'How the kidnapping of a businessman cost me €2m'

My Big Regret: ‘I think we know the real victim of the kidnapping of Dr Tiede Herrema’

Dutch businessman Dr Tiede Herrema, who was kidnapped in 1975.  Photograph: David Sleator

Dutch businessman Dr Tiede Herrema, who was kidnapped in 1975. Photograph: David Sleator

 

On the evening of October 20th, 1975, my father followed the winding road wrapped around the Silvermine Mountains which connected Tipperary to Limerick.

There was an urgency to the car journey – I was in the passenger seat with my mother, already two weeks overdue.

Limerick hospital was an hour away – however, the day coincided with one of the largest Garda operations in the history of the State.

Following a tip-off, roads around Co Limerick and neighbouring counties were blocked, as gardaí searched for Dutch businessman Dr Tiede Herrema, who had been kidnapped earlier that month.

I waited impatiently as terrible roads and frequent checkpoints were negotiated – the journey gaining in urgency as each minute passed. I like to imagine pale-faced armed men hurriedly waving the small, blue Renault 5 through security cordons as soon as they realised the potential impact of their delays.

I was, eventually and thankfully, born in a hospital – moments after midnight.

That same morning – October 21st, 1975 – gardaí would follow the kidnappers to a house in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, beginning a further two-week siege.

It was many years later before I would again feel the personal impact of Ireland’s most famous kidnapping.

I have an on-off relationship with the national lottery – answering their call regularly for a few weeks, before falling neglectful, sometimes for months at a time.

When I do engage, I always choose two panels – one consisting of the ages of family members (and therefore regularly changing), and the other being the dates of the month connected to family birthdays.

A few years ago, through the latter panel, I matched five numbers – claiming a month’s rent. However, the excitement and enjoyment was quickly extinquished when I realised how close I was to the €2 million jackpot.

My own birthdate, 21, had let me down. The winning sixth number was 20 – the date I surely would have been born had it not been for those endless delays many years earlier.

I think we all know who the real victim was in the kidnapping of Dr Tiede Herrema.

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