Paul O’Connor, Director of the Pat Finucane Centre, IRA Volunteer

I was 15 years old in 1970 when I met one of my childhood friends in the Bogside. He told me he had discovered the nascent Provisional IRA and was going to join the ‘Provos’ the very next evening. He asked me if I wanted to come with him. On a whim that was to change my life and the lives of many others, I replied that I would go with him.

My childhood friend may have been talking to me in the relatively run-down Bogside, but he was from a wealthy Nationalist family and had lived most of his life in a uniquely salubrious street that divided the Bogside from the Creggan.

The street was Westend Park and was composed of 22 large terraced houses in a raised cul-de-sac fronted across the street, in those days, by lush gardens. The last Protestant Unionists who had lived in Westend Park had mostly – but not completely – died out before the onset of the Troubles.

WestEndPark2
Westend Park, overlooking the Bogside

John Hume and his family moved into No.6.

The children of families in Westend Park might have been set to studying piano, violin and elocution and were expected to win prizes for competency in these in the Guildhall Feis competitions.

The contrast between Westend Park’s money, status and associated privilege and the poverty all around – in the Bogside and Creggan – could not have been more striking.

If nothing else, it dissolved the myth that a large Catholic Nationalist class was not growing wealthy and influential in close partnership with its Unionist neighbours in Northern Ireland.

[I have to admit that my uncle Tommy and his married daughter Mary accounted for two homes in Westend Park.]

If the householders were not actually wealthy, they made up for any slight lack of coinage by palpable airs of snobbery and respectability – two of the more obvious qualities of the residents.

My childhood friend, who was inviting me to join the IRA, lived in the large house at the top of the cul-de-sac, No. 22, the gable house with an even greater sense of space.

He was the somewhat spoiled youngest of a family of seven whose parents truly had a sense that they were a cut above the rest.

I am, of course, referring to Paul O’Connor, for many years now Director of the Pat Finucane Centre.

Paul was born on January 24th, 1955 and I was born the very next day, January 25th, 1955. A few times we celebrated our birthdays across the two days when we were younger.

OConnorFamily1958
Paul O’Connor, aged 3, at front centre with his family

Paul’s successful father was John G. O’Connor, who had done very well in the wholesale tea trade and later purchased and greatly expanded the Neil Carlin & Co., Wholesale Wine and Spirits’ Merchants. John O’Connor had some interest also in the Coca-cola franchise.

OConnorCarlinAdsDJ
Successful businessman, John G O’Connor’s firms

By comparison with many of his Nationalist contemporaries, he was minting money.

He was a member of and donor to the Nationalist Party led by Eddie McAteer who lived a short distance away from Westend Park in a large detached house set in its own grounds at 26 Beechwood Avenue.

John G O’Connor’s wife, 12 years his junior, was an exotic creature to have landed in Derry’s Bogside, an Australian-born society belle with roots in Carndonagh, County Donegal and a full-on Aussie accent – Tess O’Doherty of Melbourne.

Tess had been a teacher, had an artistic bent, kept a superb garden and cats and ran a large rambling and bohemian house, but felt a credible sense of social superiority.

Her marriage to John G had been suitably reported in The Derry Journal in August of 1940.

TessTeacherMarriesAug9_1940
“Prominent in the commercial and social life of the city”

John G and Tess, before they moved to Westend Park, announced the birth of their first child in The Derry Journal – this kind of “society” birth announcement was almost unknown in Nationalist Derry.

OConnorFirstBorn1941DerryJournal
The birth of Tony O’Connor, Paul’s eldest brother

John and Tess were pictured outside their Westend Park home displaying their new car in 1963 – a Vauxhall Cresta executive luxury car which cost around £1,200 in those days.

JohnandTessOConnor1963
John G and Tess posing with their new luxury car in 1963 in Westend Park

Many families nearby were wondering where the next meal was coming from.

A former IRA volunteer from the Brandywell reminded me that Protestant Unionist Ben Hunter – of Hunters Bakeries – ran a scheme for years called “Widows’ Bread” through which his bread vans delivered free bread to widows – regardless of religion or politics – who were left to raise large families. This particular former IRA volunteer told me that his mother and his family absolutely relied on Ben Hunter’s unpublicised charity for years…

Adjacent to Westend Park in the Creggan or Bogside, a family of 8 – Protestant or Catholic – might have been fortunate to have a gross annual income of £325 in 1963.

