Martin “Marty” McGartland (born 30 January 1970 in Belfast, Northern Ireland) is a former British agent who infiltrated the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1989 to pass information to RUC Special Branch.
When he was exposed as an agent in 1991 he was abducted by the IRA, but escaped and was resettled in England. His identity became publicly known after a minor court case. He was later shot six times by an IRA gunman, but recovered from the injuries. He has written two books about his life, Fifty Dead Men Walking: The Terrifying True Story of a Secret Agent Inside the IRA and Dead Man Running
The views and opinions expressed in this documentary/ies and page are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.
They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors
The Informer – BBC Panorama Martin McGartland
Childhood in west Belfast
Born into a staunchly Irish republican, Roman Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, McGartland grew up in a council house in Moyard, Ballymurphy at the foot of the Black Mountain. His parents were separated and he had one brother, Joe, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Catherine. As the violent religious-political conflict known as the Troubles escalated, republican areas such as Ballymurphy increasingly came under the control of the local Provisional IRA (IRA) who, in the absence of normal policing, took on some policing functions. Their methods were not met with approval by all residents. One of the effects of the continuous rioting and the campaign of bombings and shootings in Belfast and all over Northern Ireland was to make McGartland grow up quickly.
McGartland described his childhood in West Belfast as one in which he would join with older boys in stone-throwing to goad the British Army. He also became involved in battles with other Catholic youths against Ulster Protestant boys from nearby loyalist estates; this mostly involved throwing stones at each other. His sister Catherine was one of many children who joined the youth movement of the IRA. She was later killed after accidentally falling through a skylight at her school. He attended Vere Foster Primary School, a “controlled” school located in Moyard, Ballymurphy. The school closed in 2011. McGartland later attended St. Thomas’ Secondary School. He befriended a homeless man who sheltered in the disused Old Broadway cinema on the Falls Road, and provided the man with food and money. McGartland’s first job was working a paper round, and later delivering milk.
Special Branch agent
IRA Informers Documentary
McGartland became involved in petty crime, which brought him to the notice of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). His activities also attracted the attention of the IRA and on several occasions he narrowly escaped local disciplinary squads. Since the beginning of the Troubles, many Irish republicans reported offences to Sinn Fein, a political party associated with the IRA, rather than the RUC. This effectively made the IRA a police force in some areas. McGartland says because he was sickened by increasing Provisional IRA violence directed at young Catholic petty lawbreakers in the form of punishment beatings (often carried out with iron bars and baseball bats) and knee-cappings, in 1986 at the age of 16 he agreed to provide information to the RUC about local IRA members, thereby preventing them from carrying out many attacks against the security forces. At the same time, the IRA employed him as a security officer in a protection racket; his job was to guard a building site in Ballymurphy which was under the protection of the IRA. He then worked for a local taxi firm as an unlicensed driver, paying a percentage to the IRA. This enabled him to better identify suspects who had been targeted by RUC Special Branch. He recounted in his book Fifty Dead Men Walking that he occasionally drove IRA punishment squads around and overheard them boast about the beatings they had meted out to their victims. McGartland asserts many were innocent people who had somehow incurred the wrath of a member of the IRA.
Infiltration of the IRA
McGartland later infiltrated the IRA in autumn 1989, having been asked to join by Davy Adams, a leading IRA member and a nephew of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. This was after being recommended by childhood friend Harry Fitzsimmons, part of an IRA bomb team, whom McGartland often drove around Belfast. Davy Adams immediately gave McGartland his first assignment which was to check the house of a well-known Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) figure. McGartland was given the code name Agent Carol by the RUC.
Holding the rank of lieutenant in the IRA Belfast Intelligence unit, he ended up working mainly for Davy Adams, whom he drove to meetings and to survey potential IRA targets. McGartland had a special tracking device attached to his car. He was also recruited by an IRA Active Service Unit (ASU) which was headed by a man known as “Spud”. He convinced his IRA associates that he was a committed member of the organisation and he successfully led a double life, which was kept secret even from the mother of his two sons. From 1989-91, he provided information about IRA activities and planned attacks to the RUC Special Branch. During his time as a Special Branch intelligence agent, he became close to senior IRA members, having daily contact with those responsible for organising and perpetrating the shooting attacks and bombings throughout Northern Ireland. He also worked closely with Belfast actress Rosena Brown, a prominent and highly skilled IRA intelligence officer. Working in the IRA Intelligence unit enabled McGartland to learn about the organisation’s command structure pertaining to finance, ordnance, intelligence and the detailed planning of operations. He discovered how IRA sympathisers had infiltrated various public institutions and businesses, and many members acquired computer skills, thereby enabling the IRA to gain access to detailed information on a wide range of people in Northern Ireland including politicians, lawyers, judges, members of the security forces, Ulster loyalist paramilitaries, and prison officers.
Although McGartland prevented the IRA from carrying out many “spectaculars”, including the planned bombing of two lorries transporting British soldiers from Stranraer to Larne that could have resulted in the loss of over a dozen lives, his reported greatest regret was his failure in June 1991 to save the life of 21-year-old Private Tony Harrison. Harrison, a soldier from London, who was shot by the IRA at the home of his East Belfast fiancee where they were making wedding plans. McGartland had driven the IRA gunmen’s getaway car and had been brought into the operation so late he had no time to advise his handlers although he had previously indicated the IRA’s interest in the area. A taxi driver and republican sympathiser, Noel Thompson, who picked Harrison up at Belfast airport and informed the IRA was later jailed for 12 years for conspiracy to murder.
