Obituary: Dominic McGlinchey
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Saturday 12 February 1994
THE VIOLENT life of Dominic McGlinchey, one of Ireland's most notorious republican terrorists, came to a violent end with a blast from a shotgun in the Co Louth town of Dundalk late on Thursday night.
McGlinchey, who once claimed involvement in 30 killings, may have moved away from violence in recent times. But he made many enemies in his eventful paramilitary career, and in the end it appears he fell victim to former associates intent on settling old scores. He will be remembered for his killings, for his nickname, 'Mad Dog', for his spell as Ireland's most wanted man, and for being the first republican to be extradited from the Republic to Northern Ireland.
McGlinchey, who was born in 1954, was one of a family of 11 children from the south Londonderry village of Bellaghy, an area with a strong republican tradition. Three of his brothers have been jailed for republican offences, and McGlinchey was only 17 when he was picked up in the internment swoops of August 1971.
Released the following year, he became one of the IRA's most feared operatives. In the south Londonderry area he teamed up with another notorious terrorist, Francis Hughes - who was later to die on hunger strike - to form a unit which carried out many shootings and bombings. Police took the unusual step of issuing a wanted poster picturing McGlinchey and Hughes.
McGlinchey told his own story in an extraordinary interview with the Dublin Sunday Tribune newspaper in 1983. He said: 'We were involved mainly in the killing of UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) men and policemen, and we did a fair few bombings of police barracks and towns. I don't think a town wasn't blown up. They all got a touch - Killalea, Bellaghy, Portglenone, Magherafelt, Maghera, Castledawson, Ballymena and lots of others.'
Imprisoned in the Republic between 1977 and 1982, he switched allegiance from the IRA to the INLA, a smaller and at that time more left-wing group. Within months of his release he became INLA chief of staff, but his period in charge was characterised by vicious internal feuding.
The INLA had previously concentrated on security force targets, in 1979 killing Airey Neave, the Conservative spokesman on Northern Ireland. With McGlinchey in charge, however, more and more civilians were killed. The bombing of a disco in Co Londonderry killed six off-duty soldiers but also 11 civilians, while there was particular shock when three people died in an INLA attack on a gospel hall service at Darkley, Co Armagh.
In his Sunday Tribune interview McGlinchey admitted involvement in the disco bombing and said he had provided the weapons for the Darkley shootings but did not approve of the attack. By this stage he was unsurprisingly on the 'most wanted' list. Casualties were also high within the INLA itself, with McGlinchey introducing the concept of 'direct military rule'. In practice this seemed to give him licence to carry out summary executions without reference to the rest of the organisation.
Republican lore has it that he and his wife, Mary, were responsible for killing two south Armagh men in a dispute over money in 1983, while McGlinchey admitted he had killed a third man as an informer. These three men had connections with a powerful south Armagh republican family which is believed to have been responsible for killing Mary McGlinchey in 1987. Its members are the prime suspects for this week's killing too.
McGlinchey was arrested in 1984 after a gun battle and extradited to Northern Ireland. This key decision indicated a radical judicial reappraisal, since previous extradition requests had been turned down when defendants claimed the offence involved was politically rather than criminally motivated. The then Chief Justice, TF O'Higgins, said he was not prepared to assume that any charge associated with paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland should be regarded as political. He laid down the test that a political offence must be one committed in the course of 'what reasonable civilised people would regard as political activity'.
The murder charge faced by McGlinchey was that of 'an elderly grandmother riddled with bullets', which O'Higgins described as a revolting and cowardly crime which should shock the conscience of any normal person. In Belfast McGlinchey was initially convicted of murder but acquitted on appeal and returned to the Republic, where he was jailed for arms offences.
His release from jail last year received widespread publicity, and there was much speculation that the south Armagh family was waiting to exact its revenge. He was shot and injured not long after his release, but he remained around the border area.
He obviously knew his life was in danger, but he apparently decided to take the risk. He spoke his own epitaph in his 1983 interview, when he said: 'I could be lucky, but because I have been set up as the most wanted man in Ireland I suppose that increases my chances of getting done in.
'There is a good possibility of my not seeing the end of the struggle. I will probably get shot.'
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