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Hoon in new bid to gag Sunday People

(by Greg Harkin, Sunday People)

The Government has again moved to gag Sunday People over its investigations into Britain's most senior agent inside the Provisional IRA. Defence Minister Geoff Hoon ordered a 'warning' letter to be issued to this newspaper on Friday just days after we exposed allegations that the agent codenamed Stakeknife had been involved in up to 40 murders.

It was another desperate censorship attempt by the Government in a case that has baffled security force observers, including former members of the secret Army unit which runs the Force Research Unit. The allegations from former FRU members that Stakeknife was involved in murder, if true, will once again embarrass the Government.

There have already been allegations that FRU members helped loyalist agent Brian Nelson set up Catholics for murder.Sunday People alleged last week that Stakeknife had been involved in the deaths of security force members as well as innocent Catholics and Protestants. Yet he is a paid informer - financed by the British taxpayer.

The allegations centre on claims Stakeknife was allowed to participate in killings in order to retain his senior role inside the Provos.

A Treasury Solicitor lawyer, instructed by Hoon and the Ministry of Defence, wrote to Sunday People's lawyers complaining about the article and warning that the Government would consider taking action against this newspaper if it made any further disclosures.

Part of an injunction against Sunday People remains in place.

The letter - incredibly - is the first official Government statement that appears to confirm the existence of Stakeknife. (Because of the paranoia of the Government about our investigations we are even banned from telling you all the details of their latest warning letter because of the terms of their original injunction).

It states: "I refer to the article published in the Sunday People newspaper on 23rd June 2002 entitled 'Stakeknife - His bloody true story' written by Greg Harkin.

"The article sets out what is stated to be information derived from a former member of the Force Research Unit about someone identified as 'Stakeknife'.

"It seems clear from the article that your clients have in their possession a good deal more information said to derive from the alleged former member of the FRU than was published in the article and it may be that your clients will be considering whether to publish some of that information.

"The Ministry of Defence is concerned....lest in any future article your clients were to publish information which is in breach of....that injunction. "This concern arises in particular because your clients will not necessarily be in the best position to judge....the consequences that may arise from any further publication.

"Accordingly, I am instructed to write to you and express these concerns and to invite your clients to take extreme care about any further information said to be derived from the alleged former member of the FRU."

Yesterday, Sunday People Editor Neil Wallis condemned the latest bid to censor this newspaper. Mr Wallis said: "It's now clear that Sunday People is getting very close to unmasking the truth about agents and their role in murders in what is a part of the United Kingdom.

"Geoff Hoon and his MoD cronies will not succeed in their attempts to stifle our investigations.

"They are using antiquated laws to prevent freedom of speech."

A former FRU agent who made the incredible allegations said: "I am not surprised by the MoD's reaction but I am saddened by that the old mentality of secrecy is still being maintained by what is supposed to be an open Labour government.

"Genuine secrets need to be protected. But skeletons need to be exposed." Last week, we revealed how Stakeknife had played a role in one of the most controversial arrests of the Troubles - that of former Sinn Fein publicity director Danny Morrison.

July 1, 2002

This article appeared in the June 30, 2002 edition of the Sunday People.