With the onset of the rioting and violence around the Bogside and Creggan, John G. O’Connor and Tess sold up and moved to the most prestigious address in the North West – to Deanfield, a private park community off the Limavady Road in the largely Protestant Waterside, effectively a gated space across the River Foyle away from the Nationalist Bogside and Creggan areas, and well away from the regular rioting.

A prominent Derry Unionist and Mayoral family, the Andersons, owned all of Deanfield for many decades and their son, Royal Navy Commander Albert Anderson, lived in No. 6 Deanfield, “Balmacara”, beside the O’Connors in No. 9.

 

 

Balmacara1
“Balmacara”, No. 6 Deanfield, neighbouring the O’Connors in No. 9 Deanfield

The society marriages and deaths of many of Deanfield’s old-established Unionist residents were regularly recorded in newspapers from London to Dublin.

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Interior view of a room in “Balmacara”, No. 6 Deanfield

Years before, a row had broken out among two of Derry’s most prominent Unionist families over the continued sale of land for more houses – it was not thought proper that the mature beauty of Deanfield should be diluted for more money by Commander Anderson, at that time also the Mayor.

DeanfieldHousesRow
Unionists dispute the dilution of Deanfield’s distinction

The Andersons didn’t care if the buyers were Protestant, Catholic or Dissenters – the ‘right sort’ were people who had real money. John G O’Connor and clan had real money.

For all the fact that Deanfield was next to the public St. Columb’s Park, it was virtually unseen by the great majority of the residents of Derry and Londonderry – it was a place apart, separated by a fence and not somewhere anyone unrelated to it would ever enter.

I never knew of Deanfield’s existence until Paul O’Connor brought me into it to view his new home.

Paul and I Join the Provisional IRA

In the early winter of 1970, at 15 years of age, Paul and I went to a flat at the top of Waterloo Street where two prominent Derry republicans “swore us in” to the Provisional IRA, a matter I recorded in my 1993 HarperCollins book, “The Volunteer – a former IRA Man’s True Story”.

The book was a bestseller back then and it was often commented that it managed to tell an entire story without naming anyone.

But I only noticed while re-reading the part where Paul and I joined the Provos that his first name did indeed slip through way back in 1993 when it was first published by HarperCollins – a proofing slip nobody has ever noticed before:

PaulName1
Paul’s name did in fact appear in “The Volunteer” back in 1993

Here is the next page in the book, where his name appears again:

PaulName2
Paul O’Connor and I were “sworn in to the IRA” aged 15 years

 

The two veteran republicans who “swore us in” are still alive and kicking in Derry at the time of writing.

I lived in Clarendon Street on the Derry side of the River Foyle, but because I had joined the Provos along with Paul O’Connor, I was initially attached to the only Waterside unit of the IRA overseen by a low-key Derry republican, Willie Taylor or “LT”, in whose house we met for some months.

CeaseFireFootballTeam1
The famous 1975 Ceasefire photo of most of the Derry Brigade of the PIRA – [For the record, from the left back row: John Coyle, Mickey Deery, Terry Crossan, The Writer, Peter Anderson, Bobby Sheerin, Thomas Ashe Mellon II, Stevie Stewart. Front row from left: ‘LT’ Willie Taylor, ‘Ducksie’ Doherty, Martin McGuinness, Frankie McFeely, ‘Atsy’ Edgar.]
These meetings were incredibly boring, consisting of largely standing to attention and turning left and right to commands in Irish. There were no guns or explosives as yet.

I was complaining that I was the only person who had to walk a very long distance from Clarendon Street and across Craigavon Bridge before the meetings and the same distance home again after the meetings.

After a few months, I was joined to the IRA on the Derry side of the River Foyle, able to associate with the likes of “Machinegun” O’Hara and Eamon Lafferty.

I still regularly met members of the Waterside unit of the IRA around the Bogside and at a very few IRA training camps in Donegal.

