Thursday 15 November 2018

Informer identifies IRA's top personnel


FARMER Thomas ``Slab'' Murphy was at an IRA Revolutionary Council meeting in 1983 which was also attended by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, vice-president Pat Doherty and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, former IRA activist-turned-informer Sean O'Callaghan told the High Court yesterday.

FARMER Thomas ``Slab'' Murphy was at an IRA Revolutionary Council meeting in 1983 which was also attended by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, vice-president Pat Doherty and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, former IRA activist-turned-informer Sean O'Callaghan told the High Court yesterday.

Present also at that Revolutionary Council meeting were Danny Morrison, Joe Keohane, Martin Ferris, John Noonan, Tommy Devereaux and JPMcDonald, Mr O'Callaghan said.

He also said he was present at two meetings of IRA General Headquarters staff held between late 1984 and 1985. The GHQ was the section of the IRA responsible for running the IRA and only very senior IRA persons of some standing would secure a position on the GHQ staff.


Mr O'Callaghan said he had attended the GHQ meetings as the Officer Commanding the IRA's Southern Command. He named a number of people who were also present and said these had particular areas of responsibility.

According to Mr O'Callaghan, these people were: Kevin McKenna, IRA Chief of Staff; Pat Doherty, Adjutant General; Martin McGuinness; Tom Murphy; Seamus Twomey, Director of Intelligence; John Deery, Director of Finance; Owen Coogan, England Department; Kieran Conway, Director of Research; Gabriel Cleary, Director of Engineering Department and Danny Morrison, Director of Publicity.

Tom Murphy, from Co Louth, was the Officer Commanding the IRA's Northern Command, Mr O'Callaghan said.

There was a ``funny moment'' between Mr Murphy and Mr Pat Doherty at one of those meetings. He said Mr Doherty had asked Mr Murphy how were they going to win the war.

Mr O'Callaghan said Mr Murphy had replied: ``Bomb them to the conference table and then booby trap the table.'' He said Mr Doherty had asked: ``But what about the Sinn Fein delegation?''

He said Mr Murphy had replied: ``We never tell people where we're putting our booby traps.'' This was in February/March 1985, Mr O'Callaghan said.

Asked could he identify Mr Murphy, he pointed to the plaintiff, Thomas Murphy, who was sitting in the crowded public gallery.


Mr O'Callaghan was giving evidence on the opening day of a libel action taken by Thomas Murphy, a farmer, Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, against Times Newspapers Limited over an article in the Sunday Times on June 30, 1985.

Mr Murphy claims he was libelled in the article which dealt with an IRA campaign to bomb seaside resorts in Britain. A paragraph in the article stated: ``In Ireland itself the planning of mainland campaigns is surrounded now by a more tightly-knit security. The IRA's army council last February appointed a farmer in the Republic, called ``Slab'' Murphy (which is not his real name) to be its operations commander for the whole of Northern Ireland. He has no convictions for terrorist activities and this, plus the fact that he is on the other side of the border, makes him a security headache hard to cure.''

In evidence yesterday, Mr Murphy said he was known as Slab Murphy and, when he read the article on June 30, 1985, he understood it to refer to him. Mr Murphy gave limited evidence yesterday and is to resume his evidence at a later stage of the trial.

The trial opened before Mrs Justice McGuinness and a jury yesterday and is to resume on Tuesday when Mr O'Callaghan, who has written several articles for the Sunday Times, is due to continue his evidence.

Answering Mr Paul Gallagher SC, for Times Newspapers, Mr O'Callaghan said he was born in Tralee in 1954. He joined the Provisional IRA in 1970 when he was 15 and remained in it until October 1975. He was in the IRA in April 1972 and working on explosives in a shed at the back of his parents' house when there was an accidential explosion. He was jailed for six months.

After his release, he became a full-time IRA person.

He resigned from the IRA in 1975 and went to England until 1979 when he returned to Co Kerry. In August 1979, he rejoined the IRA and stayed in it until 1985.


When he went back to England in 1985, he met the English police, with the consent of the Irish police. He was asked to go on a debriefing session in Europe which he did, with the express authority of the Irish police.

In November 1988, he went into Tunbridge Wells police station and said he wanted to confess to the murder of a detective inspector in Omagh. At Belfast Crown Court in May 1990, he pleaded guilty to two murders in 1974. He confessed to 54 other charges of attempted murder, possession of explosives and hijacking of cars.

He was given two life sentences and a total of 549 years in prison. He was released in December 1996, having been in custody for eight years. He got 50pc remission and then the Queen's prerogative was invoked and his sentence was reduced to 16 years.

While he had joined the IRA at 15, by the time he was 20 he had concluded he was wrong. It took him four years to decide if he should do anything about it.

Mr O'Callaghan said he had no difficulty admitting he was an informer. Documented history proved the IRA had killed over 100 people they might have regarded as informers so there was no reason why they might not want to do the same to him. He had security concerns about giving evidence.

When he rejoined the IRA in 1979, he had told gardai he wished to do so in order to work against the IRA and had done so in whatever respect he thought appropriate.


He said that from August 1975 he was working directly for the IRA's GHQ Staff and was probably beginning to play a minor role in general IRA strategy.

Mr O'Callaghan said he had decided he could damage the IRA most by rejoining it and working with the Irish authorities. He was on the command staff of the IRA in Kerry. He gave information on IRA activities over the next few years including information which led to the arrest of the gun-running ship, Marita Ann.

He said Mr Martin Ferris had been Officer Commanding the IRA's Southern Command until he was arrested in connection with the Marita Ann seizure. Mr O'Callaghan said he succeeded Mr Ferris to that position.

He said he made it his business to travel into every single area of IRA activity. From 1978/79 the IRA leadership had begun to move in a general Marxist direction. A 12-member IRA executive, elected in 1970, had allegiance to Rory Brady and Daithi OConaill and there were moves to find a new way forward.

Tom Murphy was present at two IRA GHQ meetings he attended. In operational terms, Mr Murphy was OC of the IRA Northern Command.

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