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Obituary: Dr Tiede Herrema

Dutch factory boss was held to ransom by IRA pair for 35 days, writes Liam Collins

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Kidnap: Tiede Herrema and his wife, Elisabeth. Dr Herrema is holding up a bullet given to him by one of his kidnappers. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Kidnap: Tiede Herrema and his wife, Elisabeth. Dr Herrema is holding up a bullet given to him by one of his kidnappers. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Kidnap: Tiede Herrema and his wife, Elisabeth. Dr Herrema is holding up a bullet given to him by one of his kidnappers. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Tiede Herrema became the central figure in a tense 35-day kidnap drama after he was abducted by renegade IRA pair Eddie Gallagher and Marian Coyle.

The Dutch industrialist, who died at the age of 99, just a week after his wife Elisabeth (94), was flagged down at a bogus garda checkpoint after leaving his home in Castletroy, Co Limerick, on October 3, 1975. He was driving to the Ferenka plant in Limerick, where he managed a 1,200-strong workforce making steel cord for the Dutch multi-national Enka.

It was an enterprise bedevilled by strikes and unrest since opening in 1969. Critics maintained that Ferenka was run on "low wages and authoritative work practices" but whether this had anything to do with him being targeted for kidnapping was never established.

Despite extensive searches and garda and army checkpoints around the country, Dr Herrema disappeared for 17 days.

He was first held at a 'safe' house in Mountmellick, Co Laois. He would later say that his kidnappers were bundles of nervous energy, fighting and shouting at each other and waving their pistols around. "I had no sense of what they were fighting about, what they wanted," he said.

In a phone call to the Dutch Embassy in Dublin the kidnappers demanded the release of Gallagher's girlfriend, Oxford-educated debutante and IRA activist Rose Dugdale, Marian Coyle's boyfriend, Kevin Mallon, and another republican prisoner, James Hyland. They threatened to execute Herrema unless their demands were met.

The Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and Justice Minister, Paddy Cooney insisted there would be "no deals with terrorists". But the Dutch government appealed to them to "do what is necessary to spare his life" and his employers sent a former Dutch foreign minister to Ireland to try to act as a go-between.

A tape of Herrema speaking and the kidnappers threatening to cut off his foot if their demands were not met, was delivered to gardai by what they called the Irish Liberation Organisation.

A second tape, in which their demands changed to the payment of a £2m ransom and safe passage to the Middle East, was accompanied by a tape in which Herrema said: "My abductors will not give the Irish government the satisfaction of getting me back safe unless their demands are met."

Gardai then discovered the kidnappers and their hostage had moved into No 1410 St Evin's Park, Monasterevin, Co Kildare. A gun-battle erupted when the house was stormed on Tuesday, October 21.

Gallagher and Coyle grabbed Herrema and retreated to the upper-floor of the terraced house and an 18-day stand-off began.

A young Irish Press photographer, Cyril Byrne, managed to get into the attic of the house next door and noted down conversations between garda negotiators, the kidnappers and Herrema.

On November 7, three pistols were thrown from an upstairs window and Gallagher and Coyle surrendered after what was described as "prolonged dialogue" with Chief Superintendent Larry Wren.

Gallagher thought he was suffering from meningitis and after receiving medical attention the pair were arrested and taken to the Bridewell in Dublin.

Herrema refused to go to the Curragh Military Hospital and asked to be taken to the Dutch ambassador's residence. Ironically, on the way he passed the ambassador and staff who were rushing to the scene in Monasterevin. When he got to the residence in Foxrock, Dublin, the only person there to greet him was Dr Garret FitzGerald, then Foreign Affairs Minister.

"He walked in the door as if he had just returned from a brisk walk," FitzGerald told reporters. Herrema later said that Gallagher was "a nice person" but of Coyle he said: "I couldn't reach her."

Gallagher was sentenced to 20 years in jail. He and Rose Dugdale were married in Limerick prison in January 1978 with their three-year-old son Ruairi in attendance. Gallagher was released in 1990 and later ran a hostel in Donegal. Coyle was released in 1985.

Dugdale who had taken part in the 1974 IRA art raid on Sir Alfred Beit's Russborough House, remained a committed republican but supported the Good Friday Agreement and still lives in Dublin 2.

The Herremas, who said "Ireland has a special place in our hearts", were made honorary Irish citizens later in 1975.

Amid cutbacks by its owners and continuing industrial strife the Ferenka plant in Limerick closed in December 1977, after the Irish government declined to become involved in a £26m investment rescue.

The couple moved back to Arnhem in Holland, but re-visited Ireland on numerous occasions and he donated his papers to the University of Limerick in 2005.

On his last of his three visits to St Evin's Park in Monasterevin, Dr Herrema took his grandson to see the house that embedded his name in Irish history.

Sunday Independent