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IRA supergrass makes deathbed claim saying McGuinness 'begged him' to return to Derry

NewsBy Hugh Jordan
Raymond Gilmour with a rifle on 'patrol' in Creggan
Raymond Gilmour with a rifle on 'patrol' in Creggan

IRA superspy Raymond Gilmour claimed Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness begged him to come home to Derry after he had been outed as a tout, the Sunday World can reveal.

Raymond Terence Gilmour, who was found dead at his secret bolthole in England last month, insisted the Deputy First Minister asked him on two separate occasions to come back and withdraw the statements.

This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of Raymond Gilmour’s disappearance into police protective custody. 

He had been arrested along with two other IRA volunteers and a number of weapons were seized.

Days later the IRA discovered Gilmour had agreed to turn ‘supergrass’ and give evidence against his former IRA friends.

The 57-year-old former RUC Special Branch agent made the ‘McGuinness asked me to come home’ claim in a late-night phone call to a Sunday World reporter four weeks before he passed away at his flat in Kent.

“It was in the run-up to the so-called supergrass trial. Nearly 40 republicans from Derry were facing serious terrorist charges as a result of statements I gave to the police,” said Gilmour.

“I was living in protective custody, being shifted around from pillar to post. They had me living in different army bases in Northern Ireland, in England and in Cyprus.

“To tell you the honest truth – and I know this sounds kind of racist – I was fed up hearing just English accents. And so when I was told Martin McGuinness wanted to speak to me, I was actually looking forward to having a conversation with someone from home. I knew I wouldn’t have to repeat myself 10 times.

“Martin was the best-known republican in Derry and I knew him well. We chatted, just small talk at first. Martin was very nice and he seemed sincere and concerned for my safety.

“Then Martin switched the conversation. He tried to persuade me to come back to Derry. He said I shouldn’t betray my friends at home and that everything would be OK if I would came back and withdrew the statements.

“Maybe it was just that I was away from home and I missed my family in Derry, but for a minute or two I actually thought about saying ‘OK Martin, I will’.

“But then reality clicked in. I said no. And looking back I had no intention of ever doing it.

“Martin asked me to think things over and asked it was OK for us to speak again. I said yes, because if truth be told, he is very nice to talk to.

“But the next time we spoke, Martin realised quite quickly that I wasn’t going to change my mind. I was going to give evidence against the 31 IRA members facing charges and that was that. The second time we spoke it was a much shorter call,” said Gilmour.

Gilmour also said he thought about the telephone conversation he had when a few years later the dead body of fellow Derry man Frank Hegarty was found across the border in Donegal.

Raymond Gilmour in Derry in 2010 

“I knew then I had been right to follow my instincts,” he said.

He added: “Frank was a quartermaster in the IRA. He was much more senior than me. He was given assurances, but he still ended up dead.”

This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of Gilmour’s momentous decision to turn from police tout to IRA supergrass. 

Although all of those charged on Gilmour’s evidence were eventually released, the lengthy trial and its aftermath had a devastating effect on the IRA in Derry.

The Sunday World has interviewed the officer who acted as Gilmour’s handler during his days as an IRA volunteer in Derry.

After retiring from the RUC, Alan Barker (not his real name) wrote a book about his fascinating undercover police work.

‘Shadows – Inside Northern Ireland’s Special Branch’ provided the first ever insight into the secretive police department. 

Known to Gilmour as ‘Pete’, the officer became Gilmour’s friend and confidante.

And in a TV interview he defended Gilmour’s honesty and integrity which had come into question saying, “He was as dedicated as I was in trying to prevent terrorism.”