The Ministry of Defence is trying to gag a former British soldier after he asked for permission to give evidence to two inquiries in Ireland.
The military intelligence agent handler, known by the pseudonym Martin Ingram, has offered to testify at a tribunal investigating the murder of two Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and to an inquiry into the murder of Billy Wright, the loyalist paramilitary. Collusion between the security forces and paramilitaries has been alleged in both cases.
The MoD has informed Ingram he is to be charged with contempt of court, which carries a sentence of up to two years. There will be a preliminary hearing to be held in London on October 17, at which the MoD will seek to force Ingram to keep secret any evidence produced in the proceedings.
Seven years ago, Ingram revealed to The Sunday Times the existence of a high-level mole codenamed Stakeknife, operating in the IRA. He also said that military intelligence officers set fire to the offices of a police inquiry headed by Sir John Stevens in a failed attempt to protect another mole, Brian Nelson, from being prosecuted for murder.
Ingram was taken to court and forced to agree to a gagging injunction. That has since been relaxed to allow him to give evidence to the Bloody Sunday tribunal and to the Stevens inquiry into collusion between the security forces and loyalist terrorists.
Years later Ronnie Anderson, a warrant officer in the same Force Research Unit (FRU) as Ingram, said Stakeknife was Freddie Scappaticci, the head of the IRA’s internal security.
Once this became public, Ingram co-wrote a book entitled Stakeknife: Britain ’s Secret Agents in Ireland . Before its publication in 2004 it was shown to the Treasury Solicitors, who act for the MoD, and a number of changes were made.
Last month, though, Ingram received a letter from the Treasury Solicitors claiming the book was a ‘flagrant breach’ of the injunction.
“They could have done this four years ago if they felt I was in breach,” Ingram said. “My co-author was living in the UK and I have been living here full-time for the past 17 months.
“I can only conclude they are trying to put me off giving evidence to two public inquiries, one in the Irish Republic and one in Britain .”
Ingram has been asked to assist the Smithwick inquiry in Dublin , which is examining claims that Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, two RUC Special Branch officers, were murdered by the IRA with the help of a rogue garda in 1989. He was also asked to assist a UK inquiry into the death of Wright, who was murdered in 1997 by the Irish National Liberation Army. It has been alleged that the authorities wanted Wright dead as he might reveal his links to the security forces.
Peter Binning, Ingram’s lawyer, said: “A public interest issue in this field is the extent to which the government has been able to conceal official collusion with terrorists. It looks as if this action is to deter him from giving evidence.”