Jailbreak makes international headlines
Mountjoy Prison in Dublin was known for years as the place that Irish rebels went to die. Since its opening in 1850, almost 50 rebels were put to death inside its walls. When Ireland gained partial independence, the new republic took over the prison. The death penalty claimed its last in 1954, but the prison remains in use to this day.
Perhaps the most spectacular event in the history of Mountjoy Prison occurred on October 31, 1973. By October 1973, the Republic of Ireland had made a serious effort to destroy the violent Provisional Irish Republican Army. The Provo rebels had killed numerous Protestants in Northern Ireland and England. Several of its leaders, Seamus Twomey, JB O’Hagen, and Kevin Mallon, had been arrested and warehoused in Mountjoy Prison.
On October 31, 1973, a compatriot of the Provo prisoners rented a helicopter under the pseudonym “Mr. Leonard”. He hired the helicopter and pilot to take him to a field for a photo shoot. Upon arriving, two masked gunmen approached and hijacked the helicopter.
The pilot was ordered to land in the yard at Mountjoy Prison as the prisoners were outside for exercise. The shocked guards assumed that a dignitary was coming to visit the prison, but realized their error when the three Provisional IRA leaders ran toward the chopper.
The helicopter with the three prisoners cleared the wall and flew out of sight. It landed at an abandoned racetrack outside of Dublin where the pilot was released, and the three prisoners were whisked away to freedom by waiting cars.
Kevin Mallon was captured later in 1973. JB O’Hagen was captured in 1975. Seamus Twomey managed to hold out the longest, getting busted attempting by make a weapons purchase in December 1977.
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