Key events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles
Saturday 28 July 1984
Martin Galvin, then leader of NORAID (Irish Northern Aid Committee), was banned from entering the United Kingdom (UK).
[Despite the ban Galvin appeared at rallies in Derry (9 August 1984) and Belfast (12 August 1984) where a Catholic civilian was killed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).]
Monday 28 July 1986
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) issued a statement threatening any civilians who worked for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) or the British Army (BA).
On 30 July 1986 the IRA killed a civilian contractor who worked for the RUC. On 5 August 1986 the IRA issued a further threat to people working with the security
Sunday 28 July 1991
The Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) exploded seven incendiary devices in shops in the Republic of Ireland.
Friday 28 July 1995
The British government transferred three Republican prisoners involved in a ‘dirty’ protest at Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire to prisons in Northern Ireland. Four other prisoners continued with their protest at Whitemoor.
This brought the number of prisoners transferred to Northern Ireland to 21.
Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, lifted a fund-raising ban on organisations suspected of having paramilitary links. The ban had been imposed 10 years earlier.
Monday 28 July 1997
James Coopey (26) from County Down was charged with the murder of James Morgan on 24 July 1997.
[Later a second man was also charged with the killing.]
Tuesday 28 July 1998
The Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act became law. The legislation allowed for the early release of paramilitary prisoners. Only prisoners who were members of organisations that were observing ceasefires could benefit from the legislation. Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, declared that the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), were inactive.
[There was criticism of this decision by those who highlighted continuing violence by these organisations.]
Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), announced that the Union Flag would not be flown outside RUC stations on public holidays.
Flanagan said that this would bring RUC policy on the matter into line with the rest of the United Kingdom (UK). [Some Unionists reacted angrily to the announcement.
As part of a government reshuffle of ministerial posts, John McFall replaced Tony Worthington at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).
Wednesday 28 July 1999
Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, retained her position in a British government reshuffle that left all but one member of Tony Blair’s cabinet in place. Mowlam had earlier briefed journalists that she wanted to stay in post to complete the Good Friday Agreement. Peter Robinson, then deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), called the decision “a disaster”, however, Nationalists welcomed the development.
Relatives of the 14 men shot dead and 13 people wounded by British soldiers in Derry on 30 January 1972 expressed disappointment at an Appeal Court ruling that the soldiers who opened fire would not be named during the proceedings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles
Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die
– Thomas Campbell
To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever
– To the Paramilitaries –
There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.
4 People lost their lives on the 28th July between 1972 – 1998
28 July 1972
Seamus Cassidy, (22)
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),
Killed by: British Army (BA)
Died one day after being shot by sniper while sitting in parked car outside Starry Plough Bar, New Lodge Road, Belfast.
28 July 1972
Philip Maguire, (55)
Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Found shot in his firm’s van, Carrowreagh Road, Dundonald, Belfast.
28 July 1979
James McCann, (20)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot while walking along Obins Street, Portadown, County Armagh.
28 July 1988
Michael Matthews, (37) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died one day after being injured during land mine attack on British Army (BA) / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) foot patrol, Cullyhanna, County Armagh.
Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles
Wednesday 23 April 1969
The Unionist Parliamentary Party voted by 28 to 22 to introduce universal adult suffrage in local government elections in Northern Ireland. The demand for ‘one man, one vote’ had been one of the most powerful slogans of the civil rights movement. James Chichester-Clark, then Minister of Agriculture, resigned in protest at the reform.
[This move further undermined the position of O’Neill who resigned on 28 April 1969, to be replaced by Chichester-Clark.]
Sunday 23 April 1972
The Sunday Times Insight Team published their account of the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ (30 January 1972).
The United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) held a three-day conference in Portrush, County Antrim. The conference was attended by representatives of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and also by Enoch Powell.
The main focus of the conference is to agree a strategy for bringing about the end of the Executive. At the end of the conference (26 April 1974) the UUUC called for a Northern Ireland regional parliament in a federal United Kingdom (UK).
Saturday 23 April 1977
Paisley, in his role as head of the United Unionist Action Council (UUAC), threatened to organise a region-wide strike unless Roy Mason, then Secretary of State, acted against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and also implemented the Convention Report.
