Saturday 21 July 2018

Two states celebrate Sean O'Callaghan

Memorial service saw an extraordinary cast of characters honour a good and brave man, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

Sean O'Callaghan
Sean O'Callaghan
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

'If we can't forgive Sean O'Callaghan, who can we forgive?" was asked by a born-again Christian last Wednesday at the wake Sean's family and friends held after an extraordinary memorial service, full of great music and challenging words.

This one-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment is close to the family of Eva Martin, a 28-year-old UDR soldier killed in 1974 in a mortar attack by an IRA team that included the 19-year-old O'Callaghan. Like many of the retired and serving Northern Irish police who knew Sean had murdered Inspector Peter Flanagan that same year, yet who came to St Martin-in-the -Fields in Trafalgar Square to honour him, he admired his courage.

Having realised he had been a foot-soldier in a squalid sectarian war, Sean had atoned for his crimes on a grand scale by risking his life as a highly-effective Garda agent within the IRA - unpaid at his own insistence -then giving himself up to serve time in jail and spending the rest of his life fighting violent ideologies.

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