Lifestyle

Thursday 18 September 2014

McGuinness's IRA showed no mercy as they shot a Dublin civil servant

Kim Bielenberg on the 'peacemakers' who refuse to apologise for Eamon Ryan's callous murder

Sinn Féin spin-doctors promote Martin McGuinness as a "peacemaker'', but deep down there is little genuine remorse in the republican movement about the IRA killings of hundreds of innocent people, including a young Dublin civil servant.

Eamon Ryan, an innocent man who worked in the Department of Finance, was shot in cold blood by the Provos in the AIB Bank in Tramore, Co Waterford, on August 7, 1979 -- with his three-year-old son Peter next to him.

The 32-year-old father happened to be in the way as the republican gang robbed the bank in the seaside resort.

They showed him no mercy. He was gunned down by a hooded man from just a foot away as he lay prone on the ground. His boy was at his shoulder.

Martin McGuinness is said by several sources to have been the IRA's senior commander at the time. In his authoritative book on the IRA, Peter Taylor alleges that he was Chief of Staff between 1978 and 1982. McGuinness denies this.

Two men, Eamonn Nolan and Aaron O'Connell, were given life sentences for the murder.

A local IRA man, Bill Hayes, was a getaway driver during the raid on that tragic day in Tramore. He served nine years in jail.

Just a month ago at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Hayes was honoured and feted by his party as one of "six republicans who have given outstanding service in the cause of Irish freedom''.

The Sinn Féin citation portrayed Hayes as a model family man, keen on the GAA and the Irish language.

Needless to say, there was no mention of Eamonn Ryan, and the agonies of his children, Peter and Dorothy, as they grew up without a father. His wife Bernadette has never received an apology, or even explanation, for the killing from "peacemaker" McGuinness and his cohorts.

The presidential candidate this week implored those who draw attention to the IRA's atrocities to "move on'', but that is difficult for victims' families.

Eamon Ryan's sister Mairead Bolger told me this week: "People have actually said to me that I should have got over it by now, but I will never get over it.''

Mairead said: "The families of victims may speak out, but I am not sure that it makes any difference to republicans what we say. They will always tell you that they were in an 'armed struggle' and that in some way justified what they did."

Thirty-two years after Eamon was killed, Mairead hopes that the Irish people will not elect as president the one-time leader of the organisation that shot her brother.

Eamon had a life full of promise ahead of him when he went with little Peter to the bank while on holiday with his family in Tramore. He had risen rapidly up the ranks in the Department of Finance, and was a keen tennis and badminton player. He was secretary of his local residents' association in Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Family members describe him as "bright and gregarious''. He was a close friend of John Corrigan, now the head of the National Treasury Management Agency.

At the time of the raid, Eamon was in Tramore visiting his mother, who lived in the town. While his wife Bernadette went shopping, he went around to the bank on Strand Street.

Eamon was just trying to leave the AIB branch when he was accosted by the raiders. They grabbed him by the neck, pushed him back inside and he fell to floor.

He was kicked on the ground and one of the raiders stood over him and shot him. Then he was kicked again.

His son, Peter, is thought to have had flashbacks after his father's killing. Now in his 30s and working in social care, he was later told that an account of the raid that he gave at the time was remarkably accurate.

Gardai arrived quickly on the scene, but they were held at gunpoint, as the bank was sprayed with bullets. Raiders immobilised the garda car by firing shots at the tyres and they made their getaway with £4,700 in a Ford Cortina.

Before his murder, Eamon had been studying for a Master's degree at Trinity College.

A few months after the killing, Eamon's widow Bernadette accepted the degree posthumously on his behalf at a moving conferring ceremony at the university.

The Ryan family have adopted a remarkably forgiving attitude to the killers.

At the time of their release in 1994, Bernadette, who has since remarried, said: "I have tried not to harbour any bitterness. It would just have destroyed my children and myself."

She added: "I would like to think the person who pulled the trigger and killed Eamon has changed and that he has a different view of life now.''

Eamon's late mother Mary prayed for the murderers in the years after her son's murder, and she said she felt sorry for their families.

Sinn Féin, for its part, has shown little in the way of common decency towards the Ryans.

In 2008, the getaway driver Hayes stood for Sinn Féin in a local election in Waterford (he lost) and made what was regarded by the Ryan family as a mealy-mouthed expression of mild remorse.

He told The Waterford News and Star: "I regret it (the robbery) to this day and so do my colleagues.''

However, in the same interview the SF activist said: "There was a struggle on and it had to be financed. One of the ways to do that was to rob banks.''

The Tramore raid was described by the judge in the case as "determined and ruthless".

The case of Eamon Ryan, and those of other victims highlighted this week, show that McGuinness's IRA was far from being the civil rights organisation that he now seeks to portray.

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