The accusing finger of Raymond Gilmour
Magistrate John Fyffe said dispassionately: "If there is any disruption by any member of the public, or any relative — any person guilty of disruption or harassment will be excluded from the court." He sat back and the door in the wall to his right, a few steps up, opened. Three men in civilian clothes came out and down, quickly, smoothly, and were in place below the magistrate, still on his right, within seconds. The third man was Raymond Gilmour.
He could not easily be seen from the body of the court. He sat into the chair in the witness box, effectively at ground level, and the two civilians, members of the RUC Special Branch, stood shoulder to shoulder with their backs against the box, staring out and up into the body of the courtroom. The 28 prisoners in the raised dock, and their relatives packed into benches behind them, that rose even higher like seats in a football stand, were faced with a human curtain.
Raymond Gilmour did not look like Raymond Gilmour. As lately as 12 months ago he looked just like the prisoners in the dock, the young men and women from the Bogside and the Creggan among whom he had grown up, with many of whom he had socialised, with one of whom he had been drinking in a bar on the night before the police came to his Creggan home and loaded him and his wife and children into an armoured car and their furniture into a removal lorry, and took them into "protective custody". Later that morning they returned to Creggan and took away the man with whom Raymond Gilmour had been drinking, charged him with a great many things, and charged a great many other people as well.
That man and the others in the dock looked now like they had always looked, as Raymond Gilmour had always used to look. They looked like part of a working class crowd, in tee-shirts, and plain sweaters, and plain haircuts, with pale faces, or a ruddy complexion, the odd tattoo on a forearm, and jeans and scuffed shoes, which were occasionally visible when they leaned back in their chairs and rested a foot on the rail of the dock.
Raymond Gilmour, fully visible to the press alone, was beautifully dressed in a tailored slim-line dark blue suit. His shirt was a brand new gleaming white, the striped silver and dark red tie a little too glittering perhaps. His skin was evenly tanned, the newly grown black beard trimmed neatly to his jawline. His hair was glossy, parted in the middle, but blow-dried so that it rose softly above the parting and fell gently on either side. His fingernails were manicured.
He looked, as they say in Derry, a credit. He shunned looks and he sat concealed, and he did not look up into the public gallery, where his mother sat, and his three sisters and his brother. His father was not there. He was taken into custody by the Provisional IRA after Raymond Gilmour turned informer, and no one but the IRA knows where he is, and they have said they will kill him if Raymond Gilmour does not retract his evidence. On Monday morning, July 25 at twenty minutes past eleven, after the crown prosecution had outlined the bones of the case, Raymond Gilmour started to give evidence. For one hour he spoke, but not in a rush, and not in an unbroken flow. First the prosecution, taking his cue from a very thick dossier that looked like an unbound novel - Gilmour's statements to the RUC - asked a question. "On the afternoon of ... were you ... " and as he spoke a woman seated below the magistrate typed out the question. If she did not get the full question she asked the prosecutor to repeat it and he did, and then she read it back to him to be sure. Then Raymond Gilmour answered the question and the woman typed as he spoke, and sometimes she'd ask him to repeat a phrase.
If you came from Derry, as all the defendants and their relatives did, and all the defence solicitors did, and two of the journalists did, and Raymond Gilmour did, his halting evidence was like a slow and gentle journey round the town. First he went to Hugh Duffy's house in Lislane Drive - of course you mentally nod, there's Hugh sitting over there, know that street well, know his mother too, a widow woman, worked as a cleaner for a while in the schools, what's she doing now, you wonder - and then Raymond says Hugh sent him over to Ducksie Doherty's house ... hello Ducksie, instinctively your head nods in greeting to him, grand nickname that, terrific smile Ducksie, he's all teeth ... and then Raymond ended up in McCann's fish and chip shop down in the Brandywell. McCann's, a location to conjure with, the place where you go after bingo or a dance in the Lourdes Community Hall, a terrific place to hang around on a mild late summer's night, its glass window comfortingly lit up during the winter.
Then Raymond mentions a street in the Brandywell, not all that familiar really, the Brandywell is being reconstructed by the day, with new housing everywhere, and as you puzzle this one you are jerked back into the courtroom. The rifle was hidden under a concrete block, "there was a green tile over the block, lino over the tile, and the cooker was on top of that". Raymond was taken into the bathroom and shown how to use the rifle. "There was frosted glass in the bathroom window, so no one could see through it", he explained the reason for going into the bathroom. He named the men and women in that house, in that kitchen, on that day.
