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Desmond "Dessie" Grew (born c. 1953—9 October 1990), was a volunteer in the South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) from County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Grew was killed by undercover British Army 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 lived up in a predominantly loyalist area and their family home was attacked on a number of occasions. Their family home was burnt down in 1972. The Grew family then moved to the outskirts of Charlemont where again the home was burnt down as a result of bomb attack, in which six of the Grew children where injured.[1]

Life as an Irish republican

During his adult life Dessie Grew was a highly active member of the Irish National Liberation Army and the IRA.[2] 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.

His brother Seamus Grew was also shot dead by an undercover Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) squad (E4A) on the outskirts of Armagh in 1982.


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 the pair were due to remove the guns.[3]

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 the two men. Autopsy results showed Grew had 48 bullet wounds and McCaughey 12 gunshot wounds. British Army reports of the shooting stated that the two men left the shed holding two rifles. Republican sources claim the men were unarmed.[2][4][5][6][7]

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."

Stake out allegation

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.[8][9]

At the time of his death, Grew was wanted for questioning by German police according to the RUC.[10]


Grew had stated that weeks before his death that in the event of his death that he wanted "no marble tombstone over him, only a tree that would grow and spread". In line with his wishes Grew was buried at Armagh City cemetery in October 1990.[1] Gerry Adams gave the oration at his funeral, calling him "a freedom fighter, a patriot and a decent upstanding Irish citizen".[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b Tírghrá. National Commemoration Centre. 2002. p. 318. ISBN 0-9542946-0-2.  
  2. ^ a b Jack Holland. “INLA emerges again in Armagh” Irish Echo. Retrieved on 2007-02-08.
  3. ^ Transcript from "BRITS" Holding the line BBC Documentary
  4. ^ Moloney, Ed (2002). A Secret History of the IRA. Penguin Books. p. 318. ISBN 0-141-01041-X.  
  5. ^ Unknown. " Sinn Fein is the IRA", The Burning Bush, November, 1990. Retrieved on 2007-02-08.
  6. ^ Toolis, Kevin (1995). Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul. Penguin Books. p. 63. ISBN 0-312-15632-4.  
  7. ^ Murray, Raymond (2004). The SAS in Ireland. Mercier Press. p. 450. ISBN 1-85635-437-7.  
  8. ^ Report from Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission – Police Service of Northern Ireland v. McCaughey and Anor [2005] NICA 1 (14 January 2005)
  9. ^ Unknown. "Families of IRA men killed by British forces file lawsuit at House of Lords ", Evening Echo, 2007-01-17. Retrieved on 2007-02-08
  10. ^ "Peter Heathwood Collection of Television Programmes". CAIN. Retrieved 2007-05-29.  
  11. ^ Bowyer Bell, J. (1994). The Irish Troubles. Gill & Macmillan. pp. 251–252. ISBN 0-7475-3818-2.  


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