Dessie Grew

Dessie Grew on an unknown date

Desmond "Dessie" Grew (c. 1953 9 October 1990) was a volunteer in the East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).[1] Grew was killed by undercover Special Air Service soldiers in County Armagh in 1990 along with fellow IRA volunteer, Martin McCaughey.


Grew was the second eldest in a family of seven girls and four boys born to Kathleen and Patrick Grew. He was educated at primary level at Knocknaconey Primary School and at secondary level at his local Christian Brothers School (CBS), where he obtained high grades at both "O" and "A" levels. Grew was deeply interested in Irish culture: he spoke the Irish language fluently and represented both his schools' Gaelic football teams.

The Grews originally lived in a predominantly Ulster loyalist area and their family home was attacked on a number of occasions. It was eventually burnt down in 1972. The Grew family then moved to the outskirts of Charlemont, County Armagh, a village southeast of Moy, where again the home was burnt down as a result of a bomb attack in which six of the Grew children were injured.[2]

Paramilitary career

During his adult life Dessie Grew was a highly active member of the Irish National Liberation Army and the IRA.[3] Grew had served four terms of imprisonment for republican activity at both Portlaoise Prison and Long Kesh prior to his final release in June 1988. At the time of his death, Grew was wanted for questioning by German authorities who had issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the killing of Heidi Hazell and an RAF corporal and his baby daughter.[4][5]

Grew was shot dead along with Martin McCaughey in an operation by undercover British soldiers. The British Army's 14 Intelligence Company, which was a secret undercover intelligence unit, also known as the DET, were monitoring three AK47s at a farm building in this rural part of County Armagh and were aware that Grew and McCaughey were due to remove the guns.[6]

As the pair approached an agricultural shed which was being used to grow mushrooms and also thought to have been an IRA arms dump, as many as 200 shots are believed to have been fired at them. Autopsy results showed Grew had 48 bullet wounds and McCaughey 12. British Army reports of the shooting stated that the two men left the shed holding two rifles. Republican sources claim the men were unarmed.[3][7][8][9][10]

Peter Taylor in his book and documentary, Brits looks into the ambush of Grew and McCaughey. Taylor states, "14 Intelligence Company, the secret army unit known as "the DET", were monitoring three AK47s at a farm building in County Armagh. There was intelligence that two of the IRA's most wanted men, Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew, were coming to pick them up that night. The SAS were waiting."

His brother Seamus Grew had also been killed in disputed circumstances by an undercover E4A squad on the outskirts of Armagh in 1982.[11] Grew had stated weeks before his death that in the event of his death that he wished to be laid beside Seamus. In line with his wishes, Grew was buried at Armagh City cemetery in October 1990.[2] Gerry Adams gave the oration at his funeral, calling him "a freedom fighter, a patriot and a decent upstanding Irish citizen".[12]


The family of McCaughey claimed that Grew and McCaughey were ambushed after a stake out by the SAS. In January 2002, Justice Weatherup, a Northern Ireland High Court Judge ordered that official military document relating to the shooting should be disclosed. However, PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde had the ruling overturned on appeal in January 2005.[13][14]

In April and May 2012, an inquest in front of a jury was held. Reaching its verdict after hearing weeks of evidence, the jury ruled that the SAS had used "reasonable force" during the operation and that the IRA men's own actions had contributed to their deaths.

"Mr Grew and Mr McCaughey put their lives in danger by being in the area of the sheds in the vicinity of a stolen car, which was expected to be used in terrorist activity," the verdict stated.

"They were both armed with guns, wearing gloves and balaclavas and were approaching soldiers who believed that their lives were in immediate danger." [15]

See also


  1. An Phoblacht, 7 October 2004
  2. 1 2 Tírghrá. National Commemoration Centre. 2002. p. 318. ISBN 0-9542946-0-2.
  3. 1 2 Jack Holland. “INLA emerges again in Armagh” Irish Echo. Retrieved on 8 February 2007.
  4. "Peter Heathwood Collection of Television Programmes". CAIN. Retrieved 29 May 2007.
  5. Herald: IRA Terrorist was Patriot says Adams
  6. Transcript from "BRITS" Holding the line BBC Documentary
  7. Moloney, Ed (2002). A Secret History of the IRA. Penguin Books. p. 318. ISBN 0-14-101041-X.
  8. Unknown. " Sinn Fein is the IRA", The Burning Bush, November 1990. Retrieved on 8 February 2007.
  9. Toolis, Kevin (1995). Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul. Penguin Books. p. 63. ISBN 0-312-15632-4.
  10. Murray, Raymond (2004). The SAS in Ireland. Mercier Press. p. 450. ISBN 1-85635-437-7.
  11. Bell, J. Bowyer (1997). The secret army: the IRA. Transaction Publishers, pp. 534–535. ISBN 1-56000-901-2
  12. Bowyer Bell, J. (1994). The Irish Troubles. Gill & Macmillan. pp. 251–252. ISBN 0-7475-3818-2.
  13. Report from Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission – Police Service of Northern Ireland v. McCaughey and Anor [2005] NICA 1 (14 January 2005)
  14. Unknown. "Families of IRA men killed by British forces file lawsuit at House of Lords ", Evening Echo, 17 January 2007. Retrieved on 8 February 2007
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