Wednesday 23 October 2019

Paul Williams: 'Soft-spoken psychopath who tried to convince the world he had become a pacifist after reading about Gandhi'

Dessie O’Hare in the 1980s, when he was at the height of his terror rampage around the Border area
Dessie O’Hare in the 1980s, when he was at the height of his terror rampage around the Border area
Paul Williams

Paul Williams

When Dessie O'Hare was released in 2008 after serving half of a 40-year prison sentence for the kidnap and malicious wounding of a Dublin dentist, the country's most notorious terrorist tried to convince the world that he stopped his evil ways and turned to God. To prove his Damascene conversion, he spent a weekend meditating in the Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Centre while on temporary release.

During another period of temporary release in 2008, he went with his wife on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.

But those who knew the baby-faced psychopath best knew that it was purely a ruse and that he would be up to his old tricks in no time.

To the innocent observer, O'Hare presents as soft-spoken and inoffensive, yet the Border Fox was one of the most notoriously violent and dangerous terrorists to emerge during the Troubles. He is believed to have been responsible for a string of murders.

He led a gang of like-minded thugs on a crime and terror spree along the Border carrying out armed robberies and sectarian shootings.

On several occasions, the gang opened fire on gardaí and also exchanged fire with the Irish Army.

The Border Fox robbed weapons from a Provo arms dump in south Armagh and attempted to murder Unionist MP Jim Nicholson.


The Provos were concerned that his erratic and unpredictable behaviour was jeopardising their own operations in the Border area and they warned the INLA leadership that O'Hare would be shot if they didn't rein him in.

Born in Co Armagh in 1958, he was a member of the IRA by the age of 16 and quickly acquired a reputation as a ruthless and fearless killer.

In 1979 he joined the INLA but was arrested by gardaí south of the Border after he and an associate had been chased by the RUC. He was convicted of possession of a firearm and sentenced to nine years in Portlaoise prison where he was described as a loner and general oddball.

When he was released in October 1986, O'Hare told gardaí that he had become a pacifist after studying the works of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Owen Sheehy Skeffington. But his pacifism did not last long.

On New Year's Eve 1986, he shot and wounded a Protestant neighbour, who was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).

The shooting target's 72-year-old mother was shot dead in the attack.

At the same time, O'Hare became involved in a bloody internal feud which claimed several lives.

In February 1987, O'Hare abducted Tony McCloskey, a member of the Army Council Faction and used bolt cutters to cut off McCloskey's ear and some of his fingers.

Then he and a female companion took turns pumping bullets into McCloskey's mutilated body. O'Hare later told the 'Sunday Tribune' that he was happy to give McCloskey a hard death.

In the bloodshed that followed, O'Hare was blamed for killing another three members of the Army Council faction.

Shortly after the McCloskey incident, and attracting the ire of the Provos, O'Hare was expelled from the criminal organisation.

It was then that he plotted the kidnapping of Dublin dentist John O'Grady.

While demanding a ransom of IR£1.5m, O'Hare chopped off the dentist's two little fingers which he then left in an envelope for his victim's family behind a statue in Carlow cathedral.

After he was sentenced to 40 years for those crimes in the Special Criminal Court, O'Hare made a bizarre speech from the dock in which he declared: "The time has come for republican freedom fighters to turn their guns on members of the Irish establishment, particularly the judiciary, members of the prison service, the Navy, the Army and the gardaí."

Irish Independent

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