Ireland reconsiders the murders of “Gubu” 40 years later

No adjective could do justice to the events that shook Ireland in July and August 1982, thus the taoiseach of the time, Charles Haughey, used four of them: “grotesque, incredible, bizarre and unprecedented”. An acronym was soon born: Gubu.

That summer, Malcolm MacArthur, a bow-tie and tie-loving socialite, bludgeoned a young woman to death, killed a farmer with his own shotgun and attempted to rob a retired US diplomat, sparking a huge hunt. to the man.

Police tracked MacArthur to the Dublin apartment of then Attorney General Patrick Connolly, who had hosted the fugitive as a guest, unaware of his crimes. After the police took MacArthur away, Connolly flew to London to catch a Concorde flight to New York for a vacation.

Haughey was left trying to explain the matter in a chaotic press conference in which he unwittingly gave birth to the new acronym and undermined his government, which faltered and finally fell on November 4, 1982.

Forty years later, the saga and its bizarre aftermath have once again shaken Ireland. A seven-part Irish Times podcast, Gubu, topped the charts in Ireland this summer, while another seven-part podcast, Obscene: the Dublin Scandal, narrated by actor Adrian Dunbar, launched in September on the BBC. Both cover the anniversaries of the crimes and the political convulsions that followed.

Irish Twitter users have suggested the acronym be dusted off and applied to British political unrest.

“I can’t think of a story that was more sensational. You had this extraordinary series of murders and then the jaw-dropping revelation that the prime suspect was found at the home of the state’s top law enforcement official,” said Harry McGee, who presented and produces the Irish Times podcast. “What surprised me was that there were also a very large number of younger listeners, most of whom were born several years after the events.”

Haughey’s reputation for intrigue fueled conspiracy theories that unsettled his government, though in this case the taoiseach was beyond reproach, McGee said. “But that acronym followed him like a stray dog ​​for the rest of his career. Scandal defined the entire era.

The podcasts debunk several myths, including that the state has concealed an underground pedophile ring in the upper echelons of Irish society.

The case inspired John Banville’s 1989 novel The Book of Evidence, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

In some ways, the drama is still playing out. MacArthur, released in 2012 after 30 years in prison, appears at Dublin cafes and book launches.

It was haunting to see the murderer so unchanged, as if frozen, author and commentator Fintan O’Toole told the BBC podcast. “It was as if this character had disappeared and returned as he was. It’s a kind of strange, ghostly presence that he always has in Dublin.

Another contributor said he confronted MacArthur in a cafe: “I went and said, ‘You murdered my best friend’s daughter’. He looked up at me, then looked down and didn’t tell me. never recognized anything.

MacArthur declined interview requests, saying that as a condition of his bail he cannot discuss his crimes.

Malcolm MacArthur drives from court

Malcolm MacArthur was taken from Dublin Central Criminal Court in January 1983. Photo: Independent News and Media/Getty Images

What drove him remains an enigma. The only son of wealthy landowners, his parents had a toxic marriage and he grew up alone. He studied in the United States, then returned to Ireland in the 1970s, a tweedy, gruff figure who never worked, lived off his heritage and frequented fashionable bars.

He had a child with his girlfriend, Brenda Little, and it was through her that he met Connolly. In early 1982 the couple moved to Spain, but MacArthur’s inheritance was spent; he was broke. He returned to Dublin alone, intending to steal a car and a gun to rob banks, believing the police would blame the IRA.

Described by some as a whimsical and others as amoral, MacArthur stalked bathers in Phoenix Park on July 22. He forced a young nurse, Bridie Gargan, into his car and beat her savagely with a hammer. He drove off and abandoned the car, leaving Gargan mortally wounded.

Two days later he took a bus to County Offaly to meet a farmer, Dónal Dunne, who had advertised the sale of a shotgun. MacArthur shot Dunne in the head and drove off with his car and the shotgun towards Dublin.

On August 4, he visited Harry Bieling, a retired American diplomat living in Dalkey, an affluent suburb of Dublin. Brandishing the weapon, MacArthur demanded £1,000. Bieling managed to flee, prompting MacArthur to move into Connolly’s apartment next door, who agreed to take him in.

The guest had taxis deliver bottles of Perrier water, as well as copies of The Irish Times and Private Eye – all paid into Connolly’s account. He also accompanied the Attorney General to an All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park.

With clues scattered across town, the manhunt quickly ended. On August 13, detectives arrested MacArthur. He confessed to everything, saying he couldn’t cope with his dwindling finances. “It all comes down to money,” he said.

As for Connolly, his fate was sealed as he was called home after just one night in New York, to resign. Haughey’s government collapsed a few months later.

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