While I was growing up and well into my early years of adulthood the Irish Republican Army’s attempt to break the bond of Northern Ireland with Great Britain and English control was legendary. The news was continually documenting bombings, fights between the IRA and British troops and atrocities. Eventually this conflict ended and peace has returned to Ireland. When you live in a foreign country there is always a different perspective that is presented in the press and when actual lives are affected and you hear true stories the news broadcasts take on a different meaning. I was fortunate to have heard two different stories about the IRA that affected people I worked with in Saudi Arabia. This is one of them.
There was an individual that was working as a contractor on one of our offshore projects in Zuluf Field. He came in to Dhahran one day and his friend introduced me to him. He was not the typical offshore construction hand and seemed a little out of place with the traditional view of the Middle East construction man. After he left the office our mutual friend told a very interesting story about the man’s life and it sounded almost like it came from an Ian Fleming novel.
The man was raised in a very well to do family. His father was in executive management with one of the larger chemical companies in the world. He had a very comfortable life and lived life to the fullest and was very well educated. Much of our lives have pre-set points in them when fate steps in and offers opportunities. The way we embrace these opportunities help to mold our lives and our life’s legacy. This man is living proof of how a normal American faced with normal life decisions is thrust into a world of dynamic politics and stories of adventure.
He had met his wife while in Ireland. It is lost whether he was working or visiting but one thing is certain, he fell madly in love and became devoted to the woman that he later married. There was one problem, her brother despised him. Her brother was devoted to Northern Ireland independence and American backed England in its’ claim to control over Ireland and the man was American so Americans were not welcome into the family.
The man’s wife became pregnant and in a shattering personal event, she died in child birth. The child was sent to her sisters to be raised. Even though the man sent money to raise the child, the wife’s brother was even more angered. When visiting his child the brother confronted the American. The IRA had a method of treating spies within their own organization. They would “knee cap” the individual using a sledge hammer to crush the knee cap of the victim. This was done to our American. Fortunately it was not known that he had a plastic knee cap, compliments of a motorcycle accident when a youth.
Then the British government wanted to know why he was financially supporting the IRA by sending money to the sister of an officer in the IRA. The money was actually money going for the support of his child. Now he was being viewed as a supporter of the IRA by the British Government and a supporter of the British Government by the IRA by virtue of his American citizenship. Then the whole world was rocked by the IRA.
Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s “Iron Lady” and Prime Mister had a conference in the Brighton Hotel in 1984. A sudden explosion targeting the prime minister killed five and wounded 31. Thatcher barely escaped but the man hunt was on. No stone would be unturned and the man identified as the master mind was our American friend’s brother-in-law. Soon after the explosion the state department with members of the British government visited the home of our friends aged mother and father. They showed pictures of our friend with his wife and a shoving match ensued as the pictures were attempted to be taken. Then the British government wanted to talk to our American in London. The U.S. consulate recommended he not travel to England and be interviewed on English soil. Our man thought it would be OK as he would explain everything and everything would be straightened out. Not a wise move.
Our friend traveled to London. As luck would have it his brother worked in London and was waiting for him at the airport. Our friend was taken off the plane through another exit, bypassed customs and the entry point at the airport and taken into custody. He was interrogated and his brother could not find where he was being kept. The man had no knowledge of any blast attempt and no knowledge of his supposed support of the IRA. During interrogation a large policeman slammed him into the wall and our friend kneed him in the groin thus ending that interrogation. He was then thrown into a general population cell with other prisoners and the announcement that he was an IRA sympathizer. This was not a good night for our friend as even English prisoners had no love for the IRA.
The next day our friend’s brother found him and arranged his release. He had been stripped so he put him in his overcoat, drove him to the English Channel and put him on the first ferry to France and told him not to come back. Soon after that, a warrant was issued for the man arrest. He was wanted for attacking a policeman during interrogation. Our friend never returned.
As for the bomber; he was arrested and sentenced to eight life sentences. While in prison he obtained his PHD and was released in the 90s as a part of the English – Northern Ireland reconciliation. As a sign of Christian forgiveness, Margaret Thatcher’s assistant forgave him for what he had done and hosted him at his own home.

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