Exposed as an agent
In that same year 1991, McGartland provided information about a mass shooting attack planned on Charlie Heggarty’s pub in Bangor, County Down, where British soldiers frequently drank after what was generally a football match between the prison wardens. The RUC intercepted the two couriers delivering the guns to be used to shoot the soldiers and McGartland was exposed as an infiltrator. Diaries of the late Detective Superintendent Ian Phoenix, head of the Northern Ireland Police Counter-Surveillance Unit, revealed that he and the other Special Branch officers had advised senior RUC officers against stopping the gun couriers’ vehicles as doing so would put McGartland’s life at risk as well as allow the actual IRA gunmen to escape. The penalty for informing on the IRA was death, often preceded by lengthy and sometimes brutal interrogations.
With his cover blown, McGartland was kidnapped in August 1991 by Jim “Boot” McCarthy and Paul “Chico” Hamilton, two IRA men with previous convictions for paramilitary activities. He would later allege that McCarthy and Hamilton were RUC informers based on what he had personally observed of the men during his kidnapping as he waited to be interrogated, tortured and subsequently executed. These allegations, however, were strongly denied by both men. McGartland escaped being killed by jumping from a third floor window in the Twinbrook flat where he had been taken for interrogation following his abduction.
He moved to England and received nearly £100,000 to buy a house and establish a new life in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, going by the name Martin Ashe. He failed in his attempt to receive compensation for his injuries.
Three years after moving to England, the IRA sent his mother a Catholic mass card with McGartland’s name written on it. Mass cards are sent as tokens of sympathy to bereaved families when a member of the family has died.
In 1997, his identity was revealed publicly by the Northumbria Police in court when he was caught breaking the speed limit and subsequently prosecuted for holding driving licences in different names, which he explained as a means of avoiding IRA detection. He was cleared of perverting the course of justice. In June 1997, the BBC broadcast a television documentary on his story.
In 1999, he was shot six times at his home by two men receiving serious wounds in the chest, stomach, side, upper leg and hand. He had attempted to wrestle the gun away from his assailant, but was shot in the left hand, the blast almost destroying his thumb. He received assistance from his neighbours and was rushed to intensive care in hospital where he recovered from his injuries. The IRA was blamed. He was relocated immediately, protected by 12 armed officers and given a specially armoured car. Total costs, including the investigation, amounted to £1,500,000.
In 2000, Lord Vivian asked in the House of Lords whether the government intended to remove police protection from McGartland and was told by Lord Bassam of Brighton that “Individual protection arrangements are a matter for the chief constable of the police force concerned and are not discussed for security reasons.”
The day after he was shot, the incident, along with the murders of Eamon Collins, Brendan Fegan, and Paul Downey, was cited by Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble in an interview with reporters in Belfast, to question whether the IRA ceasefire was being maintained. He reminded Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that this was a condition of the early release of paramilitaries under the Good Friday Agreement. A week later, it was mentioned in the Northern Ireland Grand Committee as evidence that IRA arms decommissioning had not taken place, and in January 2000 by Robert McCartney in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In 1997 McGartland published a book about his life, Fifty Dead Men Walking. The title indicates the number of lives he considers he saved through his activities. The following year he won his lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Daily Mail, The Evening Standard and This is London web site, which had published an article alleging the shooting might be related to connections with local criminal gangs.
In 2003, PIRA member Scott Gary Monaghan, a native of Glasgow, whose republican career began there in the Kevin Barry Flute Band, and who had been sentenced to 1004 years imprisonment in 1993, sued Northumbria Police for £150,000 for alleged ill-treatment when he was arrested (but not charged) over McGartland’s shooting. McGartland criticised the police for inadequate protection but offered to testify on their behalf, saying: “There are people who have been the victims of terrorist attacks, who’ve lost loved ones, and some of them haven’t been compensated. It’s a scandal. I am the victim of an attack and I got around £50,000 in compensation, which is not a big amount considering my injuries. I’m not complaining. At the end of the day I was grateful to be alive. The reason I will help Northumbria Police is that this is an injustice.” Monaghan’s main claims were for false imprisonment, assault and wrongful interference with goods. They were rejected by the High Court in January 2006. However, he was awarded £100 for a delay in returning items of property. As of September 2008, no one was ever charged with the shooting.
Threats to his family
After the 1994 ceasefire, McGartland appealed to be allowed to return home to West Belfast. When he asked Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, when he would be able to, he was informed that it was a matter between him and the IRA. McGartland has said that his relatives have received harassment from Republicans; in 1996, his brother Joe was subjected to a severe and prolonged IRA punishment beating with baseball bats, iron bars and a wooden plank embedded with nails. The assault left him confined to a wheelchair for three months. In August 2006 Ian Paisley told Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, “We have also heard how the sister of IRA informer Martin McGartland was told by police that her safety was under threat. This news broke immediately after the Secretary of State’s comments that he believed the IRA had ended all of its illegal activity.”
