Why did Gerry Bradley die?

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?

13 Responses to Why did Gerry Bradley die?

  1. Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Got to say I disagree with a good bit of this, having read the book in question, I'd say it was pretty obvious too, that Gerry Bradley believed it had been for nothing, or at the very least what it was for was not what he was led to believe it was for.

    Why did I, a moderate/liberal unionist read about IRA exploits? -Simple. To try and understand the other side.

    I didn't like to read of some of the exploits but its very important living in this society to try and 'get into the shoes' of people who you don't understand.

  2. Jude Collins October 28, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Interesting, Anon – and thanks for comment. It's maybe important to remember that people – all of us – don't always give the real reasons for what we do. Sometimes we deny them even to ourselves. It's certainly been the case with Irish republicanism during the 20th century that after the campaign of violence ended, a considerable number felt that while others had benefited from the struggle, their contribution had been ignored or seen little personal reward/recognition. That can lead to pretty deep feelings of resentment. I'm not saying that was Gerry Bardley's response; but it would not have been unique if it were.

  3. pippakin October 28, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    I read the accounts because I want to understand why and how murder can be justified. In a way war is a 'third person' activity, armies do not know who they bomb, they obey orders and the 'enemy' is another country, literally.

    The troubles were different and a lot of the violence was much closer to home. Who decides that a person known since childhood can be beaten or worse murdered. In some respects the troubles resemble the teenage 'too much testosterone' far more than any connection to the oft vaunted political objectives.

  4. Jude Collins October 28, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    'In some respects the troubles resemble the teenage 'too much testosterone' far more than any connection to the oft vaunted political objectives'.

    Maybe that's true of all armed conflict, Pippakin. Fly-on-the-wall docs of troops in battle areas show some seriously adolescent attitudes. Isn't all war/conflict a case of political leadership harnessing testosterone-fuelled young men to purposes they believe in – some noble, some less noble?

  5. Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    the other pertinent question is why someone who calls himself 'a writer' would turn down the opportunity to write a story as fascinating and revealing as eamon collins'? like gerry bradley's suicide, i don't know the answer but but here's one possibility: you didn't want to offend your mates in the leadership of sinn fein, up whose holes you seem to spend most of your waking hours.

  6. Jude Collins October 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    Well it's nice to see you raising the tone of the discussion, Anonymous, and interesting too that you should presume to know my motivation for not doing something. So much information on your side and so little on mine. Why, I don't even know your name. How ignorant I am…

  7. Anonymous October 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    After reading this blog for the first time I regret to say it will almost certainly be my last. Would you care to write a piece about those that have profited from media exploits and book publishing as a consequence of their roles in the conflict? Or is that for a chosen few? Just my opinion but there are “the usual suspects” that can be counted on to whore themselves out at every opportunity in their persuit of (Shame)fame and wealth.
    Just wondering who on this blog is most in denial?
    To the first Anonymous comment, I am heartened by your persuit to try and understand, even when it is likely to cause inner strife and feelings of revulsion and disgust, sadness and anger. Only through understanding,respect and acceptance of each others traditions can we one day find the true solution to this pointless horrific tragedy.


  8. Anonymous October 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Nobody can say why another human being ends their own life, and Gerry Bradley's was no different.

    It might be something to do with his IRA past, but it might not either, who are we to know, speculate. or judge?

    I hope he is at peace now no matter.

  9. Jude Collins October 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    Amen to that, Anonymous. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

  10. Jude Collins October 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Anglo Celt,

    Thanks for comments – food for thought. I think I disagree with you about the conflict being 'pointless' – the Brits like to paint it that way but in fact it's about pretty easily identifiable stuff, common in world history. As to who I write for – my blogs are essentially me (i) giving vent to my thoughts/feelings on daily happenings, in the absence of a column in which to columnist; (ii) keeping me in touch with other people's thinking on same. Anything I do outside the blog – which I am usually happy to do – requires more detailed thought and greater time and – alas – payment.

  11. Anonymous November 2, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    You biggotted old freak! Nothing more than a terrorist smpathiser and public nuisannce! It is true that your cosy relationship with Sinn Fein warps all sense of logic and reason. For an 'educated man', you are very selective and bias in your reasoning ultimately showing a lack of real intelligence. I remember you well and, as a Catholic, shudder at the thought of your warped teachings actually being absorbed into society in any shape or form. Remember what you did and hope that He has forgiveness for you! Know that your child victims are in Heaven

  12. Anonymous December 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    Brian Feeney is a straight shooter – no pun intended. He is likely to know more about the mindset of GB than anyone who has posted so far. I'm with him !

  13. Anonymous February 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    After reading the book, and all of the comments on the blog. Don't you think it is possible that the IRA killed Bradley. He has named a lot of people in his book. Mates or not, He has most certainly upset the apple cart. After all that he did for the IRA , would he have not received a soldiers funneral.