Dessie O'Hare

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Dessie O'Hare
Nickname(s) The Border Fox
Born (1956-10-26) 26 October 1956 (age 57)
Keady, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Allegiance Provisional Irish Republican Army
Irish National Liberation Army
Years of service c.1972 – 2002
Rank Volunteer
Unit South Armagh Brigade
Battles/wars The Troubles

Dessie O'Hare (born 26 October 1956[1]), also known as "The Border Fox", is an Irish republican paramilitary, and at one time , who was once the most wanted man in Ireland.[2]

O'Hare was originally a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) but left in the late 1970s following a series of disciplinary clashes.[3] He later joined the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).[4] After kidnapping a Dublin dentist and cutting off two of his fingers in 1987 he was imprisoned until 2006, when he was granted extended temporary release.[2]

Early life[edit]

O'Hare was born in Keady, County Armagh, Northern Ireland into a family with a strong republican background.[5] His grandmother was imprisoned for six months in Holloway Gaol for "keeping republicans", and his father and six of his uncles were interned between 1940 and 1944.[1]

IRA activities[edit]

O'Hare joined the South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional IRA at the age of 16, and was part of a unit that targeted off-duty members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). His colleagues nicknamed him "The Border Fox" following his escape from a number of shootouts with the Garda Síochána and the RUC. In 1975, he was convicted for the first time for possession of explosives, and received a suspended sentence.[3] On 8 October 1977, O'Hare and his unit killed Margaret Ann Hearst, a female part-time member of the UDR, in front of her three-year old daughter, in Tynan, County Armagh. Her father, Ross Hearst, was murdered three years later. The RUC and Gardaí linked O'Hare to a series of killings and attacks, including the attempted murder of Ulster Unionist Party politician Jim Nicholson.[4] He left the IRA in the late 1970s and joined the Irish National Liberation Army.

Arrest and first prison sentence[edit]

In August 1978 O'Hare was arrested following the attempted murder of a British Army officer, who was shot at his wedding reception in County Meath. In 1979 O'Hare was shot twice, and the Gardaí arrested him after a car chase through County Monaghan. The chase ended when O'Hare crashed his car through a herd of cattle and into a farmer's car, before coming to rest in a field. He broke both ankles in the crash; his companion in the car died.[4][6] At his trial in 1980 he was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for possession of a firearm; he was released in 1986.[3]

INLA feud[edit]

Upon his release, O'Hare found that the INLA had split into hostile armed factions, one calling itself the Irish People's Liberation Organisation, the other going by the 'INLA GHQ'. The IPLO assassinated INLA leaders Ta Power and John O'Reilly and in revenge, O'Hare is accused of the killing of Tony McCloskey, an IPLO associate who had allegedly tipped them off as to O'Reilly and Power's whereabouts. McCloskey was abducted from his home in County Monaghan on 6 February 1987. His ear and finger were cut off with a bolt cutter before he was eventually shot and his body dumped in a rural part of the same county. O'Hare is alleged to have been behind the abduction and killing.[7] Seven INLA members died in the feud.

Kidnapping and second imprisonment[edit]

Such was the disarray of the INLA after this internecine feuding that O'Hare broke away from the remaining INLA leadership in Belfast and set up his own group, the Irish Revolutionary Brigade, which operated in the border region out of Castleblayney. It was described as having "a handful" of members.[7]

In 1987 O'Hare and three other INLA members kidnapped John O'Grady, a dentist from Dublin, and demanded a IR£1.5m ransom.[3] The gang had intended to seize Austin Darragh, owner of the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, but Darragh had moved three years previously from the house, which was occupied by O'Grady, his son-in-law.[8] He was initially held in a Dublin basement before being moved to Cork, where he was held in a cargo container. Gardai happened on the site, but O'Hare and his gang escaped after opening fire and getting away in a hijacked car. The car was later found burnt out in Dundalk, but O'Hare had moved his captive to a house in Cabra, North Dublin. After ransom demands were not met O'Hare cut off the little finger from each of O'Grady's hands with a hammer and chisel and sent them to Carlow Cathedral.[9] In a telephone call to the Gardaí O'Hare stated:

