Bobby Storey

bobby storeyBobby Storey (1956- ) was a prominent Republican and, for a time, the intelligence chief of the Provisional IRA. Robert Storey was one of four children born to a Nationalist family in North Belfast. Like many other Catholic families the Storeys were subjected to threats, violence and hooliganism from local Loyalist gangs. Robert left school at age 15 and worked as a shop assistant in his father’s greengrocery business. In 1971 the Storey home was raided and Robert’s older brother Seamus was arrested and jailed. In November Seamus, along with eight other Republican prisoners, broke out of Belfast’s Crumlin Road Prison. Robert himself joined the Provisional IRA shortly after Bloody Sunday (January 1972).

An imposing figure at 193 centimetres tall, “Big Bobby” Storey became a notorious IRA enforcer. He was rumoured to have been involved in numerous beatings, shootings and IRA operations during the early 1970s. Storey was frequently targeted by police and security forces and would spend almost 25 of the next 45 years in prison. In April 1973 he was interned for two years without trial in Long Kesh. From 1976 Storey was frequently in and out of prison, often charged and remanded for serious offences but sometimes able to dodge conviction. His luck ran out in 1981 when Storey was given an 18 year term for involvement in the shooting of a soldier. He was in the Maze for the final weeks of the 1981 hunger strike. Storey organised the September 1983 escape of 19 IRA prisoners from the Maze. He would receive a further seven years in prison for orchestrating this breakout.

Storey was released in 1994, weeks before the Provisional IRA ceasefire. He became aligned with Gerry Adams and for a time was the Provisional IRA’s intelligence supremo, gathering information, acquiring funds and weapons and organising operations. Storey’s most successful operation was the October 1996 bombing of Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, County Antrim; this attack, which killed one soldier, involved smuggling two large car bombs inside the barracks compound. During the 1998 negotiations Storey was tasked with convincing radical paramilitary volunteers to agree to peace terms. He became chairman of the Belfast branch of Sinn Fein and, later, the party’s chairman, finally retiring in 2016.

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