Chapter 11: Informers
It was Wednesday morning, the day after the roadside bomb, and Sergeant Major Kenneth Colthurst was not a happy camper. When the call for back up came in yesterday evening, Harold had run to the infirmary to tell Kenneth. Kenneth wanted to immediately deploy his MRF soldiers on a circling movement to try to cut off the fleeing Provo’s. Lieutenant-Colonel Smyth Trimble had point blank refused to allow this and instead had ordered his detail of troops to attend and secure the country side around the ambush site. He then coordinated activities with the Army stationed in Omagh had initiated a wider net that was closing in at a slower pace than what Kenneth had wanted.
Kenneth discharged himself from the infirmary, convinced that the doctor was stalling his discharge on the Lieutenant-Colonel’s orders. The next morning, he attended the 0800 hours debriefing meeting and was not surprised to hear that neither the Army, nor the police had apprehended any terrorists in their wide sweep. He proclaimed at the meeting that there was a need to strike terror into the natives.
“They must be intimidated and terrorized to the degree that they are afraid to be even be seen near a terrorist.” He declared to the assembled officers.
The assembled Army officers shifted uneasily in their seats as they listened to the MRF man.
“I know someone terrorized by a certain redhead” whispered one, not daring to say it aloud, but he wasn’t the only one to think it.
The Lieutenant-Colonel let Kenneth have his rant and the others have their little giggles and sly smirks then it was down to business.
Lieutenant-Colonel Smyth Trimble outlined the new measures to be implemented,
“We will Increase patrols,” he told his officers, “with a minimum of three vehicles in a convoy. And from here on in we hold the informers to account for not knowing and or warning us of this latest or future atrocities.”
He lit a cigarette and continued “We are going on the offensive against this hidden deadly enemy. We will increase the random searches in the town, out on farmhouses and sheds. We will constantly pick up the known leaders for questioning. We will note their every move, who talks to who. Intel will liaise with the RUC and discuss our knowledge of the new recruits. It is of the utmost importance that we establish a network of informers.”
One officer spoke up to warn the others “We must be careful not to alienate the locals further. We are driving them into the arms of the Provo’s.”
Kenneth burst out into a snarl “Now that’s the attitude that will lose this war. Hit the fuckers hard and hit them often. Alienate the locals my arse!”
Captain Oswald and Harold nodded in agreement. Kenneth looked around at the stern stiff faces.
“Everyone is useless” he thought to himself and then as himself and Harold left the room he repeated it to Harold who agreed, “Useless wankers” he commented, “We need to follow up with our little birdie, and quick” he said.
Kenneth looked at his watch “I think that little prick is gone to work today. Harold you go talk to him after work. I want you to talk to him about a plan to set up a meeting. I want all of those Provo fucks at it, including that red haired bitch.”
Harold nodded “Yes sir. We will sort the lot of them out once and for all.” And added with a gesture of pressing a detonator said “Kaboom.”
Kenneth smiled at the thought “Tell him that this gets done by next week. I’m fed the shit up of these half ass troopers. Make sure that you are at his job at around 1600 hours, in case he finishes early. I would go but I don’t want any of those bog hoppers to see the state of my face. That red hair bitch is going to get it from me, I swear to fuck.”
Harold looked at the cuts, scrapes and bruises on the Sergeant-Majors swollen face and head as Kenneth continued with venom
“If she’s at that Provo meeting, leave her alive for me to finish off, nice and slow, the bitch.”
He paused to light a cigarette, daydreaming about torturing and slowly killing Bernie.
“Oh yeah” he sighed, and then snapped back to the present.
“Let’s go back to the squad and see if anyone has any news.” Harold suggested, and they hurried back to their cramped area.
Meanwhile the Lieutenant-Colonel called the Intel officer back after everyone had left the room.
“You told me that you were gathering information on the new recruits, go through those pictures and names with the Police.” He said. “To take the offensive we need basic info about them. But we also need info like where their arms dumps are. That animal Kenneth is right we need to strike back. So get one or more of those new Provo recruits to turn. Find out where an arms dump is. An ambush at a dump would be ideal, killing the terrorists while armed is what we need to lift moral around here.”
“Yes sir” the Intel Officer replied.
The Lieutenant-Colonel added “And another thing, our source is gone awful quiet. He needs to become more pro-active or we drop him. And I don’t mean just from payroll. We drop him into the Provo’s loving arms. This is a dirty war and those Irish bastards are winning this round. Now it changes.”
