Helicopter Escape From Mountjoy Gaol – Irish Revolutionaries
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Helicopter Escape From Mountjoy Gaol

Helicopter Escape From Mountjoy Gaol

Halloween 1973, prisoners in the exercise yard of Mountjoy Gaol in Dublin are watching a football match. At 3:35 pm one of the prisoners Kevin Mallon begins signalling to something in the sky, suddenly a helicopter appears and lands in the yard.

The prison officers believing the Minister for Justice was visiting the Gaol didn't believe anything suspicious was going on until the prisoners surrounded the prison officers in the yard. This was no ministerial visit, it was a jailbreak, Irish Republican style.

The IRA GHQ had given the go-ahead to rescue three of its men held in Mountjoy Gaol, Kevin Mallon, Seamus Twomey and J. B. O'Hagan. Earlier plans to use explosives to blow them out were scuppered so a helicopter escape was hatched.

A couple of days earlier a man with an American accent calling himself Mr. Leonard approached the manager of Irish Helicopters at Dublin Airport, with a view to hiring a helicopter for an aerial photographic shoot in County Laois. After being shown the company's fleet of helicopters, Leonard arranged to hire a five-seater Alouette II for October 31st.

Leonard arrived at Irish Helicopters on October 31st and was introduced to the pilot of the helicopter, Captain Thompson Boyes. Boyes was instructed to fly to a field in Stradbally, in order to pick up Leonard's photographic equipment.

After landing, Boyes saw two armed, masked men approaching the helicopter from nearby trees. Boyes was held at gunpoint and told he would not be harmed if he followed instructions. Leonard left with one IRA vol, while the other vol climbed aboard the helicopter armed with a pistol and an Armalite rifle.

Boyes was instructed to fly towards Dublin following the path of railway lines and the Royal Canal and was ordered not to register his flight path with Air Traffic Control. As the helicopter approached Dublin, Boyes was informed of the escape plan and instructed to land in the exercise yard at Mountjoy Gaol.

As scuffles broke out between the prison officers and the prisoners, Kevin Mallon, Seamus Twomey and J. B. O'Hagan boarded the helicopter, as it took off a prison officer was heard shouting "Close the gates, close the fucking gates".

The helicopter flew north and landed at a disused racecourse in the Baldoyle area of Dublin, where the escapees were met by members of the IRA's Dublin Brigade. The escapees were transferred to a taxi that had been hijacked earlier and transported to safe houses.

The escape was a huge embarrassment to the pro-British Fine Gael "Government" as it made headlines around the world. The IRA released a statement which read "Three republican prisoners were rescued by a special unit from Mountjoy Prison on Wednesday. The operation was a complete success and the men are now safe, despite a massive hunt by Free State forces."

A couple of weeks after the escape The Wolfe Tones released a song called "The Helicopter Song" which went straight to number 1 in Ireland despite being banned by the national broadcaster RTE.

Chorus:
And its up like a bird and its over the city
3 men are missin' I heard a warder cry
It must have been a bird that flew into the prison
Or one of these new ministers says
The warder in the joy

Early one mornin' as the branchmen were sleepin'
A little helicopter it flew across the sky
And down into the yard where some prisoners were walkin'
Get ready for inspection said
The warder in the joy

Chorus

Over in the Dáil they were drinkin' gin and brandy
The minister for justice was soakin' up the sun
When along came the news that some prisoners were escapin'
I think its 3 of the provos said
The warder in the joy

Chorus

We'll search every home search every nook and cranny
Let no man rest until these men are found
For this cannot happen to a law and order government
I think you'll never find them said
The warder in the joy


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