Edward O'Brien (Irish republican)

Edward O'Brien
Nickname(s) The Quiet Man [1]
Born 18 September 1974
Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland
Died 18 February 1996
London, England, UK
Allegiance Provisional Irish Republican Army
Years of service 1992 - 1996
Rank Volunteer
Unit Wexford Brigade

Edward O'Brien (18 September 1974 – 18 February 1996) was a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer.


O'Brien grew up in Gorey, County Wexford, with his parents and two siblings. As a child he attended the local national and secondary schools.[1] A keen sportsman, he was a member of St Enda's GAA Club where he played football and hurling and also played for Gorey Rangers soccer club.[1] He also was regarded as a talented boxer, and worked in a bakery.[1]

Active service

Having joined the IRA in 1992, he was described in an Irish Republican memorial book as a thoughtful and strong-willed young man who very serious about his commitment but frustrated about not playing a more active role in Irish republicanism.[1] Soon after he went to England to engage in paramilitary activity in an active service unit.[1] Documents later recovered from O'Brien's residence indicated he was working for the IRA in Britain early as August 1994, collecting information on targets, and assembling bomb-making equipment during a seventeen-month ceasefire.[2] O'Brien may have been responsible for a planting a bomb in a London telephone box on 15 February 1996 that was later deactivated by the police.[2]


O'Brien died on 18 February 1996, when an improvised explosive device he was carrying detonated prematurely on a number 171 bus in Aldwych, in central London.[3][4] The 2 kg semtex bomb detonated as he stood near the door of the bus.[2] A pathologist found O'Brien was killed "virtually instantaneously", while other passengers and the driver (left permanently deaf) were injured in the explosion. Evidence suggested that the bomb exploded whilst O'Brien stood at the bottom of the stairs of the double-decker bus.[2][5] O’Brien was the first IRA volunteer to lose his life following the Docklands bombing that signaled the end of the "cessation of military operations" ordered by the IRA leadership in 1994.[6][7] A subsequent police search of his London address discovered 15 kg of semtex, 20 timers, 4 detonators and ammunition for a 9 mm Walther revolver, along with an incendiary device. The Walther pistol was discovered on him after his death.[2][8]

Another Irishman, Brendan Woolhead, who was in the area at the time of the explosion was briefly suspected and accused of involvement, and subsequently won around £200,000 in damages for libel. Woolhead died in October due to drug detoxification treatment for addiction to heroin, and in 2001 the doctor responsible was struck off.[9]

O'Brien is buried in St Michael's Cemetery in Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Tírghrá, National Commemoration Centre, 2002, paperback); p. 361; ISBN 0-9542946-0-2
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Bennetto, J. Dead IRA man 'had hit-list' of bomb targets. The Independent, 17 April 1996.
  3. "Bomb blast destroys London bus". BBC News. 18 February 1996. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  4. English, Richard (2003). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. Pan Books. p. 291. ISBN 0-330-49388-4.
  5. BBC News
  6. Peadar Whelan. "Ed O'Brien remembered". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  7. IRA Man: Talking with the Rebels by Douglass McFerran (ISBN 978-0275955915), page 8
  8. Lost Lives, ISBN 1-84018-504-X
  9. http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/doctor-linked-to-drug-detox-death-danger-to-the-public-26071349.html

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