Belfast Telegraph

Sean O'Callaghan made amends for Provo past by laying own life on the line

By Eoghan Harris

Sean O'Callaghan inverted our idea of an IRA informer. Rejecting the role of despised tout, he finished as a flawed, tragic hero, at least in my eyes.

Luckily I am not alone. As Brian Hayes MEP remarked, the Provos hated Sean O'Callaghan as much as they hated Fr Denis Faul.

That's why the Provo propaganda machine is pumping out the Walter Mitty smear. If O'Callaghan had not hurt them so badly they would not bother.

The index of good and bad politics in recent days will be where you stand on Sean O'Callaghan. RTE has already failed the test.

But then the shallow end of the media have been challenging Sean O'Callaghan's credibility from the start, notably Vincent Browne in The Irish Times in 1996.

The problem for the Provos, Browne, and other media critics alike is this: why do they accept O'Callaghan's confession to his own crimes but not his accusations of crimes committed by the Provos?

Are the sceptics so shallow they cannot see why the killing of Greenfinch Eva Martin on May 2, 1974, might be a moral watershed for O'Callaghan?

But O'Callaghan's dark epiphany was hearing a top Provo remark he hoped Martin was pregnant because it would be "two prods for the price of one".

Sean O'Callaghan was no Walter Mitty. Garret FitzGerald confirmed his claim to have warned the security services of a plot to kill Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. The real Walter Mittys are those in the media who swallow Provo fictions and fail to face the facts about the man himself.

O'Callaghan is a real historical figure, a Tralee republican who sat on the Sinn Fein ard comhairle. He was a senior figure in the IRA's command staff.

O'Callaghan committed terrible crimes. But, unlike other republicans, he showed remorse and sought to make restitution by laying his life on the line.

His moral rigour forbade him to seek forgiveness either in counselling or in Christianity. He sought absolution by risking a dreadful death, as an unpaid agent inside the IRA.

To meet Sean, or even see him on TV, was to be struck by the simple truth of his testimony.

There was no self- justification, no self-pity, just a sardonic sense of not wanting to be soft on himself, as well as the wit of his native Co Kerry.

O'Callaghan changed utterly. The force of that change was carved deeply into the contours of his face.

He cried wolf about the Provos' project because he had been a wolf, and could smell a wolf even when dressed in sheep's clothing.

Sean O'Callaghan was a warrior who did two states some service.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph