Tonight’s Saturday Night Film is a Hardtalk interview with Kieran Conway, self-confessed IRA volunteer and intelligence officer, now a criminal defence lawyer in Dublin.
You may remember we mentioned Mr Conway and his extraordinary story when his memoirs as a Volunteer “Southside Provisional” were published a couple of years ago
Compare and contrast Mr Conway’s dignity and demeanour with Derry man, RUC Informant Raymond Gilmour/Gilmore (allegedly formerly known as Liam Han . . . .)
Andrew Boyd, Belfastman, writer and political commentator
warned about the fate of informers in 1984:
“the RUC’s promise of a happy and prosperous new life abroad is a deceit.
Who was Raymond Gilmour?
Born in the Creggan area of Derry in 1959, Gilmour became an RUC Special Branch informer when he was 17 and joined the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1976 as a police agent.
When under arrest for burglary, he told the RUC that his mother had a history of mental illness.
His father was a boozer.
Two of his brothers, he said, “beat up my sisters and me and tried to make us drink their piss“.
One also “forced me to keep my school dinner and bring it home after school so he could eat it”.
Comment: Normal, anyone?
He was paid £200 a week for 3 years with bonuses for arrests or weapon finds bringing his pay up to £600 a week.
Comment: A tidy sum in the 1970-80s.
He then moved to the IRA in 1980, on the grounds that he didn’t think INLA cut the mustard – or maybe he was suspected of being an informer.
His cover was blown two years later when police used information supplied by him to recover a machine gun. He was spirited out one night from his home in Creggan around 1982 when it became clear that he had become a dedicated sort of agent for the British state within the ranks of the Republican Movement in Derry. He was the only witness to gave evidence against 31 (or 35) men and women in a Supergrass trial in 1984. The case collapsed when the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lowry,
said his evidence was “unworthy of belief“.
He was “a selfish and self-regarding man to whose lips a lie invariably comes more naturally than the truth“.
But those 35 innocent people spent up to 3 years in jail before they were exonerated – and they don’t get the time back.
Despite this little set-back, over 7 years Gilmour said he had inflicted serious damage on the IRA’s Derry Brigade in the late 1970s and 80s, claiming he had “brought them to their knees”.
“We never expected it from Raymond Gilmour. I had no suspicions of him. Never, ever.’ said IRA Volunteer McMonagle who, with half a dozen other IRA suspects, headed across the border to escape the supergrass trial.
Gilmour left Ireland with his wife and 2 children, who knew nothing about his activities. He was given a new identity by MI5, settled in England When he told his wife he was working for the British he saw “the hatred in her eyes”.
She left him and eventually petitioned for their marriage to be annulled and his children’s names changed.
His children disowned him.
He married twice again in England but both relationships broke down.
Before his death Gilmour claimed he has been cut off from his handlers and the state that recruited him, that he was virtually broke, in ill-health and isolated.
He ended up living on £80 disability allowance a week.
He lived his life expecting a bullet in the head “The IRA doesn’t forgive and doesn’t forget”
“The informer is doomed to live in a limbo from which there is no exit”
Until death – and maybe not even then
It is not known whether Gilmour will be buried under his real name, or the pseudonym under which he has lived in Britain since he fled his native Derry over 30 years ago.
He will most probably have a pauper’s funeral.
Andrew Boyd: The Informers, Mercier Press 1984