Thomas Passmore, then the County Grand Master of the Orange Order in Belfast, launched a verbal attack on the UUAC and its plans for a general strike. In addition he alleged that a member of the UUAC had been involved in discussions with the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In what was seen as a response to continuing rioting in Catholic areas, Loyalist paramilitaries decided to meet under the auspices of the Ulster Army Council (UAC) which was effectively a co-ordinating committee for Loyalist groups.
Marcella Sands, the sister of Bobby Sands, made an application to the European Commission on Human Rights claiming that the British government had broken three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights in their treatment of Republican prisoners.
[Two Commissioners tried to visit Bobby Sands on 25 April 1981 but are unable to do so because Sands requested the presence of representatives of Sinn Féin (SF). On 4 May 1981 the European Commission on Human Rights announced that it had no power to proceed with the Sands’ case.]
Wednesday 23 April 1986
James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), announced a 12-point plan of civil disobedience in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). Among the measures was a ‘rates’ (local government taxes) strike.
Thursday 23 April 1987
Peter Archer, then British Labour Party spokesman on Northern Ireland affairs, expressed support in a letter for the MacBride principles.
Thursday 23 April 1992
Two former Moderators of the Presbyterian Church revealed that they had held private talks with Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), and Tom Hartley also of SF.
Friday 23 April 1993
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a bomb attack on an oil terminal in North Shields, England. The bomb damaged a large storage tank.
John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), held another meeting.
Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, made a major speech on Northern Ireland to an audience at the Institute of Irish Studies in Liverpool. Mayhew stated that the British government was against the notion of “joint sovereignty” but did want to see a devolved government with wide powers.
Sunday 23 April 1995
The Sunday Tribune (a Dublin based newspaper) published what it claimed to be an internal Irish Republican Army (IRA) document. The document had been circulated within the Republican movement before being leaked and was believed to have dated from prior to the 1994 ceasefire.
The text contained the acronym ‘TUAS‘ which people were led to believed meant ‘Totally UnArmed Struggle’.
[Following the ending of the first IRA ceasefire some people suggested that TUAS actually stood for ‘Tactical Use of Armed Struggle’. Others suggested that the two interpretations were meant for two different audiences – inside and outside the Republican movement.]
Thursday 23 April 1998
A 79 year old Catholic man living in the Nationalist New Lodge area of North Belfast was ‘kneecapped’ in his home. The man was tied up and beaten about the head before being shot in both knees and both ankles in a paramilitary style ‘punishment’ attack.
[No organisation claimed responsibility for the incident but local people blamed the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for the attack. The man was the oldest person in Northern Ireland to be the subject of a ‘punishment’ shooting.]
Five Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners, who were serving sentences in England, were transferred to Portlaoise Prison in the Republic of Ireland.
Three members of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) shared a platform at the Ulster Hall in Belfast with Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), as part of a rally against the Good Friday Agreement.
The three UUP members were: William Ross, William Thompson, and Roy Beggs.
Also at the rally was Robert (Bob) McCartney, then leader of the United Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP), and also representatives of the Orange Order. Two Unionist members of the Parades Commission, Glen Barr and Tommy Cheevers, resigned from the organisation. The reason given for their decision was the level of media attention they had received since their original appointments to the Commission.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Constitution began considering a proposal that Members of Parliament (MPs) elected in Northern Ireland should be entitled to sit in the Daíl. The committee also began considering the possibility of permitting Irish citizens living in the North to vote in presidential elections and referendums.
Friday 23 April 1999
A ‘Support Drumcree’ rally was held in Newtownards, County Down, and was attended by several hundred people. Adam Ingram, then Security Minister at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), announced that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) team investigating the killing of Rosemary Nelson was to get more assistance in the form of detectives from outside Northern Ireland.
‘Bloody Sunday’ ‘Bloody Sunday‘ refers to the shooting dead by the British Army of 13 civilans (and the wounding of another 14 people, one of whom later died) during a Civil Rights march in Derry. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) march against internment was meant to start at 2.00pm from the Creggan. The march left late (2.50pm approximately) from Central Drive in the Creggan Estate and took an indirect route towards the Bogside area of the city. People joined the march along its entire route.