Home Secretary denial
Despite McGartland being known as one of the best agents to operate during the Troubles, British Home Secretary Theresa May told a court in early 2014 that she refused to confirm or deny that he was a British agent working for MI5 offering as explanation, “in case providing such information would endanger his life or damage national security”.
McGartland responded by lambasting May, pointing out that “this is one of the daftest things I have ever heard; everyone who is interested knows my past … “[n]o current security interest is at stake.” After highlighting the two books he has written about his life as an undercover agent, one of which was made into a successful film, there have also been six television documentaries on him and a number of newspaper articles. He went on to state, “the authorities wrote to the BBC back in 1997 admitting that I have been resettled and was being protected because of my service to them. I wonder how well briefed the Home Secretary is?”.
There are letters extant which demonstrate that Crown authorities through their solicitors Burton & Burton wrote to the BBC and confirmed that McGartland had worked for them under the code name Agent Carol. And while MI5 admitted in a letter that there was a continued threat to McGartland’s life, they commented “it is not such that he needs immediate police protection or to abandon immediately his residence”. The Crown authorities advised in the same letter that he take up the offer of a new identity. All the comments within the letters had been agreed with Northumbria Police. The following is an extract from the Northumbria Police newspaper “The Crown authorities reject any suggestion that Mr. McGartland has been treated unreasonably. Individuals who have given valuable service to the country and who may be at threat as a result deserve – and receive – considerable support at public expense to ensure their safety”.
May’s department the Home Office oversees MI5 and she herself had signed the application in a court case brought by McGartland and his partner, both of whom are obliged to live under secret identities that were provided by MI5. McGartland additionally has a contract which was signed by MI5 after he was shot in England in which the representatives of the PSNI and Northumbria Police acknowledged his service in general terms. Because he is unable to claim State benefits due to security reasons MI5 had previously helped him financially; however this assistance was withdrawn after he gave an interview to the Belfast Telegraph. He commented, “Refusing to confirm or deny my role is simply a trick to avoid the State’s responsibilities toward someone who has risked his life for it.”
In the same month, May made an application using the controversial “Closed Material Procedures” (CMPs) which are secret courts under the recent Justice and Security Act. If these were to be used in McGartland’s lawsuit against the government for negligence and breach of contract, they would ensure that the public, media, as well as McGartland and his lawyers, would be denied access to the hearings. Instead his case would be heard by a “Special Advocate”. By not being present with his lawyers at the closed court, he would not be privy to anything pertaining to his case that the court submitted. McGartland pointed out that the case had nothing to do with national security or his undercover work 24 years earlier. This move by May was described by some lawyers and Human Rights’ groups as “Kafkaesque”. May argued that were the government to confirm in one case that a person was an agent then refused to comment in another, that would give rise to the suspicion that the person worked as an agent thereby putting his life in danger, McGartland replied that May’s argument would be reasonable if “those particular horses had not bolted long ago
Other high profile Republican informers
Denis Donaldson Sinn Fein Stormontgate press conference
Denis Martin Donaldson (Short Strand, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1950 – 4 April 2006 in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland) was a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and a member of Sinn Féin who was murdered following his exposure in December 2005 as an informer in the employ of MI5 and the Special Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (formerly the Royal Ulster Constabulary). It was initially believed that the Provisional IRA were responsible for his killing although the Real IRA claimed responsibility for his murder almost three years later.
Paramilitary and political career
Donaldson had a long history of involvement in Irish republicanism. He joined the Irish Republican Army in the mid-1960s while still in his teens, well before the start of the Troubles. According to his former friend, Jim Gibney, writing in the Irish News, he was a local hero in Short Strand in 1970 because he took part in the gun battle between Ulster loyalists and Irish nationalists at St. Matthew’s Chapel (see Battle of Saint Matthew’s). He was a friend of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, and the two men served time together in Long Kesh for paramilitary offences in the 1970s. Donaldson has been accused, by an unnamed republican source, of being part of the IRA team that carried out the La Mon restaurant bombing in 1978, one of the most notorious bomb attacks of the Troubles.
In 1981 he was arrested by French authorities at Orly airport, along with fellow IRA volunteer, William “Blue” Kelly. The duo were using false passports and Donaldson said that they were returning from a guerrilla training camp in Lebanon. At the 1983 general election, Donaldson was the Sinn Féin candidate in Belfast East.
As the Sinn Féin leadership under Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness turned toward a “peace process” strategy, Donaldson was dispatched to New York City, where he helped establish Friends of Sinn Féin, an organisation that solicited mainstream political and financial support for the new strategy while attempting to isolate hard-line activists in Irish Northern Aid and other support organisations in the US. Martin Galvin, a Bronx-based Irish-American attorney and future “dissident republican“, later claimed that he had warned the republican movement’s leadership that he suspected Donaldson of being a British government informer.
In the early 2000s, Donaldson was appointed Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland Assembly group administrator in Parliament Buildings. In October 2002, he was arrested in a raid on the Sinn Féin offices as part of a high-profile Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation into an alleged republican spy ring – the so-called Stormontgate affair. In December 2005, the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland dropped the espionage charges against Donaldson and two other men on the grounds that it would not be in the “public interest” to proceed with the case.
