The Strange Case of Freya McClements, Co-author of “Children of the Troubles” & Paul O’Connor, closet IRA Volunteer & Director of the Pat Finucane Centre

Some months ago Freya McClements called me to tell me she was writing “Children of the Troubles” and asked me about a particular matter in relation to a teenage friend of mine, Jim O’Hagan, an IRA volunteer who was shot and killed in Deanfield in August 1971 by a fellow IRA volunteer as yet uncovered and unconvicted.

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I clearly told Freya that I did not agree with the angle she was initially mentioning about Jim and did not wish to support it.

I did, however, tell Freya plainly that the man in charge of the teenage IRA volunteers in the Waterside at the time was veteran Derry republican Willie “LT” Taylor – who is still alive – and that she should speak to him.

Freya mentioned that there had indeed been some contact with Willie “LT” Taylor.

I also told Freya that very prominent republicans in Derry City had been publicly claiming for some years that Paul O’Connor, Director of the Pat Finucane Centre, had shot and killed Jim O’Hagan and that she should contact Paul O’Connor directly in relation to these claims.

Fast forward to yesterday when I saw for the first time the Acknowledgments’ page at the beginning of “Children of the Troubles”, published 10 Oct, 2019 and also the page dedicated to Jim O’Hagan:

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Freya McClements thanks Paul O’Connor, closet IRA man

Freya McClements clearly thanks Paul O’Connor and the Pat Finucane Centre for helping her with the book.

Below is the page in the book dedicated to Jim O’Hagan where there is no mention of either Willie Taylor or of Paul O’Connor, but instead there is a reference to a mention Jim got in a book I wrote 26 years ago and a comment – I thought I had made it clear I did not wish to be quoted in relation to Jim because of the angle initially mentioned by Freya.

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The Jim O’Hagan entry in “Children of the Troubles”

Note at the end of the page Freya’s line and quote from Jim O’Hagan’s father:

“His ‘distraught’ father wept as he spoke of Jim’s death: “He may have been a member of the IRA, I do not know, but I wish to God I knew who killed him.”

Fast forward to Saturday, 23 November when Seamus McKinney broke the story in Belfast’s “Irish News” newspaper that Paul O’Connor had finally admitted that he had been an IRA volunteer – 5 days after my Blog published the claims.

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“The Irish News” breaks the Paul O’Connor IRA Volunteer story

Seamus’ story was actually published online late the previous Friday evening. [You may read Seamus’ story here.]

Hard on the heels of the interview by Seamus McKinney, Freya McClements got an interview with Paul O’Connor for “The Irish Times” also published on Saturday, 23 November – same day as “The Irish News” story. [Read it here.]

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Freya McClements’ Irish Times story about Paul O’Connor, IRA Volunteer

Freya covered much the same ground as previously mentioned in Seamus McKinney’s “Irish News” story with a few extra nuggets – Paul O’Connor was neither proud nor ashamed of his IRA activities (not described) and admired his father’s claimed “Old IRA” actions – whatever they were.

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Paul O’Connor, IRA volunteer, on left in stocking mask, May 1972

He had “no victims” whatsoever – super handy that!

However, having obviously already read my detailed Blog post about Paul O’Connor and Jim O’Hagan’s murder, and having read Seamus McKinney’s interview with Paul O’Connor where he admitted publicly for the first time having been an IRA volunteer, it must have been abundantly clear to Freya that Paul O’Connor had totally misled her when she was researching her book and when she was asking Paul O’Connor about the Derry victims, especially about Jim O’Hagan.

Freya was aware that I was claiming that the shot Jim O’Hagan was dragged to Paul O’Connor’s home and also that he effectively bled to death in Paul’s house and had said his last words there, according to Paul O’Connor’s mother.

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Teresa ‘Tess’ O’Connor speaks of Jim O’Hagan’s last words and last rites in her home

So, before Freya McClements interviewed Paul O’Connor for “The Irish Times”, she was aware that Paul – who lived in Deanfield at the time of Jim’s shooting and death:

  • Had admitted IRA membership at the time
  • Was obviously a member of the IRA unit in Deanfield in which Jim was shot
  • Had received Jim’s shot body into his home
  • Went “on the run” that evening for a decade
  • Had been subject to claims by leading Derry republicans that he had shot Jim

However, nowhere in her “Irish Times” interview did Freya McClements challenge Paul about the thanks she had expressed to him and to the Pat Finucane Centre for “help” during the period when she was producing the book when it was clear that

  • he misled her from the beginning
  • he never mentioned his arrest for IRA activities in April 1971
  • he covered up information in relation to Jim O’Hagan
  • had covered up his own IRA membership at the time of Jim’s murder in Deanfield
  • had covered up that Jim died in his home
  • he had gone on the run that evening for a decade – why?

Freya did not once challenge Paul O’Connor about why he had not told the truth about his involvement in the death of Jim O’Hagan during her research for the book, resulting in false and misleading reportage and undeserved thanks.

Why didn’t you challenge Paul O’Connor about his previous deceit, lies and cover-up of information about the murder of Jim O’Hagan at the time you were researching the book, Freya?

Why didn’t you inform him – and readers of “The Irish Times” and those intending to buy the book – that the Acknowledgments’ section of your book and also the page referring to Jim O’Hagan now contain embarrassing errors that readers have a right to know about?

The page about Jim O’Hagan being shot in an “accident” is wholly false – he was as both the police and Coroner’s inquest clearly stated shot dead “after an argument” when the IRA volunteer arguing with him pointed a gun at him and then shot him dead.

How is that an “accident”?