At approximately 3.25pm the march passed the ‘Bogside Inn’ and turned up Westland Street before going down William Street. Estimates of the number of marchers at this point vary. Some observers put the number as high as 20,000 whereas the Widgery Report estimated the number at between 3,000 and 5,000. Around 3.45pm most of the marchers followed the organisers instructions and turned right into Rossville Street to hold a meeting at ‘Free Derry Corner’. However a section of the crowd continued along William Street to the British Army barricade. A riot developed. (Confrontations between the Catholic youth of Derry and the British Army had become a common feature of life in the city and many observers reported that the rioting was not particularly intense.)
At approximately 3.55pm, away from the riot and also out of sight of the meeting, soldiers (believed to be a machine-gun platoon of Paratroopers) in a derelict building in William Street opened fire (shooting 5 rounds) and injured Damien Donaghy (15) and John Johnston (59). Both were treated for injuries and were taken to hospital (Johnston died on 16 June 1972).
[The most recent information (see, for example, Pringle, P. and Jacobson, P.; 2000) suggests that an Official IRA member then fired a single shot in response at the soldiers in the derelict building. This incident happened prior to the main shooting and also out of sight of Rossville Street.]
Also around this time (about 3.55pm) as the riot in William Street was breaking up, Paratroopers requested permission to begin an arrest operation. By about 4.05pm most people had moved to ‘Free Derry Corner’ to attend the meeting. 4.07pm (approximately) An order was given for a ‘sub unit’ (Support Company) of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment to move into William Street to begin an arrest operation directed at any remaining rioters. The order authorising the arrest operation specifically stated that the soldiers were “not to conduct running battle down Rossville Street”
(Official Brigade Log). The soldiers of Support Company were under the command of Ted Loden, then a Major in the Parachute Regiment (and were the only soldiers to fire at the crowd from street level).
At approximately 4.10pm soldiers of the Support Company of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment began to open fire on people in the area of Rossville Street Flats. By about 4.40pm the shooting ended with 13 people dead and a further 14 injured from gunshots. The shooting took place in four main places: the car park (courtyard) of Rossville Flats; the forecourt of Rossville Flats (between the Flats and Joseph Place); at the rubble and wire barricade on Rossville Street (between Rossville Flats and Glenfada Park); and in the area around Glenfada Park (between Glenfada Park and Abbey Park).
According to British Army evidence 21 soldiers fired their weapons on ‘Bloody Sunday’ and shot 108 rounds in total.
[Most of the basic facts are agreed, however what remains in dispute is whether or not the soldiers came under fire as they entered the area of Rossville Flats. The soldiers claimed to have come under sustained attack by gunfire and nail-bomb. None of the eyewitness accounts saw any gun or bomb being used by those who had been shot dead or wounded. No soldiers were injured in the operation, no guns or bombs were recovered at the scene of the killing.]
[Public Records 1972 – Released 1 January 2003: Telegram from Lord Bridges to Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, containing an early report of the killings in Derry.]
Tuesday 30 January 1973
Francis Smith (28), a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), was found shot dead in the Falls area of Belfast. He had been killed by the IRA.
Wednesday 30 January 1974
[ Sunningdale; Ulster Workers’ Council Strike; Law Order. ]
Wednesday 30 January 1975
The Gardiner Report (Cmnd. 5847), which examined measures to deal with terrorism within the context of human rights and civil liberties, was published. The report recommended that special category status for paramilitary prisoners should be ended. The report also recommended that detention without trial be maintained but under the control of the Secretary of State.
30 January 1983
At the annual conference of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) the delegates reaffirmed the party’s boycott of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Monday 30 January 1984
The Prison Governors’ Association and the Prison Officers Association both claimed that political interference in the running of the Maze Prison resulted in the mass escape on 25 September 1983. Nick Scott, then Minister for Prisons, rejected the allegations.
Douglas Hurd, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, dismissed demands for the disbandment of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).
Thursday 30 January 1986
Fianna Fáil (FF) said that it welcomed the comments of Harold McCusker, then deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), who had suggested a conference of British, Irish, and Northern Ireland politicians to discuss the ‘totality of relationships’.
Thursday 30 January 1992
Charles Haughey, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), announced his resignation as both Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil (FF). [Haughey’s resignation followed the re-emergence of allegations about phone-tapping in 1982.]
