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ACM Home arrow Convenor's Column arrow Murder of young Australians by Irish Republican Army

Murder of young Australians by Irish Republican Army Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 09 September 2010

The investigation by Ross Coulthart  on Channel 7 on Sunday 5 September into the 1990 murder of two young Australians  by Irish Republican Army  gunmen recalls the role of the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in the 1999 republican referendum. The two, Nick Spanos and Stephen Melrose were gunned down while photographing a heritage buiding in the Town Square in Roermond in The Netherlands.

When Gerry Adams subsequently came to Australia, he called on Australians to vote "Yes"  in the referendum.

Image
[ Flowers mark the spot where the IRA gunned down the two young Australians]

This was the only intervention of note by any foreigner in the campaign.

We invited the ARM to denounce Adams' intervention. To this day we are not aware of any such  denunciation. 

One of the ARM themes was against a "foreign" monarch.  This is baseless, and legally wrong, but it was repeated over and over. In any event The Queen did not campaign and indicated clearly she would not.  Nor did any member of our Royal Family. The decision, Her Majesty said, was one for the Australian people. As usual Her Majesty behaved impeccably.  

But in tacitly accepting the support of a foreigner intimately associated with a terrorist campaign the vicitms of which included  Australians,  the standing of  ARM was seriouly damaged in the eyes of many Australians.


 



...IRA "apology"...


  

The Irish Republican Army's excuse for murdering the two Australians was that they believed they were British soldiers. The Irish Republican Army subsequently apologised, but they neither named nor offered to hand over the murderers. The then Prime Minister, Mr Bob Hawke, contemptuously rejected the apology.

Channel 7 unsuccessfully tried to interview a woman believed to be  one of the hit squad. The woman, Donna Maguire and three accomplices had been acquitted by a Netherlands court on a legal technicality in 1990.

The investigation reported that British intelligence was aware there were Irish Republican Army hit squads operating in the Netherlands and Germany. It would be surprising if they were not. 

The Channel 7 investigation then suggested  the British could have stopped the murder of the Australians. This argument assumes the British knew the hit squad believed the Australians were British soldiers. Or that the British could kidnap or shoot all suspected terrorists in the Netherlands and Germany. Both assumptions are obviously untenable. 


Image
[ The family of Stephen Melrose visit Roermond]


Donna Maquire was gaoled in 1995 for nine years by a German court for the attempted murder of five soldiers in a failed bomb attack on Quebec Barracks in Osnabruck six years earlier and of spying on Army installations as part of an IRA active service unit.

 
The programme showed how the families of the two Australians remain terribly affected by the murders.



...another murder... 




Image
[ Lord Mountbatten ]

 


This tragedy also recalled the murder by the Irish Republican Army of Lord Mountbatten in 1979. Late last year, Mary Bowers in The Times late last year (30 December, 2009) reported that an official  telegram on this released in London under the 30-year rule.

This revealed that the Irish Republican Army Bomb  that killed Earl Mountbatten of Burma was planted after police efforts to guard him had been cut back. 

Lord Mountbatten was the Duke of Edinburgh’s uncle. (The Duke's  mother,Princess Alice of Battenberg was Lord Mountbatten's sister.)

Lord Mounbatten was World War II Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia  and the last Viceroy of India. he was killed in an explosion on his holiday boat, the Shadow V, after the Irish Republican Army terrorist Thomas McMahon planted a bomb on board.

It was the first time that the boat had not been searched before the family boarded.
Lord Mountbatten’s grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, 14, and Paul Maxwell, 15, a boat boy, also died.  His eldest daughter’s mother-in-law, Baroness Brabourne, 82, died of her injuries the next day.

The Garda Síochána had been responsible for keeping watch on Lord Mountbatten’s Classibawn Castle in Co Sligo, about 12 miles from the Northern Ireland border, during his month-long annual holiday.



...the telegram ...


            [To read more, including Gerry Adam's callous comment on the murder of Lord Mounbatten, click on "Read more" below ]

The telegram which was only released last year was from from Robin Haydon, the British Ambassador in Dublin, to Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary. It  revealed that Lord Mountbatten’s daughter, Lady Pamela Hicks, had told him that 1979 had been the first year that the boat was not under guard or searched for devices before the family went aboard.  

 “In the absence of an official report, it would be unwise to go into detail, but I must say I find it extraordinary that the boat was apparently not searched by the Garda before it sailed,” he said.

“It is even more extraordinary that, to my knowledge, no questions have been asked by the Irish media about the level and adequacy of Garda security for the Mountbatten family.”

He also criticised Jack Lynch, the Irish Prime Minister, who had refused to return from his holiday in Portugal to deal with the aftermath of the incident.

“The Taoiseach’s ( Prime Minister’s) explanation, that he kept in close touch with the situation and issued instructions from Portugal about what was to be done, did not carry conviction and showed remarkable insensitivity to the need for a political leader in a crisis not only to take action but to be seen taking it.”





...Mountbatten popular in Ireland...



The telegram reveals that Lord Mountbatten was popular among the Irish public, who “liked and respected” him and in turn blamed the Garda.

“For those men and women the horror of what happened was and still is very real and their shame is genuine. The more so because they must share in the doubts which we in this embassy have that, had the Garda Síochána been more vigilant and conscientious, the murders might not have happened,” he said.

Haydon said he had received many messages of condolence from the Irish public.

“There has been not one letter that in any way seeks to justify the crimes or to mitigate their horror. In any other country, that last sentence would probably be unnecessary: here, it has to be said because the Irish have a remarkable capacity for blaming others, especially the British, for their own failings and inadequacies.” 

Thousands lined the route from Wellington Barracks to Westminster Abbey nine days later for Lord Mountbatten’s state funeral. McMahon was jailed for life the following November. McMahon was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder on 23 November 1979.



...Gerry Adams comments...



Gerry Adams callously said this about Lord  Mountbatten's muder:

The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution. I think it is unfortunate that anyone has to be killed, but the furore created by Mountbatten's death showed up the hypocritical attitude of the media establishment.

As a member of the House of Lords, Mountbatten was an emotional figure in both British and Irish politics. What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; and with his war record I don't think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation. He knew the danger involved in coming to this country.

In my opinion, the IRA achieved its objective: people started paying attention to what was happening in Ireland.
 


 

 
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