IRA informer Raymond Gilmour has been reunited with his family after almost three decades of having no contact with them. Gilmour fled his native Derry after giving evidence against 31 men and women in one of the North's best-known supergrass trials. He was resettled by MI5 with a new identity in Britain and, to his distress, lost contact with his family.
However, Gilmour's sister Geraldine Dametz contacted the Sunday Tribune after we carried an interview with him in which he spoke of his problems with alcoholism and depression and of how deeply he missed his 10 brothers and sisters.
Dametz, who now lives in the US, says: "The last time I saw Raymond he was in court giving evidence. I was crying because I wanted him to retract for the sake of our family. I didn't see or speak to him for 27 years but there wasn't a day that passed that I didn't think of him and wonder if he was even alive. It was torture."
Dametz was so desperate to find her brother that she had asked her three children to carry out regular internet searches for their uncle. One of her sons found the Sunday Tribune article.
After we passed Dametz's contact details to Gilmour, he phoned her. "He said, 'Geraldine do you know who this is?' and I said, 'It's you Raymond.' I'd know his voice anywhere. We talked for six hours. It was like we'd never been separated.
"He remembered every little detail about us all. Our family never disowned Raymond. When he gave evidence, it ruined our lives. After the trial, I couldn't continue living in Derry. I had to go to the US and my parents went to England. I can't speak for the rest of the family, but personally I'm very proud of Raymond. If he saved the life of even one Protestant, one Catholic, one policeman or one soldier, then he's my hero."
Gilmour, the youngest in the family, was particularly close to his mother, Dametz says. "As a child, Raymond was like my mother's shadow, he went everywhere with her. She was very anti-violence and anti-IRA – that's where I think he got it from.
"My mother never stopped loving Raymond. I nursed her for three months when she was dying and all she did was talk about him. She wanted to see him one last time. She was heartbroken and it destroyed us seeing her so unhappy.
"Raymond heard she'd died and sent a wreath. He thought we hated him and told the Sunday Tribune that the wreath was probably thrown in the bin. Nothing was further from the truth. Raymond had written on the card, 'From your loving son', and that card was placed in my mother's hands in the coffin."
Gilmour is also now in touch with five of his other brothers and sisters. "He has missed out on so much but it's great that we have contact with him," says Dametz, who lives in New Jersey.
Gilmour's two children to his first wife Lorraine live in Derry. "Raymond has no contact with them. We were able to tell him how they were and that his daughter had twins and he was a grandfather."
Sinn Féin spy Denis Donaldson was shot dead by the Real IRA in Donegal four years ago. Informer Marty McGartland narrowly escaped death in a gun attack after the Provisional IRA found out where he was living in England 11 years ago.
Gilmour would still be a target for dissident republican groups or individual Provisional IRA or INLA members. "I know we won't ever be able to have a big family reunion. I've invited him to my home in New Jersey but it wouldn't be safe for him," says Dametz.
"So I'll travel to wherever he thinks safe, to the ends of the earth if need be, to meet him. Raymond rings me every other day. I leave it to him to contact me. I don't have or want his telephone number or his address."
Gilmour was recruited by the police as a teenager, first to infiltrate the INLA, then the IRA. Dametz says her family's world fell apart when news broke that he was an informer. "We were devastated. We knew we would never be able to see him normally again. He became the living dead."
The IRA abducted Gilmour's father in an attempt to force him to retract his evidence. Gilmour refused but the trial collapsed when the judge said he wasn't a credible witness. Gilmour's father was then released by the IRA.
"A few weeks later, I moved to the US with my two children. I couldn't stay in Derry. Friends I'd grown up with snubbed me. The hostility was so strong I was frightened I'd be physically attacked," says Dametz.
Gilmour's parents moved to England where they lived for six years. During that time, when Gilmour himself was living in Britain, he regularly asked MI5 if he could be put in contact with his mother and father but they said it was impossible.
Gilmour is extremely angry at the intelligence services for denying him this contact. "My mother and father would have met him in a heartbeat," says Dametz.
Informers are widely regarded by the nationalist community as traitors but Dametz states: "Raymond said he did what he did not for money but for principle and I believe him. I say that as someone who is proud to be Irish, who marches with their kids in the parade down Fifth Avenue on St Patrick's Day."
However, Dametz is angry at the IRA and the British. "Both behaved very badly. The IRA abducted my father and made life hell for the rest of us.
"Raymond was recruited by the police when he was 16, far too young to be sure of what he was doing, and then when the British had no more use for him, they threw him to the wolves and didn't look after him."