Thursday 24 January 2019

Ruthless gangster attempted to ship weapons to IRA

Former mob boss James
Former mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger is seen in a combination of booking mug photos released to Reuters. Photo: REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/U.S. Department of Justice
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Notorious gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger's Irish links ran deep - and not only due to his ancestry with one book on the mobster describing him as an IRA sympathiser.

Bulger grew up in the Irish heartland of South Boston in Massachusetts.

His mother was first generation Irish-American, while his father also had strong links.

The infamous mobster came to particular prominence just off Irish shores, when he orchestrated the American side of a massive gun-running plot to the IRA, which ultimately failed.

In 1984, some 160 weapons and 71,000 rounds of ammunition were sent across the Atlantic by Bulger and his notorious Winter Hill gang on the Valhalla trawler.

This was moved onto the Marita Ann fishing trawler and was destined to be picked up by the IRA.

However, while the transfer to the Marita Ann was successful, the fishing vessel was intercepted by the Irish Navy off the coast of Kerry, with three members aboard arrested and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment at Portlaoise Prison.

Among those convicted for the failed plot was current Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris.

In his book 'The Inside Story of the Boston Mob and the IRA', author Patrick Nee wrote that Bulger "loved being associated with the IRA and the cause of Irish freedom".


While he was on the run for 16 years between 1995 to 2011 there were a number of alleged sightings of Bulger in Ireland, with rumours circulating he had been in hiding here.

Scott Cooper, director of 'Black Mass' - the movie based on Bulger's life of crime which starred Johnny Depp - said in 2015 that Bulger "felt very strongly about his ties to Ireland".

He added that Bulger "wanted to help the IRA as much as he could".

Irish Independent

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