I see that Gerry Kelly, he of the 1973 IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in London, has been stirring the proverbial recently with a tweet praising the 1983 mass escape of IRA inmates from the Maze Prison, aka Long Kesh, in which he participated.
The first to protest was Boris Johnson’s man in Belfast, someone called Brandon Lewis, who denounced the tweet as ‘disgraceful’. Yesterday, News Letter columnist, Alex Kane thought he could detect a baleful motive behind the posting (see below):
And he concludes:
Maybe. But I noticed something else, a little piece of history rewriting that is often the hallmark of the neo-Stalinism that characterises militarist outfits like the Provisional IRA and its acquiescent junior partner, Sinn Fein.
Here is the line that jumped out at me: “One of Big Bob’s best ops”, Kelly wrote, inferring pretty clearly that the architect of the plan to engineer the mass escape was Bobby Storey, Gerry Adams’ loyal lieutenant, whose death and funeral earlier this year, at the outset of the Covid crisis, was a blatant two fingers at the rules designed to curb the pandemic.
‘Big Bob’s’ mass funeral, orchestrated to highlight his loyal service to the Adams’ leadership, arguably endangered the health and lives of the many former IRA activists and sympathisers who formed the cortege and lined the streets of the Falls Road during the procession to Milltown cemetery. (Ironically Storey was actually interred later that day at a cemetery miles away in Loyalist east Belfast)
The problem, of course, is that everyone knows that the real brains behind the escape was Ardoyne IRA man, Larry Marley. So well known as the architect of the breakout that Hollywood made a movie about it, called ‘Maze‘ with Marley, played by Tom Vaughan-Lewis, as the lead character. I may be wrong but I don’t remember ‘Big Bobby’ featuring at all prominently.
Here’s the trailer for the movie:
So why did Gerry Kelly choose to rewrite IRA, and his own, history and elevate ‘Big Bobby’ while erasing Larry Marley entirely? Now, one reason may be some opportune bootlicking by Kelly, since everyone knows Storey worshiped the Big Lad, then anything Storey did had to be inspired by the Big Lad. Ergo the Big Lad was the true inspiration for the escape.
The other reason? Perhaps to signal Larry Marley’s new status as a non-person.
And the reason for that?
Larry Marley was shot dead in his Ardoyne home in April 1987 by the UVF and his son, Sean O Mearthaile, recently went public with an allegation that his father was killed with the assistance of a least three IRA informers, one of whom is still a leading member in North Belfast, although these days is more often seen wearing a Sinn Fein label.
It is believed that the Marley family were told all this by detectives working for Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, the former head of Bedfordshire police who is investigating the activities of the former head of IRA security turned British Army agent, Freddie Scappaticci.
Here is Sean O Mearthaile‘s posting of that claim:
Here’s where the story begins to get murky. Allegations about the alleged SF informer have been rampant for years but they have been ignored and the individual’s status in the organisation untouched. He appears to have the leadership’s blessing. Why was that, why is that?
In this sort of situation, conspiracy theories thrive and there is no way to get straight answers. But one question persists. Why does the IRA leadership continue to support this individual?
There are other questions. Was Larry Marley killed because he was the brains behind the big breakout and the British, via the UVF, sought revenge, or was he removed for other reasons, intra-Provo reasons, perhaps connected to the journey towards constitutionalism that had started the year before Marley’s untimely death?
Or perhaps Gerry Kelly just forgot that he was the real brains behind the 1983 prison breakout.