The Kidnapping

| June 29, 2008 | 0 Comments

In an earlier post about John Saunders’ house in Dublin where we are staying, I mentioned that the house was formerly owned by a businessman who was kidnapped by the IRA right outside his home. It was a dramatic event that got enormous news coverage at the time, twenty-five years ago.

As it happens, it was back in the news this week when the Provisional IRA man who was charged with the crime 10 years ago was acquitted of all charges. The Irish Times devoted an entire inside page to multiple stories on the incident. The Times requires a subscription to view the whole story, but here are excerpts:

Former IRA leader freed on Tidey kidnapping charges.
817 words
27 June 2008
Irish Times
(c) 2008, The Irish Times.

COURT REPORT:FORMER IRA leader Brendan McFarlane was yesterday cleared of the kidnap of former supermarket executive Don Tidey almost 25 years ago.

The Special Criminal Court discharged the former IRA leader after an application by his counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, for a direction of acquittal. This followed a statement by prosecuting counsel Fergal Foley that the State was “offering no further evidence”.

Earlier the court had ruled inadmissible an alleged admission by McFarlane to gardaí that he had been at the wood in Co Leitrim where Mr Tidey was held captive for 23 days in 1983.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the non-jury court with Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Cormac Dunne, said McFarlane retains the presumption of innocence.

The judge said that the court had heard evidence of “the horrendous kidnapping and physical abuse of Mr Tidey and his son and daughter”, which resulted in the killing of a young soldier and an unarmed Garda recruit.

“Although almost a quarter of a century has passed, it is clear . . . from the evidence of Mr Tidey and the attendance in court of the families of the garda and solider that all have suffered greatly,” he said.

Here’s a description of the actual crime:

Don Tidey would have seen nothing unusual in a uniformed “garda” flagging him to stop at a “Garda roadblock” at the junction of Stocking Lane and Woodtown Way. However, the “gardaí” were in reality members of the Provisional IRA. Tidey tried a frantic reversal when he realised what was happening but to no avail.

A submachine gun was put to his head and he was bundled from his car. Susan and Alistair [his 13 year old daughter and 24 year old son] were pulled from the car by an armed man, also in a garda uniform and thrown by the roadside as the terrorists left with the father. The snatch was over in five minutes and involved five or six men.

In the immediate aftermath of the kidnapping, gardaí concentrated their efforts on the immediate

vicinity but quickly enlarged their search to parts of Kildare, Kerry, Roscommon and Mayo.

For almost all of his abduction, however, it appears that Tidey was held in woods near Ballinamore in Co Leitrim.

On November 27th, a ransom demand for £5 million sterling was telephoned to Associated British Foods offices in London. ABF and the government were totally opposed to paying.

However, the net was closing. From about December 13th in the Ballinamore area, about 1,000 soldiers and some 100 gardaí were manning roadblocks, scouring the countryside and doing house-to-house searches.

At about 2pm on December 16th, Garda recruits were crawling through dense undergrowth in a forest of young pine trees at Deradda Woods. They saw some plastic sheeting in a hollow. It stirred.

They moved back and called for assistance. Gunmen leapt up and began firing.

A hand grenade was thrown. Gardaí and soldiers swarmed forward. The gunmen fled. Don Tidey, his head covered by a balaclava, was freed, physically unharmed. But a young garda and a soldier had given their lives to save him.

Pte Patrick Kelly, a 35-year-old from Moate in Co Westmeath, was shot dead. He left a widow, Cathrina (31) and four young sons.

Gary Sheehan, aged 23, died with him. He was due to graduate from Templemore in 1984. He was the son of Det Garda Jim Sheehan, stationed not far away in Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan.

Gary Sheehan is remembered by each batch of recruits to pass through Training College in Templemore.

The best all-rounder receives the Gary Sheehan Memorial Medal.

In the coverage of he acquittal, there were also many accounts of the way things were in Ireland in 1983 when violence was common and there seemed no light at the end of the tunnel. We, in America, tend to forget the enormity of the change in Ireland. Throughout our trip, when people tell stories of more than ten years ago, there is always a reference to “the troubles,” which permeated all of life in Ireland. While Ireland is heading into some rough waters now economically after a long boom, it is a blessing that the country will never go back to the way it was.

Category: Vacation Ireland

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