It is one of those unnerving reminders of the passage of time that most journalists talking about Maria McGuire, the day after she was outed as a Tory member of Croydon Council had not heard of her before. Her defection from the Provisional IRA in 1972 was a huge story at the time and her book – glibly dismissed as ‘kiss and tell’ – opened the door on meetings of the IRA leadership at the very height of their campaign like no other book has done.
McGuire admits to her naivete so can hardly be damned for it.
Her contribution to the writing of the history of the IRA is massive and something that journalists should be glad of; it is not something they should be sneering at.
As for Peter Latham, the man who outed her and thereby exposed her to the danger that an IRA death sentence against her will be revived; he has trifled in more serious matters than her knows for a local political advantage. The risk of Maria Gatland (as she is now known) being shot is low – about as low as the risk to Mark Gartland and Sean O’Callaghan. I don’t see them relaxing their security.
But there is another principle: that people should not suffer for what they did in youth, if they have themselves reassessed those things and moved on from them. There are many others who were in the IRA in the early seventies and went on to distinguish themselves in other ways. Why should they be harassed now?
We have Gregory Campbell in the papers demanding an apology from Maria Gatland. If he had read her book, he would know that he already has it.