On 16 December 2005, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams announced to a press conference in Dublin that Donaldson had been a spy in the pay of British intelligence. This was confirmed by Donaldson in a statement which he read out on RTÉ, the Irish state broadcaster, shortly afterwards.
He stated that he was recruited after compromising himself during a vulnerable time in his life, but did not specify why he was vulnerable or why he would risk his life as a mole for British intelligence in an area such as West Belfast.
Donaldson’s daughter Jane is married to Ciaran Kearney, who was arrested along with Donaldson in the Stormontgate affair. The couple had two young daughters at the time of the arrest. Kearney is a son of the civil rights and MacBride Principles campaigner, Oliver Kearney.
On 19 March 2006, Hugh Jordan, a journalist for the Sunday World tracked him down to an isolated pre-Famine cottage near Glenties, County Donegal. The dwelling had not been modernised and so there was no running water or electricity.
On 4 April 2006, Donaldson was found shot dead inside his cottage, where he had been living for several months. The extended Donaldson family had used it as a holiday retreat for several years. Gardaí (ROI police) said they had been aware of his presence since January and they had warned him of a threat to his life. They had offered him protection, but he refused it, and exchanged phone numbers with him. The cottage was located in the townland of Classey, 8 km from the village of Glenties on the road to Doochary.
The last person he is believed to have spoken to is Tim Cranley, a census taker, who spoke to him in the cottage around 8:30pm on the previous day. His body was found by Gardaí about 5pm after a passer-by reported seeing a broken window and a smashed-in door. Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn, the local Garda commander, said that the cottage belonged to Donaldson’s “son-in-law Ciaran Kearney” and that members of his family had been visiting him in the days before his death.
A statement by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain referred to his death as a “barbaric act”, while ROI Prime Minister Bertie Ahern condemned “the brutal murder” of Donaldson. Two shotgun cartridges were found at the threshold of the cottage and a post mortem revealed that he had died from a shotgun blast to the chest. ROI Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell initially said that Donaldson had been shot in the head. His right hand was also badly damaged by gunshot.
The Provisional IRA issued a one-line statement saying that it had “no involvement whatsoever” with the murder. The murder was also condemned by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. The Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley blamed republicans for the killing, saying that “eyes will be turned towards IRA/Sinn Féin on this issue”. In May 2005, Minister McDowell advised a US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland that he believed the outing of Donaldson as an informant was a clear message from the British Government that it had another, more valuable, source of information within the republican leadership. On 8 April 2006 Donaldson was buried in Belfast City Cemetery, rather than at Milltown Cemetery, the more common burial place for republicans.
In April 2011, two arrests were made in County Donegal by the Garda Special Detective Unit in connection with the murder – a 69-year-old man and a 31-year-old man. They were subsequently released without charge. The Garda and PSNI murder investigation is ongoing.
Raymond Gilmour (born 1959) is a former Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who worked clandestinely from 1977 until 1982 for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) within those paramilitary organisations. His testimony was one of the main elements of the supergrass policy, which hoped to convict large numbers of paramilitaries.
MI5 – Raymond Gilmour full interview and news story
He was born in 1959 into a working class Catholic, nationalist family in Creggan, Derry to Patrick and Brigid Gilmour. He was the youngest of eleven siblings and grew up as The Troubles began in Derry City in the early 1970s. A cousin, Hugh Gilmour, was shot dead by the British Army on Bloody Sunday, a seminal event in the development of the “Troubles” and a traumatic event witnessed by the 12-year-old Gilmour himself. His parents were reportedly split over the issue of political violence. He described his father as an “armchair supporter” of the IRA, while his mother was reportedly fiercely opposed to their actions.
Two of Gilmour’s brothers were kneecapped by the IRA for alleged anti-social behaviour. He was also given a beating by British soldiers at age 13 for petty crime and they attempted to recruit him as an informer. Gilmour left school without sitting for his O Level exams and drifted into crime. When he was 16, he was again in trouble with the authorities, this time for armed robbery. On remand in Crumlin Road Prison, he was severely beaten by IRA prisoners. It was at this point that he apparently agreed to become an undercover agent for British security forces.
Several months later, he joined the INLA. He chose the INLA over the IRA as a number of his friends were already in the organisation. Gilmour participated in, among other activities, a botched car hijacking in which a friend, Colm McNutt, also an INLA member, was shot dead by an undercover soldier. In 1978, after two years with the INLA as an RUC agent, he left on police instructions. He got married the same year and fathered the first of two children.
After an interlude of several months, Gilmour was instructed by his RUC handler to join the IRA. He was offered £200 a week with bonuses for arrests and weapons finds. The IRA vetted him for several weeks before accepting his application in late 1980. They attached him to an active service unit in the Brandywell area of Derry. Over the following two years, he was involved in many IRA operations, mostly as a getaway driver. Most of these operations were “shoots” or sniping attacks, but on only one occasion, in January 1981, did his activities result in the death of a British soldier, who was shot and killed at Castle Gate, near Derry’s city walls. Gilmour claims that he helped to foil many other IRA attacks, saving the lives of numerous police and soldiers. In November 1981, he was arrested by the RUC, along with two other IRA members, on their way to carry out a shooting attack on riot police, who were combating disturbances arising out of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. Gilmour was sent on remand to Crumlin Road Prison. After a riot that destroyed much of the republican wing there, he was transferred to the Maze Prison. His RUC handler then applied pressure on the authorities for his release, he was freed on 1 April 1982.
