Sean O’Callaghan’s critique of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, coming as it does as the British Tory party seeks to halt the swing to Labour evident in recent general election opinion polls, would be more credible if he was to tell the full truth about his own past in the IRA.
Here is what Vincent Browne wrote in The Irish Times two decades ago about O’Callaghan’s involvement in the IRA execution of alleged informer John Corcoran, a crime which O’Callaghan has left out of the account of his life in the IRA:
WRITING in this newspaper on Monday, the self-proclaimed IRA “informer”, Sean O’Callaghan, stated:
As a Kerry teenager, I joined the IRA and became a bomber, a robber and a double murderer. When I came to my senses and realised I was committing criminal acts for a vicious sectarian organisation I left, but my conscience drove me to rejoin in order to work against it. I served as an informer for the Irish government and in the course of six years I helped to stop a huge IRA arms shipment and I sabotaged many “violent and criminal plans.”
Were this the whole truth, the lionising of Sean O’Callaghan would be understandable. But it is not the full truth and many of those most enthusiastically engaged in the lionising know it is not the full truth.
In his Irish Times article on Monday, which purported to be a rebuttal of a column written by me three weeks ago, Sean O’Callaghan also wrote: “The IRA has a straightforward policy about informers, it murders them.” He might have been a little more frank about what he knows about the treatment of IRA informers.
At 4p.m. on Saturday, March 23rd, 1985, a body was found in a green sleeping bag beside old car tyres near Ballincollig, Co Cork. The hands and legs were tied and a hood was placed over the head. The body was identified as that of John Corcoran of Riverview Estate, Ballyvolane, Cork. He was 45, married to Eileen Corcoran and the couple had eight children.
The State pathologist, Dr John Harbison, undertook a post mortem and found that a bullet, fired from a high-velocity weapon, had entered John Corcoran’s head close to the left ear and had gone through the right side of his skull, breaking his jaw.
The killing was acknowledged by the IRA to have been perpetrated by one of its members. The Examiner reported the following Monday: “The IRA in Belfast last night admitted killing the 45-year-old father of eight, John Corcoran, and alleged that he was scheming with a named Cork Garda detective to trap members of the organisation in a bogus robbery.”
The IRA member who committed the murder later spoke chillingly about the killing.
The IRA killer said that Corcoran had driven to Kerry to meet him – the meeting place was near Milltown in south Kerry. “Sean Corcoran chatted with me in a house for ages for two days. Nobody raised a hand to him. I said `Sean if you don’t tell me the name of your contact in the Irish Army we are going to shoot you’. He said `that is not very nice’.”
HE IRA murderer said Corcoran admitted he had been an informer and following this the IRA murderer travelled to Monaghan to get permission to kill Corcoran from the IRA chief of staff.
He returned to south Kerry with permission. “Sean Corcoran spoke to me. I taped most of what he said. I sent the tape to his family.”
Before the killing, the murderer and Corcoran were, according to the latter, sitting in a field “chatting for three or four hours. He was not arguing. He was not blindfolded. He knelt on the ground and I shot. I said a prayer, an act of contrition before I shot him … He turned his back. He was shot in the back of the head. He [Corcoran] said `go easy’ and that was it. He knew he was in the shit for three years and it had come home to roost.”
Asked if he felt any sorrow, the IRA murderer said: “I felt human compassion.” He said he felt no remorse for the murder. “I felt at the time he [John Corcoran] was a very weak guy who had been inhumanely used by the security forces at the time.”
The IRA murderer was none other than Sean O’Callaghan. That awful murder was done precisely at the time that O’Callaghan now claims he was acting as an agent of the Irish Government seeking to sabotage “violent and criminal plans”.
His account of that brutal murder was not given at a time when he was pretending to be a loyal member of the IRA. It was given at the time when he had decided to give himself up to the British police in November 1988.
He gave this account, along with his story of his involvement in the IRA generally and how he had become an informer, to the editor of the Kerryman, Gerard Colleran, and the interview with republished in the Kerryman on December 20th.
Sean O’Callaghan was subsequently convicted of two murders in Northern Ireland, which were perpetrated before his alleged “conversion” from the commission of “criminal acts for a vicious sectarian organisation”.
BUT the horrific murder of John Corcoran took place several years after this alleged conversion and while, according to him, he was engaged in sabotaging “many violent and criminal acts”.
The Sunday Independent and other media that have lionised Seiln O’Callaghan in the few weeks since his release from Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland, were fully aware of O’Callaghan’s involvement in the murder of John Corcoran in 1985 – Independent Newspapers would have had special knowledge of this because it owns the Kerryman and yet it published not a sentence from that remarkable interview.
O’Callaghan has been lauded by Conor Cruise O’Brien, Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley Edwards and others for “informing” the security forces of the murderous plans and operations of the IRA. But surely John Corcoran is no less deserving of commendation and admiration. And, by necessary inference, the murderer of John Corcoran is deserving of contempt and condemnation, all the more so given the self-acknowledged cold-bloodedness of the murderer.
But there is more at stake than the hypocrisy of the agenda-bearers, there is the complicity or at least the negligence of the Irish State in the murder of John Corcoran.
Sean O’Callaghan first admitted his involvement in the murder of John Corcoran in 1988. He repeated this admission in newspapers interviews in 1993 and 1994. And yet it appears that the gardai made no efforts to interview O’Callaghan in connection with this murder and of course no warrant was issued to have him extradited to the Republic after his release from prison in Northern Ireland in November.
In at least one of those newspaper interviews, O’Callaghan claimed that he informed his Garda contact of where Corcoran was being held before his murder and of the urgent necessity for Garda intervention to prevent the murder of Corcoran. If this is true – and of course O’Callaghan would have good reason now to lie about this – the question arises, why did the gardai not intervene?
I will be returning to this.