RUC officer says Scappaticci was part of IRA security unit

Smithwick tribunal

Well-known Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci was a member of the notorious IRA internal security unit known as the Nutting Squad, a former RUC Special Branch chief has told the Smithwick tribunal.

But retired RUC assistant chief constable Mr Raymond White said he was “not prepared” to say if Mr Scappaticci was the British intelligence source known as Stakeknife.

Mr Scappaticci, who is represented before the tribunal, denies that he was ever a member of the IRA or that he is Stakeknife.

The tribunal is looking at allegations of garda collusion in the IRA ambush that led to the deaths of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, on 20 March 1989.

Mr White said that a full RUC investigation into reports that a Garda was supplying information to the IRA would not be possible without co-operation from An Garda Siochana “at the highest level.”

The witness said that the IRA operated on nine “platforms”, including recruitment, training, quartermastering and fundraising, as well as the active service units themselves, and the RUC tried to target IRA operations on all of these platforms.

He said that during the 1970s, the IRA was raising about £9 million a year to fund its activities.

Mr White also said that Peter Keeley – also known as Kevin Fulton – provided information on criminal activity to the RUC in the 1990s. He said colleagues in the RUC has assessed Mr Fulton as being an “intelligence nuisance”, but he gave approval for two of his officers to gather information from the informant.

As a result of the information provided by Mr Fulton, several successful police operations were carried out.

Mr White said he had no recollection of seeing an RUC intelligence report naming a serving Garda as an IRA “mole”.

Meanwhile journalist Toby Harnden, who it emerged today will not be giving evidence to the tribunal this week as planned, has issued a statement posted on his facebook page saying his book Bandit Country “speaks for itself”.

“I stand behind everything in it,” Mr Harnden said. “I now live in the United States and am covering the Republican primaries, three of which are being held today. The decision not to appear before the Smithwick Tribunal is mine and mine alone.

“I note that the Tribunal has heard evidence from former members of the RUC and Garda Siochana and has also been supplied with intelligence information. This evidence and information adds to and significantly backs up what I wrote more than 12 years ago when Bandit Country brought the issue of collusion between individual Garda officers and the Provisional IRA to public attention.”

Former Fine Gael justice spokesperson Charlie Flanagan gave evidence to the Smithwick tribunal, which is investigating allegations of Garda collusion.

He said that following the publication of ‘Bandit country’ by journalist Toby Harnden, he was anxious that the justice minister would look into the claims of collusion in the book.

The tribunal was set up to examine claims of garda collusion in the deaths of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, in March 1989.

The TD said he also wrote to the garda commissioner about the allegations.

On the same day that the issue was raised in the Dáil, unionist MP Mr Jeffrey Donaldson named retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan in the House of Commons under parliamentary privilege.

Mr Flanagan said he was given the name detective sergeant Owen Corrigan, butr decided not to name him in the Dáil as Mr Corrigan was not present to respond and defend his name.

Mr Corrigan has denied any allegations of collusion.

Mr Flanagan said it was common for Northern Irish unionists and British conservative politicians to complain at cross-border meetings that Dublin was not doing enough to secure the border.

The Laois-Offaly TD said he was contacted by telephone one weekend by a caller identifying himself as a member of An Garda Siochana, who said “the issues were important and should be followed up”.

He said he didn’t think the caller gave him his name, but could have been from county Monaghan.

The caller did not add anything to the information he already had, Mr Flanagan said.

Barrister Jim O’Callaghan expressed concern at the failure of journalist and author Toby Harnden to appear before the tribunal, and said the chairman was entitled to draw inferences from his non-appearance.