August 1971 – Internment and 2 Deaths

For months before the introduction of internment on Monday, August 9th, 1971, the Derry Brigade of the IRA had been regularly bombing shops and offices in the city centre. There was an increasing number of gun attacks as the Provos slowly got weapons.

We (by now) 16 year olds were sent out nearly every week to plant duffel bag bombs and also incendiary devices. At times, with almost no experience of firing guns, we were sent out with small revolvers to shoot at soldiers armed with rifles. I was doing all three of these things.

In the days after the introduction of internment, the IRA escalated its attacks, although it was ill-prepared to achieve this.

On the night of Wednesday, August 18th, 1971, the Adjutant of the IRA in Derry, 19 years old Eamon Lafferty, was shot dead by British soldiers at Kildrum Gardens in Creggan during a short gun battle.

Soldiers had ‘night sights’ on their rifles – the IRA did not.

Eamon had just taken possession of a sporting .303 rifle with a telescopic sight smuggled into Derry from the Republic of Ireland and could not be separated from it, until he was shot dead that is.

I was with him less than an hour before his death. This was a time before Martin McGuinness was in any way prominent.

News of Eamon Lafferty’s shooting – the first IRA volunteer “killed in action” in Derry – rocked the city. Eamon’s family was well known, and one of his cousins was a priest.

His funeral from St. Eugene’s Cathedral was attended by thousands of people (many of them wanting to observe the first ever IRA funeral theatre) and the funeral procession was led by men in IRA uniform along with no less than 14 Catholic priests processing behind.

EamonLaffertyFuneral
Funeral of IRA leader Eamon Lafferty, August 1971

The Catholic church at this time was hedging its bets and apparently betting on both the ‘security forces’ and the IRA – a bishop mightn’t even warrant a dirge of 14 mourning priests in the procession.

With all the overwhelming Eamon Lafferty funeral theatre, hardly anyone noticed the almost buried news of another shooting of an IRA volunteer in Derry, this time across the River Foyle in a bomb factory in a temporarily abandoned house in plush Deanfield, the day after Eamon Lafferty’s shooting – adjacent to Paul O’Connor’s home.

Furthermore, hardly anyone attended the Waterside funeral of this unknown victim of the shooting, a funeral that was disrupted when it was attacked by loyalists incensed at the discovery of an IRA unit and bomb factory in the Waterside.

The victim of the Deanfield shooting was another of my friends, 16 years old IRA volunteer James ‘Jim’ O’Hagan from a relatively poor family in the Waterside.

JimShotDeadTilly1
The Belfast Telegraph report of the death of James ‘Jim’ O’Hagan

The Murder of James “Jim” O’Hagan

The events of Jim’s murder were as follows:

The Waterside unit of the IRA was meeting in a largely abandoned barn of a large house in Deanfield, a hundred yards from Paul O’Connor’s home – in a house owned by one of the Anderson family.

It would have taken someone living in Deanfield and close by to have noticed that this building was vacant.

The upper part of the barn had been turned into a bomb factory where there was also a revolver and ammunition.

There had been an argument between Jim O’Hagan and another IRA volunteer during which a gun was placed against Jim’s chest and the trigger was pulled.

A bullet passed through Jim, wounding him fatally, though he lived for a short time.

The gunman dropped the gun and fled the scene.

Two of the others present carried the wounded Jim past the nearest inhabited house and beyond – to the home of Paul O’Connor, where his mother Tess attended Jim.

Jim was carried to a bedroom floor where he ultimately died. His last words were: “The pain, the pain!”

Two young IRA volunteers, Frank Plumb and Gerard McLaughlin – who had stayed with Jim and carried him to the O’Connor house – were subsequently arrested there by the RUC.

RemandStatementMcLaughlin

Plumb and McLaughlin were fully aware that staying with their dying friend would lead to their arrest.

Paul O’Connor in “Free Derry” in a “distressed state”

The wife of a leading Derry republican met Paul O’Connor in the Bogside shortly after Jim O’Hagan was shot.

According to her, he was in “a distressed state” and she took him to her mother’s house initially where he could stay until the Derry Brigade of the IRA could debrief him.

Paul was later interviewed by the IRA.

