There’s a major spread in today’s ‘Sunday Tribune’ – and in quite a few other newspapers – recalling the death of Lord Mountbatten at the hands of the IRA on 27 August, 1979. Mountbatten was holidaying in Mullaghmore, Co Donegal, when the IRA blew up the boat containing him and a number of other people. He was 79 when he died.
Mountbatten was the son of Prince Louis of Battenberg and his wife Princess Victoria of Hesse; when Prince Louis in 1917 changed his name to Louis Mountbatten (less German-sounding), his son got the same new name. He was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth and was much admired by Prince Charles, who was deeply upset by his death.
Mountbatten had a long military career. He masterminded the infamous Dieppe raid during the Second World War, which resulted in the loss of 106 Allied aircraft and the killing, wounding or capturing of nearly 60% of the Allied forces. He was also the last British Viceroy in India, and much of the loss of life that followed partition of that country is laid at Mountbatten’s door. His personal life was notorious for the affairs both he and his wife enjoyed, with Mountbatten widely rumoured to have had liaisons with lovers of both sexes. His killing is commonly referred to as his ‘murder’ and 23 November 1979, Thomas McMahon was convicted for his part in the explosion that killed Mountbatten. A memorial service was held for him shortly after his death in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. It was attended by many prominent personalities, including the president of Ireland, Patrick Hillery and the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch.
Julie Livingstone was from Lenadoon in West Belfast. She was the youngest of a family of thirteen and on 13 May 1981 she was on the way to the local shops with her friend Norah. She was killed when a plastic bullet fired from a distance of five metres by a member of the British Army’s Prince of Wales Regiment struck her on the head.Eye-witnesses say there was no rioting going on. She was 14 at the time. Her friend Norah said Julie had planned to go to America when she was 18 and that she had planned to go with her. No one was charged with Julie’s killing and neither the president of Ireland nor the Taoiseach attended her funeral or any memorial service for her.
There are unkind people who say that Lord Louis Mountbatten received at the hands of the IRA no more than he had meted out to thousands of others throughout his life. There are even unkinder people who will tell you that in terms of our Troubles, there is no hierarchy of victims.