It could be true, it might not be true. "Sorry, your honour", he says conversationally, "I forgot to mention Cathy Miller and Betty McSheffrey". They had been there too.
A defence solicitor comes to his feet and says that he cannot hear the witness. He can't see him either. The same solicitor had made the same point two weeks previously about Michael Quigley, another Derryman, who had also informed on Derrymen, many of whom were now in the dock once more, accused by Gilmour. On that occasion Magistrate John Petrie had disallowed the plea, and Quigley had remained hidden behind his Special Branch "minders", for "reasons of security".
Quigley, fully visible only to the press, had given evidence from eleven in the morning until five in the afternoon, and he had kept his eyes trained on a spot below the magistrate, never deviating, and he had kept his arms folded, sitting well back in his chair, and he had unfolded his arms but four times during those six hours. Michael Quigley had been under fierce taunting cross examination then and his face had been immobile as an identikit picture.
Gilmour though was not now under cross examination, and he sat forward when the solicitor protested, and looked at the solicitor, and one of his minders moved back into the aisle and the other stepped slightly aside so that everybody in the court could see the witness clearly, if only in profile. He did not look beyond or around the solicitor. He was talking again, his face turned back to the magistrate, so it is certain that he did not see his mother stand up from her seat.
Martin McGuinness, elected Sinn Fein Assembly member for Derry, had earlier escorted Mrs Gilmour to a seat that afforded a relatively central view of her son, whom she had not seen for 12 months. Everybody else including her other son and three daughters was herded into a section against the wall, well to the blind side of, and behind, the witness box. The RUC had been posted one to each end of the vacant rows, in the other section like recalcitrant theatre-goers refusing to let people pass once the show has started. McGuinness and Mrs Gilmour, though excepted, were immediately marooned in a sea of green uniforms.
She rose now as her son spoke, stepped past McGuinness, past the police, out into the aisle, down the stairs and then left to the exit door. Her son was gazing at a spot below the magistrate's bench. She was gazing at the door. Their backs were to each other. "Raymond", she called softly over her shoulder, but not looking over her shoulder, "Raymond, son, you know I'm here. I can't listen anymore to you saying them things about your friends." Her head drooped, but even as it drooped and the door opened before her, he was on his feet, on his way without a backward glance to his own special door, which had also opened, accompanied by his two minders, the three men moving in perfect stepped unison, like men who had practised barracks square drilling, and Raymond Gilmour was gone from the courtroom in perfect timed tandem with his mother, though in an opposite direction. The magistrate sat as unregarded as any priest on the altar who has watched the congregation walk out before he had given permission. The silence, brief though it was, was heart-stopping. Then Raymond Gilmour's sister stood up.
"Your honour, can my mother not speak to Raymond? She hasn't seen him for a year." The police moved quickly to her. "Your honour", she repeated, clearly and not shouting, "can my mother not speak to Raymond?" The police were on top of her, grabbing her, pulling her, pushing her, and she shouted in protest and one of them lifted her bodily off the bench and stumbled with her down the aisle, and she was pulling the policeman's hair, and his cap was falling to the ground, and her splayed body was horizontally blocking the doorway, but reinforcements pushed and shoved and punched her through, with great noise.
The second sister was by now on her feet, pleading that her younger sister be left alone, the plea turning into shouted fear and anger, and even as she shouted the RUC were mounting towards, descending on her, coming at her from both sides, pushing and punching, not able to grab her whole body because she was in the middle of the row, with friends on either side, but for one long dreadful moment her arms were tugged out on either side of her, like a crucifixion without a cross or nails and then she was pulled head first over the benches and down, over the head of the third sister who had risen to her feet too, and was trying to stop the passage of her sister's body above her, but she also was grabbed and the two were beaten in a melee of green uniforms out of the door.
John Gilmour, eldest boy in the family, had meanwhile risen to his feet away up near the back. His mouth was wide open, but no sound came from it. His fists were clenched to his side, his whole frame was still and taut and straining, but he said nothing and did not move, because if he moved or spoke, even as they beat his three sisters, he would be removed from the court and there would be no family member present to recall Raymond, however silently, back to his home. The court was suddenly quiet again, the sisters gone but he was still on his feet, agony in his features. The RUC gathered below him, not touching him.
