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Saturday 21 September 2019

'He died happy things had changed' - brother of IRA's Tube bomber

The coffin containing the remains of former IRA man Vincent Donnelly is carried to the crematorium at Glasnevin Cemetery
The coffin containing the remains of former IRA man Vincent Donnelly is carried to the crematorium at Glasnevin Cemetery

An IRA bomber who got life for shooting a London Tube driver in 1976 has been remembered as a member of a nationalist family who suffered serious illness in the years before his death.

Vincent Donnelly (68), from Tyrone, was jailed in 1977 after an attack in which the bomb he was carrying went off prematurely on a train.

In his attempt to get away, he shot dead the driver, shot and injured a post office engineer and shot at police.

The train had just left West Ham station when the bomb Donnelly was carrying went off in the front carriage, injuring many of the passengers.

He had been destined for a more central area in London in what police believed was to be a rush-hour bombing.

The train driver, Julius Stephen (34), was shot dead by Donnelly at the scene, and the post office worker was shot as he came to the aid of the injured.

Police who sped to the scene were also fired on by Donnelly, who was wounded too.

He was a member of an active service unit of the IRA involved in planting a series of 16 bombs, 13 of which went off.

Donnelly was given five life sentences at the Old Bailey, but he was released in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement.

He was plagued by ill-health in his last years, spending long spells in hospital and hospices. His funeral notice said he died peacefully at the Mater Hospital last Sunday.

At his funeral service at Glasnevin, Donnelly's tricolour-draped coffin was carried by teams of pall-bearers who stopped and swapped positions four times, giving several people a chance to convey his remains to the crematorium.

A lone piper led the way, and a group of mourners in white shirts and black ties flanked the cortege.

An independent priest, Fr Hugh Gormley, told the mourners that Donnelly would be close to them as long as they remembered him and kept him in their hearts.

Donnelly's older brother Pearse told how he had a love of learning Irish in school and in the gaeltacht.

Confessor

Speaking of his brother's years in prison, he said he "took it all with good face and didn't really mind".

"In prison, he was a social worker, a confessor and helped people with depression and anxiety," he added.

Speaking about the North, Pearse Donnelly said he did not know whether the problems would ever be solved.

"I think he died happy that things had changed greatly and for the better," he said.

A friend, Eddie O'Neil, said Donnelly was "a man that prison could not break".

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