How Many OTRs Are There?
How many on the runs (OTRs) are there in America? OTRs are the members
of the IRA and Loyalist members who skipped Ireland before their trials,
escaped in jailbreaks, or were just never apprehended.
Given that the Troubles lasted 25 years there are bound to be significant
numbers here, given that the U.S. was a major destination for OTRs up until
One has only to look at many arrests made over the years by the FBI of
alleged IRA men hiding out in America. That would seem to indicate that
the number of OTRs would actually be very high here.
Indeed, it is thought that some of the more infamous missing IRA men
and women are now living here under assumed names. It could be well over
50 members according to one observer. They will range in age from the mid
fifties down to more recent “imports.”
The issue of OTRs is a major one, and the British and Irish governments
are presently deciding how best to proceed with resolving the issue. British
Prime Minister Tony Blair has made it clear that he wants it resolved, while
his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, has spoken of a presidential amnesty
in the south.
Both are being fiercely resisted by opponents of giving the OTRs blanket
amnesty. However, it is hard to argue with the fact that prisoners were
given a general amnesty after the ceasefires, so why should the OTRs be
treated any differently?
O’Hare a Famous OTR
OF course, one of the more famous OTRs is Sinn Fein’s North America representative
Rita O’Hare, who has done an extraordinary job building up the party in
She absconded on bail from her native Belfast while awaiting trial in
1973 on charges of attempted murder of British troops. Since then she has
been a top level operative for Sinn Fein in the Irish Republic, including
for a spell being editor of An Phoblacht, the Republican newspaper.
O’Hare, known as the “Granny of Death” in one lurid newspaper headline,
is immensely popular with politicians of all stripes, and she had a particularly
good relationship with the late lamented former Northern Ireland Secretary
Mo Mowlam. The diminutive O’Hare lives in Dublin these days when she is
not in the U.S.
There is no question that O’Hare and the many other OTRs, including several
allegedly in Central America, would receive a massive welcome home in Belfast
from Republicans. The surprise might well be the number of Loyalists who
have also found their way to the U.S. and Canada especially.
How They Got Here
In the early days of the Troubles there were many ways for IRA OTRs to
come to America, but among the most popular methods was to depend on sympathetic
workers at Aer Lingus who managed to bring several in, or to sneak across
the border from Canada.
Once in America they were faced with a dilemma. Should they stay away
from all Irish activities and friends, or try to establish new links with
trusted Irish associates here?
Some took the latter option. Paul O’Dwyer, the legendary civil rights
lawyer, remembered buying train tickets for some to the final destination
on long distance train journeys. They got off at the other end and made
Others stayed close to the community, which was a risky tactic as the
FBI kept pretty close tabs on Irish organizations throughout the Troubles.
Indeed, the arrest of three IRA escapees in California was directly linked
to someone in the Irish community turning them in.
Clinton for Irish Fundraiser
An Irish evening with former President Bill Clinton will be held on Tuesday,
December 6 at the penthouse of the 1199/SEIU union on 42nd Street in Manhattan.
The evening will be a fundraiser for Senator Hillary Clinton for her
upcoming Senate race, though it looks more and more likely that she will
be a shoo-in for re-election.
Among the members of the committee who are organizing the Irish event
are Congressman Joe Crowley; attorney Frank Durkan; Mike Dowling, head of
the North Shore LIJ hospital system on Long Island; former Congressman Tom
Manton; union leader Ed Malloy; Irish American Democrats head Stella O’Leary;
lawyer Brian O’Dwyer and Wall Street’s Al Smith.
The campaign is expecting about $150,000 in funds from the event, an
ambitious target but one that is eminently reachable with the former president
as the main guest. Tickets are $500 a head.
Collins, Biden To Be Honoured
Another fundraiser, this time the annual American Ireland Fund bash in
Washington, D.C. on March 16 of next year, will feature awards for Republican
Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Joe Biden from Delaware.
Also honoured will be businessman Jack McDonnell.
Biden does not have an Irish last name, but his mother’s maiden name
was Finnegan. Her people were from Derry, and like many in that city they
came across the ocean to work in the Dupont factory in Delaware. Biden was
raised in the Irish stronghold of Fishtown in Wilmington.
Biden is reasonably active on Irish issues, Collins less so, but there
seems little question that she is becoming more involved. The Washington
bash is annually the biggest Irish event in the nation’s capital.