New book casts doubt over British war hero killed by IRA attack
'I seen the dust and debris go up - when the dust went away, there was nothing there, just white foam, no boat."
This was the eye-witness account from a farmer in his field of the IRA bomb which had ripped through the boat skippered by Lord Louis Mountbatten 40 years ago off Mullaghmore in Co Sligo.
The horrific atrocity caused the deaths of local boy Paul Maxwell (15) and Mountbatten's grandson Nicholas Knatchbull (14), Nicholas's maternal grandmother Lady Doreen Brabourne (82) as well as Mountbatten himself.
In the weeks after, the incident dominated front pages across the globe.
Mountbatten had been a British war hero, his life inextricably linked to some of the key moments of the 20th century, serving in two world wars and involved in the partition of India and Suez Crisis.
He was at the heart of the British royal family, an uncle of Prince Philip, adored by his cousin Queen Elizabeth, a mentor to the young Prince Charles and affectionately known by them as 'Dickie'.
In the wake of his death, a journalist rang the Sinn Féin press office to ask why the IRA had killed "a harmless old man".
Exactly 40 years later, much has changed, with the public view towards Mountbatten shifting even in recent weeks.
Disturbing claims contained in a new book now call into question the "harmless" nature of the British aristocrat, who was friendly with renowned British paedophile Jimmy Savile.
The author, British historian Andrew Lownie, has uncovered evidence linking Mountbatten to the abuse of children from the Kincora boys' home in Belfast, while a secret FBI dossier uncovered by Lownie in the course of his research indicates that Mountbatten's sexual activities were known by the authorities.
The book, 'The Mountbattens: their Lives and Loves', contains interviews with two unnamed men who describe being brought from Kincora in the summer of 1977 to Mullaghmore, where Mountbatten was on holiday at his Co Sligo holiday residence, Classiebawn Castle.
The interviewees, who were 16 at the time, both claim they were then abused by the earl.
One recalls being driven from Kincora to Classiebawn where he was abused by a man whom he did not recognise as Lord Mountbatten until he saw a report on the TV news two years later that the earl had been killed.
The second man claims to have met Lord Mountbatten four times that summer.
He said each encounter lasted about an hour and took place in a suite in an hotel by Mullaghmore harbour.
"He was very polite, very nice," the interviewee named 'Amal' is quoted a saying. "I knew he was someone important. He told me he liked dark-skinned people, especially Sri Lankan people as they were very friendly and good-looking."
He also claimed that several other boys were brought to Mountbatten on other occasions.
This is not the first time Lord Mountbatten has been linked to Kincora, with earlier claims published in 1990 that he was part of an 'old boy' network that preyed on children at the boys' home.
A secret FBI dossier uncovered by Lownie backs up the claims of Mountbatten's activities.
When the Baroness Decies, Elizabeth de la Poer Beresford, was being interviewed by the FBI about another matter, she raised concerns about Lord Mountbatten, stating that in their circles, he and his wife, Edwina, were considered "persons of extremely low morals".
"She stated that Lord Louis Mountbatten was known to be a homosexual with a perversion for young boys," the file read. "In Lady Decies' opinion he is an unfit man to direct any sort of military operations because of this condition. She stated further that his wife Lady Mountbatten was considered equally erratic."
As crowds gathered yesterday at Mullaghmore to quietly recall the dread arrival of tragedy and violence on their shores 40 years ago, the loss of innocent life was bitterly lamented, including the two school boys whose lives were snuffed out mercilessly.
But a more nuanced pall necessarily now hangs over the death of the British war hero whom Prince Charles had recalled on his reconciliatory visit to Mullaghmore in 2015 as "the grandfather I never had".
"Through this dreadful experience, though, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands, of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition," Prince Charles had said.
If the visit by the British royal in 2015 helped shed light upon the fact that nothing about the conflict is black and white, then these recent claims about Lord Mountbatten perhaps go even further to break down whatever distinctions remained.