Ian Gow

Ian Gow bigraphy, stories - British Conservative MP killed by an IRA bomb

Ian Gow : biography

11 February 1937 – 30 July 1990

Ian Reginald Edward Gow, TD (11 February 1937 – 30 July 1990) was a British Conservative politician and solicitor. While serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Eastbourne, he was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who exploded a bomb under his car outside his home in East Sussex.

In popular culture

Gow was portrayed by Paul Brooke in the 2004 BBC production of The Alan Clark Diaries, and in the film ‘The Iron Lady’.


Although aware that he was a potential IRA assassination target, Gow declined to take anything more than routine security precautions. Notably, unlike most British MPs of that era, he left his telephone number and home address in the local telephone directory. Chicago Tribune, 7 August 1990 On 30 July 1990, a bomb was planted under Gow’s Austin Montego car in the early hours, which exploded in the driveway of his house in the village of Hankham, near Pevensey in East Sussex. The Guardian, 31 July 1990 The 4½-lb Semtex bomb detonated at 08:39 as Gow reversed out of his driveway, leaving him with severe wounds to his lower body. He died 10 minutes later.

When hearing of Gow’s death, Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock commented, "This is a terrible atrocity against a man whose only offence was to speak his mind…. I had great disagreement with Ian Gow and he with me, but no one can doubt his sincerity or his courage, and it is appalling that he should lose his life because of these qualities.""Bomb kills British lawmaker who was leading foe of IRA", Chicago Sun-Times, 31 July 1990 In her autobiography, The Downing Street Years, Margaret Thatcher described his murder as an ‘irreplaceable loss’. Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (HarperCollins, 1993), p. 30.

The IRA claimed responsibility for killing Gow, stating that he was targeted because he was a "close personal associate" of Margaret Thatcher and because of his role in developing British policy on Northern Ireland."IRA Says It Attacked Lawmaker" The Washington Post, 1 August 1990


Gow married Jane Elizabeth Packe (born 1944) in Yorkshire on 10 September 1966. They had two sons, Charles Edward (born 1968) and James Alexander (born 1970).

Parliamentary career

Gow entered Parliament as the member for Eastbourne in the general election of February 1974. Political Science Resources, 13 February 2010 For a home in his constituency, Gow acquired a 16th-century manor house known as ‘The Doghouse’ located in the village of Hankham. Eastbourne was a traditional Conservative seat but, in common with other English south coast towns in the 1970s, it was coming under some pressure from the Liberals. Gow proved to be a popular and communicative constituency member. In the general election of October 1974, he was able to secure a 10% swing from Liberal to Conservative, thereby doubling his majority. Political Science Resources, 13 February 2010 He held his seat with a comfortable majority at every election thereafter. His local supporters included the infamous John Bodkin Adams, who regularly donated to his election funds. Hansard, UK Parliament, 22 February 1991

In the 1975 Conservative leadership election, Gow voted for Margaret Thatcher in the first round ballot. Once Thatcher had forced Edward Heath out of the contest, several new candidates appeared and Gow switched his support to Geoffrey Howe in the second round. Gow was brought onto the Conservative front bench in 1978 to share the duties of opposition spokesman on Northern Ireland with Airey Neave. The two men developed a Conservative policy on Northern Ireland which favoured integration of the province with Great Britain. This approach appeared to avoid compromise with the province’s nationalist minority and with the government of the Republic of Ireland. Both Neave and Gow were killed by car bomb attacks in 1979 and 1990 respectively. Irish republican paramilitaries claimed responsibility in both cases, but nobody was ever charged with causing the deaths and rumours later circulated concerning possible involvement of the CIA and intelligence community. Irish Democrat, 16 March 2006