IRA renegade changes story on death claim
FORMER IRA man turned informer Sean O'Callaghan told the High Court yesterday that he had deliberately claimed responsibility for the murders of two Americans representing Noraid when in fact those murders had never happened.
He also admitted he had claimed responsibility for the murder of Corkman Sean Corcoran although, he said, he had not actually carried out that murder.
O'Callaghan said he has now been officially asked questions by gardai about statements he made to the RUC regarding his activities in the Republic and had said ``No comment'' at this stage. He expressed concern about incriminating himself and Mrs Justice McGuinness said he could raise the matter with her if he felt he was being put into that situation.
He denied that, in a phone conversation with Mr Gerry Colleran, a journalist, he had claimed to have committed a total of six murders. He said he had told Mr Colleran he carried out three murders the two for which he was ultimately convicted and that of Mr Corcoran.
He said he could not recollect ever having had psychiatric treatment.
Under cross-examination by Mr Eamon Leahy SC, for Mr Murphy, Mr O'Callaghan said he told the RUC, after he went voluntarily to Tunbridge Wells police station in 1988 to turn himself in, that he had murdered two Americans representing Noraid who had been sent here as hostages at the time of the Marita Ann gun shipment.
The murders were imaginary and never happened, he said. He had given details of having burned the bodies and buried them. The RUC was quick to dismiss his claims of having murdered those people as rubbish. He agreed that this made a total of five murders he had claimed to the RUC including those of two security force people in Northern Ireland, for whom he served time; and of Mr Corcoran, whom he had not murdered.
O'Callaghan said he had reason to believe certain people in the RUC, British security forces or gardai might be very unhappy at the fact that he had given himself up. He deliberately completed a false statement so that he might be able to use it if treated badly.
He agreed that when jailed for the murders of Eva Martin and RUC officer Peter Flanagan, he had said he would never apologise for them. He said he deeply regretted the murders but had a lot of reasons to be deeply suspicious of public apologies.
He had been ``debriefed'' by British security personnel during sessions in England and Holland. British personnel were not particularly interested in what he himself had done but were interested in the broader picture concerning the IRA, in intelligence gathering and in IRA activities and personnel in England. They wanted to know had he been at meetings with Gerry Adams.
He had received payment of £2,000 to go to the Continent, £500 while there and another £4,000 at the end of his debriefing session in September 1986 when he returned to England.
Mr Leahy asked O'Callaghan had he always been truthful in his dealings with journalists. O'Callaghan said he had not. He agreed he had deliberately sought to mislead journalists in the past.
He agreed he gave evidence last week of Tom Murphy attending an IRA Revolutionary Council meeting in Charlestown in 1983 and two further IRA GHQ meetings in 1985 in Mayo and Kildare.
He agreed he rang journalist Gerry Colleran twice or three times and had met him in a Paris hotel room in September 1986. He agreed he had denied he was an informer at that meeting. He denied he claimed responsibility for six murders. He said he admitted the murders of Eva Martin, Peter Flanagan and Sean Corcoran.
He had repeated the claim that he killed Mr Corcoran in December 1992/January 1993 in a Sunday Times interview. It was correct that he had told journalist Liam Clarke something he knew to be a lie. His aim was to open an investigation into Mr Corcoran's murder.
He wanted to be interviewed by the police. He had agreed to continue to try to help the gardai in their investigations into Mr Corcoran's death. Coming to court last week, he knew the gardai would want to talk to him. He had been arrested following last Wednesday's court hearing.
NOT SO FAT
He said Tom Murphy was present at an IRA revolutionary Council meeting in June or July 1983. Asked to describe Mr Murphy at that time, he said Mr Murphy had ``a little more hair, was not quite so grey, not so fat,'' was some 5'10 or 5'11 and had a ``rather funny nose.'' He was physically dour and said little.
He said he had a relationship with the Sunday Times from 1992. He had been interviewed by its then Ireland Correspondent, Liam Clarke, and later wrote articles for it and other newspapers.
He had been writing for some time before his release in 1996 and at the time of his release had almost finished a novel, written some poetry and was beginning an autobiography on which he was co-operating with Ms Cathy Johnson, Mr Clarke's wife. He had received a substantial advance for that.
The book was to be published on May 20 and serialisation rights had been negotiated, he said.
He was released in December 1996 following an Act of the Queen. He was collected from prison by Mr Clarke and the Sunday Times had found accommodation for him that night. He was presently staying in accommodation paid for by the Sunday Times.
He agreed the book advance he had received would be sufficient to pay some of his rent but he had not used it to do so.
Mr Leahy put to him he was freed some 72 days after he made a statement for the Sunday Times in relation to the present court action. Mr O'Callaghan said he had no reason to doubt that.
He said he had met a number of Sunday Times personnel while in prison and afterwards. He had also met with lawyers for the newspaper.
Mr Leahy read some extracts from an article written by O'Callaghan, shortly after his release, for the Sunday Times. The article was headlined: ``Confessions of a Gunman who betrayed the IRA.''
Counsel put to O'Callaghan that the article was written to ``a stereotypical anti-Irish agenda'' for the Sunday Times.
O'Callaghan agreed the article contained references to rashers, priests, drink, the devil and a ``sweety'' shop.
Mr Leahy put it to him that a part of the article where O'Callaghan claimed to have been sprinkled with holy water and fed burned steak breakfasts by two priests after he was involved in murdering an RUC officer smacked of ``Fr Ted meets Egon Ronay.'' O'Callaghan said what he had described was true. He said one of the priests had described the dead RUC officer as an abominable man who had ``sold his soul to the devil.''
He said it was also correct that ``every pub'' in Carrickmore gave out free drink after the murder of the RUC officer.
He denied a suggestion that, in writing the article, he was working to ``an agenda'' and putting in what he thought would sell.