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The night I punched John Lennon: Hooley

By Maureen Coleman

Godfather of Ulster punk Terri Hooley has spoken about the time he got into a punch-up with John Lennon over the former Beatle's support of the IRA.

The Belfast music impresario, credited with discovering The Undertones, met Lennon in London during the late 1960s when the Troubles hadn't long started.

But Hooley, who was an active peace campaigner at the time, was disappointed to discover his hero wasn't the pacifist he expected him to be.

Hooley was speaking after reports carried in several newspapers this week claimed that the Beatles legend offered financial support to the IRA by agreeing to perform a concert in Belfast.

In a new Lennon biography, to be published this week, author Johnny Rogan alleges Lennon was keen to donate money to the Provisionals.

Hooley said he wasn't surprised by the claims.

He said: "Me and a few friends had just set up a pirate radio station in the Craigantlet Hills and were in London to get equipment for it when I met Lennon," he said.

"I can clearly remember that one of Lennon's friends brought us to a garage and showed us guns and asked us if we wanted to bring them back home.

"They obviously thought we were "the lads". We were " the lads", just not the ones they thought we were.

"Later that night I met Lennon himself and got in an argument with him, about not being a pacifist. There was some talk of money being sent to the IRA and I chinned him. He hit me back."

Hooley said the fight only ended when his glass eye landed on the floor.

But he said that despite the row with Lennon, he still remained one of his idols.

"It was never about the politics, it was about the music," he said.

Hooley, who owns Phoenix Records in Belfast city centre and who ran Good Vibrations for many years, said he later met Lennon's ex-wife Cynthia who was in Belfast to record a show.

"We were doing the Gerry Anderson show and one of the producers told her I'd met John," he recalled.

"She asked me how that had gone and I told her we hadn't got on. She wasn't the least bit surprised to hear that and said he'd been very difficult to live with.

"I always say now it's better not to meet your heroes."

In the new book on Lennon, the author claims he met with a republican activist called Gerry O'Hare in New York in 1972 to discuss money for the IRA.

However, Mr O'Hare has dismissed the claims and said Lennon made it clear that any money raised through a gig would go towards the families of internees.

"I was not there representing the IRA and at no point was the IRA ever mentioned in the conversation," he said.

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