By Ray O’Hanlon
It’s been 11 years since Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Danny McCann met their end at the hands of the British Special Air Services. In the years immediately after the killing of the three IRA members in Gibraltar, there would be much argument and investigation, accusation and denial. The story is not over yet. The latest twist to "Death on the Rock" comes via sometimes controversial County Wicklow-based author Gordon Thomas. In his latest book, "Gideon’s Spies," Thomas writes that four months before the Gibraltar shooting, the Isr’li secret intelligence service, Mossad, placed the IRA trio under surveillance on the basis of its belief that they were making contact with Arab arms on behalf of the Provos.
"Mossad’s close interest in the activities of the IRA went back to the time when the Thatcher government had, in utmost secrecy, brought [Mossad head] Rafi Eitan to Belfast to brief the security forces on the developing links between the Irish terror groups and the Hezbollah," Thomas writes.
According to Thomas, the Mossad and SAS became close after this visit. On at least one occasion "a joint Mossad-SAS unit trailed several high-ranking IRA men from Belfast to Beirut and photographed them in meetings with Hezbollah leaders."
Apparently there was a good deal less cooperation between Mossad and Dublin. Thomas writes that one Mossad officer believed that the strained relations between Ireland and Isr’l stemmed from the presence of Irish peacekeeping troops in South Lebanon.
However, the Mossad did tip Dublin off on several occasions, via the British, about arms shipments. The biggest favor may well have been the stopping of the arms ship Eksund.
Writes Thomas: "In October 1987, Mossad agents tracked the tramp steamer Eksund as it made its way through the Mediterranean with 120 tons of arms, including surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machine guns, explosives and detonators. All had been purchased through IRA contacts in Beirut. The Eksund was intercepted by the French authorities."
But back to Gibraltar. The IRA trio were being tracked by Spain’s International Terrorism Unit. According to Thomas, the Spaniards were newcomers to the game and lost track of the three. It was Mossad that picked them up again. As Farrell, McCann and Savage headed for Gibraltar they were, according to Thomas, being tracked by two Mossad agents. The Mossad team alerted the Spaniards, who in turn contacted the British in Gibraltar. When the IRA team arrived on the rock, the SAS was waiting. Against the combined efforts of three agencies — one that many believe to be the world’s best spy agency, another the world’s most lethal military unit — the IRA team had no chance. "They were executed," Thomas writes.
The magnificent 11
If you leave out party press spokesman Richard McAuley, who is not a designated speaker in his own right, and Rita O’Hare, who is based in the U.S., Sinn Féin is sending 11 members of its front line leadership to cover the U.S. over the St. Patrick’s Day period. And "cover" is the word for it. Close to 40 cities have been lined up for fund-raising and speech making by the party’s leading lights, headed by G.A., Gerry Adams. By coincidence, 11 is also the press time total of Irish government cabinet members flying this way in the next few days. The ministers will be headed by B.A., Bertie Ahern. Is "IF" alone in thinking that Sinn Féin is already beginning to take on the style and trappings of a government?
"IF" has this from a most reliable source. A recent transAtlantic phone conversation between a high-ranking Northern Ireland public servant and an individual on this side of the pond centered on the Patten Commission and its work on reform of the RUC. At one point, the person at the Irish end made mention of commission member Kathleen O’Toole from Massachusetts. Only the individual did not say "Kathleen O’Toole." He said, "Catholic O’Toole." They never forget, do they?
Cork’s still waiting
The Cork Association’s beef with the New York parade committee over the line of March being denied the Irish weeklies was made clear in a letter sent to committee chairman John Dunleavy. The rebels are not happy with the line being published in the New York Post. They describe the tabloid as being "a questionable choice at best, considering its ownership and its numerous Anti-Irish/Anti-Catholic stances in the recent past."
And they continue in part: "Our membership, which is comprised of both Catholics and Protestants, express great concern that the omission of the Irish American weeklies deprives many the opportunity to read the Line of March."
The Cork letter concludes by expressing the hope that the sentiments expressed in it do not go unheeded by the parade committee. The letter is dated Feb. 12. As of press time this week, there has been no reply from the committee.
Reader Peggy Joyce sent in a cutting from the Bronx Times Reporter. The story, in the Feb. 18-24 issue, concerns the efforts by Pat and Gus Sarti in the case of their son Michael, who was beaten to death a few yards away from the 1997 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Sartis have instituted a wrongful death suit in Bronx Supreme Court. Joyce, however, was angered by the headline over the story: "Sartis sue parade thugs." The headline, she says, would have people believe that the thugs who attacked Michael Sarti were somehow connected to the parade. They were not, of course, and Joyce is quite correct in pointing this out.
Dusty Springfield bid us adieu last week. The 1960s pop icon was not born Dusty Springfield of course. She arrived in the world as Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien. Born in London, Mary O’Brien was the child of Irish parents and most definitely, in her own view, Irish. On the "Ed Sullivan Show" in November 1968, Dusty/Mary sang and chatted with the coolest square ever to inhabit the tube.
"What is your real name," Sullivan asked.
Out came the reply.
"You’re an Irishman," Sullivan responded.
"No, an Irish girl, I think," replied the singer.
Sullivan, a little behind the times perhaps, quickly made up for his sexist slip and concluded by expressing the hope that he and Mary O’Brien could someday get together in the "Hibernian parade.&qu