The kidnapping of Dr Herrema by the IRA

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 On October 3rd, 1975, Dr Tiede Herrema was driving from his home in Castletroy, Co Limerick, to an early-morning meeting at the Ferenka steel plant at Annacotty, when he was abducted by two republicans, Marion Coyle and Eddie Gallagher.
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Herrema, , had been dispatched by the parent company in his native Netherlands to troubleshoot the strike-ridden factory, Ferenka,which employed 1,200 at a time when the Irish economy was reeling from the oil crisis and six years of Northern Ireland troubles.

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The kidnappers, banking that Liam Cosgrave’s government would quietly cave in, so as not to scare off other foreign investors, threatened to “execute” Herrema in 48 hours unless it released the republican prisoners Rose Dugdale(who had given birth to Gallagher’s son in Limerick Prison), Kevin Mallon (a friend of Coyle’s) and James Hyland.

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Rose Dugdale, An English millionaire’s daughter who took part in an IRA helicopter bombing attempt and an infamous art theft at Russborough House in Co Wicklow.

It was the start of a 36-day ordeal for Herrema and his family, sparking the biggest manhunt in the State’s history.

Two weeks later a tape of Herrema’s voice was released, accompanied by demands for a £2 million ransom and a flight to the Middle East. After 18 days the kidnappers were traced to a terraced house in Monasterevin, Co Kildare.

The Coalition Government of Liam Cosgrave made it very clear from very start that there would be no release of prisoners, no room for compromise.

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A Nationwide Garda operation was mounted with almost half the force engaged in house to house searches and roadblocks. But Gallagher and Coyle had gone to ground in a “safe house” near Mountmellick, Co. Laois.

Days passed and the kidnappers sent taped messages from Herrema pleading for his life. The intervention of a Capuchin monk as a mediator proved fruitless. Gallagher asked for Phil Flynn – a trade union leader and Sinn Féin member at the time – to be brought in as an alternative mediator and while Gallagher began to lower his demands – the Government were steadfast but no closer to finding Herrema. Gallagher & Coyle had moved hideouts – this time to a council house in Monasterevin, Co. Kildare, which was itself searched by Gárdaí but the occupants were tipped off and the kidnappers hid with Herrema in the attic undisturbed. But 1410 St Evin’s Park was to be scene of the final act in this drama when the controversial questioning of accomplices by the Gárdaí exposed the location. 18 days into the kidnapping, a dawn raid on the house failed to release Herrema and thus began the Siege of Monasterevin.

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For a further 18 days, Ireland’s and the World’s press gathered. The Siege of Monasterevin was headline news every day. But behind the scenes what negotiations were going on to bring this dramatic standoff to an end after 36 days? – The longest and most dramatic kidnapping in Irish History.

The pair must have begun to suspect that there was something unusual about their captive shortly into the 36-day odyssey. For the first 14 days of the ordeal he had no idea where he was, confined to a tiny room in a house, in stinking conditions, feet and hands tied, cotton wool pushed into his ears.

Today Herrema is baffled, even irritated, that interviewers consistently overlook this part. “You all start by asking me about the period in Monasterevin . . . But the other part before, nobody talks about it, and that part was even worse for me. I didn’t know where we were. I didn’t even know how many were in the car that took me there.”

Once at St Evin’s Park in Monasterevin, by contrast, surrounded by armoured cars, searchlights, snipers and the hotshots of world media, he knew exactly where he was and what he had to do.

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He set out to create calm, to humanize himself in his kidnappers’ eyes. His eldest son was about the same age as Gallagher. Coyle, he noted, listened to the conversations but never spoke. “For me that was an indication: be careful with her. As long as I can get them talking I learn something. But she didn’t talk at all. I could never reach her.”

The coping mechanisms that seemed second nature to him, a man for whom mental challenges were almost a sport, must have seemed odd to his kidnappers. “When the night is over and you have nothing to eat, you have nothing to do. That is very important to understand, because all you have then is the waiting. You cannot tolerate that all day. So you try to make the day.”

What Gallagher and Coyle didn’t realize is that Dr Herrema had been a Dutch resisttance fighter during WWII.

He was in his early 20s when the Nazis arrested him. He was sent to Prague where he was brutally interrogated after that  he was transported to Ratibor – now the Polish town of Racibórz.

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Where about half of his fellow prisoners were shot, some under 14 years of age. Even after he was freed by the soviet troops he still had to walk 500 KM to be transferred to the US troops. Needless to say he was made out of sturdy stuff.

After several days without food or water they began to accept supplies – as well as underpants and a chamber pot – hoisted up in a shopping basket. On day 18 Gallagher claimed to be getting severe headaches and neck cramps, which Herrema took as a sign that he was seeking a way out. Soon afterwards the kidnappers threw their guns out of a window and surrendered.

It was on this day 41 years ago November 7 1975, Dr Herrema was released.