He left the IRA and went into protective custody in August of that year, as he believed that his position in the IRA was about to be discovered after his information led to the capture of an M60 machine gun. Around 100 IRA and INLA members were then arrested in Derry on his evidence, of whom 35 were charged with terrorist offences.
In November, Gilmour’s father was abducted by the IRA. He was held in secret in an unknown location for almost a year. Gilmour was then sent to Cyprus and then Newcastle by the RUC. The following year, Gilmour gave evidence in a special Diplock Court, jury-less trial against the 35 people he had incriminated. Under the “supergrass” scheme, his was the only evidence available against them. On December 18, 1984, the presiding judge, Lord Lowry, ruled that Gilmour was not a credible witness. He said he was, “entirely unworthy of belief … a selfish and self-regarding man, to whose lips a lie comes more naturally than the truth”.
Exile and plea to return home
Since then, Gilmour has been in hiding outside Northern Ireland. He states that of the IRA and INLA members he knew, almost half were dead or missing by the end of the conflict. In 1998, he published a book, Dead Ground (ISBN 0-7515-2621-5), telling of his experiences.
In 2007, Gilmour publicly voiced his desire to return home to Derry, asking Martin McGuinness for assurances of his safety. He also revealed that he had a heart complaint and was an alcoholic. McGuinness said Gilmour must decide for himself whether or not it was safe to return to Derry and that he was not under threat from Sinn Féin, nor – he believes – from the IRA. McGuinness stated that if de facto exiles such as Gilmour wanted to return home, it was a matter for their own judgment and their ability to make peace with the community.
Gilmour’s former RUC handler advised him not to return, citing the 2006 murder in Glenties, County Donegal, of Denis Donaldson, a high-ranking Sinn Féin politician and activist who was revealed to have been a long-term informer.
In April 2014, Gilmour’s second book What Price Truth was published; in the book Gilmour goes into greater detail about his life within the IRA and INLA.
Sean O’Callaghan (born 26 January 1954) is a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Between 1979 and 1988, he was also an informant for the Garda Síochána‘s Special Branch. In 1988, he resigned from the IRA and voluntarily surrendered to British prosecution. Following his release from jail, O’Callaghan published his memoirs, The Informer: The True Life Story of One Man’s War on Terrorism.
IRA Informer Sean O’Callaghan
O’Callaghan was born on 26 January 1954 into a republican family in Tralee, County Kerry. His paternal grandfather had taken the Anti-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War. O’Callaghan’s father, who had served in the IRA, had been interned during World War II at the Curragh Camp in County Kildare.
By the late 1960s, the teenaged O’Callaghan had ceased practising the Catholic religion, regarding himself as an atheist and a Marxist. He sympathised with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. In 1969, violent attacks were perpetrated against civil rights organizers and many other Catholics by unionists. Believing that he would be helping to combat British imperialism, O’Callaghan volunteered for the newly founded Provisional IRA at the age of 16.
Soon afterwards, O’Callaghan was arrested by local Gardaí after he accidentally detonated a small amount of explosives, which caused damage to his parents’ house and those of his neighbours. After demanding, and receiving, treatment as a political prisoner, O’Callaghan quietly served his sentence.
After becoming a full-time volunteer, O’Callaghan was involved in various IRA operations, including a May 1974 mortar attack on a British army base at Clogher, County Tyrone in which a female “Greenfinch” Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier, Private Eva Martin, was killed. In his memoirs, O’Callaghan wrote that, although some individual UDR soldiers had had links to loyalist paramilitary gangs, he subsequently learned that Private Martin was not one of them. A secondary school teacher, she and her husband had both volunteered for the UDR. It was Martin’s husband who found her body on a shattered staircase inside the base.
In August 1974, O’Callagan walked into a bar in Omagh, County Tyrone and fatally shot Detective Inspector Peter Flanagan of the RUC Special Branch. D.I. Flanagan, a Catholic, was regarded as a traitor by both the IRA and many local residents. Flanagan was also rumoured, falsely, to have used excessive force while interrogating IRA suspects.
Becoming an informant
In 1976, aged 21, O’Callaghan resigned from the Provisional IRA, and moved to London. In May 1978, he married a Scottish woman of Protestant unionist descent. For several years afterward, he ran a moderately successful mobile cleaning business.
O’Callaghan later recalled, “In truth there seemed to be no escaping from Ireland. At the strangest of times I would find myself reliving the events of my years in the IRA. As the years went on, I came to believe that the Provisional IRA was the greatest enemy of democracy and decency in Ireland.”
In 1979, O’Callaghan was the target of an overture by his former IRA colleagues, who wished him to rejoin the organisation. In response, O’Callaghan decided to become an informer. In his memoirs, O’Callaghan described his reasons as follows, “I had been brought up to believe that you had to take responsibility for your own actions. If you did something wrong then you made amends. I came to believe that individuals taking responsibility for their own actions is the basis for civilization, Without that safety net we have nothing.”
