Former IRA member Maria Gatland is delighted to be back in the Conservative party after the “shock” of being suspended.

The Croham councillor had been accused of “betraying the trust” of leader Mike Fisher and the Tory cabinet but he made a dramatic u-turn and offered back the whip last week.

She said: “He [Coun Fisher] made a statement and he was a bit hasty but that is in the past.

“At the the beginning I was disappointed in the reaction [of the Conservatives] but I had such unwavering support from close friends in the group and such huge support from everyone.

“I think he saw I had a lot of support.”

Emails came flooding in from across the world including Italy and America, as well as a huge amount from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Coun Gatland said: “It’s been amazing.”

The 60-year-old said she thought about the offer “a bit” before accepting but was never going to refuse the whip.

“I am very pleased to be back in the party and part of the group.”

Having only just been let into the party fold once more, Coun Gatland admitted she missed her cabinet post and would like it back in the future, adding “I’ll just have to wait and see”.

The shock revelation that she wrote To take Arms, My Year with the Provisional IRA under her maiden name McGuire rocked not just Croydon but the national media.

“It was a media frenzy. I had been there before [when her arms trip to Amsterdam failed] but I was surprised and grateful for my neighbours who were so sympathetic.”

There are still calls for her to resign from the council, with the Labour opposition claiming Coun Gatland’s case is different to those such as Martin McGuinness as the electorate were unaware of her past when they voted for her.

But Coun Gatland viewed this as political opportunism and cites messages of support from some political heavyweights.

“When you have someone like Lord Trimble speaking out in your support I think that is fantastic.

“People on Question Time can say there is no question of me resigning.

“I received emails from people who were on the other side who have said it was 30 years ago let’s move on. I found that very moving.”

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