Journal Volume 5 2006

John Francis O'Reilly and John Kenny: Irishmen sent by the Germans to spy in Ireland during World War 2 (continued/4)

O'Reilly's restless streak surfaced again on 6th July 1944 when he managed to escape from Arbour Hill Prison by squeezing through the bars of his cell window, making his way to an unused sentry tower which he previously noticed, loosening the barbed wire, getting through it, crossing over the wall and then finding his way to Hueston Station in Kingsbridge using a Dublin street map which he had obtained through a ruse from the duty officer in the Prison who failed to question / query the reasons for the request. At Hueston Station, O’Reilly boarded the next Clare bound train and arrived back in the family home around 7 p.m. on the 9th July 1944. By this time wanted posters with his pictures offering a reward of £500 for information leading to his capture had been put up throughout the country. O’Reilly had very little time to savour the joys of the family home as his father reported his presence to the authorities and he was rearrested there at 9 p.m. that night and subsequently returned to Arbour Hill Prison. However during the two hour period at home it appears that father and son discussed a course of action under which he would turn his son into the authorities and then claim the reward on his behalf, which is what subsequently happened.

Bernard O’Reilly applied for the reward which was duly paid to him after the matter had been the subject of discussions between Gerald Boland, Minister of Justice and Col. Dan Bryan, Head of Military Intelligence, concerning the legitimacy of making this payment to the father of the escapee, but in the end it was agreed that the money would be paid to him so as not to damage the public response to any future appeals for information leading to the capture of escapees.

Occasionally In Arbour Hill Prison O’Reilly was interviewed by members of Irish Military Intelligence with any information obtained from him relayed to M.I.5 in Britain through the ‘Dublin Link’, an aspect of Anglo – Irish military cooperation / intelligence sharing during World War 2 / Emergency, details of which are only now being slowly revealed. Occasionally M.I.5 sent Irish Military Intelligence questions they were seeking answers to from O’Reilly, sometimes providing material to assist them in obtaining this information from him. Dr. Richard Hayes, Director of the National Library of Ireland and Ireland’s top code expert, managed to break the code used by O’Reilly with this information being passed back to M.I.5 via the ‘Dublin Link’.

O’Reilly was released from Arbour Hill on 24th May 1945 with the £143 he had on him when arrested in 1943 being repatriated to him. In October 1945 O’Reilly purchased the Esplanade Hotel in Dublin for £7,100 using the £500 reward money his father had claimed on his behalf and the balance with German funds which the Garda Siochana failed to locate. Later he opened a public house in Parkgate Street, Dublin, called O'Reilly's but more commonly known as The Parachute Bar while he was referred to as The Parachutist. Although he married after his release from Arbour Hill Prison, this marriage failed in the 1950's resulting in his 6 children being taken into care when he emigrated to Nigeria. His estranged wife Helen became pregnant by another man but died from an abortion performed on her in April 1956 by the infamous Nurse Mamie Cadden who dumped her body outside 15 Hume Street, Dublin 2. Cadden was subsequently found guilty of her murder, sentenced to death, reprieved, with the death sentence being commuted to life imprisonment, and was later sent to the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, where she died in April 1960. O'Reilly later remarried and had a son who was born in the 1960's. For a while O'Reilly worked for Clare V.E.C. (Vocational Educational Committee.) giving German lessons and he is credited with playing a significant role in attracting a German plant to the town. It is claimed by some writers that O'Reilly worked for British Intelligence in Africa and the Middle East. O'Reilly died in England in 1971, the apparent victim of a hit and run accident.


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