That day Paddy Cleary was working away on his farm. He was expecting a visit from his British Army handler because of the ambush last evening. He knew that they would not be happy that he had not heard about it and tipped them off. He shrugged his shoulders thinking to himself that there was nothing that he could do.
“Christ Almighty” he thought “I’ve practically identified every Provo in the area and a few from further afield, and still these Brits are running around in circles.”
“Fucking Brits” he said out loud thinking about one, Keith in particular.
Once again he shrugged his shoulders. It was the early May and all his cows had calved and were all out grazing on the new grass. He was out in the fields mending some of the electric fencing when he heard the jeeps coming up the dirt road to his farm yard.
“And they try to sneak up on the likes of Sean Clarke in those yokes” He smiled to himself as across the field he saw the troopers leaping out of the jeeps fanning out and securing the area. He shook his head.
“I’m fed up of this game” he thought “I just want a quiet life.”
But he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Even when he finished paying off his bills they had enough on him as an informer that they could turn him over to Sean and it would be a bullet in the head. This time he gave a shiver, he knew he was going to be an informer for a long time to come. It was raining steadily now as he headed back across the field to his yard. The Intel Officer was waiting for him, standing apart from the rest of the troops. As Paddy approached him he nodded to a shed where they could talk in out of the rain. The Brit nodded agreement curtly and Paddy sighed to himself.
“He looks pissed off” thought Paddy, “so that means I’m going to hear all about it”
They walked into the shed and the two British soldiers that were sheltering there, had to leave to allow them to talk in private. Paddy shook the rain off his rain gear and stamped his wellingtons to try to dislodge the mud stuck to them. Opening his rain jacket he pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his dry inside jacket pocket. He offered one to the Brit who politely declined then lit one for himself. Pulling deeply on the cigarette he savoured the flavour, using the effort as a delaying tactic because he knew he didn’t want to hear what was coming.
The British Intel Officer stood rigidly, stiff as a pole, looking at Paddy. He knew what Paddy was up to, recognising his delaying tactic but more importantly he recognized that Paddy was trying to control the situation. He declined the cigarette and watched as Paddy took off his rain jacket and hung it on a nail.
“This Irish fuck is getting way to cocky and is supplying shit for information” he thought to himself. “We have lost two men and then there was an ambush with serious injuries and this prick passed on nothing about them? Fuck this lark.”
He fought to control his temper. Deep down he had nothing but contempt for informers but as an Intelligence Officer they were his bread and butter. But you did not let one think that they were more important than the information they give.
Once Paddy had lit the fag and had taken two pulls he turned to the Brit. The Intel Officer stared at Paddy.
Speaking slowly and deliberately he asked Paddy “Well, what happened?”
It was a deliberate open question. Paddy looked uncertain and knitted his eyebrows thinking about the question.
“What had happened?” Exhaling he looked at the Brit. “I don’t know” he said, “I had heard nothing about what happened either before or after.”
The Brit stared into his eyes and Paddy looked away. The Officers moved quickly and closer to Paddy as his hand shot out and grabbed Paddy’s chin, jerked his head to force Paddy to face him again. Paddy tried to back away and pull his head out of the Brits grip, but the officer’s fingers were dug in with an iron lock and he pushed Paddy backwards, until Paddy’s back hit the wall.
“Exactly.” he breathed into Paddy’s face.
“Exactly.” he repeated. “You heard nothing before or after. So what the fuck use are you Paddy? We have lost two top class soldiers, we have had four police officers badly injured and you have heard nothing. Fucking either before or after?”
The Brit spat onto the ground, still holding Paddy’s chin in a vice like grip and sneered
“And I’ll repeat myself Paddy. What the fuck use are you? You are costing us a fortune and you are as much use as tits on a bull.”
He pushed Paddy away in disgust.
“You are of no use to me. Unless this changes I will drop you like a hot potato. The payments stop and word leaks out about your source of income.”
He turned and walked several steps away, stopped and pulled out a cigarette. He slowly lit it, his back turned to Paddy as if Paddy was totally insignificant. Paddy looked at the Brit with his back to him digesting all that had been said. Looking around he saw the pitch fork leaning against the wall beside him. He looked at the pitchfork and the turned back, judging the distance that he would have to walk before sticking it into the Brits back.
He calmed himself, “No use sticking this fuck like the pig he is.” he thought. “No, he wouldn’t make it out of this shed alive if he did that.”
He briefly enjoyed the thought of driving that fork into the bastard’s neck and then pinning him to the wooden stall, but no that won’t get him out if this mess. Better to say something this prick wants to hear, to give him a bit if breathing room. Fuck Sean Clarke and his ambushes killing people and stirring everything up.
