Sep 12 2012

SHADOW DANCER

By the early 1990s it was apparent that the IRA had been militarily defeated by the British. The fantasy that an organisation of a few hundred active members could beat a professional army of tens of thousands backed up a a massive police and intelligence apparatus was laid bare. The resulting demoralisation made it very easy for MI5 and the RUC to recruit informers. Depending on which estimate you accept it’s claimed that between 20% to 30% of the organisation’s members were providing information to the police or MI5, a weakness that seemed to become more common in the upper reaches. Freddie Scappaticci, who had a key role in the IRA’s counter intelligence section, fed information over a number of years which resulted in the arrests and assassinations of people who considered him a comrade. These jailings and killings enabled the British to prune the Republican leadership by getting rid of its most uncompromising members and, as the accounts of Scappaticci’s story reveal, they were willing to approve the murders of large numbers of unconnected people to preserve their informants. Such is the moral high ground of imperialism.

This is the squalid, treacherous setting of the new film Shadow Dancer. Whatever the intention of its writer Tom Bradby, a former ITN journalist, it may be the first film ever made in which the hero is a relentlessly determined IRA counter-intelligence officer.

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