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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

'If I'd listened to McGuinness's words, I'd have ended up with a bullet in my head'

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday World)

Martin McGuinness persistently tried to lure IRA informer, Raymond Gilmour, back to Derry after he'd gone into hiding in England.

Gilmour revealed McGuinness's desperate attempts to convince him to come home: "In two telephone conversations, Martin promised I'd be safe if I returned to Derry," the former supergrass told the Sunday World.

"Had I listened, I'd have ended up lying dead on the road with a bullet in the head like poor Frank Hegarty."

And the supergrass, who decimated the Provos in Derry, disclosed McGuinness had offered him twice as much money as MI5 were paying if he agreed to return to the city for a quick visit.

The Sinn Féin politician even said he'd help Gilmour set up home in America if the informer came back to Derry just once more. "Martin said I'd have the life of riley in the States, that it was the place for a young man like me," Gilmour claimed.

The informer said he was torn apart about what to do: "I was living in an MI5 safe house in Newcastle with my wife Lorraine and our two children when Martin made these promises.

"We were all desperately homesick for Derry. I wanted to believe Martin that I'd be safe but my mother had never liked him. I could hear her words from years ago ringing in my head, 'Don't trust McGuinness'."

Three years later, another Derry IRA informer Frank Hegarty, who had also gone into hiding in England, was more nave.

Hegarty believed similar assurances McGuinness made to him on the phone and returned. Once, the Sinn Féin politician went on the knees and held the hand of Hegarty's crying mother, promising her he'd be safe.

Hegarty was abducted, interrogated and murdered by the IRA when he returned in 1986. His body was dumped on the border.

Gilmour, who fled Derry in 1982 after his cover was blown, said McGuinness started visiting his relatives' homes when he knew the informer would be phoning.

"Once, he was in Lorraine's parents. Another time, he was in my sister Geraldine's. He took the phone and told me he didn't believe I was a British agent. He asked my mother to tell me to come home.

"I heard her crying in the background. It was very upsetting. Then my brother Johnny grabbed the phone. He was shouting and swearing and telling me when I came back, he'd kick my arse.

"Martin McGuinness pulled the phone off Johnny and told him to shut up. He said he didn't want to hear threats made on the phone."

The second time McGuinness spoke to Gilmour was at his sister Geraldine's home. "Various members of my family were put on the phone. They all asked me to come home using the same language as if reading from a script.

"Martin again promised I'd not be harmed. I heard my mother crying and Martin telling her nobody would hurt me. Knowing she was so upset was psychological torture. I realised I couldn't continue phoning home.

"I said a few words to her and hung up. It was the last time we ever spoke. My mother went to her grave never seeing me again. But at least, unlike poor Frank Hegarty's mother, she knew her son was still alive."

Gilmour made statements to the RUC about Martin McGuinness's IRA involvement and was willing to give evidence in court against him but the case never progressed. The informer recalled how McGuinness watched the Derry Brigade, including Gilmour, train in IRA uniforms in the Star Factory in preparation for their role as lead colour party at the annual Bodenstown commemoration.

October 24, 2011
________________

This article appeared in the October 23, 2011 edition of the Sunday World.

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