Exiles cannot expect a welcome home

Danny Morrison rarely minces his words. This morning in Daily Ireland he does so less than usual. He rightly notes that the pan Nationalism of the early stages of the peace process is largely gone. He goes on to argue that the SDLP’s (and a long list of others’) espousal of the cause of the up to 9000 people who have been exiled by loyalist and republican paramilitaries ignores the behaviour of those expelled. the demoralising affect they had on their communities. He states rather unequivocally that informers will certainly not be welcome back in their old communities.By Danny Morrison

When the legislation for the NOTRs (Not On The Runs) was withdrawn last week in Westminster some MPs drew attention to an issue of deep concern to them – the human rights of those ‘exiled’ by misguided loyalist paramilitaries and the truly evil IRA. They argued that should legislation of this nature be reintroduced to parliament it be linked to the right of return of those unfortunate refugees.

Most of those ordered out by loyalists were fellow loyalist hoods or rival drug barons. Most of those ordered out by the IRA were hoods, drug pushers and those whose serious criminal activities were demoralising the nationalist community and who were often used by the political police and British intelligence as low level informants. Also among the exiles are IRA informers and suspected IRA informers who beat the posse.

While the courageous SDLP rightly accused Sinn Fein of “looking after its own”, by attempting to resolve the issue of the OTRs, the poor hoods, pushers and informers have had no voice, spokespersons, representatives or lobbyists. Apart from, that is: Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, DUP, Ulster Unionist and SDLP MPs, the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, the Alliance Party, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats, the Labour Party, US Special Envoy Mitchell Reiss, the ‘Sunday Independent’, ‘Irish News’, ‘News Letter’, ‘Belfast Telegraph’, Victims’ Commissioner Ken Bloomfield, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and the doughty Ruth Dudley Edwards. My apologies to those other human rights stalwarts whose names for reasons of space I have had to omit.

Oh, yes, and Father Faul, who on BBC’s Talkback ridiculously numbered the exiles at around 5,000 – which, I suppose, is a conservative figure if compared to ‘Fortnight’s’ guesstimate of 9,000.

What these critics have ignored is that many of the, let’s say, lesser offenders have since returned home either to visit relatives or to settle, some having made overtures to their old communities, some having made none.

No one, as far as I know, was exiled for stealing a few pair of jeans from a city centre store or drinking cider up an entry. No serial hood or drug pusher has penned an autobiography about his glorious days robbing and raping grannies, murdering pedestrians by car, or supplying children with drugs. Nevertheless, let’s agree that now that there is peace and we are attempting to resolve the causes of conflict and the issue of policing, everyone should have the right to return home. Everyone, including the touts and the celebrity touts, those twice-rewarded Judases whose kiss-and-kill was quickly followed by kiss-and-tell.

In a statement last July announcing the end of its armed struggle the IRA said: “All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.”

Clearly, this means that there is no likelihood of the IRA taking action here or in England against those it exiled. Now, don’t be expecting me to shake the hand of informers Sean O’Callaghan or Sandy Lynch but don’t expect me either to punch them on the chin – or hire somebody more able! Of course, one cannot rule out the possibility of revenge or reprisal assaults by individuals against those who betrayed them. But that is to be discouraged and frowned on.

So, if we assume that all exiles are free to return home the question really is how many of them, especially among the celebrity touts, would want to?

Raymond Gilmour wrote a book, ‘Dead Ground’, about his time as an INLA informer in the 1980s, before turning supergrass. He describes himself as coming from ‘Londonderry’. According to him, all the people in Creggan were into thieving, the men all beat up their wives who in turn beat up their kids. “The Creggan was windswept and dirty, the people shabbily-dressed…” About his family he says that his mother had a history of mental illness, that his father was a boozer. Two of his brothers, “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 that he could eat it.”

About one INLA comrade who was killed by the SAS he writes, “if ever a person deserved to die, it was Neil McMonigle.” Gilmore’s best friend was INLA man Colm McNutt. Gilmour tipped off his RUC handler about an INLA robbery during which McNutt was shot dead. He tried to put 35 former friends and neighbours away but even the trial judge described him as being “entirely unworthy of belief”. He was “a selfish and self-regarding man to whose lips a lie invariably comes more naturally than the truth.”

Yes, expect those 35 friends and the Gilmore clan to chip in for the coming home party for Raymie in the Creggan! Raymie’s eagerly awaited speech will make everything crystal clear and he will iron out every wrinkle!

And welcome back to Ballymurphy Martin McGartland, an avid fan of Sean Penn, who escaped from the IRA in 1991 and went on to write two books, ‘Fifty Dead Men Walking’ and ‘Dead Man Running’. Both Oscar winning performances, or whatever.

“I wanted to call Angie [his former partner] every night to tell her how much I missed her,” said Martin. “I wanted her to come to England… where I would be able to care for her and protect her and the boys…I had never realised how much I cared for the three of them and how much I wanted to protect them and look after them.”

This was very touching, coming from the man whom, according to a subsequent Belfast High Court hearing, had never paid Angie a penny in maintenance for their two sons, Martin and Padraig.

Whilst an informer Martin took part in the killing of an off-duty paratrooper, Private Tony Harrison, and, thanks to his Special Branch handlers, was never charged with murder. But what Tory MPs give a damn about one dead off-duty paratrooper if it gives them an opportunity to attack Sinn Fein over poor Marty in exile!

Then there’s Sean O’Callaghan who broke his father’s heart and betrayed, among others, his friend Martin Ferris. Today, Ferris is the poll-topping TD for North Kerry and Sean, well, Sean isn’t. Years ago Sean announced himself an authority on the IRA and said that the IRA was using the peace process to re-launch its armed struggle. For a time he acted as an advisor to David Trimble – which might explain why Reg Empie is now leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. Sean said in reaction to the potential of the peace process, “I was in danger of becoming useless.” Asked by a barrister in the Dublin High Court if he could name any one person in the last ten years to whom he had consistently told the truth he said, “It’s extremely difficult to give you that answer.”

Sean came back to Kerry last year to be filmed for a documentary but all the camera saw was a cloud of dust. Sean took to his heels when he thought he had been spotted and got the next flight home. Home to Mother England where he languishes as an increasingly useless man, along with all the other mouths.

You ought to know him

by the tinkling of the leper’s bell

hanging from his heart,

and you ought to know

that bit by bit his leprosy

makes his soul’s flesh fall off.

(The Provocateur by Nâzım Hikmet, former political prisoner)

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty