Belfast Telegraph

Special Branch agent Raymond Gilmour: he helped save lives, but is still paying the price

Raymond Gilmour infiltrated the IRA and INLA for the security forces and his information helped sink a number of terror plots. Twenty years after the ceasefires, he's still in hiding, his marriage has fallen apart and his health has failed alarmingly


Raymond Gilmour, a former police agent from the Creggan estate in Derry, began his double life as the Troubles engulfed his native city.

He had witnessed his cousin, Hugh Gilmour, being shot on Bloody Sunday but, under the influence of his mother, did not join any republican paramilitaries at that stage.

As tensions escalated he dropped out of school early and was recruited by the RUC Special Branch as an agent in his teens. This would now be illegal without parental consent.

One motive for wanting to work for the police was his resentment of republican paramilitaries, who had kneecapped two of his brothers. The police paid him up to £200 a week plus bonuses if arrests were made or arms recovered on the basis of his information.

He says he was highly committed to working for the police and combating the paramilitaries. The RUC told him that he would be regarded as a "policeman without the uniform" and assured him he would be looked after whatever happened because the work he was doing was essential.

In 1976 his RUC handler, who published his autobiography under the pen name Alan Barker, steered Mr Gilmour into the INLA. When he had compromised that organisation he was told to move on to the Provisional IRA, which he joined in 1980. He told the Provos he was leaving the INLA because it was clearly riddled with informers.

He spent some of the money his handlers gave him buying drinks for other IRA members, who assumed he had won it on the horses. This meant he had to be seen in the bookies, and he developed a gambling habit which he has never fully shaken.

His cover was blown in August 1982 when his information was used to recover an M60 machine-gun, a prestige weapon which had just been moved into Derry. Losing it was a major embarrassment for the local IRA brigade who launched an inquiry to plug the leak.

Special Branch got wind of this from another agent and persuaded Mr Gilmour to act as a supergrass witness against his IRA colleagues. More than 100 alleged republicans were charged on his word in what was described at the time as the biggest criminal trial in UK history. IRA operations plummeted while the case continued and the suspects were held on remand, but, after two years, his evidence was dismissed by Lord Lowry, the Chief Justice.

During the trial his father Paddy was kidnapped by the IRA to pressurise him into withdrawing his evidence. However, police assured him Paddy was in no real danger, and it later emerged that he had been held in Kerry under the care of Sean O'Callaghan, who was the Garda's highest placed agent within the IRA. During a break in the trial Mr Gilmour and his then wife Lorraine were taken by the RUC for a holiday at the Pissouri Beach Hotel in Cyprus, near the protection of a British base. However, it had to be cut short after Lorraine called home through the hotel switchboard and an operator revealed her location to the people she was calling.

Police and military intelligence identified men keeping a watch on him at the hotel as Palestinian Liberation Organisation members. They concluded that this had been arranged by the IRA and pulled him out.

Mr Gilmour was then resettled in England under a new name and Lorraine divorced him rather than leave Derry.

Although he is proud of his role as a police agent – he even applied to join the police in England – he has never come to terms with his situation and has, at times, talked of returning to Derry.

On one occasion in 2007 he contacted Martin McGuinness for permission to come back on a holiday. Mr McGuinness stated publicly that he was not under threat from Sinn Fein or, he believed, from the IRA.

However, he cautioned that if exiles such as Mr Gilmour wanted to return home, it was a matter for their own judgment and their ability to make peace with the community.

Mr Gilmour stayed in England.

Belfast Telegraph


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