might have a car accident or simply be pulled over by a Police patrol. Suddenly he’s up on a drink-driving charge”

Comment: People were put in a position where they had little choice but to work alongside the security services.

Have a look at the example of Martin McGartland (1970 – ) who came from a republican family in Anderstown
As a young teenager he became involved in petty crime ( buying and selling stolen goods)  which brought him to the notice of the RUC.

1986: at the age of 16, he agreed to provide information to the RUC about local IRA members

1989: He   joined the IRA in  at his handler’s request

1987-1991: He was a Special Branch and MI5 agent in west Belfast

Some months he earned £3,000 from Special Branch. He saved the money, hiding it behind his mother’s bath panel:

I could have up to £20,000 there.”

Comment: Money-hunger again

Although he became close to senior IRA members, he is reported never to have sympathised personally with the IRA

He turned strongly against it when other young people he knew were kneecapped or beaten by the organisation.
His cover was blown when he averted a gun attack on off-duty British soldiers in a Bangor pub

The IRA deduced that he was an MI5 mole but he escaped  from them by jumping out of a window.

The RUC gave him a £50,000 house and £40,000 towards furniture and a car.

I’m very, very proud I was an agent.  I saved lives,” says McGartland.

Outcome: 1999: After being shot in England Mr McGartland is disabled and suffers mental trauma as a result of the attacks on him.

Here’s a film based on his story

Final Comments: “Espionage, double dealing and dirty tricks have been rife on all sides in Northern Ireland for years,” wrote journalist Niall Stanage. “The peace process did not bring an end to the dirty war.”…the+source+at+the…-a0114454696–2


8 thoughts on “The Dirty War – 2

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