Actions of Britain’s top IRA spy likely resulted in more lives lost than saved, inquiry says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 8, 2024 | 5:16 AM

BELFAST (Reuters) – The actions of Britain’s highest-ranking informer within the Irish Republican Army (IRA), codenamed “Stakeknife”, likely resulted in more lives being lost than saved, an independent inquiry found on Friday.

The IRA was responsible for more than half the 3,600 deaths during three decades of sectarian conflict in the British-ruled province that was largely ended by the signing of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord.

The report found that British security forces were frequently aware of imminent abductions and murders and yet failed to protect those at risk.

As a result, it said, preventable deaths occurred with their knowledge and those responsible were not brought to justice and were instead left free to reoffend.

The Operation Kenova independent report did not reveal the identity of the agent who was allegedly a leading member of the IRA’s feared internal discipline unit, the “Nutting Squad”, which interrogated suspected informers.

Freddie Scappaticci, a Belfast man who died last year, denied being “Stakeknife” after newspapers named him as the agent in 2003. He lost a legal bid to force British ministers to publicly clear him of being a double agent.

Operation Kenova investigators recommended that more than 30 individuals, including alleged paramilitaries, former police and ex-members of the intelligence and security forces, should face criminal charges.

The Public Prosecution Service decided in recent months not to prosecute, citing “insufficient evidence.”

(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson and Padraic Halpin in Dublin)