I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Collateral Damage

Enda O’Doherty
The Killing of Thomas Niedermayer, by David Blake Knox, New Island, 309 pp, €15.95, ISBN: 978-1848407343 Who was Thomas Niedermayer? Those of a certain age may dimly remember that he was a foreign industrialist who at some stage became a victim of the Troubles. But few would be able to say exactly when or exactly how, while he is also perhaps likely to be confused with the Dutch businessman Tiede Herrema, who was kidnapped by the IRA in 1975 but later freed and who is still alive aged ninety-eight. Thomas Niedermayer was not so lucky. Niedermayer was born into a working class family in 1928 in the beautiful city of Bamberg in Bavarian Franconia. After leaving school he worked as an aircraft mechanic in Friedrichshafen and Karlsruhe. He was sixteen when the war ended. He retrained as a toolmaker and was a foreman at eighteen. In 1952 he married Ingeborg Tranowski, a German from East Prussia of Polish or Slavic ethnic origin. In the following year he took an initial step on the management ladder when he became assistant to the company director of an electronics firm. In 1955, aged just twenty-seven, he entered higher management at the Nuremberg headquarters of Grundig, then one of the major names in consumer electronics in Europe and in 1961 he moved with his family to be general manager of that company’s new plant in Belfast, the first it had established outside Germany. Twelve years later, in 1973, Niedermayer was abducted one December night from his home in West Belfast. Though there is evidence that the authorities immediately suspected he had been kidnapped for ransom by the IRA, that trail went cold almost immediately. Niedermayer had disappeared, or, in a term we were later to become familiar with, been disappeared. The IRA denied that it had had anything to do with the incident and carefully briefed selected journalists to this effect. The journalists seemed to believe their Republican sources, or at any rate thought the story was worth printing. Simultaneously, British black propaganda units were, for their own reasons, busy planting the idea that Protestant paramilitaries might have been involved. Rumours began to emerge that there might have been reasons other than a ransom demand for the disappearance – the couple’s relationship was stormy, it was said, due to Ingeborg Niedermayer’s alcoholism, or in other versions that of her husband. He had been having affairs with…

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