Brendan Hughes’ gritty memoir charts his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Provisional IRA in the early 1970s as it transformed into one of the most sophisticated guerrilla movements in the world.
With all the ingredients of a fast-paced thriller, Hughes reveals how a secret IRA unit planned and executed the celebrated helicopter escape from Mountjoy Jail in 1973 and carried out a series of audacious fundraising bank raids in the Republic. For the first time, he also tells the inside story of how the IRA planned its mass breakout from Portlaoise Prison in 1974.
After his relationship with the IRA leadership turned sour, the organisation set out to execute him.
For almost half a century he has been written out of modern Irish republican history.
A gripping read in four parts
The Early Years
‘Our demands weren’t ridiculous: an end to gerrymandering, equal voting rights, and fair access to public housing. Then the British Army arrived to protect the system that kept us down. This just confirmed my belief that the only way we would ever get change was by armed resistance. I had had more than enough. We tried politics and the State beat us off the streets. I don’t recall any fear or doubt. I hated them. I couldn’t wait to get going.’
The Helicopter Job
[J.B.] O’Hagan later recalled a screw running towards them, intending to hurl a concrete block at the helicopter. ‘He didn’t get far,’ he said. ‘The escape team in the yard blocked him off. I held onto the inside door handle. It wasn’t properly closed, and I was afraid Seamus [Twomey] might fall out. We were rising now. We couldn’t hear the cheers below for the noise of the helicopter, but you could see the men jumping up and down and striking the air with their fists.’
The Portlaoise Jailbreak
‘I took the charge and hung it on the handle. I primed and lit it and sprinted to join the others in the shelter of the governor’s house. Seconds later, the explosion could be heard all over the town. I put my head around the corner, the door had completely vanished, not even a splinter remained. We had cleared a path and the only thing between us and freedom was a rusty chain link fence. It took us only seconds to tear it down and we scampered across the gardens of the houses that backed up against the outside wall. A cacophony of barking dogs punctured the eerie silence.’
‘Years later, at a funeral, I met one of the men who had been sent to execute me. ‘You were lucky that you never found me,’ I told him. ‘You would have been staring down the barrel of a .44 Magnum and gone home in a box.’ He agreed that he had been extremely fortunate.
My time in prison began courtesy of the helicopter escape but those who benefited most ensured that I became an outcast – and this extended to my family. Those who don’t understand loyalty will never understand the hurt of betrayal.’
The rise and fall of an IRA commander
Douglas Dalby has written extensively for national and international print media, including The New York Times, Agence France Presse, The Sunday Times (Ireland) and The Irish Times.
He is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, Illinois, USA. He is now based in Co Kerry, Ireland.
Donut chocolate bar cake gummies sweet tart cookie macaroon caramels. Candy canes bear claw cotton candy tootsie roll danish jelly. Tart topping chocolate bar sweet roll. Jelly beans jelly beans sweet roll. Gummies cupcake dessert sweet roll sesame snaps marshmallow. Topping marzipan candy cheesecake candy cupcake caramels.
<div class="Testimonial" data-dot="02“>
Halvah bonbon sweet tart marzipan gingerbread gummi bears chocolate cookie. Carrot cake cheesecake cotton candy cookie. Pie pudding toffee macaroon bear claw jelly beans jujubes brownie croissant. Bonbon brownie lemon drops lemon drops sweet marshmallow liquorice. Tart lemon drops carrot cake. Marzipan gingerbread biscuit gummi bears croissant biscuit.
<div class="Testimonial" data-dot="03“>
Pudding croissant cake candy canes fruitcake sweet roll pastry gummies sugar plum. Tart pastry danish soufflé donut bear claw chocolate cake marshmallow chupa chups. Jelly danish gummi bears cake donut powder chocolate cake. Jelly-o caramels cookie marshmallow gingerbread. Sesame snaps lemon drops pie. Bonbon soufflé lollipop biscuit dragée jelly-o. Wafer pastry pudding tiramisu chocolate bar croissant cake. Pie caramels gummies danish.
<div class="Testimonial" data-dot="04“>
Wafer pastry pudding tiramisu chocolate bar croissant cake. Pie caramels gummies danish. Pudding croissant cake candy canes fruitcake sweet roll pastry gummies sugar plum. Tart pastry danish soufflé donut bear claw chocolate cake marshmallow chupa chups. Jelly danish gummi bears cake donut powder chocolate cake. Jelly-o caramels cookie marshmallow gingerbread. Sesame snaps lemon drops pie. Bonbon soufflé lollipop biscuit dragée jelly-o.