“Alright” he said out aloud to the Brits back. “Clarke has not held any meetings in my pub lately. So I can’t hear what they are planning. I’ll try to get him back there again. It’s not my fault I’m doing the best I can do.”
He was now pleading with the Brit.
“Clarke is getting more and cagier. Maybe I’m too close to the barracks for his meetings, especially since the ambush in town. Ye Brits are crawling all over the place,”
The Brit spun around snarling “Don’t remind me of your failures, you bog trotter. You get me information or I’ll fuck you out to Clarke, you prick. How you get it is your problem. I want to see that signal light on and the one curtain drawn, and you spouting out information, as soon as possible!”
He roared “Do you fucking understand?”
Paddy blinked back tears “I do.” he muttered and then repeated louder “I do.”
The Intel Officer stamped out the door and left it swinging in the wind and the rain. Paddy looked after him muttered a curse on the Brit and all his children and sat down on a bale of straw that was thrown on the ground. He briefly daydreamed about the Brit squirming on the end of a pitch fork that had severed his spine flopping helpless about his eyes pleading for mercy.
“Ahh, that would be nice” said Paddy.
Then he shook his head leaned back, lighting another cigarette and started thinking,
“How do I get Sean back in to the pub for his company meetings, so I can hear their plans?”
He tossed a few ideas around then one came into his head that might just work. He drew on his cigarette and thought out a plan. He listened to the Army vehicles drive, thankfully, away.
“Keep it simple and not too outlandish, that it would draw attention and rise Sean’s suspicions.” he thought.
First of all, he would have to accidentally pump into Sean, then in the course of conversation remind him of the secure room. He would offer tea and sandwiches, the same as he did to the footballers after training, once the Championship started. It might lure Sean back in to hold his meetings there.
“I’ll say it to Stephen and Gerry too, in case Sean just ignores or forgets the invite. But I’ll mostly push the security of the room.” He thought.
“Yes” he said out aloud, “it’s a plan. Not a great one but worth a try. It’ll have to do until something better turn’s up”
He decided that he would go for a walk that afternoon if the weather cleared up and stopped raining, out by Sean’s building site in the hope that he would be there.
Earlier in the morning Barry had gone to work. He still wasn’t up to it, but he had to get out of the house away from Helens constant talk about getting out of the Army. He had been much settled after he had made his decision to set up Sean and a few others. He hoped Stephen and Bernie wouldn’t be there but he had had to push that thought out of his mind. He had to stay focused and carry out this one mission. Then yesterday evenings ambushed had happened.
“For fuck sake, of all the timing it had to be while I was there.” He thought.
He blew all his self-confidence out the window.
“The fuck Blondie will say that I was there on purpose and should have warned them.”
The idea of him being an informer hadn’t been mentioned, just the setting up of Sean for elimination but that blast was unfucking believable. He had stayed at the other side of the hedgerow and was a quivering wretch coming back down the hill.
“Why didn’t I stay at home last evening?” he thought. “The same reason I couldn’t stay at home today. I need to get away for a break to clear my head.” He answered himself
Work was a nightmare. Since it was his first day back he spent it phoning to make appointments and loading his car with the merchandise that he was trying to sell on. He struggled while talking on the phone, he didn’t have the smooth easy salesman talk that was needed. As the day went on and he wasn’t building up his appointments he started getting sharp with the person on the other end of the phone, which only made things worse as two of the potential customers called his boss to complain about his attitude.
The boss had heard about the Glenbeg 15. He was very surprised to hear that Barry was one of them. He never even thought that Barry was involved in the IRA. It was late in the afternoon when he called Barry into his office and looked cautiously across his desk at Barry. He decided that he didn’t need this hunched up, nervous wretch as a sales rep for his company.
“But I have to be careful” he said to himself. “I can’t very well just fire him. No that would be a disaster, firing one of the tortured ones. If that got out the locals would skin me alive.”
Instead he had kindly put his arm around Barry’s shoulders and told him to go home for a paid two week break. Barry had stood there not responding or moving. The boss repeated his instructions again and steered Barry to the door of his office. Calling over one of the other sales reps, he repeated what he told Barry and asked the other rep to assist Barry out to the car and unload any merchandise. He watched Barry shuffling along, a fraction of the person he had been only a week ago. The boss shook his head as Barry left the building and returned to his office to work out a rota that could continue to cover Barry’s area in his absence. An absence that looked like it would be a permanent one.