From this time, he stayed behind the barricades of “Free Derry” [composed of the adjoining Bogside, Creggan and Brandywell areas], no longer attended the Londonderry Technical College on the Strand Road and no longer ventured across Craigavon Bridge and the River Foyle to his home in Deanfield in the largely Protestant Waterside area.

Paul presented himself as “on the run”.

Paul joined the large number of other IRA volunteers patrolling the “Free Derry” no-go area in cars and sometimes on foot armed with rifles.

There would have been an egalitarian requirement to participate in IRA attacks on soldiers, police and in some bombings – you couldn’t just be allocated safe house billets and a weekly ‘wage’ [very small] and do nothing.

Below is a photograph of Paul armed with an Armalite rifle at an IRA vehicle checkpoint at the bottom of Hogg’s Folly on the Lecky Road beside the Old Forge and adjacent to the entrance to the Brow of the Hill Christian Brothers’ School (where my father taught for over 40 years).

The photograph – one of a series – was taken by American photojournalist Brian Hamill, approximately 6 weeks after Martin McGuinness was filmed – by another American crew – making and planting a car bomb in the city centre as broadcast recently on BBC Spotlight.

Apparently, under Martin McGuinness’ secure leadership, most volunteers of the Derry Brigade of the PIRA had been filmed and/or photographed just before Operation Motorman.

PaulArmedAtRightAtCheckPoint
Paul O’Connor poses with Armalite rifle at PIRA checkpoint at Hoggs Folly, May 1972

As I walked through the Bogside to school at St. Columb’s College wearing my college blazer, armed IRA volunteers manning a patrol car – including Paul – from time to time stopped their car  beside me for a chat.

CheckpointPaul
Paul O’Connor preparing to set up an IRA vehicle checkpoint

Paul did not go into detail about what had happened in the Deanfield bomb factory when Jim O’Hagan was shot and killed.

He did acknowledge that he was present, but none of us – as I remember it – pressed him for details of that tragedy.

CheckpointPaul1
Paul O’Connor the only IRA volunteer not bothering to wear a mask

The Trial of Frank Plumb and Gerard McLaughlin

The two arrested teenagers – Frank Plumb and Gerard McLaughlin – evidently cooperated fully with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, made detailed statements about what had occurred when Jim O’Hagan was shot and later died, pleaded guilty to the charges and got some “nolle prosequis” and reduced sentences as a result.

PlumbGallagherTrial
Guilty pleas and plea deals

Their trial was fast-tracked, happening only two months after their arrests.

Gerard McLaughlin got only 5 years and Frank Plumb got 3 years detention in a training school. With ‘good behaviour’, McLaughlin could expect to be released on parole within 2 years. Plumb could expect ‘weekend leaves’ at home before his detention period ended.

JimOHaganNewsClip

McLaughlin and Plumb had clearly told police about the argument which had occurred in the bomb factory that led to Jim being shot through the chest, because at the inquest into the death of Jim O’Hagan, both the police and the Coroner made specific references to the argument, evidently reading from the arrested teenagers’ statements to police.

JimOHaganInquestArgumentReference
“The police were still looking for the person who fired the gun.”

The IRA oral history version of this argument was that Jim was accused of being dirty, ill-dressed and smelly and likely to draw attention in the socially elevated environs of Deanfield.

If this oral history was true, it was a cruel argument since Jim’s failing was owing to relative poverty and not something he could easily change.

The bomb factory adjacent to Paul O’Connor’s home was a treasure trove of forensic evidence – immediately following the shooting of Jim O’Hagan, all the teenagers had gotten out of the barn, leaving everything – the gun, ammunition, a spent cartridge and explosives – for police to find.

At the trial, it was stated specifically that “two other boys were believed to have been involved.”

Gerard McLaughlin has passed away. Frank Plumb is still alive.

The Arrest & Unexpected Release of Paul O’Connor

Strictly speaking, it appears that Paul O’Connor may have had two arrests.

Statements lodged with The Bloody Sunday Inquiry made by or referring to IRA volunteers were normally redacted to oblivion – here’s a redacted example – ‘redacted’ for anyone uncertain just means censored or ‘blacked out’:

Redacted
Redacted statement from The Bloody Sunday Inquiry

However, now and then some papers were not perfectly redacted and one such contained the name “Paul O’Connor” described as “scholar” who was apparently arrested some months before the introduction of internment.

