When he was released from prison in Dublin late in March 1977, Peter McMullen was a man without a future. He wanted nothing more to do with the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which had been paying him the equivalent of about $50 a week as an officer until his resignation in 1974.
"All I wanted at this point was to start my life all over again. I was hoping to get a job as a chef and to bring the wife and kids down from Belfast," said McMullen.
But the suggestion of a friend in prison radically altered McMullen's life, leading him ultimately to his present status as a man who believes he has three years to live at most because of his IRA death sentence.
"Brendan Hughes, who had been the IRA's General Headquarters Intelligence Officer, a member of the Army Council and head of operations, asked me to look up an American staying about 25 miles outside Dublin. Hughes and Eddie Gallagher were on the outs with the IRA too at this point."
Gallagher and Hughes, said McMullen, had robbed an armored car in Navan, Ireland, of about $260,000 "and the money disappeared. They had pulled what is called a 'homer.' That is, the money was for themselves and not the IRA."
Hughes, said McMullen, fled to the United States but returned after his friend Gallagher, along with Marian Coyle, had botched the kidnaping of a Dutch industrialist, Tiede Herrema. The kidnaping, in October 1975, was not sanctioned by the IRA.
Gallagher, said McMullen, told him he was secretly offered $2 million for Herrema's release by Ferenka, the Dutch company which owned the factory in Limerick, Ireland, where Herrema was manager. Instead, Gallagher and Coyle held out for the release of three of their friends, including an heiress turned terrorist, Bridget Rose Dugdale.
Herrema was released 36 days after his abduction and 18 days after the house where he was being held just south of Dublin was surrounded by police.
Gallagher and Coyle, none of their demands having been met, surrendered to police outside the house about 10 minutes after allowing Herrema to walk out the front door.
It was not the first time that the kidnaping of a foreign industrialist had been botched. On Dec. 27, 1973, Thomas Niedermayer, 44, disappeared from his home in Belfast. He was then honorary West German consul to Northern Ireland and was manager of Grundig-Werke, a factory in Ulster producing recording tapes.
For the first time, the fate of Niedermayer is revealed.
McMullen says Niedermayer was picked up by a special IRA Belfast Brigade strike force, "made up of people who come together only for special jobs. Usually, they're young tough guys. They wanted Niedermayer for ransom and for the release of the Price sisters" (Dolours and Marian, arrested for bombing a London court).
"They took him to a house in Turf Lodge (a Catholic section of Belfast). He was blindfolded but apparently he put up quite a struggle. What they didn't know was that he had a history of heart trouble. He died in the flat of a heart attack. The IRA never said anything about him, never claimed responsibility because they were just too embarrassed. He's buried in a swampy bog area just outside Andersontown in Belfast."
That bog is not the usual burial place for victims. It just happened to be handy, says McMullen, who emphasizes he did not have anything to do with that operation.
Usually, he said, IRA victims are buried in what they refer to as "The Mulberry Patch," which isn't a specific spot but rather a series of isolated hills and pastures. One place, he said, is between Monahan and Donegal.
"There's a 15-year-old Belfast boy buried up there. They shot him in the head as an informer. I think he was retarded. There's also a British Army lieutenant buried there. There are informers from the south and the north buried there, as well as regular IRA men killed in action that they just didn't want the Brits or anyone else to know about for morale reasons," McMullen said.
McMullen, Hughes and Gallagher, all mavericks, served time together in Portlaoise Prison in Dublin. Hughes, said McMullen, returned to Ireland to get Gallagher out of prison. McMullen said Hughes told him he planned to kidnap the 26-year-old college student daughter of Ireland's Prime Minister, Liam Congrave, and exchange her for the release of Gallagher. First, however, Hughes and several others robbed a bank near Dublin of about $60,000. Hughes walked into the bank posing as a blind man. After a shootout, the gang was captured in Navan. Hughes joined Gallagher in prison instead of freeing him.
"Hughes told me to look up a guy named Al, an American landlord then staying in Ireland, when I got out in '77. All lived in New York but he did a lot of land buying and selling in Ireland. At one time he owned a hotel in Ireland," said McMullen.
(McMullen gave the full names of Al and the man who, he says, heads the IRA in America, a gardener named Bob. Their first names are real. However, Al is in Ireland and could not be contacted, nor could Bob be located for comment. Therefore The Globe decided not to reveal their full identities.)