Barry sat, relieved in the car. His shaking hands barely able to light a cigarette, as he gathered his thoughts.
“That’s alright” he said to himself. “I can get out of the house for the two weeks and drive somewhere, anywhere to clear my head without having to listen to arseholes on the end of a phone. Plus, by two weeks this will be sorted and he and Helen and kids will be gone and living somewhere else. A bag of money under his arm and set up in a different country to start all over again.”
He sighed and sucked on his cigarette.
“Yeah,” he decided “Helen will like that, getting away from all this shit and shithole of a country.”
He sat in his car smoking and was just daydreaming, slowly calming himself down and starting to feel a bit better about his circumstances, when he saw the black van pull into the car park slowly driving around until it pulled into a spot beside Barry car. Two men jumped out of the side doors and opening his car doors they slid in. One in the back directly behind him while the other sat in beside him. The Brit from MRF beside him, he recognized as Harold, Blondies right hand man.
Harold ordered “Start driving, heading towards home. When you get to the lay by outside of town pull over there.”
He then sat menacingly, saying nothing more. Barry could not see the man in the back seat but he felt his breath on the back of his neck. They drove for a mile outside of town and pulled into the lay by, and the van pulled up beside them.
“Out fast” Harold barked at him, as the side door of the van opened up. Barry got out of his car nervously looking around, but the man that was in the back seat pushed him roughly into the opening of the van, where a pair of arms reached out and pulled him into the darkened van, with Backseat and Harold pushing in beside him.
“Sit down there” one of the men said.
Barry half crouched, half sat on the floor of the van.
Without pause Harold snapped “What happened last evening?”
Raising his voice, without waiting for an answer, he snarled “What the fuck happened to you last evening?”
Barry started shaking “I didn’t know. They asked me to come along as a lookout” he blurted out spilling over his words.
Harold’s head snapped around “You mean to tell me that you were actually one of the fucking bombers?” he snarled again at him.
Quick as a flash Harold’s fist shot out and hit the side of Barry’s head, sending him sprawling in the lap of the Brit sitting beside him, who quickly gave him two short punches into his ribs. Barry scrambled back up into a sitting position, trying to protect himself from more blows.
Harold barked at the driver “Back to base. I want the sergeant major to hear this fucking story.”
He picked up a radio and started speaking into it as the van sped off towards Glenbeg. On the other side of the radio Kenneth was livid with rage as he paced up and down listening to Harold report,
“You are not going to believe this shit! Our wanker was one of the bombers last night. He’s supposed to be helping us and he’s out ambushing us! The fucker.”
When Harold had finished speaking Kenneth roared into the radio “Bring that little prick back here!” and ended the conversation.
Harold turned to Barry and said “You my good man, are in a shit load of trouble.”
Barry hysterically started talking, falling over his words he stuttered and spoke frantically,
“Nobody told me, I swear to Christ” he was desperate. “Stephen came to my house, just out of the blue. I didn’t have a chance to tip anyone off.”
He looked around at the impassive faces looking at him and continued “He told me that we are only keeping an eye on some ruins, that there would be no action, I swear that’s what he said. Then when we got to the hill over the ruins he told me that there was a bomb planted but that Sean and Jimmy would defuse it for the night and that we were just watching it for the night.”
The MRF men looked at him, Tommy lighting a cigarette as the van bounced towards the barracks and the highly pissed off Blondie.
“Look” Barry tried again, “I thought that I would get time in the morning to call the Sergeant Major. I thought that ye might be able to take out Sean and Jimmy during the day, while they laid in wait. I swear I was going to call ye. Anything to end this torture, I hoped that if ye got Sean that ye would leave me alone. I was setting up Sean and Jimmy, except those coppers came along”
As he was talking he could see that Harold was calming down listening to him so he became less hysterical. He told Harold that he actually thought that it would be an ideal time to take Sean and Jimmy the bomb maker out of it and that he was sorry that it worked out the way it had.
They were pulling up to the back gate at this stage. One of the MRF men radioed ahead and the gate swung open and the van drove in as the gate shut quickly behind them. The van hadn’t even stopped when Kenneth opened the door reached in and grabbed Barry by the hair pulling him out through the door. As Barry fell to the ground, his hair still in Blondie’s grip, he felt Blondies boot slam into his ribs. The breath was knocked out of him. He tried pulling away and unlocking the hand gripped onto his hair, but after he got the kick he tried to curl up to protect himself. Flashbacks of his last visit to the barracks paralyzing his muscles, he couldn’t even shout.
