Airey Neave 1916 - 1979

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, March 30, 2010 , ,

It would be wrong to mention anniversaries and not refer to the assassination by car-bomb of Airey Neave MP on March 30 1979. Tory Historian well remembers the shock of hearing that his car blew up as he was driving it out of the Westminster Palace yard.

Neave was a wholly admirable man, a war hero, the first to make "a home run" from Colditz, who then served in Military Intelligence and took part in the Nuremeberg Trials, flawed though these were. Subsequently, he was a close adviser to Margaret Thatcher, concerned particularly with Northern Ireland and the security services.

Anything like that, inevitably, produces loony conspiracy theories and there were many people on the left and on the right who could not accept that Airey Neave was assassinated by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), a splinter group of the IRA. There were also conspiracy theories about Neave himself.

The Wikipedia entry gives a fascinating list of all those theories and their adherents. It is somewhat disconcerting to find that Tony Benn's reaction when presented with arguments that Neave wanted to have him assassinated were considerably saner than Enoch Powell's who maintained that the assassination had been organized by the Americans or by MI6. Perhaps both.


  1. I imagine Been would have consulted Powell, they were very good friends.

  2. Tricia Says:
  3. I remember it well. John Biggs-Davison was Airey Neave's No 2 as Shadow Northern Ireland, and I was John's Agent at the time. He and I were just at the top of the car park slope when the car blew up. John said to a nearby policeman, "what was that?" "It sounded like a bomb" said the policeman, completely unconcerned.
    That was about 2.30pm, and the Palace was then sealed until about 7.00pm. Although we were there at the scene, as it were, nobody seemed to know what had happened. Meanwhile my car was parked in the City, where I had left it after lunch, and picked up two parking tickets. There followed a long drawn out exchange with the Police where each time I wrote in to explain what had happened the bloke at the top cancelled the tickets, but bureaucracy lower down kept demanding payment or else.
    Afterwards, John went to the top of the IRA list, after MT. For most of the ensuing General Election I felt more as if I were part of Special Branch rather than trying to run an election. But that's another story.

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