"What are you looking at? I'm not doing anything, I'm not saying anything," he said, trembling visibly from the strain of doing and saying nothing. The policemen looked, and some took a step toward him, because he was not seated, as one should be seated in an orderly courtroom, and then they halted, and we all, magistrate, press, defendants, relatives, special branch, prison guards, gazed frozen upon this spectacle.
John Gilmour looked like a man at bay, a rabbit in headlights, both these things. Then the door swung open again and the yells and screams of his sisters and knockabout noises came from the passageway beyond. There issued then from his mouth a sound that bore no resemblance to the spoken word. It was a loud long bellow, and as it came forth he launched himself headlong into the serum of police below. They caught him and passed him over to the aisle, but he regained his feet there and stood bursting against them, resisting the downward pull, and there were seven policemen draped somehow, anyhow about his person, two on their knees clasping his knees, two around his waist, two on his arms, and one behind him pulling his neck back in a fore-arm lock.
They tumbled punching each other down the stairs and out the door. All the Gilmours were gone.
Proud Derry memories of civil rights resistance to the police went with them. A few involuntary shouts from the public gallery and the dock, a few bodies jerked inexorably to their feet, a few faces streaming with silent tears, had marked their passing, but no one had gone to their help.
If the court had been emptied, Raymond Gilmour would have been under no pressure at all while giving evidence. The Republican prisoners and their relatives have been instructed for months now to hold themselves in check, to suffer any and all in dignity in order that they might remain in court to pressurise Raymond Gilmour. The press, too, is trained to go against human nature and stand aside in the interests of maintaining the written record.
Thus, denatured, the court resumed amid the silence. The door in the wall opened and the two minders and Raymond Gilmour flowed down to resume positions. He did not look up into the gallery. He took up at once, without prompting, where he had left off, and the typewriter went clack clack, and the sun shone in through the windows. It was as though the waters had heaved and erupted and then closed calmly again over some monstrous thing. Raymond Gilmour was in the High Flats, in Bogside now, trying with his unit, he said, to plant a bomb beside the British Army lookout post on the roof of the flats. He pretended to court a female member of the unit, in the stairwell of the flats, while keeping an eye out for the troops. The others came back to report that the trapdoor into the roof was beyond their reach. They despatched a man to the nearby Rocking Chair Bar, run co-operatively by ex-felons, for a tall stool. The stool arrived, was mounted, and the bomb was planted. They returned the stool and retired from the eighth floor to a flat in the fifth and waited for it to go off. They waited for hours. It did not go off. Back up to the bar for the stool, back up onto the roof for the bomb, recover the bomb, return the stool, and away home, to their various homes.
It was almost funny, if it wasn't so serious. That part of the evidence was now concluded, the prosecution said, and he must now ask Raymond Gilmour to identify the people he had named, if they were present in court.
His minders drew aside, like a curtain, and Raymond Gilmour turned to face the people he had grown up with. If the magistrate were to believe his evidence, and return them all for formal trial, and if they were subsequently convicted, they would go to jail for life for murder of policemen, or fifteen years, or ten years, or five years if the charge was relatively minor, like membership of the IRA.
He would have to point them out of course, point his finger at them. "That man there", he said conversationally, pointing, "the man on the left, with the yellow tee-shirt... that girl there, sitting in the second row, between the policemen." Others he could not spot quite so easily, for they were in the second row of the dock, behind the first crowded row. Besides which, he would not know them all intimately, if his evidence was correct, because they operated in separate secret units and he might only meet a person from another unit once on a joint operation. One man would not wait to be pointed out. He got to his feet. "Is it me you're looking for, Gilmour?" "Yes, that's you", Raymond Gilmour replied and then he had moved on to the next and the next and next. A further name was mentioned and as his expressionless gaze travelled their faces slowly from far left to middle, the named man on the far right was already on his feet, himself pointing at Gilmour. Gilmour's glance arrived at him finally, and he too pointed, so that they were pointing at each other, but the named man stayed accusingly silent, and Gilmour had to say his name.