Harold leapt out of the van, pulling Blondie back, shouting into his face to stop. Kenneth stopped his assault on Barry, his muscles tense, relaxing and taking a deep breath. He looked quizzically at Harold, who was helping Barry to his feet. A slight drizzle began to fall from the sky. Barry stood slumped against the side of the van, the rain drenching his longish blond locks as Harold talked to his sergeant major. Blondie listened and then walked over and shook Barry’s hand and put his arm around Barry’s shoulder.
“Come on in out of this rain” Blondie said, “We have things to talk about. I like your plan and line of thinking chum.”
They walked away into the building out of the rain and they didn’t see the shadow behind the black lace, in the window of the house just outside the back gate, move ever so slightly.
Sean and his brothers were working on the building site. They were building a bungalow, around two miles outside of town, for one of the locals who was planning on getting married later in the year. They had the roof on and had just installed the windows and doors so they were busy doing the second fix inside. Sean was mixing plaster and doing the general labouring that day. Taking a break, he leaned on the mixer,
“It’s great to be doing a bit of physical work again.” He thought to himself. Looking at his watch he saw that it was nearly half passed three. The rain had stopped around three but you could see that it wouldn’t stay dry for long. As he looked up the road he squinted and shook his head
“That’s Paddy Cleary walking out the road dressed in a track suit.” He called to his brother Fergal.
“He must be in training or something” thought Sean “it’s not like him to be fitness conscious.”
Paddy was passing the site, then he paused and doubled back and walked up to the front door. He opened it and stepped inside, huffing and puffing. Sean and his brother Fergal both walked out of the rooms they were working on
“Hey Paddy. What about ya?” said Fergal, “What brings you out here, all togged out for the All Ireland Final?”
Paddy was whizzing, short of breath “I have to give up those fags.” he said, “Any chance of a cup of water? I’m fecking wretched after that walk out of town.”
Sean gave Paddy a sip of water out of his old coke bottle and asked
“When did you start the training Paddy?”
Paddy took a long swig and leaned against the wall his chest heaving, sucking in the air. He patted his belly and said regretfully
“I have to shape up. I’m eating drinking and smoking way too much.” He wheezed.
“But” he added with a laugh “I don’t want to kill myself getting healthy either.”
The brothers laughed with him.
“You’d want to pace yourself Paddy “said Fergal “It’s as long a walk back into town as it was to walk out of it ya know.”
Paddy grinned “Well, I had planned on walking out to Maan Cross but feck that, I’m heading back home. I’ve gone far enough for the first day.”
There was silence while Paddy took another swig from the bottle. Sean lit two cigarettes giving one to Paddy and offered another to Fergal.
Fergal said “No thanks, I’m nearly finished the wiring in the kitchen, so I’ll get stuck back into it. You mind yourself Paddy, I don’t want to have to drive around your collapsed body on the way home!” He laugher as he walked away.
Paddy smiled “You know he’s right” he said as he sucked on the cigarette, “Its fecked up though. Here I am smoking a cigarette, ruining any good that my short walk might have done. I better head back before the rain starts again.”
Sean nodded and asked “How’s things going with you Paddy? It was a great crowd in the pub, the other night.”
“It was” said Paddy “but in fairness, all ye lads deserve the support. Things are tipping away. The football will bring in a bit of extra business too.” he added. “Listen Sean, you and the boys haven’t been in for a while. I was thinking about the beatings and stuff that ye all went through. I’m only a supporter and I don’t do much for the cause, but any time ye are having a meeting in the pub I’ll throw in some tea and sandwiches. It’s the least I can do. Plus, it’s a great room. You know yourself nice and secured.”
Sean nodded “You know you are right. It’s grand and handy too. It’s just so close to the barracks that I wanted to give it a skip for a while. But I’m having a meeting tomorrow night. I’ll tell the boys it’s in your place after the football training.”
He paused as Paddy threw the butt of his fag out the door into the mud outside.
“Do you want a spin back into town?” Sean asked, “It’s looking like rain again.”
Paddy looked up at the sky and was tempted to take up the offer but shook his head. Better quit while I’m ahead he thought to himself,
“Nah I’m in training. I’ll make it back before it starts” he smiled, “See you tomorrow evening.”
“I’ll come early” said Sean “same as usual.”
Paddy nodded and waved his hand as he picked his way up the site through the mud, trying to keep his runners somewhat clean. And then once on the road, he picked up the pace and started back towards town.
