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'Art got me out' - General's brother on going from prison to a palette


Eddie Cahill

Eddie Cahill

Eddie Cahill

The brother of murdered criminal Martin 'The General' Cahill has said he found "a way out" of crime through art in Portlaoise Prison.

Eddie Cahill, whose paintings have gone on show at the Origin Gallery on Upper Fitzwilliam Street, said he missed his brother whom he remembered as "determined".

The crime boss, who was shot dead in 1994, was famous for a series of robberies, including the theft of paintings from Russborough House, in Co Wicklow, as well as the kidnap and kneecapping of civil servant Brian Purcell.


Eddie Cahill's latest exhibition was opened by Justice Robert Houghton, and he told the Ryan Tubridy Show yesterday how some judges and barristers who he would have known throughout his life of crime were now his friends.

Cahill said he was 30 when he realised that he needed to find a way out of crime, but it took him 10 years to do so.

"Slowly I'd been withdrawing from that world. It doesn't take a brain scientist to know it wasn't a great road," he said.

"I had children. I was really searching for a route out where I could just step away and not surrender.

"Even in the prison life, I never, ever surrendered. If I was leaving, I was leaving on my own terms. A bit arrogant, maybe, but…

"It was a matter of them and us - always was. This was a life designed for us. They needed prisoners, they'll always need unemployed people."

But it wasn't until he spotted art teacher Brian Maguire, whom he describes as a magician, giving a class at Portlaoise that Cahill found his new path.

"It was the fox in the hen house kind of situation," he said, laughing.

"The art teacher appeared. It was Brian Maguire. He was my first point of interest.

"He looked like one of us. That was my first reaction, so that was enough for me.

"I used to watch them, I didn't take part."

Cahill then set about taking some materials up to his cell, and he started to paint at night. He says other prisoners barely saw him for the next five years.

"I used to sneak materials out of the art class... you weren't supposed to have any of the paint in the cell in case you were disguising holes or anything like that.

"I'd start at eight o'clock in the evening and finish at eight o'clock the next morning.

"They'd come in the daytime and take the paint off you because you're not supposed to have it.

"Then I ended up with charcoal - the charcoal, they'd leave you with."


Cahill described his time as a young boy at Letterfrack Industrial School in Connemara, where he was sent after he was caught skipping school, as nasty.

He said that from then on, he was a "marked" person because the authorities saw him as "trouble".

"I'm more content now… I never stop," he said.

"I paint at home, on the floor, right in the sitting room when nobody is around."

On the prospect of ever apologising to victims of his crimes, he said: "The way I look at that, if someone did me a harm and apologised I wouldn't be too happy.

"I would have regrets of course but would I apologise? I don't think so."