Slide Amnesty International UK / Media Awards AWARD CATEGORIES

When will the knife bleed?

GQ Magazine UK


My GQ piece from its October issue was six months in the making and a laborious exercise in reporting which took me all around the UK and Ireland, and was run in the magazine at 7000 words. I couldn’t have done it without the extraordinary generosity of Irish journalists, and the help of human rights workers like the heroic Jane Winter (formerly of British Irish Rights Watch). Collaboration has become the latest buzzword of a certain kind of data-heavy, cross-border approach to journalism. But I experience is that traditional journalists and human rights workers are just as collaborative and generous, if not more so, when they all face the same issue – in any case, of acute sensitivities by the British Ministry of Defence and intelligence services about telling the truth of the Irish Troubles.


The piece arrived at the perfect time, being published early in September just as the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill was passing through Parliament. It was originally not published online. Confidentially David Davis helped encourage GQ to publish it online and overcome their reluctance to do so. Davis and other concerned parties about the passage of the BIll were instrumental in getting the piece read, realising that Stakeknife is the perfect cautionary tale about what happens when agents of the state are given a “license to kill.”

Amnesty’s own work in this field was also deeply helpful ( The piece was also name-checked by the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dail, who called it “a wonderful article” which “tells an incredibly sordid story of the IRA and Sinn Féin and the work of British intelligence agencies and the infiltration of both.”

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill is still making its way through Parliament; my GQ piece could use a little more publicity.

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