Old Bailey bomber who said republicanism was part of her 'DNA'

Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 00:00

Dolours Price, Born: June 21st 1951; Died: January 23rd, 2013. In an interview with this newspaper, Old Bailey bomber and hunger striker Dolours Price, who has died aged 61, said of her sister Marian, “We formed bonds in English prisons and in Irish prison that can never be broken. I hope and trust she will find the strength and courage to keep on going.”

She was always supportive of her younger sister – now back in prison after the licence under which she was released for the Old Bailey bombing was revoked. Like Marian Price she was hardline in her republicanism, believing the peace process and the Belfast Agreement were a sell-out, with much of their ire falling on Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

It was also clear that her experience as an IRA member, which she joined when she was a student teacher, deeply affected her very psyche. She admitted to suffering from alcoholism and psychological problems and of being subject to post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of force-feeding.

Dolours Price said that Irish republicanism was part of her and her sister’s “DNA”. Her father Albert was in the IRA during the 1940s campaign and was interned in the Curragh. She was involved in the civil rights movement and was a member of People’s Democracy. After internment in 1971 when hundreds of nationalists were imprisoned without trial she joined the Provisional IRA with her sister Marian.

She described to the Sunday Telegraph how women could not become members of the IRA. Aged 19 she told IRA leader Seán Mac Stíofáin she wanted to be a “fighting soldier” which resulted in the IRA army council admitting women.

Born in Belfast, she was in her final year of teacher training at St Mary’s College when she was arrested in 1973 for her part in an IRA bombing campaign. She told the Telegraph it was her idea to bomb London: “I was convinced that a short, sharp shock, an incursion into the heart of the empire, would be more effective than 20 car bombs in any part of the north of Ireland.” She also claimed that Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was her commanding officer and that he authorised the Old Bailey bombings, even though he warned that it could be a “hanging job”. Adams has denied these allegations.

The two sisters were part of the nine-member IRA team, which included current North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly, that planted bombs in London, at the Old Bailey, New Scotland Yard, a British army recruiting office in Westminster, and Whitehall.

Two of the bombs exploded, injuring about 240 people and resulting in the death of a man who had a heart attack. Most of the IRA members were quickly arrested and imprisoned. Their hunger strike and the attendant possibility of two young sisters dying made world headlines, and ultimately helped their repatriation to prison in Northern Ireland.

It was reported in 2010 that Dolours Price was implicated in the murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville which set in train an attempt by the PSNI to compel Boston College to release tapes and transcripts of an interview she gave to a research study called the Belfast Project carried out under the direction of Ed Moloney. Moloney has said that in these interviews Dolours Price made no reference to the murder of Jean McConville.

Dolours Price married the actor Stephen Rea in 1983 and they had two children, Danny and Oscar. The marriage ended in divorce in 2003.