Ex-IRA man's thesis "fascinating" to Tories


THE former IRA member turned informer, Mr Sean O'Callaghan, attended a meeting of the Conservative backbench Northern Ireland Committee yesterday at the invitation of its chairman, Mr Andrew Hunter MP.

He told the Sunday Times last week when he was released from Maghaberry Prison that as the IRA's influence increases, "civil war looms closer".

The meeting, in the House of Commons, followed Mr O'Callaghan's appearance on BBC2s Newsnight on Monday, in which he claimed Sinn Fein IRA's long term political strategy was to replace the SDLP as the main nationalist voice in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hunter said he had invited Mr O'Callaghan because newspaper articles which he had written from Maghaberry Prison "contained powerful and perceptive comment".

At the meeting, Mr O'Callaghan had "expressed his opinion that Provisional Sinn Fein IRA has exploited the good intentions of John Hume and successfully wooed Irish constitutional nationalists. He argued that the peace process had played into the hands of the IRA."

The "thesis" presented by Mr O'Callaghan was "fascinating", Mr Hunter said, "and I will be recommending that the government listens very carefully to what he is saying".

Mr O'Callaghan was released from prison a week ago. He had served eight years of a life sentence totalling 539 years, and he became an informer while at Maghaberry Prison.

Despite being labelled by a senior RUC detective as "the most important intelligence agent in the history of the Irish State", Mr O'Callaghan has so far refused the offer of a new identity.

He has said he recognises the possibility that he may be killed by the IRA, but he hopes that he "knows enough about them to stay one step ahead ... I hope to use the time available to me now to tell the world the truth about the IRA. I will go on doing that for as long as it takes. Extreme nationalism is the seedbed of fascism. Provisionalism is no different. That will never change."