Irish Republican Army

Ã?Â?glaigh na hÃ?Â?ireann (Irish Republican Army)

The Troubles was a period of extreme communal violence within , mostly in the county of Ulster. The problem begins with the civil right movements of the 1960’s to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 (, The Troubles). However, the violence still occurs. The number of active participants in the Troubles was small and the paramilitary organizations that claimed to represent the communities were usually unrepresentative of the general population. The Troubles touched the lives of most people within on a daily basis. Nearly 4,000 people were killed, most of them civilians (, The Troubles).

The Civil Right marches began in 1968 when Catholics wanted to be heard. The British and Protestant presence seemed to suppress the out numbered Catholics. is 57 percent Protestant, thus giving a reason for maintaining the imposition to , mainly (Toolis prologue). The Irish Catholics wanted fairness. They wanted equality among the Protestant communities. The majority of Catholics did not have jobs and poor housing in the Protestant community (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). The slogan was “one man, one job.” The English government responded to those demands giving Catholics jobs and better housing. And the Union’s government seemed to become threatened. They had seen this as a Trojan horse, so to speak. They saw this as a way of the Nationalist and Republican cause for a united . The Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein now came into existence (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein).

The Catholics took the streets, because they had felt that they had been ignored since the split of and the Republic in 1920. At first they looked at what Martin Luther King was doing in the – a non violent protest, but for racial equality. It was a slippery start for a united . In spite of that the Catholic voice was heard. Some 15,000 Catholics would flood the streets of Londonderry, or Derry, to protest (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). Frontline reports that the student presence had gigantic influence. The student base was able to form marches everyday of the week, and this was embarrassing for the Prime Minister because the students seem to have adornment once before (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). However, the Catholics became weary. Little was being done, and they seemed to turn towards the more militant means, the IRA (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). The change in government replaced Harold Wilson’s Labor party and Edward Heath’s Conservative party was in place. Heath reacted to the marches not with reform but military action (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). He did not want a rebellion. On the other hand, this was a very important recruiting agent for the IRA. The surfacing of militant groups was in center stage. They set the political agenda.

The British army used heavy amounts of nerve gas against the Catholics, and when the burning of Belfast happened it led to the resurgence of the Irish Republican Army (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). The Protestants thought there existence was at stake.

If the Protestants thought their Englishness and existence was challenged then maybe the Catholics thought their physical existence would be next. On January 30, 1972, in the bog side of Londonderry, bloody hell broke lose and may even be the cause of the last marches. Bloody Sunday let out a cry when British paratroopers opened fired on unarmed Catholics in a civil rights march (Jackson Pringle Those Are Real Bullets). 14 shot dead, five in the back, and 13 wounded. Several of the dead were under the age of seventeen, one woman was shot. The Authors of “Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972” interviewed witnesses and the various inquiries. They state that Bloody Sunday was a planed incident that was thought up by the highest level of British military and passed by British government (Jackson Pringle Those Are Real Bullets). The paratroopers used lethal rounds for the high velocity rifles that day. And only weeks prior were those bullets deemed detrimental in the use of crowd control (Jackson Pringle Those Are Real Bullets). In the Widger Inquiry that was held by Lord Widger states that “Solider F could not account for 19 of 22 rounds shot that afternoon (Jackson Pringle Those Are Real Bullets).” Solider F shot in the same direction that a 41 year old father of four’s head was ripped open by the same bullet deemed by the British government to be extremely lethal in force.

The father was helping a young postal worker who was shot in the back scurrying away from the fire. He though is he held up a white hanky, a sign of surrender, they’d see him unarmed and let him go. He thought wrong.

The British army tried to use propaganda. They said they were only fulfilling its duties, and that the people who were shot were thought to be carrying nail bombs or other weaponry, or were petrol bombers (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). Bloody Sunday boosted the status of the IRA organization, and many young Catholics, who felt aggrieved at what they perceived as the injustice of the day, joined the IRA. Graffiti in Belfast prior to Bloody Sunday famously stated that IRA stood for I Ran Away. Memory of Bloody Sunday overshadows most other violent instances in the history of the recent troubles of , arguably because it was carried out by the forces of the British Government and not paramilitaries (Jackson Pringle Those Are Real Bullets).