Sean, Fergal, Gerry, another brother Hughie and Stephen gathered into the kitchen.
“Something not right about that.” said Sean.
“He could be genuine.” said Hughie “But I don’t think so.” he added.
Gerry scrapped his trowel off a pallet leaning against the wall and said
“We have to find out for sure.”
Sean and Fergal agreed with Gerry, “We can’t continue just wondering. It’s not fair on Paddy either.”
Sean nodded “Aye, but if he is an informer then you know what has to be done. And we have known him all our lives’.”
“Plus he’s a friend of Da” added Fergal.
Stephen jutted in speaking softly “We need to know. It’s our duty to protect the lads in the company and we can’t ignore the fact that there’s a question mark over the fact that we think our ambush on that UDR man was compromised in some way.”
“Yes” said Gerry “and we have had a couple of successful ambushes since that were planned well away from Paddy’s place.”
“Spot on big Gerry” said Sean “we’ll call a meeting tomorrow, just of the lads that have been involved from the beginning. None of the new lads. We don’t need Paddy to see any of the new recruits. We start the meeting and carry on as normal. But Gerry, you and Stephen will wait outside in the yard. Give it five or ten minutes, then if Paddy is gone from behind the bar, sneak up the stairs and see what he is up to.”
Gerry nodded “Aye, and if that fucker is up to anything he’s dead meat.”
“If he is up to anything grab him and get him out of the house.” Sean reported. “Don’t be seen and bring him to the lake house”
Stephen and Gerry both replied “No bother.” The lake house was only known to Sean, Gerry and Stephen. Sean only used it on extremely serious occasions.
Sean thought for a moment then added “We need to have at least six of the boys at the meeting, so as to not arouse Paddy’s suspicion. If there is only me and Jimmy he will know that we are not making any big plans. Barry’s a nervous wreck so I’m not asking him to attend. I’ll ask Eamon, the O’Reilly brothers, Da and Barney to come also.”
Gerry said “I’ll get in touch with Eddie to arrange a car in case we have to remove Paddy from the area.”
Sean agreed and said “I hope not, but I’ve an awful bad feeling about this lads.”
Fergal butted in “If that’s sorted, can we do a bit of work? We will still be here working with Liam and his missus moving in after their honeymoon if we don’t get stuck in and finish it.”
They laughed and agreed.
“Sorted” they said and returned to work pushing Paddy and the trouble that could follow out of their thoughts.
That night around ten o’clock Sean was seating at his table drinking a cup of tea. Ann and Hugh sat there with him talking about the possibilities of Paddy being an informer, and the consequences if he was.
Hugh looked at his son “I hope for his sake that’s he is not, but if it’s proven that he is then if needs be, I’ll put one in his head” he said.
Ann crossed herself and said a silent prayer. They sat in silence, sipping their tea and enjoying their cigarettes, each in their own thoughts. Suddenly there were quiet rapid knocks on the door.
Knock, knock, knock, pause and knock, knock, knock, then silence.
They looked at each other and Sean shrugged his shoulders “I’ll get it. Heaven only knows who this is at this hour.”
When Sean opened the door there was no one there. He peered into the darkness and felt a cold shiver run down his spine. He quickly stepped out of the light, which the open door was allowing out of the hallway, and moved to the side into the darkness. He tensed, nervous adrenalin coursing through his veins, listening intently and said in a low tone,
“Hello, whose there?”
He heard a noise to his side by the hedge.
“It’s me, Declan” he heard in a near whisper.
“Declan” he thought “this was going to be some news, if Declan was coming straight to him. He was supposed to go through Stephen and Bernie.”
He moved further into the darkness, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. Now he could see Declan pushed up against the hedge.
“What’s up?” asked Sean in a quiet voice.
“I’ve some awfully bad news.” whispered Declan. “and I need to tell you and not Stephen.”
“Stay here for one second.” said Sean “I want to close the house door.”
He turned and as he shut the door he told his da, who now stood in the hallway, that he had to talk in privacy to someone and for him to go back to the kitchen.
He returned to Declan.
“This sounds bad.” he said to his young Intelligent Officer.
He listened in horror at what Declan reported to him.
“Christ almighty this is unbelievable.” He whispered, “What the fuck is Barry up to?”
Declan replied in a worried tone “I don’t know Sean, I can only tell you what I saw.”
Sean asked Declan to repeat his report again and listened in numbed silence.
“Thanks for coming straight to me.” Sean said after a few minutes, with thoughts running frantically through his brain.
