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Gary Dunne

11/05/2015

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Gearóid ‘Gary’ Dunne was born in Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland in 1950. Educated by the Christian Brothers, he went to University College Dublin to study engineering in 1968. Interested in military matters, and to earn money during the summer, he joined the FCA, An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil, or Local Defence Force, at the age of fourteen. He was tall for his age and everyone else in his platoon was under seventeen. Unusually, Dunne remained in the force.

By 1968 he was a Sergeant.

Just before his Leaving Cert, his father’s Uncle Bunky died. There were two military traditions in Dunne’s family. His grandfather had served with the British Army in Macedonia during World War One. Uncle Bunky had been in the GPO for the Easter Rising, though whether he’d done any fighting had never been established. However, Bunky had been awarded an IRA pension and was given a military funeral. Dunne was tasked to be a pall bearer. During the funeral proceedings, he was asked by Cathal Goulding, Chief of Staff of the IRA, to join the Republican Movement, which Goulding was trying to take in a socialist direction. Dunne wasn’t interested in small party politics and turned him down.

Later, he was asked by Seán MacStiofáin, IRA Director of Intelligence, to help train IRA volunteers. Recognising that involvement with an illegal organisation could jeopardise his career and  even land him in jail, Dunne turned him down too.

In the summer of 1969, Dunne dropped out of college. At a loss for something to do, he was rescued from the obscurity of a dead end job by the beginning of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The Irish Army was caught on the hop by events when, in August 1969, public order in Northern Ireland broke down. Consideration was given to sending the Irish Army across the border to protect the nationalist community. The problem was that the army’s best troops and equipment were serving with the United Nations in Cyprus. The British Army’s threat assessment suggested that the most the Irish Army could put across the border was one battalion and half a squadron of obsolete Landsverk Armoured  Cars, whereas British strength in Northern Ireland was 2,500 soldiers. No Irish units crossed the border and the British Army was deployed on the streets to restore order.

In response the Irish government expanded the army, encouraging members of the FCA to join the Permanent Defence Force. FCA NCO’s were placed on PDF potential NCO courses.

Gary Dunne went from being a reserve sergeant to PDF corporal by January 1970. At this point, he was involved in events that culminated in the Arms Crisis and the trial of Charlie Haughey on charges of conspiracy to import arms. However, Dunne managed to remain clear of the fall-out and when his first three year term of engagement ended in 1972, he was a sergeant. Encouraged to sign on again with a choice of a potential officer’s course or a selection course for the Army Ranger Wing, the Irish Army’s equivalent of the SAS, he chose the ARW.

Being keen on personal fitness and careful of his health and diet, he passed easily. Service with Rangers brought a new dimension to Dunne’s army service, but towards the end of his term, his personal life fell apart as he broke up with his girlfriend, Angela Murphy.

Although he was offered a potential officer course if he signed on for a third term, he left the Army and the country in September 1975.

From → Better Beginning

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