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Raymond Gilmour's death like a knife in my heart, but the family have all agreed: we won't be going to his funeral

Sister of supergrass tells how relatives faced years of abuse, and how their mother longed to see her son one last time

By Suzanne Breen

Published 02/11/2016

Family ties: Raymond Gilmour and sister Geraldine
Family ties: Raymond Gilmour and sister Geraldine
Geraldine with her brother Raymond and his wife Fiona in New York
Raymond Gilmour and his sister Geraldine in Atlantic City
Raymond Gilmour and his sister Geraldine in Atlantic City
Raymond Gilmour in the 1980s

The sister of IRA supergrass Raymond Gilmour has said that her family won't be attending his funeral.

Geraldine Dametz said that she was devastated by his death but she feared that going to the service would cause trouble for relatives living in Derry.

Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, Geraldine, who now lives in the US, said that while she was proud that her brother had saved lives in Northern Ireland, his recruitment by the security services had destroyed her family.

She described how her dying mother prayed that Gilmour would come out of hiding in England and return home to see her one last time.

"Mammy thought that Raymond might visit the hospital dressed as a cleaner, or in some other sort of disguise. I didn't want to shatter her hopes and tell her that wouldn't happen," Geraldine said.

She stressed that she had never stopped loving her brother whose badly decomposed body was found in his Kent flat last Thursday.

It is understood he had been lying there for a week before he was discovered by his 18-year-old son. Gilmour had given evidence in one of Northern Ireland's best known supergrass trials in 1983.

Speaking from New Jersey, Geraldine said: "When I heard Raymond was dead, it was like they put a knife through my heart. I want to go to his funeral but the family has agreed that it is best for all relatives living in Derry that we stay away. That's the decision, although I'm pulled in so many directions over it."

She recalled how the Gilmours had faced relentless abuse after her brother turned supergrass, and she said that she didn't want to bring any new trouble to anybody's door.

She also revealed that some relatives had stopped talking to her after she was reunited with him in 2010.

"Some of the family were more accepting of my contact with Raymond than others," she said.

Gilmour (55) was deeply depressed and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism. He was living on disability benefit at the time of his death. His sister accused the security services of treating him disgracefully.

"Raymond was only 16 years old when he was recruited as an informer. That was far too young.

"After they had used him, they turned their back on him. They caused all this upheaval, and then abandoned him. His death is on their hands. What happened is abominable. I don't know how these people can sleep at night," she said.

"I hope MI5 never does this to another kid again. It just shouldn't happen to anybody else's brother or son.

"By working for the security services, Raymond didn't just destroy his own life, he destroyed our family too."

After he fled Derry, she believed she'd never see him again - "he became the living dead".

Gilmour testified against 31 men and women in one of the best known supergrass trials. "The last time I saw him in Northern Ireland, he was in court giving evidence," she said.

"I was crying because I wanted him to retract for the sake of our family. It was another 27 years before I would see or speak to him, but not a day passed that he wasn't in my thoughts. I didn't know if he was alive or dead, if the IRA had caught up with him. It was absolute torture."

When Gilmour turned supergrass, the IRA abducted his father in an attempt to force him to retract. He refused to do so.

"If they wanted to pressurise Raymond, they abducted the wrong person," Geraldine said.

"Had they taken away my mother, he would have retracted his evidence in a heartbeat. As a child, he was like mammy's shadow, he went everywhere with her."

Even though Gilmour stood firm, the trial judge threw out the case anyway. Geraldine said that life became impossible in her native city.

"A few weeks after the trial collapsed, I moved to the US with my two children. I couldn't stay in Derry. Friends I'd grown up with snubbed me. The hostility was so strong I was scared I'd get attacked," she said.

Other siblings escaped to England, as did her elderly parents. They lived there for six years until Mrs Gilmour insisted on coming home. Geraldine returned from America to be with her mother when she was dying. "I nursed her for three months. All she did was talk about Raymond. She wanted to see him one last time. It broke our hearts to see her so unhappy."

When Gilmour heard his mother had died, he sent a wreath. He wrote on the card, 'From your loving son' but thought it would be thrown in the bin.

"That card was placed in mammy's hands in the coffin," Geraldine said.

For 27 years, Gilmour had no contact with his family. Geraldine was so desperate to find him that she had her three children in New Jersey carry out regular internet searches for their uncle.

In 2010, one of her sons found an article written by this reporter. He asked that his mother's contact details be passed onto her brother.

Gilmour dismissed concerns that it could be a false trail laid by republican paramilitaries looking to find him. He phoned the number immediately.

"He said 'Geraldine, do you know who this is?' and I said 'It's you Raymond'. I'd have known his voice anywhere. We talked for six hours," she recalled. "It was like we had never been separated."

Despite the security risks, Gilmour (left) was determined to see his sister again. He won £2,000 on the horses and booked flights. Geraldine said: "I didn't recognise him at the airport. The last time I'd seen him he was a young lad, and here was this guy with grey hair standing in front of me. I hugged him longer and harder than I've hugged anyone in my whole life."

During a 10-day trip, Geraldine took him to all the sights in New York and to Atlantic City. "I was losing in one casino but he played my hand when I went for a smoke. He won me over $1,000," she laughed. But it was quieter, more private moments which made the trip precious.

Geraldine recalled how one night they had sat up chatting for 14 hours. "We talked about mammy lighting the wee fire at home every evening and polishing our shoes until they shone so brilliantly even though the soles were full of holes.

"I played a video of mammy and daddy and all my brothers and sisters at home in Derry years earlier. My daddy was singing 'James Connolly' and other Irish songs. We are all singing 'A Mother's Love's A Blessing' to mammy. It was very emotional for Raymond watching it," his sister said.

He had left Derry with not a single photograph of his family. Geraldine had copies made of hundreds of pictures from her album. Her most treasured possession was the little blue bible that her mother had read every day. "I gave that to Raymond before he left America," she said.

Geraldine believed that if old enemies back home, like the DUP and Sinn Fein, could make a kind of peace, then her family should be able to do the same with their brother. But she recognises how hard it is for those who remain in Derry. She has suffered other losses recently too. Her husband Billy died in July, and her best friend passed away last week.

She is angry that Gilmour is demonised by some people who "put Martin McGuinness on a pedestal". The Sinn Fein politician has "more blood on his hands" than her brother, and "he turned his back on his republican politics when he shook hands with the Queen", she claimed.

Geraldine is "proud to be Irish" and marches in the St Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Avenue. She said it is not her role to judge her brother.

"If he saved the life of one Catholic, one Protestant, one British soldier or one policeman that is good," she said, "but Raymond, and our whole family, paid a terribly high price for what he did."

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