“The result was that British authority – not the authority of Unionists, but British authority in – collapsed completely. World opinion was very condemnatory of what had happened that day. And major political decisions had to be taken. It meant that you no longer had a civil rights aspect to the conflict; it moved from the politics of the street to straightforward warfare between the IRA and the army and the police; it meant that the British government removed all authority from the government. And, two months after Bloody Sunday, the British government took over direct responsibility for anything it had done in (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein).”

This was, yet, another aid in recruiting for the IRA. It was an embarrassment to the likes of Adams (leader of Sinn Fein) and company, having to turn away so many people, so many people wanted to join.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was key factor in the struggle for Irish independence and freedom from British rule. Sinn Fein has been the political wing of the IRA and joins them in the fight for a united (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). The general goal of the Irish Republican Army is the reuniting of by political force and violence, and negotiation (Toolis prologue). They saw it impossible to reunite without using an armed campaign.

The political party Sinn Fein is today ‘s leading party with seats both in the Republic and . The party was started in 1905. The Sinn Fein movement evolved around the propaganda of Arthur Griffith and William Rooney (O’Brien 14). Griffith was first a writer who had a remarkable system of friends in the Dublin printing industry. His propaganda newspapers, the United Irishman and Sinn Fein, directed the unorthodox political project base of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy of 1867 and the theories of the German nationalist economist Friedrich List onto the generation (O’Brien 14).

The Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein both split in 1969, mainly over the issue of abstentions. Particular objects of their discontent were the IRA’s unwillingness to engage in armed action against the British state or military defense of Catholic areas in , and Sinn Fein’s ending of its policy of abstentions in (Toolis prologue).

From the split in 1969, The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) was formed. The army is organized hierarchically. It refers to its ordinary members as volunteers (or Ã?Â?glaigh in Irish). Provisional volunteers were organized according to where they lived. Volunteers living in one area formed a company that in turn was part of a battalion, which equally made up brigades (Toolis 7). In the late 1970s, the geographical organizational principle was abandoned by the PIRA in many areas in due to its inherent security vulnerability. In its place came smaller, tight-knit splinter cells under the direct control of the leadership.

During their armed campaign, the Provisional IRA had a massive weapons and technology network for the Northern border campaigns. The two main sources for weapons were and the (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). The weaponry network in the was run by George Harrison, an Irish Republican veteran (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). However, the FBI had developed a specialized unit to concentrate on the Irish paramilitaries. Frontline states, “It is believed that the bulk of the material presently in IRA arsenals was shipped from in the mid-1980 with the aid of a skipper, Adrian Hopkins, hired for the purpose by the IRA. However, in the early 1990’s ‘s Colonel Ghadaffi decided to give no further aid to the IRA and has informed the authorities as to what material was shipped to the Provos. The authorities have, in turn, passed this information on to the Irish authorities, according to intelligence sources in the Republic (Frontline, Behind the Mask: IRA and Sin Fein).” The arms that the PIRA had were stocked in small areas where the active units were stationed. However, it is believed that the massive bulk of armaments were deep within the Republic. Frontline further states: “IRA quartermasters have chosen this strategy partly because the land area of the Republic is approximately three times larger than that of but with a smaller police/army presence. It is considered easier to find a safe hiding place for the materiel south of the border as opposed to north. It is believed that some of the most important dumps are in the Munster area and that they were prepared originally to receive arms being imported aboard the trawler Marita Ann, a cargo that was seized by the Irish Navy in 1984. The dumps were probably then used to receive some of the arms that were imported from in the 1980’s (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein).” Since the 1970’s, The Republic has been searching for surface-to-air missiles.

The Irish Volunteers were awfully superior in explosive making. The common supplies used in home made explosives were nitrobenzene and fertilizer. Such compounds were packed into a large baked bean tin, which then was attached to a handle (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). Nail bombs were used, as well. These home made explosives were used on Northern border brigades (Frontline, Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). It seemed to be common knowledge that the Provisional IRA had more then enough arms to fight. Additionally, the man power is estimated to be around 400 hardcore volunteers, and smaller groups around (Toolis prologue). There are known to be splinter cells within , , and other countries around the world.

The BBC affirm “The political momentum for the September 1994 Provisional IRA cease-fire started with the Hume/Adams talks and progressed with the December 1993 Downing Street Declaration. By the beginning of 1994 it was clear that the Provisional IRA was debating the possibility of a cease-fire. US President Bill Clinton took a political risk and against the wishes of the British government granted the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams a limited duration visa. Adams arrived in New York on 1 February 1994 and addressed the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (, The Troubles).” It further reports that the cease fire lasted all of 17 months, and on February 9, 1996 the IRA bombed London’s Canary Wharf (, The Troubles).