FirstArrest
A ‘Paul O’Connor’, arrested 8 April 1971 by the RUC

It appears that “scholar” was questioned about the activities of ‘Fianna na hÉireann’ – the junior wing of the IRA, although – if it was the Paul O’Connor known to me, he, I and the others were actually in the adult Provisional IRA proper.

I don’t recall being aware that the only Paul O’Connor I knew may have been arrested and questioned by the RUC before the summer of 1971.

It would have been a major talking point if it had been known to have occurred. It would have required a different protocol around being in his company, being seen with him or going near any weapons’ dumps or bomb factories that he might have been followed to.

I was not aware that he had ever been arrested and questioned.

It appears that this first arrest led to no charges.

Paul was arrested for what may have been the second time, this time in the summer of 1972 in “Free Derry” during a raid only a matter of weeks after the very public IRA checkpoint photography shenanigans by American Brian Hamill when he was the only IRA volunteer not to have followed the protocol to wear a mask.

Not wearing a mask, while surrounded by others wearing masks, might have implied that he was the Company O.C. or something, or else that he was a risk taker.

It was generally believed that ‘undercover Brits’, informers and/or those in army helicopters or sandbag posts were regularly taking photographs in the ‘no-go’ area – this is why IRA volunteers wore masks. Why Paul didn’t bother to wear one is a mystery.

News of his arrest circulated very quickly indeed, particularly among his friends and I heard about it within hours.

I recall learning that Eddie McAteer, leader of the Nationalist Party, was making particular representations on Paul’s behalf, not least because he was a close friend of Paul’s father John G O’Connor. A very good friend of mine was closely linked to Eddie McAteer.

It would have been normal for John Hume to have been involved – one of Paul’s older brothers, Brendan, one of ‘the twins’, was an SDLP activist. The Catholic church would also have been requested to inquire on Paul’s behalf, which would not have been unusual at that time.

The person who would have received all of these representations was a Chief Superintendent of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Frank Lagan, a Roman Catholic who was particularly amenable to such pressure since he was tasked with endeavouring to maintain relations with nationalists and republicans.

Author Niall Ó Dochartaigh has written extensively about Frank Lagan’s “network” and efforts in “From Civil Rights to Armalites: Derry and the Birth of the Irish Troubles” from which this single excerpt is taken:

LaganRepresentations
Chief Superintendent Frank Lagan, Royal Ulster Constabulary

Lagan regularly entered the Bogside ‘no-go’ area – without fear of attack by either the Official IRA or Provisional IRA – for private meetings at the homes of Eddie McAteer and John Hume. I know this because I was sometimes in a house at the same time as Lagan while he was meeting local leaders.

Paul O’Connor was getting the very best of representations that the wealthiest Nationalists in Derry city could engineer.

Paul’s friends, lowly and only partially informed teenage IRA volunteers like me, were expecting one of two things to happen to him:

  1. Paul would be charged in relation to the shooting and/or in relation to the bomb factory found beside his home in Deanfield, so close that Plumb and McLaughlin carried shot Jim O’Hagan directly to his home for assistance, passing another family’s home nearer to the barn.
  2. Paul would simply be interned, as happened to virtually every other captured and suspected IRA volunteer at that time. Paul’s previous arrest some months earlier and his year spent openly “on the run” and operating as an IRA volunteer around “Free Derry” would have facilitated his swift internment – not least since there were evidently photographs to assist it.

Paul O’Connor’s Release from Custody

There was palpable shock and surprise when Paul O’Connor was released without any charge and without suffering internment, although – in retrospect – was this not the desired end of the powerful representations being made on his behalf?

Paul’s unprecedented release meant that he could actually return home – if he wished – to the “select residential area” of Deanfield from which he had apparently escaped himself some 52 weeks earlier and where the socially disadvantaged Jim O’Hagan had lost his young life.

The Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA was equally shocked. Following some meeting with Paul, which did not go very well for him, it apparently decided that he should leave Derry entirely.

This was translated – at my lowly level – that he was ordered out of Derry.

A Nationalist party person mentioned to me recently that he recalls that Eddie McAteer referred to “a threat to Paul’s life”, apparently from a paramilitary source.

