Thomas McMahon (Irish republican)

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Thomas McMahon
Born1948 (age 70–71)
Monaghan, County Monaghan, Ireland
AllegianceProvisional Irish Republican Army
Years of service1970–1990
ConflictThe Troubles

Thomas McMahon (born 1948) is a former volunteer in the South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and was one of the IRA's most experienced bomb-makers.[1]

McMahon was convicted of the murder of Admiral of the Fleet The 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and three others (two children and an elderly lady) at Mullaghmore, County Sligo, in the west of Ireland.[2]

He planted a bomb in Shadow V, a 27 ft fishing boat belonging to Mountbatten at Mullaghmore, County Sligo, near Donegal Bay. Lord Mountbatten was killed on 27 August 1979 by the bomb blast along with three other people: The Dowager Baroness Brabourne, Mountbatten's elder daughter's mother-in-law; his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull; and a 15-year-old crewmember Paul Maxwell.

The IRA claimed responsibility for the act in a statement released immediately afterwards. In the statement from the organisation they said: "This operation is one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country."[3]

McMahon was arrested by the Garda (the Republic of Ireland's police force) two hours before the bomb detonated, having been initially stopped on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle.[3]

He was tried for the assassinations in the Republic of Ireland, and convicted by forensic evidence supplied by Dr James O'Donovan that showed flecks of paint from the boat and traces of nitroglycerine on his clothes.[1] He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder on 23 November 1979, but was released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.[4]

After his release, Toby Harnden in Bandit Country reported that McMahon was holding a tricolour in the first rank of the IRA colour party at a 1998 IRA meeting in Cullyhanna.[5] However, according to a BBC report, McMahon has said that he had left the IRA in 1990.[2]

He has twice refused to meet Paul Maxwell's father, John, who has sought him out to explain the reasons for his son's death. In a May 2011 interview for The Telegraph, Maxwell stated that he had "made two approaches to McMahon, the first through a priest, who warned me in advance that he thought there wouldn't be any positive response. And there wasn't. I have some reservations about meeting him, obviously – it might work out in such a way that I would regret having made the contact. On the other hand, if we met and I could even begin to understand his motivation. If we could meet on some kind of a human level, a man to man level, it could help me come to terms with it. But that might be very optimistic. McMahon knows the door is open at this end."

He likewise refused requests from Knatchbull's twin brother, who lost an eye in the same explosion. The latter, however, has forgiven McMahon and other members of the IRA who committed the act.

His wife has stated "Tommy never talks about Mountbatten, only the boys who died. He does have genuine remorse. Oh God yes."[6]

McMahon lives with his wife Rose in a hillside bungalow in Lisanisk, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. He has two grown sons. He helped with Martin McGuinness's presidential campaign in 2011, erecting posters for McGuinness around Carrickmacross.[6]


  1. ^ a b Telegraph, 9 Aug 2009
  2. ^ a b "Republican trained by Libyans" BBC News, 8 August 1998. Accessed 26 January 2007
  3. ^ a b "BBC News On This Day"
  4. ^ "1979 : IRA member sentenced for Mountbatten's assassination" Archived 10 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine This Day in History. Accessed 26 January 2007
  5. ^ Toby Harnden, Bandit Country -The IRA and South Armagh, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1999, ISBN 0-340-71736-X
  6. ^ a b Queen forced to put aside IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten to meet McGuinness from Daily Telegraph, 27 June 2012, retrieved 5 September 2014