In among the mayhem of Monday night’s bombing in Manchester, and the immediate change of focus away from the General Election campaign, the Sun’s Tuesday morning splash, another crude attempt to try and associate Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with the Provisional IRA, has momentarily faded from view. The Murdoch goons will not mind that at all. Because it was a story built on a very shaky foundation.
The shakiness was provided by the Sun’s star witness, Sean O’Callaghan, who claimed “JOHN McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn were treasured by the IRA as unambiguous supporters of the armed struggle … I know this to be true from my own experience … That support, in their case, ticked every box … Useful idiots, agents of influence and fellow travellers”. Just what the Sun and their Tory pals would have wished for.
But here a problem enters: Sean O’Callaghan is what might be termed an unreliable witness. Those less charitably disposed towards him might dispense with the niceties and call him a liar. Take the aftermath of the Omagh bombing: O’Callaghan was to have given evidence at the subsequent civil action. Mr Justice Morgan decided against allowing this: O’Callaghan, he told, was a “practised deceiver”. And there is more - much more.
Anthony Mcintyre, a former IRA volunteer turned journalist, had this to say in 2014: “Bluntly put, Sean O'Callaghan is not a credible source. Indeed, I would require substantial independent corroboration before I would accept any of his claims about the PIRA. I say this not only because his most outlandish allegations are implausible per se, but because Sean O'Callaghan is - by his own admission - an accomplished liar who has often lied to the Gardaí, the RUC, and the media”. And there was more still.
Back in 1997 in an Irish Times article, titled “Murderer served IRA and Garda but mostly himself”, Vincent Browne discussed the violent murder of one John Corcoran, noting “The killing was acknowledged by the IRA to have been perpetrated by one of its members”. The IRA “alleged that he was scheming with a named Cork Garda detective to trap members of the organisation in a bogus robbery”.
Tom Newton Dunn - the real useful idiot
Who was that killer? “The IRA murderer was none other than Sean O'Callaghan. That awful murder was done precisely at the time that O'Callaghan now claims he was acting as an agent of the Irish Government seeking to sabotage ‘violent and criminal plans’”. Implausibly, he claimed to be an informer, but murdered Corcoran … for informing.
There were other singularly creative claims: “He said he … told his handlers that he'd aborted a plan to kill Prince Charles and Princess Diana at a charity event they were attending in 1983”. But the same Belfast Telegraph article notes “A number of O'Callaghan's claims have been ridiculed by republicans, who say he's a fantasist”.
Sean O’Callaghan cannot be trusted any further than he could be usefully chucked. All of the information in this post is readily available, and had the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, whose name appeared on the byline of the Tuesday morning splash, bothered to do his research, he could easily have found it out.
But that is not the point: Newton Dunn had his orders, and they were to smear Corbyn. That smear was backed up by a proven liar. He knew that. I’ll just leave that one there.