Sean O’Callaghan, Provisional IRA defector-in-place, dies at 63

Sean O’CallaghanSean O’Callaghan, one of the most contentious figures in the history of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, has died in Jamaica. He was born in County Kerry, Republic of Ireland, in a strongly republican family, which sided with opponents of the Ango-Irish treaty and fought against the official Irish government in the Irish Civil War of 1922-1923. In 1971, aged just 17, O’Callaghan joined the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which fought to unite British-controlled Northern Ireland with the independent Republic of Ireland. Not long after, O’Callaghan was arrested by the Garda Síochána (Irish police) in his home county of Kerry, when a small quantity of explosives he was hiding in his parents’ house accidentally detonated.

After serving his prison sentence in Ireland, O’Callaghan returned to active duty as a Provisional IRA volunteer, and even pulled the trigger in the killing of Detective Inspector Peter Flanagan, a Catholic officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the police body of Northern Ireland, who was assassinated by the Provisional IRA in 1974. Gradually, however, O’Callaghan became disillusioned with armed militancy and distanced himself from the Provisional IRA, eventually moving to London. By 1979, when the Provisional IRA contacted him and asked him to return to active service, O’Callaghan had become an ideological opponent of militant Irish republicanism. He contacted the Irish government and offered to become an agent-in-place for the Special Branch of Garda Síochána.

O’Callaghan operated as a spy for the Irish government within the Provisional IRA from 1979 until 1988. During that time, he continued to participate in Provisional IRA operations, including an attempt (which he claimed to have foiled) to murder the Prince of Wales and his then wife, Princess Diana. He also remained a member of Sinn Féin, a republican political party that was widely viewed as the political wing of the Provisional IRA. In 1985, he was elected county councilor representing Sinn Féin. Three years later, fearing for his life, O’Callaghan turned himself in to British authorities. He was prosecuted, convicted, and served a prison sentence, during which he wrote his best-selling memoir, published under the title The Informer: The True Life Story of One Man’s War on Terrorism. In it, he details his ideological change from a socialist republican to a pro-unionist, who occasionally advised the Ulster Unionist Party, a pro-British conservative political party in Northern Ireland.

After he revealed his pro-unionist sympathies, O’Callaghan was disowned by most of his family and did not even attend his father’s funeral in 1997. He lived openly in England, refusing police protection and rejecting pleas from his supporters to change his name and hide his whereabouts. He died last week from a suspected heart attack while visiting his daughter in Jamaica. He was 63.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 29 August 2017 | Permalink

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Rare case of female lone-wolf dissident republican ends in conviction in N. Ireland

Christine ConnorA British court has convicted a lone-wolf female dissident Irish republican, who plotted attacks against police officers after using Facebook to lure two men into joining a fictitious militant organization. Her two male accomplices took their own lives in recent months. The rare case centers on Christine Connor, a 31-year-old resident of Northern Ireland and self-described dissident republican.

The term ‘dissident republican’ refers to secessionist militants who campaign for the union between Northern Ireland —which currently belongs to the United Kingdom— and the Republic of Ireland, which gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1922. In 1998, after a decades-long armed campaign, the majority of Irish republicans surrendered their weapons and accepted the terms of the Good Friday agreement, which outlines a peaceful resolution to the problem of Northern Ireland’s status. But some republican activists rejected the agreement and vowed to continue to use violence to achieve the union of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. These are known as dissident republicans and typically support a number of paramilitary secessionist groups, such as the Continuity Irish Republican Army and the Real Irish Republican Army.

But Christine Connor did not belong to any of these groups. Instead, she used Facebook to create a fictitious dissident republican organization called ‘United Struggle’, and declared war on the Police Service of Northern Ireland. She then created another fictitious social media account using the image of Sanne Alexandra Andersson, a Swedish model and fashion personality. Connor then used her fake online persona to lure two men into joining the militant organization that she claimed to lead. One of them was Stuart Downes, an Englishman from the town of Shrewsbury, near the Welsh-English border. She convinced him to build explosive devices, which the police described as “sophisticated, fully functioning bombs”. In May of 2003, Connor used the devices in an unsuccessful attempt to kill two police officers in north Belfast.

The lone-wolf militant used her fake social media accounts to lure another man, an American called Zachary Gelvinger, into joining ‘United Struggle’. Gelvinger, who sent hundreds of dollars to Connor’s organization, had his home searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was arrested in the United Kingdom while attempting to visit Connor in prison, in July of 2013. Downes, the Englishman, was arrested by police in Shrewsbury shortly after making a phone call from a public phone box to claim responsibility on behalf of ‘United Struggle’ for Connor’s failed attempt to kill the police officers in Belfast. Tragically, Downes killed himself in June of 2016. Gelvinger, the American member of ‘United Struggle’, killed himself in May of this year.

