Monday, May 19, 2014

McCain... IRA Man? Nay...

In 1984 having a Gaelic surname could cause travel complications.  On my 1984 trip over, not only did I meet Muhammad Ali, but I also was questioned by United States security "agents" when I was returning back to the USA.  On 12 October, the IRA had planted a bomb in the Grand Hotel, in Brighton, England, because the Conservative Party conference was being held there.  Their target was Margaret Thatcher. Prime Minister Thatcher narrowly escaped injury, but five people were killed, including two high-profile members of the Conservative Party, and 31 were injured.  It was bloody business.

In September 1985, Patrick Magee was found guilty of planting the bomb, detonating it, and of five counts of murder. Magee received eight life sentences.The judge recommended that he serve at least 35 years. Later Home Secretary Michael Howard lengthened this to "whole life". However, Magee was released from prison in 1999, having served 14 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

As for me, I was making the return flight to the USA in early September of 1984.  Security was understandably heightened.  Macs and Os doing unusual things on international flights were suspect. I was making a connecting flight between Aer Lingus and Delta back in Newark and was running late.  Aer Lingus, being the sports they used to be, whisked me through customs by some semi-secret door, and presto I was making my way toward the Delta aircraft.  Then "security" caught up with me.  It was Federal agents, I forget the brand name, but they had guns and the whole business.  You see, the IRA bombers were thought to be leaving the UK and trying to make for the USA and here comes this man name Barry McCain (a suspiciously Irish sounding name) that is being allowed to go around the customs station and placed directly on his flight. 

Well, the Federal agents were, with their guns, expecting a hard core IRA man, but instead got an educated Mississippi Redneck of Gaelic ancestry  The interrogation should have been taped as it was not without its points of humor. Back then there were clever people working as these Federal agents, it took the older man with gray highlights in his thinning hair about thirty seconds to realize exactly who and what I was, he began to grin. Now the younger ones, full of piss and vinegar were not ready to give it up, but gray hair trumps.  He allowed me to pass and even helped me get to my plane in time.

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