Sunday 22 September 2019

Herrema kidnapping threatened economy

Jim Cusack

EDDIE Gallagher, who criticised the Sunday Independent on RTE's Liveline programme, not only held Dr Tiede Herrema hostage and threatened his life, his crime also threatened the economic well-being of this state.

Gallagher threatened to murder Dr Herrema if the government did not release three fellow IRA members from Mountjoy Prison. As he indicated on Duffy's programme, he remains unrepentant about his crime.

The kidnapping of the head of one of the most important foreign-owned companies, Ferenka, in Limerick, almost ruined Ireland's inward investment programme for years afterwards.

The crime - momentarily - placed Ireland in the league of poor, high-crime countries where the safety of foreign business executives could not be guaranteed.

Dr Garret FitzGerald said recently that if the kidnapping had not been successfully resolved, with the chief executive of the Dutch-owned company freed and Gallagher and his accomplice Marian Coyle captured by gardai, Ireland's industrial development could have been badly damaged. Dr FitzGerald also pointed out that the then government and their families were under threat from the IRA at the time.

The threat that Gallagher made not only to Dr Herrema - who later forgave his kidnappers - but to the economic growth of Ireland was reflected in the sentences meted out to Gallagher and Coyle. Gallagher was given a 25-year jail term and Coyle20 years. Gallagher served14 years and Coyle nine. Dr Herrema, who recently gave his diaries of his time in Ireland, including his time in captivity, to the University of Limerick, was held captive for 36 days.

Gallagher had at that stage left the IRA because of hisleft-wing leanings and gardai quickly received information from the IRA leadership that he and Coyle were the kidnappers of Dr Herrema.

The gang was tracked to a house in the village of Monasterevin, where a 10-day stand-off ensued before a surrender was negotiated and Dr Herrema freed.

Gallagher complained to the listeners of Liveline on Tuesday that he had been treated unfairly by the Sunday Independent after his imprisonment, saying that stories connecting him to the murder of members of the security forces in the North had endangered the lives of his family in Donegal.

Gallagher was originally from a respectable family in Ballybofey and was recruited into the IRA by a northerner who was on the run in Donegal at the time.

Eddie Gallagher was arrested with Rose Dugdale in 1974 after they had hijacked a helicopter and tried to drop milk churns containing explosive on the RUC station in Strabane.

The pair, with two other IRA men, had hijacked the crew of the helicopter, which was used at the time to reach islands off the Donegal coast, after the crew left alocal hotel.

Gallagher escaped conviction but Dugdale, who had converted him to communism and was in a relationship with him, was sentenced to jail. Gallagher decided on the kidnapping of Dr Herrema in order to force her release. Marian Coyle joined in the crime because she wanted her IRA boyfriend, Kevin Mallon, released.

The then coalition government headed by Liam Cosgrave refused to capitulate to Gallagher's demands, even though at one stage Gallagher held a gun to his hostage's head and threatened to blow his brains out.

Gardai involved in the arrest of Gallagher recall there was very great concern that he would kill his hostage. "He was vicious. We knew him very well and knew he would shoot you as soon as look at you," one retired officer recalled. "There was very serious concern at the start that he had killed Herrema. It was only when we tracked them [to Monasterevin] that we found out he was still alive."

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