“The final straw,” was O’Callaghan’s disgust over the IRA’s fatal bombing attack on the yacht of Lord Mountbatten, which also killed Mountbatten’s 14-year-old grandchild and a 15-year-old “boat employee”. After rejoining the IRA, O’Callaghan claims he heard allegations that the bombing was planned to obtain money from the Soviet military intelligence service (the GRU) and the East German Stasi.
In 1979, O’Callaghan and his wife moved to Tralee, where he arranged a clandestine meeting with a local officer of the Garda Special Branch. In Tralee’s Roman Catholic cemetery, O’Callaghan expressed his intention to subvert the IRA from within. He insisted that he would only speak directly to his contact and would not be blackmailed into providing information, but would freely give whatever information was asked for. At this point O’Callaghan was still opposed to helping the British in a similar manner.
A few weeks later, O’Callaghan made contact with Kerry IRA leader Martin Ferris and attended his first IRA meeting since 1975. Immediately afterwards, he telephoned his Garda contact and said, “We’re in.”
According to O’Callaghan, “Over the next few months plans to carry out various armed robberies were put together by the local IRA. It was relatively easy for me to foil these attempts; an occasional Garda car or roadblock at the ‘wrong time’; the routine arrest of Ferris or myself; or simple ‘bad planning’, such as a car arriving late — a whole series of random stratagems.”
Then, during the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze Prison, O’Callaghan attempted to start his own hunger strike in support of the Maze prisoners but was told to desist by the IRA for fear it would detract focus from the prisoners. O’Callaghan successfully sabotaged the efforts of republicans in Kerry from staging hunger strikes of their own.
In 1984, O’Callaghan informed his Garda handler of an attempt to smuggle seven tons of AK-47 assault rifles from the United States. The shipment had been purchased from the Winter Hill Gang, an Irish-American crime family based in South Boston, Massachusetts. The actual planning of the shipment was carried out by Patrick Nee, a South Boston gangster and staunch IRA supporter. The security on the American end of the shipment was handled by Kevin Weeks and Whitey Bulger, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant.
Overseen by Bulger and Nee, the guns were loaded aboard the Valhalla, a fishing trawler from Gloucester, Massachusetts. However, O’Callaghan had already briefed his handlers on the shipment. As a result, the cargo was intercepted by a combined force of the Irish Navy and the Garda Síochána. The Valhalla’s crew was arrested by US Customs agents immediately after returning to Gloucester. One of the crewmembers, John MacIntyre, agreed to wear a wire on meeting Bulger, Weeks, and Nee. After learning of MacIntyre’s deal from FBI agent John Connolly, Bulger murdered him and buried him in a South Boston basement. Nee subsequently served a long sentence in the US Federal Prison system for his role in the shipment. In his 2006 memoir A Criminal and an Irishman, Nee compares O’Callaghan to Judas Iscariot.
O’Callaghan claimed to have been tasked in 1984 with placing 25lb of Frangex in the toilet of a theatre in London. At the time Prince Charles and Princess Diana were due to attend a benefit concert featuring Duran Duran and Dire Straits among other performers. A warning was phoned in and royal correspondent, James Whitaker noted later that the early departure of the Royal couple had seemed rude at the time. The theatre had been searched before the concert and a second search following the warning revealed no device.
O’Callaghan escaped to Ireland despite being hunted by British police and in 1985 he was elected as a Sinn Féin councillor for Tralee Urban District Council, and unsuccessfully contested a seat on Kerry County Council. He claimed to have been in regular contact with its leaders, Gerry Adams (now TD for Louth) and Martin McGuinness (now deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland).
Imprisonment and release
On 29 November 1988, after having again resigned from the Provisional IRA, O’Callaghan walked into a police station in Tunbridge Wells, England. He confessed to the murders of Private Eva Martin and D.I. Peter Flanagan and voluntarily surrendered to British prosecution. Although the RUC repeatedly offered him witness protection as part of the supergrass policy, O’Callaghan refused to accept. In his memoirs, he states that he intended to continue combating Sinn Féin and the IRA through the press after his release.
O’Callaghan served his sentence in prisons in Northern Ireland and England and foiled several planned escapes by imprisoned IRA members. While in jail he told his story to The Sunday Times. O’Callaghan was released as part of a Prerogative of Mercy by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. In 1999, he published an autobiography entitled The Informer: The True Life Story of One Man’s War On Terrorism.
O’Callaghan appeared as a Crown Prosecution witness in August 2006 during the trial of Yousef Samhan, 26, of Northolt, London, after an incident in which O’Callaghan was bound to a chair by two young men whom he met in a gay bar in West London. The court heard that O’Callaghan was held at knifepoint while the two men ransacked the property that O’Callaghan had been staying in at Pope’s Lane, Ealing, London.
During the trial O’Callaghan stated that he had been looking after the property for a friend, the author Ruth Dudley Edwards, and he invited the two men back to the house for a drink after socialising with them in a nearby gay pub, West Five. O’Callaghan informed the court that had frequented the pub “only because it was the nearest” public house. He further outlined that when they arrived back at Dudley Edwards’ home, he was then knocked to the floor, tied with an electrical flex to a chair and then held at knifepoint while Samhan and another man proceeded to burgle the property.