"So I contacted Al just outside Dublin. He said he'd like to see me about a theft in New York. Someone had stolen $37,000 from him and he had a pretty good idea who it was but couldn't prove it. I told him I'd get back to him and see what I could do."
McMullen spent the month of April 1977 "just trying to get my head together after two and a half years in prison." Meanwhile, Al helped him land a job as a salesman with Dublin Advertising, "selling ad space in those give-away flyers," said McMullen. He describes Al as a kind and generous man in his 50s, who often helped Irishmen get jobs or gave them places to stay while visiting New York.
McMullen, with the name of a suspect given to him by the New York landlord, flew to New York in May 1977, this time under the name and Irish passport of Kevin O'Shaugnessy. McMullen used the same method to obtain that passport as he did earlier in assuming the identity of Terry Enwright. He simply obtatned a birth certificate and applied for the passport and visa.
McMullen befriended the suspect Al had named, a member of the IRA staying in America. McMullen asked him about the possibility of doing a robbery and about any easy targets for either a holdup or plain theft. The suspect said he might have something in a few weeks. McMullen returned to Dublin to report to Al.
After work one night, McMullen stopped in for a drink at the Old Sheiling Bar and was told by an IRA acquaintance that he was being investigated by the IRA and they were thinking of arresting him.
"I was doing pretty good at the time. I was making about 7,500 pounds ($15,000) at the advertising firm and I had an expense account and a company car. The man wanted to know where all my money was coming from so I told him about my job. He wanted to know what I had been doing in the 'States' and I told him that too. They he says what about this 300-pound check you cashed in here the other night and I called the owner over and asked 'him to tell how much the check was that I cashed. 'Thirty pounds,' the owner said, and that seemed to put him back a bit. But he said I was still under investigation."
McMullen made another trip to New York in June 1977, but this time he "wired" himself with a small tape recorded and during the course of several conversations got the suspect to admit he and two other IRA men had stolen the $37,000 from Al. Moreover, the suspect proposed that he and McMullen kidnap the landlord's oldest son for ransom. McMullen said he'd think about it. He flew back to Dublin to report his findings to Al.
At the end of June, McMullen was called out of his Dublin office. His secretary said a man wanted to see him. Outside, several IRA men hustled McMullen into a car waiting at the curb. They said he was wanted for questioning by IRA General Headquarters. Not much was said. The car drove around Dublin for about an hour until they finally stopped at St. Stephen's Green, a park in Dublin center.
Kelly (not his real name) "literally popped out of the bushes. He apologized for the way I had just been treated, saying he wanted to talk and there was no need for all these men around. Kelly wanted to know what I had going with Gallagher and Hughes and I told him nothing. He said there were rumors that I was doing free-lance robberies and he wanted to know what I had been doing in the 'states.' So I told him and I said I had tape-recorded proof about the guys who really were doing the robberies."
Kelly, McMullen said, asked why he hadn't contacted their IRA leader in America, since he was still a member of the IRA. McMullen reminded him of his letter of resignation. Kelly said resignations are not accepted and he would like a letter from McMullen asking for reinstatement as an active member. Kelly first appealed to him to rejoin as a man who was missed by the IRA, but McMullen refused until Kelly threatened more drastic measures. He wanted McMullen's tapes and he wanted him to do a job in New York for the IRA.
"I had my wife and four kids living with me and there's no telling what would happen, so I told Kelly I'd do intelligence and planning but no operations and there would be no letter from me. Kelly agreed."
McMullen said he was instructed by Kelly to get in touch with the officer in charge of the IRA in the United States, "a man they identifed as Bob, a gardener in New York." McMullen said he met Bob the gardener in Al's Manhattan apartment.
Two of the three men who had robbed Al had returned to Ireland, one of them arrested by Northern Ireland authorities and the other arrested by Republic of Ireland police.
At the end of June or early July 1977, during a meeting at Al's apartment, McMullen said, Bob talked about killing the third robber, who was living in the Bronx.
"I told him I thought that was kind of drastic and suggested that we make him pay back the money instead and give him a certain amount of time to get out of the country."
