Why did Gerry Bradley die? The 56-year-old ex-IRA man was found dead in his car at Carrickfergus Marina yesterday. He’d been prominent in the IRA during the 1980s and 1990s; last year the story of his involvement, told to VO columnist Brian Feeney, was published. Today Feeney is reported as saying Bradley may have seen the Brendan Hughes programme on TV a couple of nights ago, attacking the Sinn Féin leadership. He may then have felt the whole IRA campaign had been for nothing and taken his life. That’s a double or is it triple set of hypotheticals. If he saw the programme he may have thought X and Y, and if he thought X and Y he may as a result have taken his life. The truth is, nobody knows why Gerry Bradley died.
Can we say then why he got Feeney to write the book about his time in the IRA? He’s reported as saying ‘To put on record the truth of life in the IRA, before I die’. If that was his motivation, it was different from that of Eamon Collins (no relation), another ex-IRA man whose account of his exploits appeared in print before his death. I knew Eamon fairly well: he was a former mature student of mine at the University of Ulster, and at one point he asked me to help him write the account of his IRA experiences. I declined, someone else took him up on it and A Killing Rage sold well. What was Eamon’s motivation for wanting to get into print? Because, he told me, he saw no reason why ‘some people should get everything ‘ and he should get nothing. Put bluntly, Eamon was hungry for fame and wealth. It’s a common condition.
Let’s try a third question, then: why do people want to read about IRA exploits? That’s easy: because they like to experience violence at a safe remove. You could call it violence pornography or paramilitary voyeurism, but by whatever name there’s something of it in all of us and it’s a sad, shameful urge. But if longing to peek through the curtains and thrill to violence and death is depraved, what word would you use for those people who arrange for us to indulge our warped tastes?