Sean O’Callaghan, high-ranking IRA bomb maker turned informant

Sean O’Callaghan was an assassin and bomb maker for the Irish Republican Army who became one of the organisation’s highest-ranking informants for the Irish police. He was credited with foiling a 1983 plot to assassinate Prince Charles and Princess Diana at a Duran Duran concert in London.

A friend, writer Ruth Dudley Edwards, said O’Callaghan drowned in a pool in Kingston, Jamaica, on 23 August, where he was visiting his daughter. 

O’Callaghan’s early years were guided by a lesson his grandmother imparted when he was nine: “When you shoot a British policeman, dig him up and shoot him again because you can never trust them.”

Within a decade, O’Callaghan would take her advice to heart, firing eight shots at an alleged “torture chief” for the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The police officer, Peter Flanagan, was sitting at a bar when he was killed, reading the racing pages of the Irish Independent. O’Callaghan later learned that Flanagan had in all likelihood never tortured anyone – the officer had testified against British police brutality at the European Court of Human Rights – and said the operation shook his faith in the IRA.

He had followed his father into the terror group at 15 and was soon training other teenagers in weapons and explosives. He participated in 70 robberies and attacks on the British and their allies, by his count, including a May 1974 assault on an Ulster Defence Regiment barracks that resulted in the death of Eva Martin, a 28-year-old private. O’Callaghan said he fired the mortar shell that killed her.

A breaking point came the following year, he said. Kevin McKenna, reportedly the organisation’s second in command, remarked that he hoped a Protestant woman killed in another attack was pregnant so that the IRA might get “two Prods for the price of one”. O’Callaghan left for London later that year, started a cleaning business and married a Protestant woman. It was a short-lived attempt to leave…

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