The long and the short of it was that Paul left Derry, initially for Dublin where, incidentally, he had a brother and sister living.

Given what had happened to some teenagers in the IRA Belfast Brigade area who were ‘disappeared’ for the merest suspicion, and bearing in mind how many persons in total were tortured, executed and ‘disappeared’ by the IRA’s “unknowns”, Paul should have considered himself lucky in Derry not to have fallen foul of the IRA’s merciless torturers, executioners and disappearers.

By October 1972, and after ‘Operation Motorman’ had finally cleared the barricades which had demarcated “Free Derry”, I was myself “on the run” and I joined Paul briefly in Dublin. At one point, we decided to return to the then IRA Commander who was based in a house just outside Buncrana in County Donegal – an imported Belfast republican, Leo Martin.

I was going to ask him about my situation of being ‘on the run’ – it was a wasted trip – bespectacled Leo Martin had a lot of things on his mind and I got about one minute to talk to him and he told me to go figure out my own situation. Paul got a similar answer – Leo Martin had neither knowledge of nor interest in two 17 years old volunteers from Derry.

Paul and I got a lift back to Dublin in the evening. I remember waking from sleep as the car crashed off the road and rolled over a few times somewhere outside Dublin and being dragged out of it by people from passing cars. The driver must have fallen asleep at the wheel.

I had a neck injury and was taken to the Mater Hospital in Dublin where I was kept in a neck brace in bed for nearly two weeks. My face must have been bashed about in the crash – members of the Gardai came to interview me and asked if I had been beaten up by anyone and if I had known that the car had been stolen – “no” to both of those questions.

Unknown to me, my mother later received a bill in the post from The Mater Hospital for over 12/- shillings to cover the cost of X-rays of my neck – I didn’t find this out until going through her papers 32 years later, after her death.

Paul and the driver had made themselves scarce following the crash.

I left the hospital before the police came back to interview me further and, following Martin McGuinness’ arrest along with Joe McCallion a few weeks later at the border near a car full of explosives and ammunition [after which ‘blowhard’ McGuinness famously declared in a Dublin court that he was a proud member of the IRA], I got in to see him in The Bridewell, posing as his younger brother.

I was instructed by McGuinness to return to Derry as a full-time IRA volunteer, which I did.

Paul O’Connor in Deutschland

Paul around this time moved to Germany to join one of his brothers, Dermot, to begin a new phase of his life.

Below is a photograph of his mother, Tess, visiting him in Neckarsteinach in 1974, two years after he left Derry.

PaulDeutschland
Paul (green t-shirt, growing his hair long for Ireland), Tess and Dermot

 

Paul remained in Germany for years and became fluent in German.

[Dermot posted a family tree, including these pictures, on a genealogy Web site in 2009, which may be viewed here. There used to be a PDF booklet available at that link about the O’Connor family, but it has been removed.]

Paul O’Connor – Man of Mystery

For a man who has a prestigious post as Director of an acknowledged republican “Human Rights” group, Paul O’Connor is a Man of Mystery:

  • Not on Linkedin
  • Not on Facebook
  • Not on Twitter
  • Not on Instagram or Snapchat
  • No detailed media profiles in the press or on television or on YouTube
  • References to a CAIN-related degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Ulster – no reference to his graduation anywhere on the UU website
  • No information anywhere about his life and doings in the 1970s or early 1980s

There are a few lines vaguely describing him as having spent time abroad:

PaulOConnorBio

As for Paul’s return to Derry City, it must have been agreed by none other than Martin McGuinness following various representations – this matter is nowhere referenced.

Paul scaled the Bloody Sunday Initiative greasy pole and beyond to the dizzying heights of its renamed entity, The Pat Finucane Centre, in the early 1990s:

PaulOConnorPFCFounding
Paul’s rehabilitation via the BSI to the PFC

I don’t know if Paul informed the Bloody Sunday relatives of his IRA background before, during and after Bloody Sunday and of his agreement that the IRA had the absolute right – from where? – to extinguish all of the civil and Human Rights of all of the IRA’s victims.