Again a ceasefire was tried in 1997, which formed part of a process that led to the 1998 Belfast Agreement, or Good Friday Agreement (, The Troubles). The Agreement states that all paramilitary groups in must cease their activities and remove weapons by May 2000 (, The Troubles). The 65-page document is divided into three strands. Strand one deals with institutional arrangements in Northern Ireland; the second deals with the relationships between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the third with the relationships between both parts of Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (, The Troubles). The Belfast Agreement signifies the most significant shift in party political positions since the separation of in 1919, recognized in 1920. For the first time in the history of the Troubles, “the British and Irish governments have radically addressed the conflict over opposing national identities by providing a framework within which the principle of consent will decide any future constitutional change (, The Troubles).”

However, the Good Friday Agreement did not stop the bloodshed. On August 15, 1998, in a farming town of Omagh a 500 pound bomb exploded killing 29 people (, The Troubles), and two unborn children. It was planted by a dissident republican group, the Real IRA. The Real IRA was a group formed by ones who did not approve of the ceasefire. A shop owner said: “It was horrible; so much blood and flesh and glass sticking out of people,” BBC reports (, The Troubles). A volunteer nurse described the scene at the Tyrone County Hospital: “Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. People were lying on the floor with limbs missing and there was blood all over the place (, The Troubles).” The bomb exploded four months after eight political parties and the British and Irish governments signed the historic Belfast Agreement. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams broke a republican tradition and condemned the bombing. It was known that Omagh is 60 percent Catholic and 40 percent Protestant. Protestants died. Catholics died. Two Spanish visitors and a Mormon died. “”They killed unborn twins, bright students, cheery shop assistants and many young people. They killed three children from the Irish Republic who were up north on a day trip. The toll of death was thus extraordinarily high and extraordinarily comprehensive (, The Troubles).”

Violence again in February 2005, the IRA was denounced by relatives of Robert McCartney, who was murdered in public by IRA members. The resulting controversy led Gerry Adams to advise republicans to give evidence against those IRA members who were involved, a first for the republican leader. Three IRA members were expelled from the organization following the murder and an offer was made by the organization to shoot those responsible for the killing. The family of Mr. McCartney alleges that, notwithstanding public calls for information by Sinn Fein leaders, no one has come forward with information that would allow a prosecution to go further. They also allege that republican intimidation of witnesses has continued and that even the friend of Mr. McCartney who was stabbed with him is too afraid to make a police statement (, The Troubles).

In July 28, 2005, Seanna Walsh announced that the Provisional Army will disarm and that the organization will tell all members to dump all weapons and assist “the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means (Email 2005)”. On September 28, 2005, international weapons inspectors supervised the full disarmament of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, a long-sought goal of’s peace process (Frontline Behind the Mask: IRA and Sinn Fein). The IRA permitted two independent witnesses, including a Methodist minister and a Roman Catholic priest close to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, to view the secret disarmament work. However, Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, has complained that since the witnesses were appointed by the IRA themselves, rather than being appointed by the British or Irish governments, they therefore cannot be said to be unbiased witnesses to the decommissioning (Frontline, Behind the Masks: IRA and Sinn Fein; Feeney, Sinn Fein: A Hundred Turbulent Years).

has been ‘s oldest colony; and the colony of has rich Protestant history. It is obvious why wanted control over of late years – is 57 percent Protestant. And as long as they had that selective sense of history, then they could do anything in the present, and they could use history as to justify what they did in the present. And that is why history is such a potent force in the Irish conflict. However, the Irish Republican Army was crass nationalism that declared them a terrorist organization. Organizations that claimed to represent the communities were usually unrepresentative of the general population. It was because the general population perished in the long run. Bloody Sunday, Bloody Friday, Omagh and countless other attacks, on both sides, formed the troubles. 4,000 lives were taken; most of the slain were civilians and mainly due to the IRA’s mass bombings. The Irish Republican Army’s inane sense of ideology escalated the troubles. In hind sight is still divided. And as long as the English think every Irish citizen is an IRA member, and the presence of hate for there will never be piece and sanity. All that has become is bloodshed.

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