The former Sinn Fein publicity director who received £200,000 in compensation over a British agent’s role in his conviction and imprisonment has defended the award.
Danny Morrison, who infamously announced the republican movement’s ‘Armalite and ballot box’ strategy in 1981, was convicted in relation to the 1990 abduction of Alexander ‘Sandy’ Lynch but this was overturned on appeal in 2008.
A total of eight republicans found guilty of being part of the IRA kidnap gang will share a £1.6 million payout.
Their convictions were quashed as the role of the agent known as ‘Stakeknife’ was not disclosed during the original trial.
Stakeknife was identified in 2003 as the head of the IRA’s internal security unit known as the ‘nutting squad’.
Following the compensation announcement, the Northern Ireland Office said: “We fully understand and share the public concern and anger there will be over this.”
On Saturday, Mr Morrison wrote a lengthy blog claiming he had been lured to the house in west Belfast where Lynch was being held by Stakeknife.
His own reason for going to the property in Lenadoon was to call a press conference in which Lynch - who had been exposed as a police informer - would tell an “incredible story” of a botched RUC operation in which an undercover officer was killed by his own colleagues.
Mr Morrison said: “The compensation reflected the circumstances of our arrest, that our case and trial was a malicious prosecution, and that we served, collectively, over 45 years in jail, because we were set up for arrest by British Intelligence through their agent, ‘Stakeknife’, who is Freddie Scappaticci.”
The former republican prisoner turned author posed the question ‘who did he [Scappaticci] save?’ and added: “Scappaticci was the prime minister’s man murdering weak and troubled and insecure and compromised IRA Volunteers for whom the IRA had no sympathy: and why would they?), and civilian supporters, in order to perversely elevate his reputation as an IRA spy catcher. And it was all for nothing. For nothing. Immoral.”
A NIO spokesman said the legislation that allowed for the compensation claims was “not fit for purpose” and has since been amended.
“These payments had to be authorised as a result of legislation which had ceased to be fit for the purpose of defining a miscarriage of justice, following a decision by the Court of Appeal in 2008 and a Supreme Court judgment in 2011.
“That is why the Government acted decisively last year to tighten the law to make it more difficult for these cases to succeed in future. The law now makes very clear that only in cases where newly discovered facts show beyond reasonable doubt that the person did not commit the offence will an applicant be eligible for compensation,” he said.
When news of the compensation was announced, Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott described it as “another smack in the mouth” for IRA victims.
He said: “This simply wouldn’t be allowed to happen in any other country in the world. I have already written to the Secretary of State to outline my disgust.”