And then there was the young man he could not find at all. Back and forth he looked, peering, craning his head, then back and forth again. Finally he smiled, as in fond remembrance of a joke - of course, there you are, he almost thought aloud - and some of the prisoners turned smiles on the man he had finally located, because this man was quite small, and you wouldn't hardly see him in a crowd, and his size was the butt of fond jokes. The communal link snapped suddenly as another prisoner rose to his feet and snarled in fury "Gilmour, you yellow bastard", and the prison guards were onto him, but he had turned already to go down to the cell below, because he knew the procedure once composure snapped. "I hope your da gets stiffed", he yelled, and this time the prison guards pushed him. A clatter of feet, a muffled call, and the waters closed again, and Raymond Gilmour continued to point at people.
The court rose for lunch. On the road outside, Mrs Gilmour, surrounded by her three daughters and son John, stood waiting. ''I'm sorry" she said, to anyone, to everyone, "I just couldn't bear it." The plan had been for her to wait until it came time for Raymond to point at people. She was supposed to stand up and say "Raymond can you identify me?" That surely would have brought him to his senses, for was he not out of his senses that he could do what he was doing. Was he not brainwashed, he was not himself, couldn't everybody see that her son had been programmed completely, completely taken over by the police?
She stood in the roadway pleading for absolution, surrounded by her children, and some of the relatives of the prisoners moved stiffly by her, not speaking to her. The Gilmour family is tainted - they have not disowned Raymond, have they? But if they did disown him, he'd be beyond all emotional bidding. He's beyond bidding now anyway, comes the reply. He doesn't care about his father, did not break down even when his wife and children left him in exile and returned to the Creggan.
But he has been breaking, runs the counter-argument. Look what his wife said about the time he tried to kill himself in that hotel in Cyprus, overdosing on her tranquillisers as well as his own. Didn't she say he was drinking heavily and bewildered?
"He rang me on mother's day", Mrs Gilmour said on the roadway. He rang every member of his family that night, Martin McGuinness confirmed, and he seemed incoherent and emotional, saying he'd be killed if he returned to Derry. "Then he wrote me a letter thanking me for rearing him", said Mrs Gilmour. "But I didn't rear him for this, did I Martin?" She turned for consolation to the two representatives of Sinn Fein, McGuinness and Mitchell McLaughlin who have become her own minders.
How come she never noticed, some relatives wondered bitterly as they left her on the roadway, crying and pleading. Hasn't the prosecution confirmed in writing to the defence solicitors that Raymond Gilmour was a paid police teenage tout long before he joined the IRA?
He was a tout when he joined the IRA "to avenge the death of my best friend Colm McNutt, who was shot by the soldiers", he said in court. Who set McNutt up? some relatives ask. Colm McNutt had tried to hijack a car in the Bogside, and the four occupants, members of the SAS in civilian dress, shot him dead. McNutt hadn't suddenly appeared with a revolver, you know. It takes time to set up a hijacking and he would have had to tell his unit beforehand. Or maybe remarked on it to a friend.
"That woman there", Mrs Gilmour indicated a woman who had frozen her with a glance, "is very cold to me". You have to understand her feelings, mammy, a daughter explained, her man might be jailed for years and she has a family to raise. But it's not my fault, Mrs Gilmour burst again into tears. My man's gone too. Her Sinn Fein minders tried to console her. For months they have defended her against the outrage of others in the community. Raymond Gilmour's returned wife Lorraine had already been thumped by the wife of a prisoner as she sat in a Derry cafe taking tea. Martin McGuinness had gone to the wife to explain that this was not good. Taking tea in Derry, living it up in a Cyprus hotel while my husband is in jail, the wife had spluttered.
The Gilmour family has to be protected, Sinn Fein explains. They are the emotional link with Raymond, and if that link is broken, there's no hope of him recanting. It is common knowledge that some of the prisoner's relatives are insisting that Raymond Gilmour's father be shot dead ... anyway. Punish Raymond Gilmour, punish the Gilmours, punish somebody for what is being done to us. There are fewer and fewer jokes around Derry about how the 62-year-old father is having the time of his life somewhere in Donegal, in the company of "the lads". Fewer jokes about how it does a man good to get away from the wife. If Mr Gilmour is shot now, the reasoning goes, it will only stiffen Raymond's resolve. There's no point shooting him after the trial, either, since the damage will have been done. There is a point though, to shooting him dead ... anyway ... as a warning to other informers. Unless the Gilmour family can draw Raymond back from the brink. The Gilmour family, isolated, draw emotional sustenance from Sinn Fein, because few others will speak to them, and live in dread of what the Provisional IRA will do.
