is an island nation located in the Persian Gulf.
Like so many countries in the region, it was a
former colony of Imperial Britain.
the early 1970s, just outside its capital city
of Manama, in the steaming hot desert. A young
Irishman can be found testing what he labels electronic
counter measures, to be used against British
military forces in the Occupied Six Counties of
northeastern Ireland (Northern Ireland). The mans
name is Eamon McGuire. Hes leading a double
life. To his family, friends and fellow workers,
hes a highly respected engineer for Gulf
Airlines, who originally learned his craft while
serving in the Irish Army, along with earning
an electrical engineering degree from a Dublin
college. But, McGuire is also, secretly, a member
of the South Armagh Brigade, one of the most feared
elements within the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In his newly-released book, Enemy
of the Empire: Life as an International Undercover
IRA Activist, McGuire relates a compelling
story about his more than two decades of guerrilla
activities, including a few years of life on the
run and six years of imprisonment after being
first tracked down on Dec. 13, 1992, in Nelspruit,
South Africa, by the CIA. The CIA considered him,
the IRAs chief technical officer.
McGuires tome was written while in jail,
a literary tradition with honored precedents,
not only among the Irish, but other ethnic groups,
as well. Russias brilliant Fyodor Dostoevsky
comes to my mind. In fact, some of McGuires
vivid descriptions of prison life and the character
of some of inmates that he encountered in jails
in South Africa, Ireland and America, reminded
me of passages from Dostoevskys The
House of the Dead.
Most of McGuires time behind bars was spent
as an involuntary guest of the U.S. government.
The book, however, is set against a global scene,
where the once mighty Imperial Empire of John
Bull is seen being rolled backed by a rising tide
of nationalism. McGuire, as the result of his
skills as an aircraft engineer, is an eyewitness
to that history, not only in his ancient homeland,
but in such places as Africa, the Middle East
and Central America, as well.
McGuire speaks of the secret part
of his double life, but only in broad terms. He
leaves the details, especially those pertaining
to the military struggle, to the imagination.
For example, he writes: While this...everyday
life was taking place, I was living another life
in parallel with it. In order to produce some
equipment for the war effort at home, I purchased
components from around the world and built devices...With
seven weeks leave per year, I was able to
return to Ireland at intervals to check the devices
in the battlefield and, if satisfactory, put them
in service...In time, as skills were developed,
they became more successful and helped to force
the British off the ground and into the air...The
research I carried out helped to restrict the
movement of British forces on the ground. Their
operations were now very dependent on their air
superiority. When he took a job with Aer
Lingus in 1978, it gave McGuire a chance to work
in both the Bahamas and Trinidad. He also took
the opportunity to go to the U.S., where he visited...companies
that produced technical products to see if they
had anything that could be... for use in the war
McGuire, a farmers son, born in 1936, in
the Republic of Irelands County Monaghan,
near the northern border, sensed something was
up on the day of his arrest in South Africa. When
his plane landed at a small airfield, after a
short flight from Maputo airport in Mozambique,
he noticed what look like an a containment
ring of people. When you are exposed
to danger for a long time, it sharpens your mental
faculties--some people call it being jumpy--and
you develop an instinct...in a way that people
living under normal, civilized conditions can
hardly imagine...A kind of sixth sense warns you...while
at the same time it allows you to weigh up the
chances of escape. As he moved towards a
car-hire stand at the airport, McGuire was quickly
cornered and surrounded by four men, one of whom
he observed had a gun strapped to his ankle. The
lead man in the quartet spoke to him: My
name is Colonel Myburgh. I have a United States
warrant for your arrest. We can do this the easy
way or the hard way. Put your bag down and step
away. McGuire weighed his options and, wisely,
decided to obey the order of the policeman. Reflecting
later on the circumstances concerning his arrest,
he had concluded that someone close to me
who knew my intentions must have informed on me.
This was a very bad feeling.
The U.S. warrant against McGuire came out of a
1989 Federal Court criminal case in Boston, Massachusetts.
He was charged with, inter alia, conspiring with
others, to produce a guided missile system,
to be used to destroy helicopters located
in Northern Ireland. McGuire said that there
were originally five of us involved in that
IRA cell...I was on the run and the fifth person
had already left prison. It was always referred
to as the Boston Three case.
McGuire beat the extradition case in South Africa,
in 1992, but it proved to be a pyrrhic victory.
He made his way back to Ireland, via a flight
to Paris, France, but was later arrested by the
Irish police, in Dublin, in Feb., 1993. He was
held first at Mountjoy prison and then at Portlaoise.
In December of 1993, the Irish High Court decided
the extradition case against him. He was on his
way to the U.S. McGuire, at that time, had also
considered cutting a deal with U.S. authorities
and to plead guilty to the three charges, which
he later did at a hearing in April, 1994, in Boston.
