Raymond Gilmour is a former Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who worked clandestinely from 1977 until 1982 for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) within those paramilitary organisations. His testimony was one of the main elements of the supergrass policy, which hoped to convict large numbers of paramilitaries.
Raymond Gilmour was the youngest of eleven siblings and grew up as The Troubles began in Derry City in the early 1970s. Hugh Pius Gilmour, a cousin, was shot dead by the British Army on Bloody Sunday, a seminal event in the development of the "Troubles" and a traumatic event witnessed by the 12-year old Gilmour himself. His parents were reportedly split over the issue of political violence. He described his father as an "armchair supporter" of the IRA, while his mother was reportedly fiercely opposed to their actions.
Two of Gilmour's brothers were kneecapped by the IRA for alleged anti-social behaviour. He was also given a beating by British soldiers at age 13 for petty crime and they attempted to recruit him as an informer. Gilmour left school without sitting for his O Level exams and drifted into crime. When he was 16, he was again in trouble with the authorities, this time for armed robbery. On remand in Crumlin Road Prison, he was severely beaten by IRA prisoners. It was at this point that he apparently agreed to become an undercover agent for British security forces.
Several months later, he joined the INLA. He chose the INLA over the IRA as a number of his friends were already in the organisation. Gilmour participated in, among other activities, a botched car hijacking in which a friend, Colm McNutt, also an INLA member, was shot dead by an undercover soldier. In 1978, after two years with the INLA as an RUC agent, he left on police instructions. He got married the same year and fathered the first of two children.
After an interlude of several months, Gilmour was instructed by his RUC handler to join the IRA. He was offered £200 a week with bonuses for arrests and weapons finds. The IRA vetted him for several weeks before accepting his application in late 1980. They attached him to an active service unit in the Brandywell area of Derry. Over the following two years, he was involved in many IRA operations, mostly as a getaway driver. Most of these operations were "shoots" or sniping attacks, but on only one occasion, in January 1981, did his activities result in the death of a British soldier, who was shot and killed at Castle Gate, near Derry's city walls. Gilmour claims that he helped to foil many other IRA attacks, saving the lives of numerous police and soldiers. In November 1981, he was arrested by the RUC, along with two other IRA members, on their way to carry out a shooting attack on riot police, who were combating disturbances arising out of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. Gilmour was sent on remand to Crumlin Road Prison. After a riot that destroyed much of the republican wing there, he was transferred to the Maze Prison. His RUC handler then applied pressure on the authorities for his release, he was freed on 1 April 1982.
He left the IRA and went into protective custody in August of that year, as he believed that his position in the IRA was about to be discovered after his information led to the capture of an M60 machine gun. Around 100 IRA and INLA members were then arrested in Derry on his evidence, of whom 35 were charged with terrorist offences.
In November, Gilmour's father was abducted by the IRA. He was held in secret in an unknown location for almost a year. Gilmour was then sent to Cyprus and then Newcastle by the RUC. The following year, Gilmour gave evidence in a special Diplock Court, jury-less trial against the 35 people he had incriminated. Under the "supergrass" scheme, his was the only evidence available against them. On December 18, 1984, the presiding judge, Lord Lowry, ruled that Gilmour was not a credible witness. He said he was, "entirely unworthy of belief ... a selfish and self-regarding man, to whose lips a lie comes more naturally than the truth".
Exile and plea to return home
Since then, Gilmour has been in hiding outside Northern Ireland. He states that of the IRA and INLA members he knew, almost half were dead or missing by the end of the conflict. In 1998, he published a book, "Dead Ground", telling of his experiences. In 2007, Gilmour publicly voiced his desire to return home to Derry, asking Martin McGuinness for assurances of his safety. He also revealed that he had a heart complaint and was an alcoholic. McGuinness said Gilmour must decide for himself whether or not it was safe to return to Derry and that he was not under threat from Sinn Féin, nor - he believes - from the IRA. He said if exiles such as Gilmour wanted to return home, it was a matter for their own judgment and their ability to make peace with the community.
Gilmour's former RUC handler advised him not to return, citing the 2006 murder in Glenties, County Donegal, of Denis Donaldson, a high-ranking Sinn Féin politician and activist who was revealed to have been a long-term informer.
- Gilmour, p. 42
- Raymond Gilmour, Dead Ground -Infiltrating the IRA, Warner Books, 1998, ISBN 0-7515-2621-5. p.46
- Gilmour, p. 49
- Gilmour, pp. 52-55
- Gilmour, pp. 73-74
- Gilmour, pp. 98-99
- Gilmour, p. 108, The Enemy Within, The Independent, 5 March 2005
- Gilmour, p. 153
- Gilmour, p. 265
- Gilmour, p. 350
- Gilmour p.352, CAIN chronology for 1984
- Gilmour, p. 356
- Gilmour, p. 376
- Gilmour, p. 382
- Gilmour, p. 387
- ISBN 0-7515-2621-5
- 'IRA 'supergrass' wants to return', BBC News, 2 February 2007
- 'Home truths', Belfast Telegraph, 3 February 2007