A FORMER IRA man and high-profile informer has defended the RUC in the wake of the Police Ombudsman's damning report on police relations with the Mount Vernon UVF.
Sean O'Callaghan, a former advisor to the Ulster Unionist Party, told the News Letter yesterday that "horrendous things happened in Ireland".
Speaking of the Ombudsman's Ballast report he said a child could see many failings in the system, but warned that the people investigating had "no idea of the difficulties and pressures" which informers and their handlers were under.
He added: "I had loads of time for the many decent RUC men I knew over the years. I shot one of them."
In 1990 he was sentenced to 539 years in prison for crimes committed as a member of the IRA. Six years later he was released, having revealed that for most of his time as a terrorist he had been working as an informer.
Although most of the attention in recent days has been on misdeeds of loyalist informers working for the police, recent history shows that there were also many playing active roles in the republican movement under Government sanction:-
l Kevin Fulton
The former IRA British agent known as Kevin Fulton was arrested in London by PSNI officers in November but released without charge.
He had been brought back to Northern Ireland to be questioned about the murders of Eoin Morley and Ranger Cyril Smith.
A former soldier, Fulton always classes his role as that of an undercover soldier. He has been an outspoken critic of Special Branch and his treatment by the Government.
l Martin McGartland
An IRA Intelligence Officer and member of an active service unit, McGartland would be planning bombings and shootings of innocent people with the IRA while passing the operational details to security chiefs as "Agent Carol".
In 1992 he told BBC reporter John Ware he drove the getaway car in the murder of 21-year-old soldier Tony Harrison in Belfast in 1999.
During the conviction of a taxi driver for his role in the murder it was said in court that Special Branch had been tipped off about the planned murder but had accidentally warned the wrong soldier.
McGartland told Ware he was the getaway driver and told his Special Branch handlers about his role. He was never charged with any offence.
l Eamon Collins
Joined the IRA in Newry in the early 1970s but turned his back on violence as an informer in the late 1980s.
He was charged with the murder of 42-year-old UDR Major Ivan Toombs in Warrenpoint in 1981 and also that of former UDR soldier Norman Hanna, Reserve Constable Frederick Morton, Sean McShane (a Catholic shot by mistake) and Albert White, a former police reservist.
He was tried and cleared when the judge ruled his confessions inadmissible. He also admitted on television that he was the scout for a no-warning IRA bomb which killed schoolboy Alan McCrum.
l Freddie Scappaticci
Joined the IRA in the early 1970s and was alleged to have become an informer in 1974.
Reported to have been a senior figure in the IRA's internal security unit, which was responsible for killing an estimated 63 suspected informers during the Troubles.
In August 2003 he brought a judicial review to get Security Minister Jane Kennedy to confirm he had not been a British Agent, but failed.
l Denis Donaldson
Publicly admitted being a British agent for 20 years at the heart of Sinn Fein during the crucial years when the republican movement began the slowly shift away from an armed campaign.
He became a trusted and respected senior Sinn Fein figure, close to both party president Gerry Adams and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness. He was found shot dead in a Donegal cottage in April last year.