I don’t know if Paul informed those working on the Bloody Sunday Initiative, later renamed The Pat Finucane Centre, of his IRA background and of the possibility – I don’t know the details of his jobs or actions – that he may have shot and killed or bombed and killed any police, soldiers or civilians during the year that he ‘operated’ in “Free Derry”.

I don’t know if Paul informed all of those charitable and governmental groups and/or persons who funded The Pat Finucane Centre, believing it to be a bona fide Human Rights’ grouping, that its Director – Paul himself – had been an active IRA volunteer for at least 2 years.

I believe that the first time Paul O’Connor got his name into the IRA’s newspaper, An Phoblacht, after his rehabilitation into Derry in the late 1980s, was when he discovered in 1999 that Britain’s Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, “failed to declare his past links with the British army” and should therefore disqualify himself – or be disqualified – from certain cases:

Sauce4GooseSauce4Gander
Paul O’Connor “discovers” a British Judge’s hidden military past

“Time for Truth”, Paul – “Time to Set the Truth Free”

Paul, it would appear that you yourself have failed to declare a paramilitary past – and following the logic of your judgment of Lord Woolf, you should disqualify yourself from – or be disqualified from – the position you have most deceitfully held in The Pat Finucane Centre posing as a Human Rights’ champion.

Who else but you, Paul, would have supported and participated in the Relatives for Justice “Time for Truth” and Pat Finucane Centre “Time to Set the Truth Free” campaigns – aimed at the Brits – when you yourself have been covering up a monstrous paramilitary lie for nearly 5 decades?

Is it fair that a large number of bona fide international Human Rights’ bodies that have worked with The Pat Finucane Centre have been deceived and lied to by you regarding your unacknowledged and unrepented IRA past?

Would it not be your argument that if a British judge or jurist were to be discovered to have been a loyalist paramilitary terrorist that you would seek to have all of the judgments tainted by such a person overturned and annulled?

Does this logic not also apply to all of the reports and investigations which you have participated in or overseen, thereby tainting them with your IRA past and obvious hidden and deceitful bias?

Should not your reports and all of your various contributions to legal and parliamentary and judicial bodies, hearings and papers not likewise be deemed to be tainted?

When you told the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs on Feb 21, 2005 –

“We think it would be wrong for us to seek to portray ourselves as cross-community in the sense that anybody would feel free to approach us. Clearly we are a group that works with the victims of state and Loyalist violence.”

 – you deceived the Select Committee about your own IRA background, even when you gave opinions on Legacy and just punishments for paramilitaries post The Belfast Agreement – you were not honest that you were likely to be a beneficiary of your own contributions.

OTR Letter – True or False?

A number of Derry Brigade IRA volunteers from the 1970s claim – I don’t know if they speak the truth – that you told them you had received an OTR letter.

You should have informed those who have been working with, listening to and contributing funds to The Pat Finucane Centre that you were an IRA volunteer with active experience and also that you were holding an OTR letter regarding that IRA past, if you are indeed in receipt of one.

You personally have totally undermined the claimed independence and integrity of The Pat Finucane Centre by your deceit over many years – that is if The Pat Finucane Centre directors and personnel were not actually aware of your IRA paramilitary past.

If they were aware of your IRA past, it opens up a different set of issues.

Finally, a few questions, Paul – why did you flee Deanfield when Jim O’Hagan was shot, when Frank Plumb and Gerard McLaughlin stayed with Jim O’Hagan and “faced the music”?

How did you escape charges or internment back in 1972 when you were arrested and released?

Who were the 2 persons sought by police in relation to Jim O’Hagan’s murder? You must know their identity.

To employ your own mottos and catchphrases, it’s well past “Time for Truth”, Paul – it’s well past “Time to Set the Truth Free”, as you have campaigned…

 

SpikePaulMarkI
Paul O’Connor, centre, with prominent Human Rights’ Champions ‘Spike’ Murray and Mark Thompson

For an article about ‘Relatives for Justice’ and Mark Thompson, see here.

For an article about John Finucane and the IRA’s Human Rights’ violations, see here.

For an open letter about St. Mary’s in Belfast hosting the Annual Pat Finucane Lecture, see here.

For an article about Sinn Féin/IRA and Human Rights, see here.

For New Yorker Brian Hamill’s photography of ‘The Troubles’ see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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