Q: Where Did That Paul O’Connor/IRA Pic Come From? A: An Archive In New York That Raises More Questions About Martin McGuinness…..

These photos were taken by New York-based photojournalist Brian Hamill (brother of Pete Hamill) during a trip to Ireland a week or so after Bloody Sunday in February 1972.

(You can access the Hamill archive via the above link which then automatically rolls through the entire collection)

The photos include an easily recognizable pic of Martin McGuinness posing with what looks like a Luger pistol. In other snaps of him, unarmed, he is posing with various IRA/Republican comrades, including Sean Keenan, father & son.

Notice how Keenan Snr, one of Derry’s few pre-1969 Republicans, holds McGuinness’ hand in a gesture that suggests his own special regard for the young IRA leader and McGuinness’ growing stature in, and value to the republican cause.

Hamill snapped multiple pics of IRA members at gun lectures or staging checkpoints in the city. The latter include a profile pic of an unmasked Paul O’Connor, a photo that pitched him and the Pat Finucane Centre he heads into controversy, while strengthening claims from Shane Paul O’Doherty about O’Connor’s IRA past, hitherto a closely guarded secret, at least outside Derry.

One of the unanswered questions arising from this collection is why Paul O’Connor is, seemingly, the only IRA figure who is unmasked. Other photos show what appears to be O’Connor from behind and again there is no sign of him wearing a mask, while other IRA colleagues are all masked, some of them heavily so. So why is he unmasked while his comrades are masked?

Nor do we know whether these pics were taken before or after McGuinness was filmed by Bowyer Bell handling a revolver and helping to assemble a car bomb. In an email exchange from New York, Hamill could not or would not shed light on that issue and my questions to him on this matter went unanswered.

The McGuinness excerpts from that film, called simply ‘The IRA’, were recently screened in BBC NI Spotlight’s ‘Secret History of the Troubles’ series, which can now be viewed on YouTube.

For whatever reason, it seems that McGuinness threw caution to the wind around this time, leaving himself open to prosecution and to blackmail via incriminating film and photographs.

Gerry would never have been so foolish.

Incidentally, there was very little that happened in the IRA that the Big Lad was not aware of. So, did he know about about Martin’s indiscretions back in 1972? And if he did, doesn’t that raise more intriguing questions

4 responses to “Q: Where Did That Paul O’Connor/IRA Pic Come From? A: An Archive In New York That Raises More Questions About Martin McGuinness…..

  1. Why would Paul O’Connor – who was fully aware that he had a paramilitary photographic past – put himself to the forefront of the Pat Finucane Centre knowing that he could possibly be unmasked later to the detriment of the PFC? (Wait a minute – he was never even masked in order to be unmasked…)

  2. Does McGuinness’s predecessor as OC appear in these interesting photos?

  3. No, the shortest-lived ever OC of the Derry Brigade at that time – who was uncomfortable with violence and armed struggle – had the nearest thing to a nervous breakdown and retired early from his post before he became a well-know figure outside “Free Derry”. There was a guy who knew him well and if I recall correctly, for the history books, his name was Robbie Griffin. I hope you’re still well out there, Robbie and forgive my teenage part in your nervous crises.

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