This deadly scenario has become a commonplace of casual discussion in Derry. No one has come to Raymond Gilmour's public defence. Officially he's doing what the Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry and the SDLP have repeatedly called for - he's giving information about killings and such - but neither the Bishop nor the SDLP have defended his stance. This has not gone unnoticed. In the absence of authoritative moral guidelines, from those who claim to know, people have wandered into a moral maze. The mental savagery of the Belfast courtroom has seeped like a virus across the province and into the streets of Derry.
People are informing against Raymond Gilmour and Michael Quigley now. Word went out that defence solicitors needed to know everything there was to know about them in order to mount a cross questioning assault, along the lines of character assassination, and information came back in abundance. The kitchen sink was thrown at Quigley in court. Things that would not have been said publicly against any Derryman or Derrywoman, a decade ago, have been dredged up and touted aloud. Why did you not enquire too closely into who sent those Christmas presents to your children, the defence enquired of Quigley? Was it because you knew one of the two children was not fathered by you? Do the names of these three women mean something to you because you had affairs with them after you married? (The Irish News, incredibly, printed the names of the women, one of whom is herself married.) Did you, who claim a moral conversion against terrorism, consider it immoral to beat your wife? Weren't you in the remedial class at school? Quigley's parents and brothers and sisters, still living in Derry, have to live with this expose of their son. The Gilmours are being prepared for similar and "worse revelations" about Raymond. Information is flowing in and spilling over. Private reticence about other people's family life has been awesomely sundered. It is almost merciful that the Gilmours have been thrown out of court and will not be there to hear it. Except that they must try to get back in, and sit silently, as the shameful flood bursts over them, in the hope of reaching his heart and saving the father.
It might take weeks to persuade the magistrate to let them back in, the solicitors informed the family on the roadway that Monday. The forlorn little bunch, beaten by the police, ignored by Raymond, ignored by some prisoners and relatives, ignorant of their father's fate, trailed off to the cars for the journey home.
The rest of the Derry people moved up the road to a Portacabin, set on a concrete base, surrounded by protective fencing, pitched in the middle of a wasteland directly opposite Crumlin Road Jail. Inside the cabin, merrily decorated and spotlessly clean, and muggy with warmth, children played with toys. The cabin and its little canteen and its staff, offering voluntary service, was set up by an international children's organisation. People can leave their children there while they visit relatives in jail or in court, or call in for tea and sausage rolls and soup and biscuits while awaiting developments. The staff was wonderful, handing out the cup that cheers.
How had those relatives who did not resent the Gilmours maintained composure while the RUC assaulted that family? "You think of policemen being killed by the IRA, someday somewhere. You keep that in your mind while you sit absolutely still, and you're not sorry at the prospect." This from a mild Derrywoman, sitting in a Belfast wasteland, who normally spends the summer days sitting with her family on a Donegal beach.
Conversation turns from the RUC to courtroom procedure. The solicitors want to save cross examination until the formal trial next year. There's no point giving Raymond Gilmour a dry run now they argue, you're just giving the police time to prepare him. The police already know all the dirt there is to know about him, comes the counter argument; you can be sure they've broken him already, and remoulded him. Why give them even more time? Throw stuff at him now, while he's still vulnerable.
But is he vulnerable, they wonder then? This is not the Raymond Gilmour some of them knew. Is that how they brainwashed in Korea, in Vietnam? "Never mind Gilmour, look how the solicitors are brainwashed. A lot of money, for appearing in court, and they'll uphold any system. They should have withdrawn from the courts long ago. You wouldn't find informers being tolerated in an English system."
The words fall like stones on some hearts. One woman present has a son in the dock, and a solicitor son among defence counsel. The son in the dock is not allowed to sit beside his wife, of eighteen months, also charged. She got bail because she was pregnant. The child has since been born. If he is convicted of the killing of which he has been accused, her child-bearing years will be over by the time he gets out. Assuming her body is not destroyed in Armagh jail, where she might be sent if Gilmour is believed. The young woman's mother keeps vigil in court, from her wheelchair.
Lunch was over and they trooped back to listen, disbelievingly, while Raymond Gilmour continued to inform. Fifty-five more people will face his accusations when this lot is done with. How could he do it, they kept asking. How could Quigley have done it? Quigley had already provided his own answer. He was not an informer, he told his cross-questioner. He was a converted terrorist. When had he converted, defence asked. "On the road to Castlereagh" he said, his immobile face an identikit mask.