Brass balls and cold steel

By MIKE MILIARD  |  April 5, 2006

It started small — “five pistols here, a couple rifles there.” But soon, working with some sympathetic Southie pals and a few stateside IRA men, the shipments got bigger. “In the beginning, it was a gym bag full of pistols, or something, but as the stuff got larger, and we had to get it aboard ships to France, it became more complicated and more costly.”

Whitey’s reaction to his associate’s freelance project was two-sided. He feared the extra scrutiny it might bring down on him, and in fact he tried in vain to get Nee to shut down the operations. But Bulger also took a vainglorious shine to it. “I think he liked the legitimacy a political cause gave him,” Nee writes. “I sure know he didn’t give a hoot about my people.”

Whitey certainly wasn’t involved in active planning with IRA members. “He would show up,” says Nee. “He’d wanna talk about what he knew about urban guerilla warfare. He’s talking to guys that wrote the book on it. Everyone’s eyes are glassing over, and he’s babbling on.” It was, of course, all stuff he’d read about in history books.

But it was part and parcel of Whitey’s ego. “Everything was about him. If he was nice to an old woman in the projects, helping her across the street, it was because she had a good-looking daughter. If he gave some kid a puppy dog, it was because he had a nice-looking older sister. If he contributed money to anything, he wanted you to know how much he contributed. If he was wearing a diamond ring and you didn’t ask about it, he’d show you. ‘You know how much that costs?’ The Irish guys were turned off by him. There wasn’t one of them who liked him.”

Perhaps they could also sense his shiftiness. A few weeks ago, Nee told the Herald that he’d be very surprised if Bulger turned out to be hiding out in Ireland, as some have conjectured. “If you are a rat, Ireland is not a very hospitable place.”

“It’s the worst thing you can be, in any culture, but particularly the Irish, because we have that long history with the British,” he says. “We’ve always been done in by informers. Always.”

Indeed, the Valhalla mission — an audacious operation, months in planning, that saw a small skiff with a crew of five spending 14 days at sea, braving torrential storms and monstrous swells before finally handing over the weapons off the coast of Kerry — was busted immediately after the handoff, the victim of an IRA turncoat named Sean O’Callaghan.

Unfortunately for John McIntyre, that fact wasn’t known at first. Nabbed for a simple DUI in the days following the mission, the Valhalla’s mechanic nervously spilled the beans about his involvement with the plot — and Whitey’s — to the cops. “He screwed up and started talking,” says Nee. “It happens. Wasn’t a big thing. They had us anyhow. There was no way we were gonna avoid getting arrested for the Valhalla.”

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