“Declan, I need you to keep this to yourself for the time being. I need time to think about it.” Sean told him. “This has caught me totally unawares. Something must have happened that night in the barracks. He has been really rattled since.”
Sean looked into the darkness at Declan and patted his arm and said “It must be a bit of a shock to you too.”
Declan shook his head “Sean, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I feel sick about it and wish to fuck that I hadn’t heard that fucking van driving down that back lane.”
Sean nodded quietly, “But” he said to Declan, “Imagine the damage that Barry could cause to us. Thank God you spotted him” encouraged Sean, “You did a great job. It is terrible news but we have to move forward. You’re are doing a great job. Keep the chin up and keep a low profile.”
Declan nodded and walked forlornly away from Sean’s house, keeping close to the hedge and out of sight.
“Thank God we had agreed to keep Barry out if the loop and to give him a break.” Sean thought. “Christ, he was so shook yesterday after the ambush that I had doubted that Barry would be able to ever return to active service.”
He lit a cigarette and returned into the house deep in thought. Ann and Hugh looked questioningly at him but he just shook his head at them and told them that he had something to work out before he could talk about it.
The next morning Sean had decided that he wanted to give Barry a chance to tell his side of the story. So at ten in the morning he drove out to Barry’s house. Helen answered his knock on the door and welcomed him into the house.
“Is Barry back to work?” he asked.
“No” she answered, “Come on in for a cuppa. He is in the kitchen reading the paper.”
Sean followed her in, patting the eldest child on the head.
“Christ Helen they are growing fast.” he commented.
Sean had great time for Helen, even though she was not militant, but she was a decent person and very capable and likable.
Helen smiled in agreement “There’s the tea pot. Help yourselves, I’m away into the town for a few messages. I’ll take Josephine” she said “but keep an eye on wee Barry.”
And as she headed out the door she added “With these checkpoints and random searches I’ll probably be gone an hour at least.”
Barry smiled weakly at Sean and offered Sean a cigarette.
“Thanks.” Sean said as he poured himself a cup of tea.
Barry looked inquisitively at Sean “What’s up Sean?”
“Nothing much really.” said Sean “I want to talk to you about you returning to active service.”
Barry knitted his eyebrows and answered “Oh, what do you mean?”
“Look” Sean said “I saw you out in Moneybrook at the bomb. You were totally shook after the explosion. We had to practically carry you down the field. Are you alright?”
Stephen didn’t answer so Sean continued “The company have enough volunteers to keep this going. If you need more time off that’s no problem. You know you are like family to me and Stephen, there is no panic or shame in taking a backseat for a while, most of the lads are taking it easy and thinking about their involvement.”
Sean stopped talking and took a pull on his cigarette and a sip of his tea. He waited while Barry sat looking into his cup, his cigarette burning into a long ash in the ashtray, lit but unsmoked.
Barry sat quietly deep in thought then he turned and smiled sadly at Sean
“No” he said “I’m fine. Still a bit shook alright, but I need to be involved.”
Sean nodded “I thought that you were back to work yesterday?” he queried.
Barry flicked the ash off his neglected cigarette and taking the last pull on it and crushed it into the ashtray before replying
“I went there yesterday but the boss said that I was still too shook up and he gave me two weeks off with full pay. He didn’t say it but I know what he was thinking, that I was more of a hindrance than a help but he didn’t want to cause trouble by firing one of the Glenbeg 15.”
He laughed bitterly and looked Sean in the eye,
“And now you want to do the same Sean?”
Sean looked back at Barry, willing him to say something. But Barry said nothing and shifted his eyes back to the table.
“Alright” Sean replied sadly “Point taken. We carry on as usual. Stephen will be in touch in a day or two. There is way too much British Army activity in the area at the moment, but as soon as it calms down we are back in business.”
As he stood to leave he put his hand on Barry’s shoulder
“Are you sure about this Barry? You know the cause is not an easy road. You have experienced a lot already. Nobody will blame you.”
Barry shook his head keeping his head lowered tears welling up into his eyes.
“I’ll see you around Sean” he said and didn’t move or get out of his chair.
Sean left and closed the door behind himself, touching wood hoping to leave the badness behind him.
That night at around 8 o’clock, as the footballers trained in the football grounds, Sean arrived into Paddy Cleary’s pub. Paddy’s niece Nicole was behind the bar serving the few customers that were there on a weekday night. Sean called for a pint, sat down and took a couple of swallows.
“Hello Nicole, where’s Paddy, are you holding the fort on your own?” he asked.
