On This Day — Lord Louis Mountbatten Killed by IRA (August 27 1979) [UPDATE : Has Sinn Féin president really apologized for murder of Lord Mountbatten]

“The IRA claim responsibility for the execution of Lord Louis Mountbatten. This operation is one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country. (…) The death of Mountbatten and the tributes paid to him will be seen in sharp contrast to the apathy of the British government and the English people to the deaths of over three hundred British soldiers, and the deaths of Irish men, women, and children at the hands of their forces.”

IRA Official Statement (August 27 1979)


August 27 2020 — Forty years ago — on August 27 1979, Lord Louis Mountbatten, his grandson Nicholas, and two others were assassinated by a bomb set by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, hidden aboard his fishing boat in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: Remembering Sir Roger Casement (1 September 1864 – 3 August 1916) — “Hanged on a Comma”

One Year Ago — Bad Science & Bad Scientists : IRA suspect Issues Apology for the Birmingham Pub Bombings

20 Years Ago — The Good Friday Agreement (April 10 1998)

RELATED POST: On This Day — The Great Gardner Museum Heist (March 18 1990)

UPDATE (April 20 2021) — According to MSM, the Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou McDonald, has apologized for the IRA’s 1979 murder of Lord Mountbatten.

“The apology represents a change in tone from that of McDonald’s predecessor, Gerry Adams, who, while expressing regret for the murder, has previously said Mountbatten knew the risks of travelling to Ireland. The IRA maintained Mountbatten was a legitimate target.” — The Guardian

“Seeking to salve an old wound at a time of sorrow for Britain’s royal family, the political leader of the Irish republican movement apologized on Sunday for the 1979 assassination of Louis Mountbatten, an uncle of Prince Philip. Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Fein, which was once the political wing of the underground Irish Republican Army, told a London radio station, ‘Of course, I am sorry that happened; of course, that is heartbreaking.'” — The New York Times

Although all news media are printing the same title, it is far from obvious that Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has apologized for the assassination.

The facts

McDonald was speaking a day after the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II and nephew of Mountbatten.

Asked on Britain’s Times Radio if she would apologize personally to Prince Charles for the attack, she replied:

“The army and the armed forces associated with Prince Charles carried out many, many violent actions on our island. And I can say, of course, I am sorry that that happened.”

“Of course, that is heartbreaking. My job, and I think that Prince Charles and others would absolutely appreciate this, my job is to lead from the front, now, in these times.”

“All our jobs to ensure that no other child, no other family, irrespective of who they are, face the kind of trauma and heartbreak that was all too common on all sides – let me emphasize on all sides – of this island and beyond.”

“I have an absolute commitment and responsibility to make sure that no family faces that again. And I am happy to reiterate that on the weekend that your queen buried her beloved husband.”


The Sinn Féin was asked to clarify whether Ms McDonald was making an “apology” over the IRA attack, which was the interpretation a number of media outlets were putting on her comments. There was no official response from the party.

Sorry, but not sorry….

As the Irish Times concluded today, the comments are certainly NOT the full-throated apology for IRA actions that many headlines, especially in the British press, would suggest. 

You can read Mary Lou McDonald’s weekend comments in different ways. Sorry for the killing of Mountbatten, or sorry the whole conflict happened. The ambiguity is hardly unintentional.

Asked if McDonald intended to go further than Sinn Féin has previously on the subject, [Sinn Féin TD (lower house of Parliament)] Ó Broin replied, “I don’t know”.

Let me point out that a full-fledged apology would be very surprising to say the least.

“While expressing regret and sorrow for the suffering caused by the conflict in general, Sinn Féin has never disavowed the IRA or its actions and is unlikely to start now. 

But on a deeper level, it remains a fundamental tenet of republican thinking that the IRA campaign – while admitting individual mistakes and expressing regret for all deaths in the conflict – was morally and politically justified. That belief is ingrained in the party’s DNA.”

So, what is going on? I think the comments must be read in the context of the renewed violence and the prospect of a re-unification of Ireland. It will not happen next year, but it is very plausible on a 10-year horizon.

PS — Some politicians have suggested that an apology was not enough and a new investigation was needed. I can ensure you that the Royal family would not welcome such a new investigation. It is no State Secret that Louis and Edwina Mountbatten were an odd couple. Lord Mountbatten once admitted: “Edwina and I spent all our married lives getting into other people’s beds.” Serious historians have suggested both were bisexual – a huge taboo at the time. And the presence of two boys on the boat on the day of the assassination was never really explained… This is no conspiracy theory. FBI documents from the 1940s revealed that Lord Mountbatten was “a homosexual with a perversion for young boys.”


“Against the background of a divided Northern Executive and increasing loyalist alienation, McDonald seems to be making conciliatory noises. It is an interesting departure.” — Irish Times (April 20 2021)

On August 27 1979, Mountbatten went lobster-potting and tuna fishing in his 30-foot wooden boat, Shadow V, which had been moored in the harbor at Mullaghmore.

IRA member Thomas McMahon had slipped onto the unguarded boat that night and attached a radio-controlled bomb weighing 50 pounds (23 kg).

When Mountbatten was aboard, just a few hundred yards from the shore, the bomb was detonated.

The boat was destroyed by the force of the blast, and Mountbatten’s legs were almost blown off.

Mountbatten, then aged 79, was pulled alive from the water by nearby fishermen, but died from his injuries before being brought to shore.

Sinn Féin vice-president Gerry Adams said of Mountbatten’s death:

“The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution.

I think it is unfortunate that anyone has to be killed, but the furor created by Mountbatten’s death showed up the hypocritical attitude of the media establishment.

As a member of the House of Lords, Mountbatten was an emotional figure in both British and Irish politics.

What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; and with his war record I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation.

He knew the danger involved in coming to this country.

In my opinion, the IRA achieved its objective: people started paying attention to what was happening in Ireland.”

In May 2015, during a meeting with Prince Charles, Adams did not apologize. He later said in an interview:

“I stand over what I said then.

I’m not one of those people who engages in revisionism.

Thankfully the war is over”.

The day Mountbatten died


Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma — Wikipedia

Mary Lou McDonald ‘sorry’ over IRA killing of Lord Mountbatten — Irish Times

Sinn Féin president apologises for murder of Lord Mountbatten — The Guardian


On This Day — Lord Louis Mountbatten Killed by IRA (August 27 1979)

On This Day — Lord Louis Mountbatten Killed by IRA (August 27 1979) [2019]

On This Day — Lord Louis Mountbatten Killed by IRA (August 27 1979) [2020]

On This Day — Lord Louis Mountbatten Killed by IRA (August 27 1979) [UPDATE : Has Sinn Féin president really apologized for murder of Lord Mountbatten]

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