Anger has erupted over the appointment of a Belfast republican once on Britain’s ‘most wanted’ list to sit on a new victims’ forum.
The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that Eibhlin (Evelyn) Glenholmes, once sought by police over a series of IRA terrorist offences, has been appointed to the new Forum for Victims and Survivors.
But unionist politicians have attacked the move.
TUV leader Jim Allister described it as “monstrous”, while UUP MLA Tom Elliott said it was a retrograde step.
In the mid-1980s Glenholmes was at the centre of a high-profile extradition battle which played out publicly on the streets of Dublin.
The IRA suspect was wanted in Britain on nine warrants covering a range of offences including murder, attempted murder, firearms and explosives. But, in dramatic scenes, she was released by an Irish court when those warrants were deemed defective.
Ms Glenholmes then spent years on the run before returning to Belfast in the period of the peace process. She became part of the Sinn Fein leadership, the party’s ard chomhairle, and now works with a republican ex-prisoners project.
The new forum is a 25-member advisory body that will hold its first meeting in Belfast on June 21.
It is a follow-up to the pilot forum set up in 2009, and is selected by the Victims and Survivors’ Commission. Its members are not paid.
TUV leader Mr Allister said it was outrageous that Glenholmes had been appointed. He said: “I’m utterly disgusted that someone who was a representative of the victim-makers is on this forum. I think it’s a monstrous appointment.
“To think that the (once) most wanted woman in the United Kingdom can now parade herself on what’s called a victims’ forum is a gross insult to the innocent victims. The organisation which she was long associated with made those people victims.
“I'm disgusted that a person of that ilk could be put on to a body such as this, which is there to represent the victims and needs of innocent victims.”
Mr Elliott added: “Clearly someone with this sort of chequered past, who does not seem to have any remorse for what she has done, is symptomatic of the difficulties we have had here. It's a retrograde step.
“I just feel it's very frustrating for those people who are the real victims; people who had relatives murdered by terrorists and who are still living with their injuries.”
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “It is important in choosing who should sit on a victims’ forum that the commissioners take care not to inflict further hurt and pain on those who have already suffered.”
In a recent television interview, Ms Glenholmes said she had “no qualms” about apologising for the hurt caused during the conflict, but stressed she was not saying that the IRA war was wrong.
“Absolutely not,” she responded.
“I regret that the conditions existed in which my life and the lives of many people of my generation were changed irrevocably by the armed struggle.”
By Brian Rowan
There will be those who will only ever see Eibhlin Glenholmes in the context of the IRA’s war, see her in the detail of the warrants that were part of that failed extradition battle of the 1980s.
That will be and is the focus of unionist reaction.
But this is only part of her story. She has been an important figure in the republican peace, an important voice in the debate leading to the endorsement of new policing. And one of those voices that has been raised to challenge the different dissident factions.
She did so at the republican Easter commemoration at Milltown Cemetery in 2009, where she and Gerry Adams were the main speakers. “In Ireland today there is an alternative to armed struggle,” she said.
“A small number of militarist factions oppose Sinn Fein’s policies and strategy.”
Glenholmes accused many of those factions of involvement in “criminal actions”, and said they had no “political programmes”.
An unapologetic republican, she will be an unapologetic member of the victims’ forum.
Ms Glenholmes is not there to represent any group or party, but as an individual with a conflict/war experience and story that many in her community will identify with.
By Anna MAguire
She was once Britain’s ‘most wanted’ woman.
Eibhlin Glenholmes, from Belfast’s Short Strand, was at the top of Scotland Yard’s list of suspects in the 1980s for five IRA bombings and three murders — including a blast at the Harrods department store which killed six people.
In 1984 there were nine extradition warrants against her, including three murders, one attempted murder, three explosives charges and one charge for possession of weapons, including a sub-machine-gun, an Armalite rifle and five pistols.
While it was not included in the warrants, police also wanted to question her about the bombing of Brighton’s Grand Hotel during the 1984 Conservative conference.
Detailed in the warrants was an attack on a military bus at the Irish Guards barracks in Chelsea in October 1981 in which two died.
Glenholmes was also accused of bombing a Wimpy bar in Oxford Street, London, in the same month, October 1981, and of attempting to murder the British Attorney General Sir Michael Havers and the former Royal Marines Commander Sir Stewart Pringle in the same year.
She escaped extradition from the Republic twice due to mistakes in the British warrants. In 1986 she walked free because her name was spelled without an ‘s’ on her arrest warrant.
After her release, gardai fired shots near Dublin’s |O’Connell Street as they tried to recapture her when new warrants arrived.
It marked the start of life as a fugitive. Security sources claimed she acted as Sinn Fein’s Havana-based envoy to Latin America between 1990 and 1995.
In July 2000 Glenholmes was on a list of 41 fugitive republicans given to Tony Blair by Gerry Adams.
She is the daughter of Richard Glenholmes, a senior IRA figure jailed in England for trying to spring Brian Keenan, the former IRA deputy chief of staff, from prison in London.
She was reported as being a member of the party’s national executive in January 2007 while living in Dundalk.