Nicole replied with a smile “Hiya Sean. He is in the kitchen helping with the sandwiches or else he has gone upstairs.”
Sean nodded and leaving his pint on the counter he walked down the hallway to do his routine search of the meeting room. As he searched he kept wondering how he could miss how Paddy was listening to them. And worse again how could two of the areas republicans have been turned into the notoriously hated informer.
“Maybe I’m wrong about Paddy” he hoped.
He thought about the barrack occupants. “There were the RUC, the UDR, the Brit Army troopers and now the MRF for the last couple of weeks. Why here to Glenbeg? Why try to turn the area against me after the torturing? That MRF fucker wouldn’t have known me in Belfast, yet they followed me back. How did they know me?”
He sighed “That’s some powerful military force for me and his boys to take on.”
A feeling of being overwhelmed swept over him. He shook his head and breathed deeply to refocus his attention on the task at hand. He finished his search still turning nothing up, and as he walked back to the bar for his drink he hoped, once again, that he was wrong.
His Da and Barney were standing by his chair when he went back into the bar. Paddy was leaning against the bar talking to them. He nodded at Sean and then at a plateful of sandwiches on the bar. “Those are for your lads and here’s a tray of cups, tea, milk and sugar. I didn’t know how many so I made up enough for 10. If you need more let me know and I’ll sort it.” Paddy told him.
Sean looked at the sandwiches, a sick knot tightening in his stomach
“No that should be fine” he replied “There’s only a few of us tonight, Gerry and Stephen got called away at the last minute.”
He turned to Hugh and Barney “That’s something we need to talk about at the meeting.” He told them.
“Oh” said Hugh, “What’s up?”
Sean shook his head “Not here.” he said and whispered loudly “I’ll tell you at the meeting, ok?”
Hugh and Barney nodded and Paddy walked out of earshot. There was a racket at the door and the footballers came spilling into the bar, doing their usual pushing and jousting to get to the bar first. It had started to rain so they were glad of a cup of warm tea. Nicole’s sister brought out the sandwiches and put them on a table outside the bar beside a teapot and cups. Sean picked up the plate of sandwiches that were for the Volunteers, and his pint and headed for the meeting room, followed by Hugh and a few others from the bar. Then after the footballers got their drink, those that were active followed Sean down to the meeting room.
Paddy watched them go down into the room and then glancing around the room and making sure that his nieces were able to handle the sudden influx of people, he nodded at Nicole and indicated that he was heading upstairs. Nicole nodded back reassuring him that she and her sister had everything under control.
Paddy went up the stairs to his room and quietly walked over to his cabinet to get his listening device. Ever so silently he parted the slit in the carpet and slid the listening piece down into the light fixture. He then put the listening funnel up to his ear to listen. Sean was talking, going into detail about the torture session that they had endured and the fact that O’Malley wanted everyone to report the abuse and to file lawsuits against the Brits for mistreatment. This was a controversial tactic with some in the Movement reluctant to give the British Government any legitimacy by using their courts.
There was a general discussion and Paddy was concentrating on remembering who was saying what when he felt a draught, as the door into the room opened. He spun around as Stephen and Gerry quietly moved quickly over to him. As he struggled to get up Gerry swung a baton against the side of his head. He gasped with the shock as his brain was rattled off the side of his skull. Stephen hit him a belt of a fist that sent him flying backwards into his seat, his head spinning in circles, stars flying around inside his head. He felt his hands being cuffed together and he was pulled to his feet. He started to struggle again but Gerry calmly hit him on the back of his head with the baton and he blacked out.
Gerry and Stephen grabbed him, one on each side and they half dragged, half carried Paddy over to the door.
Stephen whispered “Wait a minute.”
He rushed back and picking up the funnel he listened to the meeting downstairs. He shook his head in disbelief “I can hear every word that the lads are saying” he said to himself.
Disgusted he extracted the listening device from the hole in the carpet. He stuffed it into his jacket pocket and the two of them struggled to get the deadweight of Paddy down the stairs and out the back door without the nieces seeing or hearing them. Thankfully the footballers were in top form and kept the girls busy with their demands and joking around. Once in the darkened backyard Stephen walked over to the car, sourced from Eddie, and reversed it back into the darkness. Gerry had Paddy gagged and trussed up like a turkey for Christmas dinner. The tossed him into the boot and then got into the car, slowly driving out onto the road trying to act normal so that the troopers, that were all over the town, wouldn’t flag them down for a random search. Luck was with them and they picked up speed as they headed into the country, to the especially chosen safe house that Sean had instructed them to go to.