It's just cost John two of his fingers. Now I'm going to chop him into bits and pieces and send fresh lumps of him every fucking day if I don't get my money fast.[8]

Garda detectives traced the gang to the Cabra house and a shootout ensued. A Garda detective was seriously wounded and O'Grady was rescued but O'Hare and his gang escaped. O'Hare became the most wanted man in Ireland with the Gardaí offering a IR£100,000 reward for information on his whereabouts. He surfaced in Dunleer, County Louth, where he allegedly fired shots into a takeaway during an altercation with his wife. Two of the gang were arrested near Cahir, County Tipperary. Three weeks later on 27 November O'Hare was arrested after his car drove through an Irish Defence Forces check point in Urlingford, County Kilkenny. O'Hare was shot eight times during the arrest which was effected after a fire-fight, and the driver of the car, Martin Bryan, was killed. An Irish Army soldier was wounded in the affray.[6][8]

At his trial at the Special Criminal Court, O'Hare was convicted of false imprisonment, wounding with intent and possession of firearms, and received a 40-year sentence.[10] He was sent to the maximum security Portlaoise Prison, where he was isolated by former IRA and INLA associates who accused him of bringing republicanism into disrepute. In December 1987, the INLA's political wing issued a statement disassociating themselves from the kidnapping and stating that O'Hare, "is not a member of the INLA".[7] In the early 1990s he undertook a vow of silence and did not speak for six years. He also staged a dirty protest and re-joined the INLA wing of the prison in 1998, following the Good Friday Agreement.[11] By 2001 he had become commander of the INLA inmates held there.[9]

Attempts at securing release[edit]

In 2000 O'Hare requested a judicial review, stating that he should have been released under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.[12] On 6 April 2001 the High Court reserved judgement on the case pending information from the Department of Justice.[13] On 8 December 2002, O'Hare was transferred to Castlerea Prison in preparation for his release, and a week later issued a statement that "[his] war was over".[14] The Irish Republican Socialist Party (the political wing of the INLA) mounted a campaign for his release, stating, "Dessie's "crime", if 'crime' it was, was to be an active Republican."[15]

O'Hare was first granted temporary release from prison in November 2003 when he attended a weekend long course on conflict resolution in Glencree, and he was granted further periods of temporary release in November 2004 and March 2005.[5][16][17] In November 2005 he was returned to Portlaoise Prison after he was caught with a mobile phone and a bag of pills when returning to Castlerea from temporary release, which jeopardised his chance of release on licence.[18]

O'Hare launched a new High Court bid for freedom in April 2006, and was granted extended temporary release.[19] He returned to Northern Ireland, and was believed to be living in Newtownhamilton in South Armagh.[20] The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) issued a statement that O'Hare will not be arrested on suspicion of involvement in up to 30 unsolved killings as the alleged offences predate the Good Friday Agreement. However, investigations have not been ruled out by the Historical Enquiries Team, which has been assigned to probe all unsolved killings during the Troubles.[21]

Alleged links to crime[edit]

In December 2006 drug-dealer Martin "Marlo" Hyland was shot dead at his Dublin home, along with a plumber called Anthony Campbell who was working there. Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern stated in the Dáil Éireann that a "significant former paramilitary" had been in the company of Hyland during the summer. The Irish Independent reported that this referred to O'Hare.[22] O'Hare's spokesman, Eddie McGarrigle of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, denied O'Hare had any involvement with the killings stating that he was working with handicapped people and a charity, and had been an assistant to a group of pilgrims on a trip to Lourdes. McGarrigle's statement was supported by the Gardaí, who said there was no evidence to link O'Hare to the shootings.[2]

In December 2012, O'Hare served as one of the pall bearers and chief mourners at the funeral of Eamon Kelly, a leading Dublin crime boss assassinated by members of the Real IRA in revenge for the September 2012 killing of RIRA leader Alan Ryan. O'Hare was reputed to have been a drinking buddy of Kelly, whom he had befriended when both were serving time in Portlaoise Prison.[23]