In his defence, Samhan claimed that O’Callaghan was a willing participant and had requested that he be tied up during a gay bondage session with the two men. Samhan was nevertheless found guilty of robbery on 6 September 2006.
He now lives relatively openly in England, having refused to adopt a new identity, and works as a security consultant, occasional advisor to the Ulster Unionist Party, and media pundit, usually whenever the IRA has made a major announcement.
In 1998, O’Callaghan declared, “I know that the organization led by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would like to murder me. I know that that organization will go on murdering other people until they are finally defeated. It is my belief that in spite of IRA/Sinn Féin’s strategic cunning, and no matter how many people they kill, the people of the Irish Republic expect, because they have been told so by John Hume, that there will be peace. There may come a time when their patience runs out. If that were to happen there would be no place for IRA/Sinn Féin to hide. We must work tirelessly to bring that day forward.”
Many Irish republicans have strongly denied the allegations made by O’Callaghan in his book The Informer and subsequent newspaper articles. O’Callaghan stated that he had risen to leader of Southern Command and a substitute delegate on the IRA Army Council both in print and before a Dublin jury under oath. However, these claims have been disputed by Sinn Féin. A 1997 article in An Phoblacht alleges that O’Callaghan “…has been forced to overstate his former importance in the IRA and to make increasingly outlandish accusations against individual republicans.”
O’Callaghan’s claimed to have attended an IRA finance meeting alongside Pat Finucane and Gerry Adams in Letterkenny in 1980. However, both Finucane and Adams repeatedly denied being IRA members. In Finucane’s case, both the RUC and the Stevens Report have said that he was not a member
Kevin Fulton is a British agent from Newry, Northern Ireland, who allegedly spied on the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) for MI5. He is believed to be in London, where he is suing the Crown, claiming his British military handlers cut off their connections and financial aid to him. In 2004 he reportedly sued the Andersonstown News, an Irish republican news outlet in Belfast, for revealing his identity as well as publishing his photograph. The result of that suit has not been made public.
Fulton’s real name is purportedly Peter Keeley, a Catholic from Newry, who joined the Royal Irish Rangers at the age of 18. He was selected and trained by the Intelligence Corps and returned to civilian life to infiltrate the IRA. He reportedly gave evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal, in which he reasserted his claim that Garda Owen Corrigan was a double agent for the IRA.
In Unsung Hero, “Fulton” claims he worked undercover as a British Army agent within the IRA. He was believed to have operated predominantly inside the IRA South Down Brigade, as well as concentrating on the heavy IRA activity in South Armagh. “Fulton” and four members of his IRA unit in Newry reportedly pioneered the use of “flash guns” to detonate bombs.
In one incident, “Fulton” was questioned on responsibility for designing firing mechanisms used in a horizontal mortar attack on a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) armoured patrol car on Merchants Quay, Newry, County Down, on 27 March 1992. Colleen McMurray, a constable (aged 34) died and another constable was seriously injured. “Fulton” claims he tipped off his MI5 handler that an attack was likely.
On 5 November 2006, he was released without charge after being arrested in London, and transferred to Belfast to be questioned about his knowledge or involvement in the deaths of Irish People’s Liberation Organisation member Eoin Morley (aged 23), Royal Ulster Constabulary officer Colleen McMurray (34), and Ranger Cyril Smith (aged 21). “I personally did not kill people”, he stated. His lawyers have asked the British Ministry of Defence to provide him and his family with new identities, relocation and immediate implementation of the complete financial package, including his army pension and other discharge benefits, which he had been reportedly promised by the MoD for his covert tour of duty. His ex-wife, Margaret Keeley, filed a lawsuit in early 2014 for full access to documents relating to her ex-husband. She claims to have been wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned during a three-day period in 1994 following a purported attempt by the IRA to assassinate a senior detective in East Belfast.
On 26 November 2013, it was reported that The Irish News had won a legal battle after a judge ruled against Keeley’s lawsuit against the newspaper for breach of privacy and copyright, by publishing his photograph, which thereby also, he argued, endangered his life. Belfast District Judge Isobel Brownlie stated at least twice that she was not impressed with Keeley’s evidence and described him as “disingenuous”. Under British law, Keeley will also be billed for the newspaper’s legal costs.
On 31 January 2014, the Belfast High Court ruled that “Fulton” had to pay damages to Eilish Morley, the mother of IPLO member Eoin Morley, shot dead at age 23 by the Provisional IRA (PIRA). The order was issued based upon his failure to appear in court. The scale of the pay-out for which he is liable is to be assessed at a later stage
Freddie Scapatticci British Agent License to Kill
Scappaticci was born around 1946 and grew up in the Markets area of Belfast, the son of Daniel Scappaticci, an Italian immigrant to the city in the 1920s. In 1962 at the age of 16 he was encouraged to sign for the football club Nottingham Forest although his father is said to have resisted the idea. He took up work as a bricklayer.
He was fined for riotous assembly in 1970 after being caught up in “the Troubles” and, one year later, was interned without trial at the age of 25 as part of Operation Demetrius. Among those interned with him were figures later to become prominent in the republican movement, such as Ivor Bell, Gerry Adams, and Alex Maskey. He was released from detention in 1974 and was by this time a member of the Provisional IRA.