An IRA volunteer pointed a revolver at Jim, cocked the hammer and then pulled the trigger – three stages of deliberation leading to his murder. The murderer fled the scene – he didn’t hang about to claim it had been an accident.

You went on to state in “The Irish Times” piece authoritatively that Jim was “shot accidentally” – you should have pointed out that this was disputed by evidence and by me.

Children of the Troubles

You’re thanking Paul O’Connor for lying, deceiving and covering up?

You’re still thanking Paul O’Connor for withholding information and covering up his IRA past?

You’re still thanking the Pat Finucane Centre?

How would the Pat Finucane Centre NOT have known about Paul O’Connor’s IRA membership when claims had first been published online two years earlier by Jamie Bryson?

Didn’t any of the Pat Finucane Centre board members ask him then, he who claimed he would never deny it if he was only asked?

Why didn’t you ask Paul about the statement issued by the Pat Finucane Centre earlier on Friday denying all of my claims and telling people to treat my claims with “a strong dose of skepticism” – a statement which must have been issued with Paul’s knowledge since he was and remains Director of the misleading Pat Finucane Centre? [Read here.]

It appears, Freya, that while you let Paul O’Connor wax lyrical in your “Irish Times” interview about his father’s imaginary “Old IRA” days and his pride in his father

that you went soft on O’Connor and did not challenge him about lying to YOU during the course of your book research. This would have been a stunning challenge in the course of your interview. You didn’t mention it!

You are still attributing thanks to a notorious liar and deceiver and to his organisation that still employs and pays him which didn’t practise the due diligence of asking him about IRA membership after Jamie Bryson made claims about it online two years earlier?

What – nobody in an investigative, alleged Human Rights’ group bothered to ask him about the claims he was an active IRA terrorist for 2 years, since he claimed in your interview that he would have told the truth IF ANYBODY HAD EVER BOTHERED TO ASK HIM?

Freya, it appears that you did not – at the time you were receiving “help” from Paul O’Connor – confront him about the claims by leading Derry republicans that he had shot and killed Jim O’Hagan.

Surely it was worth asking Paul about it at the time you were researching the book to get a response? It’s not every day that someone makes such claims about a Director of a so-called Human Rights’ body…

Did the investigation of Jim O’Hagan’s murder not warrant even asking Paul O’Connor?

Freya, you failed to challenge him about deliberately misleading you about all the details he had about the murder of Jim O’Hagan while he was allegedly earning your thanks and “helping” you to write the book.

He had most specifically let you down, you personally.

When you recorded in your “Irish Times” piece that:

“He said he has never been questioned by the police about Mr O’Hagan’s death and has no criminal convictions”

– did you not think to tell him and also readers that he HAD INDEED been arrested about IRA activities in April 1971 as recorded in Bloody Sunday Inquiry papers and in my Blog which you had read?

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Paul O’Connor, arrested and questioned by the RUC in April 1971

That it would have been impossible for the police to question him since he went on the run for a decade after Jim’s shooting?

That it would have been impossible for the police to arrest him or gain convictions against him since he went on the run, withheld evidence and lied and deceived everybody for the next decade and, after that, for the subsequent 30 years until I wrote my Blog piece?

Wouldn’t it have been worth reading the final line of the Jim O’Hagan page in the book to Paul O’Connor to get his response, if any:

“His ‘distraught’ father wept as he spoke of Jim’s death: “He may have been a member of the IRA, I do not know, but I wish to God I knew who killed him.”

It sure as hell looked very like Paul O’Connor knew very well who killed him! Why not ask him?

I hope you update the re-print edition about the deliberate misinformation on the part of Paul O’Connor, Director of the Pat Finucane Centre and remove the “thanks” since undermined.

Into the future, what rating would you attribute to Paul O’Connor in relation to ever Telling the Truth about anything, on a scale of 0 to 10?

Time for Truth? Time to Set the Truth Free?

3 thoughts on “The Strange Case of Freya McClements, Co-author of “Children of the Troubles” & Paul O’Connor, closet IRA Volunteer & Director of the Pat Finucane Centre

  1. Dear Shane, I have been following your Blogs for the Past few Years, and having been brought up in a Mixed Marriage, I have been exposed to my Nationalist, and Unionist families, spending most of my Childhood in the Magee Household. I have always been a Keen motorcyclist, and joined the RUC in October 1981, and went to Traffic Branch based then at Strand Road. My 2 Friends, one in Particular Alan Caskey also went to N Division. Alan was shot 20 plus times outside Austin’s along with A Young Police woman, Glynnis Bremen. My other friend Neil Simpson was blown up along with Redgie Reeves attending a Burglary. I could list so many Colleagues who put on the Uniform and went out to Help all the People of Derry, and didn’t go home to their Families. The World knows about Bloody Sunday, no one, apart from the Families care about the Young Women and men who’s only Crime was to Serve. I was a Constable in Strand Road, and Shantallow in the 1990’s, as well as Crossmaglen from 1986-88. The South Armagh people were so friendly, when I visited on Patrol, they made me tea on many Occasions, frightened to Speak in Public. Keep up the Good Work, Challenging the IRA , Sinn Fein Narrative. All the very Best, William Baxter.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lifetime of actions speak louder than a malicious bit of muckraking..
    Have a butchers at Richard Sullivan’s opinion piece (Sunday World 1st December 19) on you and what you’ve had to say on this subject. “As for O’Doherty, a man who spent a long time trying to ruin people’s lives, it seems he’s still doing it.” If you provide a stamped, hold that thought, you and stamped addressed envelopes have a bad rap…

    Like

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