Seamus Twomey (1919-1989) was an Irish Republican, a founding member of the Provisional IRA and the organisation’s chief of staff twice during the 1970s. Twomey was born into a Catholic Nationalist family in Belfast, his father having served with the IRA during the 1920s. Twomey left school at a young age, working with a local bookmaker and later in a betting shop. He joined the IRA in 1937, aged just 16. Twomey was interned during World War II, spending time on a prison barge then in Crumlin Road jail. He married fellow Republican Rosie McCotter and they settled in Andersonstown, a working class Catholic area in western Belfast. In December 1969 Twomey, along with Seán Mac Stíofáin and other disgruntled militants, became a founding member of the Provisional IRA.
By 1972 Twomey was officer in command of the Provisional IRA’s Belfast Brigade. In early July he accompanied Gerry Adams, Mac Stíofáin and three others to London, to participate in secret peace talks with Northern Ireland Secretary of State William Whitelaw. The talks failed and Twomey returned to Belfast, where he oversaw the IRA’s deadly bombing campaign on July 21st (‘Bloody Friday’). Twomey became the Provisional IRA’s chief of staff in March 1973. Six months later he was arrested across the Irish border and sentenced to three years in prison. Three weeks into his sentence Twomey and two others escaped from prison, using a helicopter hijacked by IRA volunteers. In January 1976 Twomey reportedly authorised the killing of ten Protestant workers in Kingsmill, County Armagh.
Twomey’s rein as chief of staff ended in December 1977 when he was again arrested in Ireland, this time in Dublin, and handed five years in prison. There was no escape this time and Twomey remained behind bars until 1982. He died of heart disease in September 1989, aged 69. Most historians consider Seamus Twomey a violent, short-sighted nihilist whose determination to make Northern Ireland ungovernable shaped Provisional IRA tactics in the early 1970s.
This page was written by Rebekah Poole and Jennifer Llewellyn. To reference this page, use the following citation:
R. Poole & J. Llewellyn, “Seamus Twomey”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], https://alphahistory.com/northernireland/seamus-twomey/.