Whitey Bulger: “That’s our shipment. That’s ours!”

There’s been a familiar response from Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris, TD, to the news of the arrest of Irish-American gangland boss, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.  From the Irish News

“I don’t know Whitey Bulger,” Mr Ferris said.  “I never met him.  I never had anything to do with him, ever.  “I never met him in my life.  You can get the transcripts of the trial and look at them.  There’s nothing about him.”

It was reported that Bulger, an Irish American now aged 81, helped organise the operation but that the IRA later blamed him for scuppering the plan and making off with the cash.

Mr Ferris dismissed this as “media speculation”.  “I know nothing about it, really,” he told the Irish Daily Mail.  “It is history.  We will leave it all to history.  I have no memories and I know nothing about him.”

It might be speculation to say that “the IRA later blamed him for scuppering the plan”, but there are a number of reasonably detailed accounts of the attempted arms smuggling operation, and Bulger’s role in it.  From the Irish Examiner

The Valhalla was carrying $1 million worth of guns and ammunition. It was believed that the money to buy the weapons was collected by Murray and Bulger.

Bulger tipped the FBI off to the Valhalla mission. Providing such information enhanced his standing as an informant.

Seán O’Callaghan, the garda informant within the Provisional IRA, warned the Special Branch that the Marita Ann was going to be used. Hence it was kept under electronic surveillance from the Irish side, while the Valhalla was tracked across the Atlantic by satellite.

The guns were transferred at sea, with virtually the whole Irish navy waiting off the Kerry coast. The Marita Ann was seized making its way back to port. Martin Ferris, now Sinn Féin TD for Kerry North–West Limerick, was among several arrested.

While Bulger was informing for the FBI, other agencies had him under surveillance, and the home of one of his two lovers was bugged. When the news of the seizure of the Marita Ann was broadcast on television, he was recorded as saying: “That’s our stuff.”

After the Valhalla returned to Massachusetts, the crew went into hiding. The 32-year-old McIntyre offered to co-operate with police in a desperate effort to extricate himself. He was clearly “petrified” of his colleagues, said Detective Richard Bergeron, and his information proved vital.

“You don’t know where you’re going to end up or what kind of demise you’re going to come to,” McIntyre said. “I just sometimes feel like I’m trapped in this whirlpool and I can’t get out of it.”

In the early 1980s, he got involved in Murray’s drug-smuggling. He sailed on seven boats that smuggled marijuana into Boston.

“I was the engineer on all those boats,” McIntyre said. Each carried “between two and three thousand bales”. He gave up details of a drug shipment that was due to come in on the freighter, Ramsland. The boat was searched as it entered Boston Harbour on November 16, 1984, and a shipment of 36 tons of marijuana was seized.

DEA investigators were almost euphoric about McIntyre’s co-operation. “This guy had a mountain of information,” Bergeron later explained.

The DEA shared the information with the FBI. Agent Roderick Kennedy of the FBI’s Boston office interviewed McIntyre, and reported that McIntyre talked at length about Joe Murray, as well “Patrick Nee of South Boston, Kevin, and an individual named ‘Whitey’ who operates a liquor store”. This was obviously a reference to Bulger, whose business front was the South Boston Liquor Mart. The Kevin mentioned was apparently Kevin Weeks, who was also known as Bulger’s surrogate son.

Two days later, McIntyre disappeared. His body was not found until January 2000.

While Bulger was clearly tied to the Valhalla gun caper, Nee has said the mobster didn’t like how passionate Nee was in helping the IRA because the risk in trading guns was great while the profit was low.

“Whitey did have something to do with the Valhalla, but he tried to derail it,” Nee told the Boston Globe.

A later Globe article was more specific. It theorized that Bulger had compromised the Valhalla operation, after taking a hefty profit from it, by tipping off the CIA.

However, Bulger clearly felt invested in the Gloucester operation. He first heard of the foiled deal on Boston’s Channel 7 News. “That’s our shipment. That’s ours!,” a Drug Enforcement Agency bug installed in his home recorded him saying.

Investigators say then Boston FBI agent John Connolly Jr. leaked McIntyre’s identity to Bulger. The FBI agent learned it from either Customs agents the fisherman spoke to the day the Valhalla was seized in Boston or from Quincy cops after McIntyre spilled the beans while drunk during an arrest.

Bulger was so angered by the seizure and the betrayal that he ordered Nee to bring the Quincy man to a South Boston house in November 1984.

Nee has admitted bringing McIntyre to the home, saying Bulger, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi and Kevin Weeks were waiting to “just talk” to the fisherman. Nee said he returned to house to find the three burying the body. McIntyre had been tortured, and Weeks and Flemmi would both later say Bulger shot the man in the head.

The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen was at Bulger’s court appearance.  And the paper also carries this interesting op-ed

Whitey Bulger wanted to be taken as Robin Hood, a defender of the neighborhood under siege. As the old Brahmin enemy faded, a new enemy arrived in the legion of black families who wanted to put their children into Southie’s schools — or bus Southie children out to theirs. “Liberals’’ were their sponsors, along with the courts, the press, and even the broader church. Local Irish xenophobia became general. In concert with his politician brother, William, Whitey Bulger played on all of this, the pair celebrated as maestros of neighborhood values.

Whitey made alliances with the FBI against another outside enemy — the Italian mob. Jumping on the wagon of renewed Troubles in Northern Ireland, he became a self-appointed henchman of the IRA, returning to the well of Britain-hatred to refresh the spirit of grievance. With his brother as winker-in-chief, Whitey’s legend as a benign Irish rogue was established. He became a favorite punch line to jokes told by cops and pols at the Bulger-sponsored St. Patrick’s Day breakfasts. Irishness itself settled on the brothers like fairy dust, and Boston joined Southie in loving them for it. All the while, Whitey Bulger was a one-man plague, infecting his own turf with mayhem, murder, and drugs, poisoning the very streets and projects that honored him as protector. One mythic figure in Irish tradition is the informer who betrays his own people. That, in every way, is Whitey Bulger.

Read the whole thing.