By 1980, Scappaticci was a lead member in the Internal Security Unit (ISU) for the IRA Northern Command. The ISU was a unit tasked with counter-intelligence and the investigation of leaks within the IRA along with the exposure of moles/informers (also known as “touts“). Via the ISU, Scappaticci played a key role in investigating suspected informers, conducting inquiries into operations suspected of being compromised, debriefing of IRA volunteers released from Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Army questioning, and vetting of potential IRA recruits. The ISU has also been referred to as the “Nutting Squad”. Various killings as a result of ISU activities have been attributed to Scappaticci.
After the original allegations broke in 2003, Scappaticci, by now living in the Riverdale area of West Belfast, claimed his involvement with the IRA ended in 1990 due to his wife’s illness. He denied that he had ever been linked to any facet of the British intelligence services, including the Force Research Unit.
Involvement with British Intelligence
Scappaticci’s first involvement with British Intelligence is alleged to have been in 1978, two years before the Force Research Unit (FRU) was formed in 1980. He is said to have worked as an agent for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch. The role of the FRU was to centralise Army Intelligence under the Intelligence Corps.
The former FRU agent turned whistleblower using the pseudonym “Martin Ingram” has said in his 2004 book Stakeknife that Scappaticci eventually developed into an agent handled by British Army Intelligence via the FRU. Ingram says that Scapaticci’s activities as a high grade intelligence source came to his attention in 1982 after Scappaticci was detained for a drunk driving offence. In 2003, Scappaticci was alleged to have volunteered as an informer in 1978 after being assaulted in an argument with a fellow IRA member. Ingram paints Scappaticci at this time as “the crown jewels”, (the best) agent handled by the FRU. He cites a number of allegations against Scappaticci. His accusations centre on various individuals who died as a result of the activities of the ISU between 1980 and 1990. Ingram also alleges that Scappaticci disclosed information to British intelligence on IRA operations during the time period, involving:
- IRA members involved in the kidnapping of wealthy Irish supermarket magnate Ben Dunne in 1981. Ingram alleges that Scappaticci was influential in identifying his kidnappers to the authorities.
- the attempted kidnapping of Galen Weston, a Canadian born business tycoon in 1983. Weston kept a manor outside Dublin where the kidnapping was to take place.
- the kidnapping of supermarket boss Don Tidey from his home in Rathfarnham in Dublin. Ingram alleges that Scappaticci tipped off the FRU on the details of the kidnapping which eventually resulted in the killings of a trainee Garda Síochána (Gary Sheehan) and an Irish Army soldier (Private Patrick Kelly).
Aside from providing intelligence to the FRU, Scappaticci is alleged to have worked closely with his FRU handlers throughout the 1980s and 1990s to protect and promote his position within the IRA. The controversy that has arisen centres on the allegation by Ingram that Scappaticci’s role as an informer was protected by the FRU through the deaths of those who might have been in a position to expose him as a British agent.
Involvement with the Cook Report
In 1993 Scappaticci approached the ITV programme The Cook Report and agreed to an interview on his activities in the IRA and the alleged role of Martin McGuinness in the organisation. The first interview took place on 26 August 1993 in the car park of the Culloden Hotel in Cultra, County Down. This interview was, unknown to Scappaticci, recorded and eventually found its way into an edition of the programme. The interview was posted on the World Wide Web as the 2003 allegations against Scappaticci surfaced.
Scappaticci appears to give intimate details of the modus operandi of the IRA’s Northern Command, indicated some of his previous involvement in the organisation and alleges, amongst other things, that Martin McGuinness was involved in the death of Frank Hegarty – an IRA volunteer who had been killed as an informer by the IRA in 1986. It has since been alleged that Scappaticci knew the intimate details of Hegarty’s killing because, as part of his duties in the ISU, he had reportedly been involved in the interrogation and execution of Hegarty regarding a large Libyan arms cache, which the Gardaí found. Ingram stated that Hegarty was a FRU agent whom other FRU members had encouraged to rise through the organisation and gain the confidence of key IRA members. His allegations indicate that, to the handlers of the FRU, it was more important to keep Stakeknife in place rather than save the life of Hegarty.
Involvement with the Stevens Report
Things deteriorated for Scappaticci when Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan police commissioner who has been probing RUC and British Army collusion with loyalist paramilitaries in the killing of Protestant student, Brian Adam Lambert in 1987 and the killing of solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989, revealed that he knew of his existence. In April 2004, Stevens signalled that he intended to question Scappaticci as part of the third Stevens inquiry.
A report in a February 2007 edition of the Belfast News Letter reported that a cassette recording allegedly of Scappaticci talking about the number of murders he was involved in via the “Nutting Squad”, as well as his work as an Army agent, had been lodged with the PSNI in 2004 and subsequently passed to the Stevens Inquiry in 2005. It is unclear whether this audio is a recording made via the Cook Report investigation. There were several inconsistencies with the various media reports alleging that Scappaticci was Stakeknife. The Provisional IRA reportedly assured Scappaticci of their belief in his denials, and has issued public statements suggesting that the announcement of the former as a “tout” was a stunt by the British government to undermine Sinn Féin and the Republican movement.
Come back soon for a feature on loyalist Supergrasses
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