Was ex-IRA man Sean O’Callaghan truly remorseful?

Shane Paul O'Doherty, the former IRA bomber who now repudiates violence.
Shane Paul O'Doherty, the former IRA bomber who now repudiates violence.

The spokesman for a victims’ group and a former IRA man have questioned whether Sean O’Callaghan was truly remorseful for the crimes he committed.

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United (IVU), said O’Callaghan’s death will prompt republicans to “rejoice” because they hated him.

“In Provo law, informing was viewed as the deepest form of treason,” he said. “Many from a broadly unionist background never fully trusted him or his proclaimed conversion and saw him through eyes of cynicism - that he was used as an example of the republican movement’s remorse for the past and the opportunity for a new way forward - via The Belfast Agreement. If his remorse was genuine then he has been proven to have been the exception and certainly not the rule.

“And there are others still who will speak favourably of Sean O’Callaghan and his latter life commitment to expose the lies and evils of a terror movement to which he once gave his oath of allegiance.”

Mr Donaldson sympathised with the families of UDR Greenfinch Eva Martin and Special Branch detective Peter Flanagan who O’Callaghan admitted murdering.

“The reality is that neither Eva nor Peter can be brought back, their lives were stolen and their families were left broken and irreversibly changed,” he added. “Was Sean O’Callaghan genuinely remorseful for the grievous harms he caused to their families and most probably many others? Did he repent for his crimes and sins and did he publicly and privately seek to make restitution for the wrongs he inflicted? Those are all questions that only he and God our creator know the answer to.”

Former IRA bomber Shane Paul O’Doherty, who now repudiates violence, was also sceptical. “As each month passes, more former paramilitaries pass away to a divine judgment where absolute truth and repentance will always count,” he said. “Sean O’Callaghan, a self-confessed informer about some IRA activities, admitted that he had shot another alleged informer - John Corcoran - in the head and killed him while he, O’Callaghan, was allegedly working for the Gardai in the Republic of Ireland. He appears never to have been arrested for or questioned about or charged with this murder. He served six years in prison for the admitted murders of a UDR Greenfinch and a Special Branch detective before he was released by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. He was especially artful in looking after his own interests.”

In May Sean O’Callaghan contradicted decades of claims that the IRA leadership did not authorise the Kingsmills massacre, which saw 10 Protestant men slaughtered in south Armagh in 1976.

The legacy inquest heard conflicting intelligence about whether the IRA units responsible were a breakaway faction or had senior leadership sanction. However, Mr O’Callaghan told the hearings that “most of the IRA leadership was in jail or on the run” in 1976 and that a general policy had already been agreed which gave the remaining leadership authority to sanction sectarian retaliatory murders.

Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said yesterday: “Sean O’Callaghan was once an IRA gunman, a convicted killer his past actions must be loathed and condemned. We must however recognise the huge contribution that Mr O’Callaghan played in exposing the brutal realities of the IRA campaign. Intelligence which he provided set about righting many of the wrongs he himself was involved in.”

He added: “Sean O’Callaghan’s testimony during the Kingsmills inquest was open and transparent, he detailed the IRA’s sectarian war, their ethnic cleansing agenda. I and the families thank him for his involvement and vital evidence which now stands as historic record.”