Pursuing The Predator

Posted By: June 16, 2015


THE PENSIVE QUILL. Wednesday, June 10, 2015 

If things continue as they are it might only be a matter of time, and without much
tongue in cheek, before the investigative journalist Darragh MacIntyre finds himself
described as the greatest living threat in Ireland to the British state. A sobriquet
once reserved for Martin McGuinness before he was co-opted, and on occasion for the
late Brian Keenan, might just find its way to a new standard bearer. 

Last night, via BBC Spotlight, for the second time in as many weeks, MacIntyre
stepped into the ring, metaphorical fists at the ready to fight shadows, spooks,
smoke and mirrors, ring craft, dissembling, subterfuge, veils, labyrinthine trails
littered with chicanes and diversion signs thrown up to deflect the spirit of free
inquiry away from its task of scrutinising government. The investigative journalism
of MacIntyre and others is peeling away the camouflage beneath which lies a sordid
history of a dirty war from which the stench of British state terrorism is emitted
with all too recurring frequency. 

Professor Henry Patterson might well worry that the history of the northern conflict
is being rewritten by nationalists to the point that the formal statistic that
"deaths by the state were far, far lower" is no longer as boldly inscribed in the
narrative. To the extent that such apprehensions are well founded, it may be argued
that hard evidence rather than nationalist alchemy is driving the restorative work
currently underway.  Such graft is incrementally but inexorably restoring the
British state to its rightful place in the matrix that was the Northern conflict.
Britain was no compere, gallantly and impartially holding the ring, but a pugilist
in the middle, gouging, biting and kicking as much as the other contestants. Now
that it finds itself on the ropes, too bad. 

"Deaths by the state were far, far lower" is the cloak of legitimacy that the
British state does not wish to be denuded of.  It is content for society never to
find out the full extent of the state's terrorism and the victims that it produced.
The state's real death toll might well be lower but by how much? Can it be said any
longer with a straight face that all the ostensibly IRA killings that vex Professor
Patterson were exclusively IRA acts? 

It is precisely this type of problematic that has made BBC Spotlight a thorn in the
side of the British state in recent months. Chris Moore exposed the machinations of
the sinister Weapons & Explosives Research Centre (WERC), a RUC Special Branch
ballistics unit, which existed for the purpose of the forensic manipulation of
evidence. Vincent Kearney opened a window called Gary Haggarty through which the
viewing public could observe the wholesale rubbishing of the professed but dishonest
commitment of the PSNI to be an impartial police force in the business of justice

Last night’s “date with the state” examined how British state terrorist strategy
found expression through the activities of Freddie Scappaticci, aka Stakeknife.
Scappaticci was a key – just not the master key - British agent within the
Provisional IRA, having been recruited in the 1970s by the British Army. 

Spotlight combined the forensic pursuit of its quarry, Scappaticci, with a parallel
narrative that told the sorrowful story of Caroline Moreland, for the most part
articulated by her daughter Shona and made all the more powerful and poignant by the
use of footage of the Moreland family recorded shortly before Caroline was shot dead
6 weeks short of the 1994 IRA ceasefire. Her killing seemed to be one of the
organisation’s more strategically gratuitous acts of violence, spurred by either
personal vindictiveness or a display of chest beating just to let the doubters know
that despite the peace shenanigans the IRA hadn't gone away, you know. Yet it seems
highly likely that while the IRA may have thought it alone was responsible for the
death of Caroline Moreland, the hidden hand of the British state was present, with
the downward thumb posture maintained to the very end.   

The central question raised by Spotlight is why the state armed with the information
it had in its possession, courtesy of its own agent who was responsible for hunting
down prey like Caroline Moreland, did nothing to prevent her death or the deaths of
so many others accused by informers within the IRA of ...  being informers within
the IRA. Kafkaesque for sure, but it was nothing less. 

We might never find out but the suspicion remains that amongst his many tasks,
Scappaticci was a vacuum for hoovering up what the British state had determined
human asset detritus: people whose cover had been blown or who were coming to the
end of their shelf life as agents: allowing them to be compromised and killed, a
much less costly enterprise than relocating them and their families to England.

In the face of PSNI prevarication and procrastination, investigative journalists are
now openly challenging the dominant British state narrative of the conflict. The
PSNI tactical paradox of rushing in the “investigative delay"mechanism, so palpably
absent in its pursuit of the Boston College oral history archive, in the hope that
things can be strung out to 2040 as estimated by the North's Lord Chief Justice,
shows there is no dark side to the reconfigured RUC. It is all dark.