Beliefs[edit]

In 1987 O'Hare told a journalist he was only interested in "the bomb and the bullet" and did not believe in politics, and confessed to murdering 26 people. Garda and prison officers describe him as a psychotic killer who can be charming and manipulative, and say he is an exceptional risk.[4] During his time in Portlaoise Prison, O'Hare became a student of anthropology, psychology, metaphysics, yoga and tai-chi, stating that he had found a "divine force" and gained with "this esoteric knowledge, a newer and better understanding of everything. Some fellow prisoners – and even a few jailers – have remarked that I've changed."[9]

In a 2001 interview, he stated that he had no regrets about his paramilitary career. He said of the O'Grady kidnapping:

"It was a fundraising operation that failed. I haven't taken it personal [sic] what happened to me as a result of it, and I hope that those on the other side haven't taken it personal what happened to them. In fact, John was a totally innocent victim in that operation and I think he understood that too."[11] ... "Anyone who questions the legitimacy of a just war obviously isn't a true soldier and has no place in a revolutionary army", he says. He has described himself as a republican socialist and cited influence from Marxism and Christianity, justifying his actions as "War brings circumstances with it that changes our normal concepts of morality. It's a tough, dirty business, caused in the first instance by the filth of corruption." Through imprisonment he says he has developed an identification with the plight of the disabled and participated in fund-raising events for them.[9]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Who is Dessie O'Hare?". Irish Republican Socialist Party. Archived from the original on 20 August 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Maeve Sheehan (24 December 2006). "Border Fox still at large despite fears". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 8 March 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c d Cormac O'Keeffe (10 December 2002). "Notorious Des O'Hare to leave jail". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 7 March 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Is Dessie getting like a fox again?". Sunday Independent. 15 December 2002. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  5. ^ a b "O'Hare on temporary release from Castlerea". RTÉ. 25 March 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  6. ^ a b Mairead Carey. "'Border Fox' Preps for Freedom". Irish Abroad. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  7. ^ a b c Jack Holland & Henry McDonald. INLA, Deadly Divisions (1994); ISBN 1-898142-05-X, pp. 290-91, 305
  8. ^ a b c "Outfoxed in a hail of bullets". Irish Independent. 14 December 2002. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c d Barry O'Kelly (11 March 2001). "O'Hare regrets nothing and seeks release". The Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  10. ^ Andrew Bushe (8 December 2002). "Jailed terrorist boss Border Fox may swap bars for four walls". Sunday Mirror. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  11. ^ a b [1]
  12. ^ ""Border Fox" granted leave to seek judicial review of imprisonment". RTÉ. 25 September 2000. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  13. ^ "High Court reserves judgement on O'Hare release application". RTÉ. 6 April 2001. Retrieved 8 March 2007. 
  14. ^ "O'Hare makes first statement following jail move". RTÉ. 16 December 2002. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2007. 
  15. ^ http://irsm.org/irsp/free_dessie/background.html
  16. ^ "No decision on O'Hare's release: McDowell". RTÉ. 3 November 2003. Retrieved 8 March 2007. 
  17. ^ "'Border Fox' granted temporary release". RTÉ. 19 November 2004. Retrieved 8 March 2007. 
  18. ^ "O'Hare transferred to Portlaoise prison". RTÉ. 17 November 2005. Retrieved 8 March 2007. 
  19. ^ "O'Hare granted release extension". RTÉ. 27 April 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  20. ^ "Victims' group leader questioned". BBC News. 30 April 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  21. ^ "Victims' anger over police decision on O'Hare". Belfast Today. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  22. ^ Senan Molony & Geraldine Collins (14 December 2006). "Drugs gang murders to top agenda in election". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 9 March 2007. 
  23. ^ Alan O'Keeffe and Ken Foy (13 December 2012). "'Border Fox' at funeral of slain gang boss Kelly". Herald.ie. Retrieved 14 December 2012.