Byline: Suzanne Breen
THE British intelligence officer who was one of Frank Hegarty's handlers and guards believes the Derry informer was sacrificed in order to protect Martin McGuinness's secret life as a spy.
Ian Hurst, using the alias Martin Ingram, was the person who outed senior IRA man Freddie Scappaticci as the British agent Stakeknife so his allegations about Mr McGuinness appear to carry weight. He even claims to know the codename Mr McGuinness was given - J118. Mr McGuinness has strongly denied the allegations. Mr Hegarty's family allege that Mr McGuinness lured him home from hiding in 1986 when he was killed by the IRA.
Mr Hurst said he was stunned when Mr Hegarty was rapidly promoted through IRA ranks despite other republicans being warned that he was a long-standing British agent.
Mr Hurst worked in Derry for the covert military group, the Force Research Unit (FRU). 'Frank was hired as an agent in the 1970s, spying on the Official IRA. His cover was blown in 1975 and he was beaten up by the Officials,' Mr Hurst has said.
'We re-recruited him in 1982 as a low-level "eyes-and-ears" informer to spy on the Provisional IRA. Then, myself and a colleague Brian were called in by Derry FRU boss John Tobias and told that Frank was to be instructed to get close to Martin McGuinness.
'We burst out laughing and my colleague said to Tobias, "What have you been smoking?" Hegarty's name was mud in republican circles in Derry, nobody trusted him. We thought he hadn't a hope in hell of getting near someone with as much savvy as McGuinness.' But Mr Hegarty amazingly went 'from zero to hero in the Provos', Mr Hurst said. 'The biggest ever IRA arms shipment from Libya arrived in 1985 and Frank was entrusted with organising the dumps.
'Every senior member of the Derry Provisional IRA opposed Frank's promotion saying, "He's a tout". …