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Irish Game: True Story of Crime and Art

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2004

    Engaging Tales but not History

    Matthew Hart has brought to life some of the characters and events in the world of art theft, but the bits and pieces do not add up to a coherent story. Of even greater concern is the apparent failure to have knowledgeable proof-readers check the manuscript. In his title, Hart sets the goal of revealing the incredible history of thirty years of art theft in Ireland, and the interplay of law enforcement, the tony society of art museums and collectors, the violent underworld of Irish gangs (criminal and terrorist) and their ties to the Boston Irish mob. But the tale is only partially told, omitting the Cahill/Gilligan/Foley succession in the Dublin gang and their continuing involvement in art theft, and the rise of the Irish Travellers as the greatest threat to privately held art and antiques throughout the British Isles. Instead, Hart jumps to The Scream theft and sting in Norway - interesting, but not part of 'the Irish game'. The errors in fact are numerous, which leads one to believe that few if any of the law enforcement agents he writes about were given the opportunity to make corrections. On the first page (xi) he makes the assertion that the Buccleuch Madonna with the Yarnwinder 'can be attributed with confidence to the hand of Leonardo'. Published accounts reveal that that is not the case. In discussing the background of Charley Hill, Hart confuse Hill's unfinished degree in history at Trinity College, Connecticut with his year as a Fullbright scholar at Trinity College, Dublin (p.61). There is also confusion about the dates of St. Patrick's Day and the theft at the Gardner Museum (p.108). The former is always March 17 and the latter was the morning of March 18, 1990. And when Whitey Bulger went on the run (p.120) he had been indicted only for racketeering. The murder and other charges came years later, after his former lieutenants told authorities where the bodies were buried. (On the very night that Whitey's younger brother, Billy, in his capacity as the president of the University of Masachusetts, was welcoming Gore, Bush and a national TV audience to the first of the 2000 presidential debates, several of Whitey's victims were being dug up by law enforcement agents a short distance away.) The details of the Beit (1993) and The Scream (1994) stings do not ring true. They conflict with other published and broadcast reports, and Hart has relied on sources who were not in a position to know what really happened. Why is the chapter on the Beit recovery titled 'Liam's Story'? Liam Hogan was only marginally involved in the planning of the operation and was hundreds of miles from the action and danger. Why is Einar-Tore Ulving made a central figure and source in The Scream sting? He was arrested for involvement in the theft, and, while he was later released, a number of the policemen on the case do not believe that he just doing his civic duty. Charley Hill and 'Syd Walker' were at the heart of both stings - these should be their stories. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum paintings have not been recovered and the 'true story of crime and art' has not been told.

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