Coyle was sentenced to 15 years, of which she served nine. Gallagher served 14 years of his 20-year sentence. In 1978 Gallagher and Dugdale became the first convicted prisoners in the State’s history to be married behind bars.

 

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The tragic life of John Paul Getty III

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Most people will be aware of the name Getty be it from Getty Oil or Getty Images

Getty Oil was founded by J.Paul Getty sr. in 1957 Fortune magazine named him the richest living American,while the 1966 Guinness Book of Records named him as the world’s richest private citizen, worth an estimated $1.2 billion (approximately $8.8 billion in 2016).At his death, he was worth more than $2 billion (approximately $8.3 billion in 2016). A book published in 1996 ranked him as the 67th richest American who ever lived, based on his wealth as a percentage of the gross national product.

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Despite his wealth, Getty was notably frugal.Getty famously had a pay phone installed at Sutton Place, helping to seal his reputation as a miser. Getty placed dial-locks on all the regular telephones, limiting their use to authorized staff, and the coin-box telephone was installed for others.

He famously negotiated his grandson’s, John Paul Getty III, ransom.

At 3 a.m. on 10 July 1973, Getty, then age 16, was kidnapped in the Piazza Farnese in Rome.A ransom note was received, demanding $17 million in exchange for his safe return. When that ransom message arrived, some family members suspected the kidnapping was merely a ploy by the rebellious youngster as he had frequently joked about staging his own kidnapping to extract money from his frugal grandfather. He was blindfolded and imprisoned in a mountain hideout. A second demand was received, but had been delayed by an Italian postal strike.John Paul Getty, Jr. asked his father for the money, but was refused.

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Getty Sr. argued that were he to pay the ransom, then his 14 other grandchildren could also be kidnapped. In November 1973, an envelope containing a lock of hair and a human ear was delivered to a daily newspaper with a threat of further mutilation of Paul, unless $3.2 million was paid: “This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.”

At this point Getty Sr. agreed to pay a ransom, although he would only pay $2.2 million, because that was the maximum amount that was tax deductible. He loaned the remainder to his son who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4% interest. The reluctant Getty Sr. negotiated a deal and got his grandson back for about $2.9 million. Getty III was found alive in a filling station of Lauria, in the province of Potenza, on 15 December 1973, shortly after the ransom was paid.

Nine of the kidnappers were apprehended, including a carpenter, an hospital orderly, an ex-con and an olive-oil dealer from Calabria, as well as high-ranking members of the ‘Ndrangheta — a Mafia-type organization in Calabria — such as Girolamo Piromalli and Saverio Mammoliti. Two were convicted and sent to prison; the others, including the ‘Ndrangheta bosses, were acquitted for lack of evidence. Most of the ransom money was never recovered.In 1977, Getty had an operation to rebuild the ear that had been cut off by his kidnappers.

Getty spent most of his childhood in Rome, Italy, while his father headed the Italian division for the Getty family’s oil business. His parents divorced in 1964 and his father married again in 1966 to model and actress Talitha Pol.

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They adopted a hippie lifestyle and spent much time in England and Morocco during the 1960s. Getty stayed in boarding school at St. George’s English School (later St. George’s British International School), in Rome. In early 1971, he was expelled from St. Georges after having painted the hallways of the school one night, taking inspiration from Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter. Later that year, his stepmother died of a heroin overdose in Rome.While his father moved back to England, he remained in Italy, where he lived a bohemian life, frequented nightclubs, and took part in left-wing demonstrations. Endowed with a considerable artistic inclination, he reportedly earned a living making jewelry, selling paintings and appearing as an extra in movies.

In 1974, Getty married German Gisela Martine Zacher (née Schmidt), who was five months pregnant. He had known her and her twin sister Jutta since before his kidnapping. Getty was 18 years old when his son, Balthazar, was born in 1975. The couple divorced in 1993.Getty tried his hand at acting in European films: he played supporting parts in Raúl Ruiz’ The Territory and in Wim Wenders’s The State of Things, which was shot at the same time as Ruiz’s film, using part of its cast and crew.

Getty was an alcoholic and drug addict. In 1981, he imbibed a valium, methadone, and alcohol cocktail which caused liver failure and a stroke, leaving him a quadriplegic and nearly blind. He never fully recovered and remained severely handicapped for the rest of his life. By 1987, however, a daily regime of exercise, physiotherapy and speech therapy during which he reportedly showed “extraordinary willpower,” had helped him regain some degree of autonomy.

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He could again visit concerts and cinema, and was even able to ski, when strapped to a metal frame.

In 1999, Getty, along with several other members of his family, became citizens of the Republic of Ireland as part of the “Passports for Investment” scheme of approximately £1 million each, under a law which has since been repealed.They lived in the Gurthalougha House, on the shores of Lough Derg here in Co Tipperary.

Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, also purchased eleven Irish passports in 1990 as part of this scheme.

On 5 February 2011, aged 54, Getty died at Wormsley, Buckinghamshire, following a long illness. He had been in poor health since his 1981 drug overdose. He was survived by his son and his mother.