Death of former IRA man and author Sean O’Callaghan

Posted By: August 25, 2017

Irish Echo Staff. Irish Echo. Thursday, August 24, 2017, Irish Echo Staff

 Sean O’Callaghan, a onetime IRA member who became an informer, and then wrote about his experiences in a book entitled “The Informer,” has died.

O’Callaghan, who was described in reports as both 62 and 63, died in Jamaica, reportedly while swimming in a swimming pool.

He was visiting his daughter, the Irish News in Belfast reported.

O’Callaghan, a native of Kerry, told of his IRA years in “The Informer,” which was published in 1999.

He toured the U.S. to promote the book and at one point visited the Irish Echo office where he was interviewed by reporters including the paper’s longtime Northern Ireland columnist, the late Jack Holland.

Among O’Callaghan’s assertions in his book was that he foiled a plot to murder the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana in the 1980s.

O’Callaghan, stated the Irish News report, was jailed in the 1990s after walking into a police station in England and admitting two IRA murders. He was released in 1997.

As a free man, he lived under the threat of reprisal from former IRA associates ever since he went public about his life as an informer.

Senior Republicans, the Irish News report stated, dismissed O’Callaghan as a Walter Mitty character whose claims were embellished or untrue.

O’Callaghan joined the IRA in the mid-1970s. By the end of the decade, he had turned informer and started providing information to the Garda Siochana.

He was close friends with historian and author Ruth Dudley Edwards who accompanied him on the 1999 U.s. tour.

The Irish News reported Dudley Edwards as stating: “He drowned yesterday while swimming in a pool in Jamaica, where he was visiting his daughter.

“He was a man of exceptional ability and courage, and he spent most of his life finding ways of atoning for the crimes he had committed before at 20 he realized he was fighting in a squalid sectarian war rather than a resistance movement.

“He and I were very close friends for more than twenty years.

“And, like all his friends, I loved him very much and owe him a great deal for his insights, his wise advice, the depth of his knowledge of politics, history, and the human condition.”

The Irish News report stated that O’Callaghan had supported relatives bereaved in the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bomb in taking a landmark civil case that resulted in four Republicans being held liable for the outrage.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden died in the bomb, passed on his condolences.

“My experience of Sean O’Callaghan was always a positive experience,” he said.

“He did a great deal to help the Omagh families get some form of justice.”

Earlier this year, O’Callaghan gave evidence, from a secret location to a Belfast inquest examining the sectarian murder of 10 Protestant workmen near the South Armagh village of Kingsmill in 1976.

He named two senior IRA men as being responsible for the massacre.

O’Callaghan was living in England in recent years.

In December 1999, Jack Holland wrote of O’Callaghan in one of his columns: “A few weeks ago at a social occasion, a prominent member of Sinn Fein snarled at me that all I was doing was trying to prove that I had known all along about the Provisionals and their long-term plans to bring the so-called ‘armed campaign’ to a halt.

“Far be it from me to claim any special powers of prophecy. But I have to admit that I did better than a few others in the business. I think of Conor Cruise O’Brien and his unending refusal to face up to the fact that the Provisionals have changed course and forsworn the armed campaign for politics.

“Remember all those dismissive reports and commentaries in the London Sunday Times trying to prove that the Provisionals were engaged in a clever ploy and that when the security forces let their guard down, they’d strike harder than ever.

“That line has gone now, more or less, though it still resurfaces in the British conservative press. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, the Daily Telegraph ran a story about an ‘army council’ meeting almost voting to return to war. This was just after the very same army council had issued its statement about the inspection of its dumps.

“The Cruiser is still among the few hold-outs, incapable of recognizing the reality of the new situation. Most of the others are to be found in the ranks of the Democratic Unionist Party and the anti-agreement faction of the Ulster Unionist Party.

“It’s hard to give up one’s enemy. It’s rather like surrendering a comfort blanket. The unionists have always needed the malevolent threat from Republicans to justify their own intransigence.

“Since the IRA called its first ceasefire, in August 1994, Unionism has, in fact, imploded under the threat of peace. It is accommodation, not a war that frightens them, as is obvious from the latest crisis into which the UUP has been plunged by the Provisionals’ offer to open its arms dumps to outside inspection. One gets the impression that they are almost nostalgic for the good old days when “Ulster” was under threat and everybody knew where they stood: right behind the barricade. And that’s where some of them clearly prefer to stay.

“Back in the mid-1990s, one of those who fueled this paranoid response to the cease-fire was Sean O’Callaghan, the former Provisional IRA man from Kerry-turned-informer. He and his handler, the historian Ruth Dudley Edwards, went around telling anyone who wanted to listen that the Provisionals’ engagement in the peace process was just another diabolical ploy to deceive honest Protestants and well-meaning Brits.

“Now I am delighted to see that Sean has completely changed his line and joined the real world. In a commentary in The Daily Telegraph last week, the former Provisional gunman wrote that: ‘No ifs, no buts — the leadership of the republican movement has abandoned the ‘armed struggle’ . . . The mainstream IRA is not going back to war.’ He proclaims that unionists should accept this and get on with the political battle against republicanism.

“I found his change of line very interesting because of what it revealed about the reliability of O’Callaghan’s previous assertions.

“O’Callaghan had said that his previous claims about IRA intentions were based on a conversation he had had with Republican leader Danny Morrison in Crumlin Road jail in 1990.

“O’Callaghan was in jail after having confessed to involvement in two murders in the 1970s. Morrison was being held on charges of conspiracy to murder an informer, Sandy Lynch.

“According to O’Callaghan, he and Morrison spoke for 90 minutes or so, during which Morrison revealed to him the IRA’s secret peace strategy plan, which was intended to deceive nationalist Ireland and the Brits and lull them into a false sense of security.

“Morrison derided the notion that he would have revealed such a plan if it had existed to someone who the IRA believed was an informer. According to Morrison, Sean talked about ‘his personal life and the people whom he had hurt.”