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'A special place in our hearts': Tiede Herrema - the businessman kidnapped by the IRA in 1975 - has died

The president said Herrema and his wife Elizabeth “will be missed and fondly remembered by their many friends in Ireland”.

Elizabeth Herrema with her husband Tiede at a press conference in Dublin after his release by kidnappers.
Elizabeth Herrema with her husband Tiede at a press conference in Dublin after his release by kidnappers.
Image: PA Images

Updated Apr 27th 2020, 8:45 PM

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has today led tributes to Dr Tiede Herrema, who has died aged 99.

Dutch businessman Herrema was on his way to work at the Ferenka factory in Ballyvarra, Co Limerick on 3 October 1975 when he was kidnapped by the IRA.

He had been taken captive by Provisional IRA members Marion Coyle and Eddie Gallagher who planned to demand the release of three republican prisoners who had been imprisoned in Limerick.

Herrema was held captive for 36 days. This included an 18-day period when he and his captors were under siege at a council house in Monasterevin, Co Kildare.

The siege eventually came to an end when his captors gave themselves up.

Herrema went on to become a notable figure following the incident, mostly due to the attitude he held about his kidnappers.

Following his release, Herrema expressed no grievances, saying: “I see them as children with a lot of problems. If they were my own children I would do my utmost to help them.”

The Dutchman and his wife Elizabeth were made honorary citizens of Ireland after their ordeal, and made regular trips back here after returning to live in the Netherlands. The pair have both sadly passed away this month. 

President Higgins said: “It is with deep sadness that I have learned of the death earlier today of Dr Tiede Herrema, so soon after the death of his beloved wife Elisabeth.

“I had the privilege of meeting Tiede and Elisabeth on many occasions, including at Áras an Uachtaráin during their regular trips to Ireland.

Dr Herrema, who had endured such a traumatic kidnapping, harboured no bitterness towards his abductors and had maintained a very strong bond with Ireland. Both he and Elizabeth accepted honorary Irish citizenship. They will be missed, and fondly remembered by their many friends in Ireland.  

Joining the president in paying tribute, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the lasting legacy of Tiede and Elizabeth’s story was “the amazing generosity of spirit that they subsequently displayed in arranging to meet with, and express forgiveness to, their abducters”.

He added: “We are honoured that that the Herremas chose not to let such a terrible life-changing experience colour or define their relationship with Ireland. Both Tiede and Elisabeth will always have a special place in the hearts of the Irish people. Ireland and the Netherlands are the poorer for their passing.”

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said in a statement: “I believe we all have much to learn from the ordeal that Tiede Herrema endured and the great magnanimity and courage he and Elisabeth always embodied.  Their passing, just a short time apart, is a loss to both The Netherlands, and Ireland.”

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Sean Murray

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