Belfast Telegraph

Trimble pays tribute to IRA killer turned spy Sean O'Callaghan at London service

By Allan Preston

An IRA killer turned informer was honoured in a London memorial service yesterday by British and Irish establishment figures.

Sean O'Callaghan was responsible for two deaths as an IRA man, but later worked to sabotage the terror group's activities from within as an agent of the Irish state.

He later claimed he helped to stop an assassination attempt on Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Over 300 attended the memorial at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square.

Former UUP leader and first minister David Trimble, UK Security Minister Ben Wallace and former RUC and UDR members were also in attendance.

Historian Ruth Dudley Edwards was a close friend of Mr O'Callaghan.

"It was all about extraordinary diversity," she said after the service.

"It included quite a lot of ex-RUC and ex-UDR people.

"Remember he murdered Peter Flanagan in the RUC and helped to murder UDR soldier Eva Martin.

"They were there because, in their eyes, they believe he achieved redemption after the awfulness of what he did.

"He confronted it and dealt with it and decided to atone.

"He did that by putting himself in mortal danger every day by becoming a spy in the IRA."

Lord Salisbury is a former cabinet minister and leader of the House of Lords.

"I introduced him to Sean when he was in prison and they started talking," Ms Dudley Edwards said.

"Lord Salisbury cares about Ireland deeply. He talked about Sean's acute political intelligence and how much he enjoyed the conversations and how much he learned about republicanism."

Addressing the crowd yesterday, Lord Salisbury said: "Sean had real moral and physical courage.

"I will miss him, as we all will. I will miss his intelligence, his gentle teasing of allies and his capacity for original thought. Ireland has lost a true patriot and the United Kingdom a good, if not uncritical, friend."

Lord Trimble had previously taken advice from Mr O'Callaghan (left) on the inner workings of republicanism in the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement. Yesterday he read a Bible verse from Matthew referencing someone who faces persecution after leaving their tribe.

Ms Dudley Edwards said she would remember him for his "extraordinary courage".

"People take wrong steps in life, not normally as bad as Sean's," she said. "He faced it first intellectually. Even when he was in the IRA he was reading things from other traditions he didn't agree with.

"He opened his mind to other ideas which showed him he was wrong. He was a double murderer, but he faced what he had done."

After first leaving the IRA Mr O'Callaghan moved to England, where he married and started a successful business.

"He could have got away, but no - he went back into the IRA to atone for his murders," she said.

"A really important thing was that they were mentioned and prayed for at the memorial service of their murderer.

"Sean believed in truth, that sounds a very odd thing for a spy, and so do his close friends. So everything he had done was faced in this service but it was a very joyous occasion."

Belfast Telegraph

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