Remarkably, neither of the two men had any connection to Northern Ireland or any previous involvement in republican politics in or out of the United Kingdom. Last month, Connor pleaded guilty to a score of offenses, including terrorism. Last Tuesday, she was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 June 2017 | Permalink

Informer accuses Sinn Féin leader of ordering British spy’s murder

Denis DonaldsonA former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, who was an agent for the British security services, has alleged that Gerry Adams, leader of the second-largest political party in Northern Ireland, ordered the killing of a British spy in 2006. The former agent was referring to the killing of Denis Donaldson, a senior member of the Provisional IRA, who was found dead months after it was revealed that he had been secretly spying on the republican organization on behalf of British intelligence.

In December 2005, Adams announced at a press conference in Dublin, Ireland, that Donaldson had been a spy for the British government inside the Provisional IRA and its political wing, Sinn Féin. Soon after Adams’ revelation, Donaldson read a prepared statement on Ireland’s RTÉ television station, admitting that he had been recruited as a spy by the British Security Service (MI5) and the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (known today as the Police Service of Northern Ireland). Following his public admission, Donaldson was nowhere to be found. However, in March 2006, a reporter for a British tabloid newspaper found Donaldson living in a remote farmhouse in Northern Ireland’s County Donegal. Weeks later, Donaldson was shot dead in his cottage by persons unknown. In 2009, the Real IRA, a Provisional IRA splinter group that disagreed with the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent cessation of hostilities, took responsibility for Donaldson’s killing.

On Tuesday, a man who claims he was an informant for British intelligence inside Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA alleged that Donaldson’s killing was ordered by Adams himself. The man, who spoke on the BBC’s Spotlight program, could not be identified due to concerns about his personal safety. He said during a televised interview that he knew from his “experience in the IRA that murders have to be approved by […] the leadership of the IRA and the military leadership of the IRA”. When asked by the report who he was “specifically referring to”, the former informant answered: “Gerry Adams. He gives the final say”. On Wednesday, Adams denied any involvement in the killing, saying he wished to “specifically and categorically refute these unsubstantiated allegations”. The leader of Sinn Féin went on to claim that the accusations against him were “part of the British security agencies’ ongoing attempts to smear republicans and cover-up their own actions”. Adams’ lawyer said late on Wednesday that his client was considering launching a lawsuit against the BBC for defamation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 September 2016 | Permalink

Two men held in Ireland over 2006 murder of Provisional IRA spy

Denis DonaldsonPolice in Ireland say they have arrested two individuals in connection with the 2006 killing of a senior member of the Irish Republican Army, who had previously been outed as a spy for the British state. Denis Donaldson joined the Provisional IRA as a volunteer in mid-1960s, before the outbreak of the Troubles, which rocked Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until 1998. He was trained in paramilitary operations in Lebanon and participated in many IRA actions. He served time at the Long Kesh Detention Centre along with IRA volunteer and Member of Parliament Bobby Sands, who died in the famed 1981 Irish hunger strike. After Sands’ death, Donaldson stood as a general election candidate in Belfast East for Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing. In the process, he became a close associate of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. In 2000, shortly after the end of the IRA’s 30-year military campaign, Sinn Féin appointed Donaldson as the administrator of its parliamentary group in Stormont, the devolved Northern Irish parliament.

But on December 16, 2005, Adams stunned reporters during a press conference in Dublin, Ireland, by announcing that Donaldson had been a spy for the British government inside Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA. There were rumors at the time that Donaldson was deliberately outed to Adams by the British government. Soon after Adams’ revelation, Donaldson read a prepared statement on Ireland’s state-owned RTÉ television station, admitting that he had been recruited as a spy by the British Security Service (MI5) and the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (known today as the Police Service of Northern Ireland). Following his public admission, Donaldson was nowhere to be found. However, on March 19, 2006, a reporter for a British tabloid newspaper found Donaldson living in a remote farmhouse outside the village of Glenties, in Northern Ireland’s County Donegal. Weeks later, Donaldson was shot dead in his cottage by persons unknown. Most saw the Provisional IRA behind Donaldson’s murder. In 2009, however, the Real IRA, a Provisional IRA splinter group that disagreed with the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent cessation of hostilities, took responsibility for Donaldson’s killing.

On Tuesday, the Garda Síochána, the police force of the Republic of Ireland, said it had arrested two men in connection with Donaldson’s murder. The two men, who are reportedly in their 40s and 70s, have not been named. They are being held under Ireland’s Offences Against the State Act, the Gardaí said. The precise connection —if any— between Tuesday’s arrests and the official inquest into Donaldson’s death, which continues after having been postponed or delayed 20 times, is unknown at this time.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 July 2016 | Permalink

IRA is still ‘broadly in place’, says Northern Ireland police chief

Provisional IRAThe Provisional Irish Republican Army, which fought British rule in Northern Ireland for decades, but officially disbanded in 2005, is still “broadly in place”, according to the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. On July 28, 2005, the Provisional IRA announced that was ceasing all paramilitary operations and disbanding as of 4:00 p.m. that day. The man who made the announcement on British television was Séanna Walsh, a former cellmate of Bobby Sands, the Provisional IRA volunteer who was the first prisoner to die in the 1981 Irish hunger strike. He read a statement authorized by the Provisional IRA leadership, which said that all PIRA units had been “ordered to dump arms” and that PIRA volunteers should “not engage in any other activities whatsoever”. Three years later, the Independent Monitoring Commission declared that the PIRA’s Army Council, which steered the activities of the militant organization, was “no longer operational or functional”.

