The chief constable of Bedfordshire has addressed concerns that a probe into Stakeknife will focus on state actors at the expense of IRA personnel involved in some 50 related murders.
Stakeknife was an Army agent within the IRA who has been linked to some 50 murders. Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci has denied he is the agent.
Victims’ campaigners have expressed concern that the probe unveiled in recent days may focus primarily on the role of the state, at the expense of IRA members – and have asked how panel members were selected.
Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher has appointed two independent groups of experts to support the investigation, code name Kenova.
An Independent Steering Group (ISG) of senior law enforcement figures, has three members from the US and one each from Scotland, Australia and Northern Ireland – Baroness Nuala O’Loan.
A further six people will address the needs of the victims and their families via the Victims Focus Group (VFG). They are:
• Judith Thompson – the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Victims
• Maria McDonald – an Irish barrister who has acted as a consultant on international criminal law and victims’ rights
• Sue O’Sullivan – a former deputy chief of police (Ottawa) and Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
• Mary Fetchet – a social worker who co-founded Voices of September 11th following the death of her son in the attacks
• Levent Altan – a former UK Ministry of Justice official who developed the European Union’s policy on victims’ rights
• Alan McBride – whose wife and father-in-law were killed in the IRA Shankill bomb in 1993. He is now a peace builder.
But victims’ campaigner Anne Travers expressed reservations.
“The only real victims on it are the lady from America and Alan McBride,” she said.
“I wonder how they were chosen? I would have liked to have seen more victims from Northern Ireland who lived through the Troubles, can empathise with families and who have a lived understanding of life here.
“I’m sure the panel chosen will do their very best but I feel something is missing.”
Another campaigner, Ken Funston of the South East Fermanagh Foundation, whose brother was also murdered by the IRA, said the probe would remove further resources from legacy policing.
“The confidence in the PSNI doing anything for ‘ordinary’ victims is ebbing away, the only way you can get anything done is to allege ‘collusion’,” he said.
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer accepted the right of the families concerned to the investigation, but insisted it would have to be fair and focus equally on state and IRA actors.
For each murder involving Stakeknife, he said, the victim will have been chosen by senior high-profile republicans, as will the killers and support staff.
“All this will have been reported back to Stakeknife’s handlers and will have been recorded in intelligence files,” he said.
Senior republicans must therefore be arrested and charged, he added.
But Mr Boutcher told the News Letter he would go wherever the evidence takes him.
“The remit of this investigation is clear – Operation Kenova will seek to establish if there is any evidence of criminal offences by any party in relation to cases connected to the alleged agent known as Stakeknife.
“We will go wherever the evidence takes us, regardless of who that might potentially implicate,” he said.
“I have made a pledge to the victims’ families that I will do everything in my power to establish the truth of what happened to their loved ones, and bring anyone who had any involvement in these crimes to justice.”
Explaining how the panel members were chosen, he said: “I have carefully put together the Victims Focus Group and the Independent Steering Group, as I believe the members are among the very best in their field.”
They have championed victims’ rights “in complex and challenging situations” he added.