What role did Boston Irish mafia head Whitey Bulger play in one of the most notorious IRA gun running episodes of The Troubles?
In 1984 a fishing boat named the Valhalla left Boston harbor for the Irish coast, carrying seven tons of guns and ammunition valued at over $1 million.
There were strong suggestions that Bulger, whose maternal grandparents were from Ireland, had helped supply the weapons.
Patrick Nee, a Connemara native living in Boston, had collected most of the guns, grenades and bulletproof vests that were in the shipment.
Sean O’Callaghan, a high level British spy within the IRA, is said to have tipped off the British and Irish authorities when the ship was on the high seas.
The guns were intercepted aboard the Marita Anne, an Irish trawler, by Irish police after the Valhalla had transferred them. Aboard the Marita Ann were four IRA men, including IRA commander Martin Ferris, now a prominent member of the Dail (Irish Parliament).
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The Valhalla made its way back to Boston unscathed, having avoided the earlier interception. The crew were arrested by federal agents but released after nothing was found on the boat.
That might have been the end of the affair until a shipmate began talking.
Aboard the ship was John McIntyre, a former Marine who was arrested on a domestic violence charge unconnected to the Valhalla incident, a few months later.
While in custody McIntyre spilled the beans on the Valhalla episode and allegedly named associates of Bulger, and probably Bulger himself, as being involved. He agreed to wear a wire when meeting with Bulger and Nee.
He spilled his guts to the FBI, not knowing that the senior FBI commander, John Connolly, had struck a deal with Bulger to cover up his crimes in return for information on the Italian mobsters in Boston.
Connolly, now serving a lengthy term for his cooperation with Bulger, told the Irish mafia head that he had been named by McIntyre.
It was Connolly who tipped off Bulger in 1995 that an extortion and racketeering charge was being prepared against him, which led to Bulger going on the run.
After Connolly told Bulger that McIntyre had named him, what happened next was quick and savage. McIntyre was lured into Bulger’s company by Nee, where he was tortured and murdered by Bulger and his associates. It was 15 years before his body turned up.
The McIntyre family won a $3.1 million wrongful death suit from the federal government because the feds had set their son up for murder. The judge stated that Connolly was the "proximate cause" of McIntyre's death and said the federal government should be held responsible.
Connolly is now serving 40 years in prison. Perhaps he might meet up with Whitey behind bars once again.
That would be a conversation worth taping.
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