Bob agreed to the proposal and McMullen called the man, who still thought McMullen was going to be a partner with him in the plot to kidnap Al's son. A meeting was set up. The man was expecting McMullen alone.
"Bob stood off to the side while I knocked on the door. When it opened I stuck a gun in this guy's face and told him he was under arrest" by the IRA. "Bob came in right behind me and we searched the apartment while holding him at gunpoint. He had a couple of rifles and three revolvers. We asked him what he did with the money," said McMullen.
The suspect said his share of the money was in a bank in Dundalk, Ireland. He agreed to return it to Al and was given a couple of weeks to get out of the country. Bob the gardener, meanwhile, would hold his passport.
McMullen flew back to Dublin. He met with Kelly who said he had several assignments for him. The IRA wanted intelligence on where diamonds could be had and what places would be likely robbery targets at home or abroad which would bring in huge sums of cash.
He also told McMullen to watch two men in Dublin and gather intelligence on them. One, he said, was a gangster from London who made his money from pornography and the other was the owner of an automobile sales agency, thought to keep large sums of cash on hand.
McMullen says he protested and wanted out. Kelly made threats again, this time directly including McMullen's family, and said he had yet another mission for him.
McMullen was to return to New York, gather intelligence on one Dan Flanagan and set up a plan to kidnap him. McMullen said he would gather intelligence but would have no part in the kidnaping, Kelly, he said, agreed.
Still traveling as Kevin O'Shaugnessy, McMullen returned to Manhattan in September 1977 and began tracking Flanagan. Flanagan, he says, owned more than 18 bars in New York City and was not a supporter of the IRA or Noraid. He lived in suburban and affluent Scarsdale and had a winter home in Florida.
(Flanagan is in Florida. He could not be contacted.)
McMullen reported back to Dublin in November. A month later, he returned to New York, this time in the company of an IRA cohort. Both men were to redo the intelligence on Flanagan.
"Once you do the intelligence the plan presents itself automatically. Flanagan often walked from bar to bar, sometimes collecting receipts," said McMullen.
Flanagan was to be hustled from the sidewalk into a camper, capable of being a mobile hiding place for Flanagan and his abductors. They could simply drive around the city or take Flanagan out of the city.
McMullen estimates that Flanagan would have been worth between a quarter and a half million dollars in ransom. McMullen reported his findings when he returned to Dublin in January 1978. He was ordered to carry out the kidnaping himself.
"I refused. I told Kelly that the agreement was for me to do intelligence and no operations. I kept my word and expected him to keep his," said McMullen.
A month later, McMullen was asked by an old cohort to take a ride with him up to Dundalk. This time they didn't go to the usual meeting place, a tree nursery, but instead stopped at a row house nearby.
"I was astonished. There were about 12 guys there just like a major army council meeting. Kelly said this was a court of inquiry -- a court martial, in other words. I told him I was pretty fed up with the IRA. I was out in a sitting room while they met.
"Kelly came out and told me that I was still under investigation but that I was to return the money spent in New York tracking Flanagan. I was never again to speak to a member of the IRA and I was to turn over any weapons in my possession."
Kelly said, "Don't try anything stupid because you'll get a bullet in the head." McMullen then was allowed to drive back to his home in Dublin.
"About 10 days later, this is into April of 1978 now, a friend came to me and said, 'There's a squad coming down from Belfast. They're going to kill you.' Well, I got the hell out in a hurry."
McMullen, with little money and a false passport, first stayed at a motel near Kennedy International Airport, but decided that New York was too hot for him.
"I wanted to get as far away from New York as possible. So I went to San Francisco."
After a day or so of staying in a hotel and trying to analyze his situation, he decided he had only one choice -- to surrender to U.S. federal authorities. He was certain he would be well received because of the wealth of information he had to offer. Had he known how wrong he would be he'd still be running.
That was in May 1978, the start of more than a year of further frustrations which began with his arrest by officers from one federal agency while he was sitting for interviews with officers of another federal department.
McMullen learned with lightning speed that interagency rivalry is not confined to the IRA.
He was bundled off to a series of jails and prisons for more than a year. Then a federal magistrate made an astonishing decision in his case which could affect all other similar cases involving extradition of aliens wanted for acts outside the United States that might be construed here as political.
NEXT: What McMullen's plans are, and what to expect from the new and revitalized IRA.