Tuesday 21 January 2020

'Seán was haunted by the killings he carried out... so he dedicated his life to atonement'

Former IRA killer-turned-informer Sean O’Callaghan pictured in Dublin in 1998.
Former IRA killer-turned-informer Sean O’Callaghan pictured in Dublin in 1998.

Suzanne Breen

IRA informer Seán O'Callaghan "dedicated his life to atonement", according to a close friend and Northern Ireland politician.

Mr O'Callaghan, a convicted killer turned author, died while swimming in a pool in Jamaica while visiting his daughter.

Mr O'Callaghan (63), from Tralee, Co Kerry, detailed the inner workings of the IRA in his best-selling book, 'The Informer', in 1999.

Belfast politician Chris McGimpsey said he had known Mr O'Callaghan over 20 years and described him as "haunted" by the killings in which he was involved, recounting how a policeman he shot dead had begged him not to do it.

The Ulster Unionist said that O'Callaghan had tried to "make amends" for his actions.

"He dedicated his life to atonement. He worked for the Irish State, supporting the democratic government of the Irish Republic against the IRA," Mr McGimpsey said. "I am proud to have called Seán my friend. His information led gardaí to intercept the huge IRA arms shipment on the Marita Ann in 1984, saving many lives."

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After handing himself into Kent police in 1988 and confessing to the 1974 murders of UDR Greenfinch Eva Martin and Special Branch officer Peter Flanagan, the informer was imprisoned in England and Northern Ireland.

Mr McGimpsey said: "He asked me to visit him when he was in jail here. He was being kept in solitary confinement and he embarked on a hunger-strike in protest about prison conditions."

The Belfast councillor explained that the two men remained in contact. "Sometimes when he visited Northern Ireland, he would stay in my house in Ballyhackamore," he said. "I never asked him what he was doing or who he was meeting. He didn't seem at all nervous about any threat from the IRA. He wasn't blasé about his security. He was aware of the dangers but he certainly wasn't in hiding."

Mr McGimpsey said he found O'Callaghan "straight as a die, sharp, possessed of a good analysis, and very generous with his time".

He said: "Seán was great craic and a brilliant singer," he said. "After a few drinks when he stayed with me in Belfast, he would sing a republican song and I'd sing a loyalist song."

Irish Independent

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