On June 15, 1994, he received a six-year sentence.
Soon, McGuire was moved from his
prison cell in Plymouth, MA, to one in New Hampshire.
His prison bus then passed by the town of Concord,
MA, which is steeped in the history of the American
Republic. He thought to himself, Strange...how
the descendants of the people who fought that
war of freedom were now dragging me in chains
past that hallowed place at the bequest of their
old enemy and prolonging our oppression.
McGuire also did time in the U.S., at Essex County
Jail, northeast of Boston; Metropolitan Correction
Center (MCC) in Manhattan; Otisville, PA; Allenwood,
PA; Lewisburg, PA and Cumberland, MD federal facilities.
Along the way, McGuire shared a cell with Mafia
bosses, an Iran-Contra figure, bank robbers, drug
dealers and even one of the notorious James Whitey
Bulgers ex- associates, Howard Howie
Around the time McGuire was in Cumberlands
FCI, I was doing a weekly commentary for the popular
WBAI program, Radio Free Eireann,
in NYC, co-hosted by John McDonagh and Sandy Boyer.
Cumberland is about 150 miles northwest from Baltimore.
I recall visiting with McGuire there on two occasions.
I remember him telling me that he had also been
held for a short time, in 1997, at Baltimores
City Jail and what a horrible experience that
had been for him. In the book, he described it
this way: Baltimores prison was the
worst that I had ever been in, worse than any
in Ireland or South Africa...We were put in a
bullpen with standing-room only...I had the feeling
that my time here would be a journey through the
valley of darkness. When McGuire had ten
weeks left on his prison sentence, he was, mercifully,
sent back to Ireland to complete it. He was released
just before Christmas in 1997.
Background: Both of McGuires
parents were born in the North of Ireland, near
the town of Crossmaglen, in South Armagh. His
father was a Catholic and his mother, a Protestant.
From an early age, McGuire had a great love for
the people of the area, and for the land, which
he says was made holy by the blood sacrifices
of their Celtic ancestors. When the Civil
Rights Movement in the British Occupied Six Counties
was repeatedly crushed by the police forces, McGuires
attitude shifted about the need for using violence
as a weapon of change. He also watched in
horror the sight of families fleeing south
from the pogroms against Catholics in the North.
It had a profound and lasting effect on
me, he wrote. During the early 70s, the
British regime in the Six Counties decided to
impose the practice of Internment
as one of its oppressive measures. McGuire then
learned that Nationalist prisoners were being
systematically tortured in Magilligan prison
camp in Derry. The last straw
for him personally was on Jan. 30, 1972, when
at a peaceful, anti- Internment rally in Derry,
13 marchers were slaughtered by British paratroopers,
in what McGuire saw as a calculated strike
to prevent further protest. That day of
infamy is remembered as Bloody Sunday.
McGuire added, There would be no turning
back after that. (4)
Some more Irish history is required
here. British crimes against the Irish people,
over the centuries, are legion. It is beyond the
scope of this essay to detail them, but they include
just about every wrong that its possible
for one people to inflict on another. (5)
As I write, however, a Peace
Process in Ireland, which was begun in 1994,
is slowly beginning to take shape. (6)
It was firmed up with the Good
Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998. A majority
of the people of Ireland, North and South, have
voted to support it. Ive wondered aloud
if the Irish should be totally trusting the British
ruling clique. (7)
Not long after I wrote about my
concerns, it was disclosed that a high ranking
member of Sinn Fein, Denis Donaldson, had actually
been a British spy for 20 years! (8)
Nevertheless, the guns have been
silent and progress has been made.
The last word here belongs to McGuire.
He dedicated his book, To all my fallen
comrades. I am highly recommending it to
readers for both its historical and memoir values.
Recently, the IRA disbanded and placed all of
its weapons beyond use. McGuire wrote: Was
it worth the price to get this far? I believe
it was. One must think about how bad things were
prior to 1969 before answering that question.
It is hard for a person far removed from those
conditions to imagine what it was like. But ask
yourself why did almost half the population rise
up against the government unless things were intolerable?
At least one in ten was willing to sacrifice themselves
for change. I believe that we would not be where
we are now without the war. And, I hope that our
politicians will see sense and govern justly so
that our people will never have to endure twenty-five
years of horror again.
The Way of the Aggressor, by
John Michael, (1941), chronicles the crimes of
British Imperialists from genocide in Ireland,
to slave trafficking in Africa, to exploiting
the resources and peoples of Asia, India, the
Middle East, Australia and Tasmania.
link and Amazon
Creating a New Ireland by William
William Hughes 2006.
Hughes is the author of Saying No
to the War Party (IUniverse, Inc.).