Gerard Tuite (born 1955) was a senior member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Upon his escape from Brixton prison during the Hunger Strike in the winter of 1980, he was declared the most wanted man in Britain. Following his capture, at 26 years of age, in the spring of 1982 he made Irish legal history by being the first Irish citizen charged with an offence committed in another country in a case which made international headlines. His prosecution in Ireland, for offences committed in Britain was a landmark one in international law.
Gerry Tuite was born into a staunchly republican family in Mountnugent County Cavan, near the border with County Meath. He was one of the nine sons and two daughters born to Michael Tuite, a small farmer, and Jane Dermody. Their wedding day on 30 September 1942 made national headlines in Ireland when the wedding party was stormed by the Garda Síochána. According to the family the Garda shot a traditional musician called Finnegan in the leg and this was followed by a gun battle reminiscent of the Irish Civil War. The Garda were seeking the bride's brother, Patrick Dermody, who was the commanding officer of the IRA's Eastern Command and was on the run at the time. By the end of the battle Patrick Dermody lay dead, and a Detective Garda, M.J. Walsh, died later in hospital.
Gerry Tuite attended Kilnacrott Abbey secondary school in Ballyjamesduff in Cavan. In 1982 a fellow student remembered him thus: 'The only thing remarkable about him in those days was that he was unremarkable. He was a very inoffensive person- a nice quiet fellow.' He was viewed locally as the one member of the family most likely to stay out of politics, and was better known as a motorcycle enthusiast. In his late teens he became a merchant sailor. Little is known about him from this point until 1978.
In that year, he was using the nom de guerre David Coyne and was believed to be a young businessman of German-Irish extraction when he met a nurse called Helen Griffiths at a party in London in the summer of 1978. Within a short time he had moved into Helen's flat in 144 Trafalgar Road, Greenwich. Helen's work allowed him much time in the flat on his own. Before the end of the year he was found guilty of possession of explosives with intent to endanger life. A sawn-off shotgun and Armalite rifle were also found at the flat. These and other items, including car keys and voice recordings, linked him to other bombings as well as the targeting of senior British Conservative and royal figures. According to J. Bowyer Bell, Tuite had also been involved in no less than eighteen bombing attacks in five British cities with Patrick Magee, the Brighton bomber, alone.
Tuite served his sentence in Brixton prison until 16 December 1980 when, in one of the most daring prison break-outs witnessed in Britain he escaped with two British inmates, one of whom was Jimmy Moody. Tuite and company escaped by tunnelling through walls of their cells in Brixton's top security remand wing and dropping into a yard where they used builders' planks and scaffolding piled up for repairs to scale the 15 ft perimeter wall. Coming during a major IRA hunger strike this proved to be an enormous boost to the morale of the movement, and consequently his escape was deemed to be a political emergency. Tuite's escape led the British police to immediately issue 16,500 posters of him under the heading "Terrorist Alert. This Man Must Be Caught." On 4 March 1982 Tuite was finally discovered, during a Special Branch raid on a flat in Drogheda, Ireland. He received ten years in prison. In July 1982 he made Irish legal history when he became the first man sentenced in the Republic of Ireland for offences committed in the United Kingdom. He was sentenced by the Special Criminal Court to 10 years imprisonment for possessing explosives in London.
- Rob Rodwell '27 Maze escapers still free' The Guardian, Monday 26 September 1983.
- 'Around the World; Ireland to Try Suspect For Offenses in Britain' The New York Times, 7 March 1982, (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05E4DB153BF934A35750C0A964948260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/T/Terrorism)
- Geoffrey S. Gilbert 'Terrorism and the Political Offence Exemption Reappraised', The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 4. (Oct. 1985), p. 719; The Guardian, 14 July 1982, p. 1; The Guardian, 3 May 1983, p.2 [Appeal]
- 'Quinlivan feared an unfair trial, says relative', The Irish Times Monday 18 July Monday 1991; "Irish Times Reporters", 'Quiet Heir to Legacy of Violence' The Irish Times, Wednesday 14 July 1982
- 'Quiet Heir to Legacy of Violence' The Irish Times, Wednesday 14 July 1982
- J. Bowyer Bell, The Secret Army: The IRA(Revised Third Edition, 1997), p. 551
- In his review of a biography of Moody, Anthony McIntyre who in December 1980 was an IRA prisoner, had this to say: 'When Gerard Tuite escaped in 1980 from Brixton prison it was a fillip for morale in the H Blocks. Seven men had passed the fifty-day stage of their hunger strike for political status and an end of some sort was imminent. Although Tuite was accompanied on the escape by two other remand prisoners, for the population of the H-Blocks Tuite's was the only name we cared for. He was the sole IRA escapee. The names of the other two men meant absolutely nothing to us. So concerned were we in the contentious crucible of the prison to assert our distinctive political motivation some in our number even wondered what Tuite was doing escaping alongside hoods. Most just envied him and hoped he would evade the security dragnet that would inevitably seek to pull him back inside. Anthony McIntyre, http://www.phoblacht.net/am01127g.html
- 'Rosie Cowan and Duncan Campbell, 'On the run – but where did they run to?' The Guardian Wednesday 27 July 2005 http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,,1536854,00.html
- 'Quiet Heir to Legacy of Violence' The Irish Times, Wednesday 14 July 1982; Thursday 4 March 1982, http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch82.htm
- Thursday 4 March 1982, http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch82.htm
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