In the ensuing years, which have seen the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement that restored peace in Northern Ireland, it has been generally assumed that the PIRA had ceased to exist. Last week, however, George Hamilton, the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, told reporters that “some of the PIRA structure from the 1990s remains broadly in place” in the area. Hamilton was speaking in reference to the murder earlier this month of Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast. McGuigan, a 53-year-old father of nine, was a former member of the Provisional IRA, who had fallen out with the organization. He was gunned down at his home, allegedly in retaliation for the murder last May of Gerard Jock Davison, a former commander of the Provisional IRA, who was also shot dead in the Markets area of Belfast.

Some allege that McGuigan had participated in Davison’s murder, and that the Provisional IRA’s Army Council authorized McGuigan’s killing in response. Chief Hamilton said last week that the PIRA had probably not authorized McGuigan’s killing, but added that the militant separatist organization was still in existence. In response to his statement, the Irish government said on Tuesday that it would reassess its intelligence on the activities of the PIRA during the last decade. Meanwhile, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, which is believed to be the political wing of the PIRA, has denied that the armed separatist group is still active and insisted that the PIRA “left the stage in 2005”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 August 2015 | Permalink

Police ‘error’ reveals secret deal between IRA, UK government

Provisional IRA muralBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An alleged police error, which has prompted the release from custody of a former Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) volunteer accused of killing British soldiers, has revealed a secret agreement between the PIRA and the British government. British authorities have long suspected John Downey of involvement in a 1982 bomb explosion in London’s Hyde Park, which killed four British soldiers and injured scores of bystanders. But Downey was released from custody yesterday, after a judge was shown a letter that the suspect had been provided by the British government, assuring him that he was not wanted for outstanding crimes related to PIRA operations. The letter was given to Downey in 2007 by Britain’s Northern Ireland Office; it stated that the former PIRA volunteer would be able to travel outside Northern Ireland “without fear of arrest”. British authorities said that the letter had been sent “in error” and that it should have been withdrawn prior to Downey’s recent detention. But the case has exposed what appears to be a “discreet agreement” between the British government and republican paramilitaries. The agreement is undoubtedly connected to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The multi-party accord permitted —among other things— power-sharing between Northern Ireland’s loyalist and republican political parties, in exchange for the decommissioning of weaponry held by paramilitary groups on both sides. But it also stipulated that all prisoners held for crimes related to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland were to be freed. By 2000, most of these prisoners had been released, based on the British government’s belief that paramilitary groups on both sides were unlikely to refrain from violence while many of their members remained in prison. However, there was nothing in the Good Friday Agreement to cover the cases of those “on the run”, namely paramilitaries —most of them republican— who were at large and wanted by the British state for crimes connected with paramilitary activity. Read more of this post

Al-Qaeda attack on Chinese ship uncovers IRA smuggling racket

Provisional IRA muralBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An attack by Islamist militants on a Chinese cargo ship has unveiled a massive smuggling racket by Irish gangs consisting of former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, commonly known as Provisional IRA. The revelation has inflamed existing tensions between Irish Republican militants linked to Sinn Fein –the political wing of the IRA– and a host of smuggling gangs operating on the border areas that connect the Irish state with Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The smuggling case was originally unearthed back in July of this year, when a group of militants linked to al-Qaeda fired two rocket-propelled grenades at Cosco Asia, a Hong Kong-registered Chinese commercial vessel, which is one of the world’s largest cargo ships. The attack, which occurred as the ship was sailing through the Suez Canal, shook the maritime-security world at the time, as it illustrated the rising lawlessness of the Sinai Peninsula following the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt. Ironically, the attack literally blew the lid off a complex smuggling operation. Specifically, one of the RPG rockets struck a container that, according to the ship’s manifest, was supposed to contain furniture. Inspectors who examined the damaged container, however, found that it was full of packets of cigarettes, which were destined to a company in County Louth, Ireland. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the firm didn’t exist, but was rather a front company for a smuggling gang operating in the Irish borderlands. Shipping inspectors contacted the Gardai, Ireland’s police force, as well as customs officials in Dundalk, Ireland, who proceeded to seize the cargo in September. A subsequent police investigation found that the smuggled cigarettes, which had an estimated street value of €4.3 million, had been purchased by “a consortium” of IRA-linked factions operating in County Louth. In a new report published last weekend, Ireland’s Independent on Sunday said that the same gangs who were behind the failed smuggling operation are also involved in laundering diesel fuel throughout South Armagh in Northern Ireland. Read more of this post