From Correspondent Richard Blystone
LONDON (CNN) -- Sean O'Callaghan is on a mission. With
Northern Ireland peace talks on hold, the former Irish
Republican Army hit man is planning to tour the United
States. His goal: to give a harsh inside perspective on the
IRA, persuading Americans the group isn't as romantic as it
is sometimes portrayed.
"I honestly do not believe that the IRA and the Republican
leadership will ever abandon the use of terror," O'Callaghan
O'Callaghan is spreading his message at a delicate time for
Northern Ireland. A long-standing IRA cease-fire ended a year
ago, with little progress in peace talks since then. With
violence escalating, the U.S. has denied a visa to Gerry
Adams, leader of the IRA's political wing Sinn Fein.
Not so with O'Callaghan, one of Adams' harshest critics.
Reviled as a turncoat and suspected of selling out, he still
gets attention -- because he once killed for the IRA and has
served time for it.
Sick of violence, he says, he became an informer, foiling
among other things, a plot during the 1980s to blow up the
Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana.
Though he's had no firsthand knowledge of IRA activities
since 1985, O'Callaghan rejects the claims of Sinn Fein
leaders that they don't control the IRA.
"I'm not saying that on a day-to-day basis that [Sinn Fein
leader] Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness are aware of all IRA
activity," said O'Callaghan. Instead, he said "political
people" within the IRA call the shots.
Madeline Albright, who opposed letting Adams visit the U.S.,
is now secretary of state, and in this position is backing
British and Irish government positions.
(96K/14 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Meanwhile Sinn Fein risks losing the connections that gave it
a degree of legitimacy during the cease-fire. The killing of
a young British soldier at a checkpoint in Northern Ireland
last week has stirred many Catholics -- and increased
animosity against the IRA.
John Hume, head of the moderate Nationalist Social Democratic
and Labor Party, told Sinn Fein to publicly call for an end
to the killing or forget any cooperation from him.
Then there are this year's elections. Britain's will be held
during the spring and Ireland's is scheduled afterwards.
Renewed violence in Northern Ireland is sure to have an
influence, as opinions on both sides of the divide continue
to grow more strident.
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