Saturday 30 January 1993
There was a rally in Derry to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the killings on ‘Bloody Sunday’ (30 January 1972).
Monday 30 January 1995
Bertie Ahern, then leader of Fianna Fáil (FF), held a meeting with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) at its headquarters in Glengall Street, Belfast. Ahern also met with Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Féin (SF) members later in the day.
Tuesday 30 January 1996
Gino Gallagher (33), believed to be the Chief of Staff of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), was shot dead in a Social Security Office in the Falls Road, Belfast.
[This killing was to mark the beginning of another feud within the INLA. This particular feud ended on 3 September 1996.]
Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), held a meeting with Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at Stormont. John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), met with John Major, then British Prime Minister, in Downing Street, London.
Thursday 30 January 1997
North Report Peter North, then Chairman of the Independent Review of Parades and Marches, launched his report (The North Report) in Belfast and recommended the setting up of an independent commission to review contentious parades. Most Nationalists welcomed the Review but Unionists were against the main recommendations. Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that “further consultation” would have to be carried out by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) before any decisions could be taken. Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, then Labour Party Spokesperson on Northern Ireland, approved of the report.
Saturday 30 January 1999
Loyalist paramilitaries carried out seven ‘punishment’ beatings against people in Newtownabbey, County Antrim. Republican paramilitaries carried out a ‘punishment’ shooting on a man in Cookstown, County Tyrone. [January had the highest level of paramilitary ‘punishment’ attacks during any month in the past 10 years.]
Wednesday 30 January 2002
Relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday (30 January 1972), together with some of the surviving injured, and about 2,000 other people, gathered in the Bogside in Derry to mark the 30th anniversary of the killings. A minute’s silence was held at the time when the first shots were fired. Dr Edward Daly, the former Bishop of Derry, rededicated the memorial to the dead. In his address he said he prayed “for victims everywhere – here, in Afghanistan, the Middle East and New York”. He added:
“We identify with all people who have suffered, of whatever race or religion or nation”. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry was adjourned until Monday – the Inquiry does not sit on the anniversary of the killings.
[The Inquiry will resume on Monday when the first Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) witnesses are expected to begin giving evidence. It is anticipated that one of the police witnesses will give evidence from behind a screen.]
David Ford, then leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), travelled to Downing Street, London, for a meeting with Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister. Ford was there to discuss potential reforms of the voting system used in the Northern Ireland Assembly. David Trimble (UUP), then First Minister, and Mark Durkan (SDLP), then Deputy First Minister, travelled to Brussels for a two day visit. During their first day they opened a new Northern Ireland Executive office in the city which was established to lobby on behalf of Northern Ireland within the European Parliament.
The cost of the office, which was higher than envisaged, came in for criticism. The set up cost was £300,000 and the annual running cost is estimated at £500,000. The Irish National Liberation Army denied that it had threatened Protestant community workers in Glenbryn, north Belfast. The denial was issued through the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP). It described the threats as bogus.
Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles
Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die
– Thomas Campbell
To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever
– To the Paramilitaries –
There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.
22 People lost their lives on the 30th January between 1972 – 1996
30 January 1972 Robin Alers-Hankey, (35)
nfNI Status: British Army (BA),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died four months after being shot by sniper during street disturbances, Abbey Street, Bogside, Derry. He was wounded on 2 September 1971.
The death of all innocent people during the Troubles has always had a profound effect on me and Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest days (of many) in Northern Irelands tortured past.
However I don’t think Republicans have been completely honest regarding their involvements in the events of that day and they should shoulder some of the blame.
I don’t wish to take anything away from the innocent victims by any means, I’m just saying that things happened that day that put in motion a chain of events that lead to many innocent people dying and all those responsible should be honest and open about exactly what happened. But as we all know SF/IRA rewrite the history of the Troubles on a daily basis and seem to accept NO responsibility for the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people that hunted the streets of Belfast, N.I and mainland UK.for thirty long , brutal years.
Thank God those days are now behind us.
— Disclaimer –
The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
Bloody Sunday – 30th January 1972
Two investigations have been held by the British government. The Widgery Tribunal, held in the immediate aftermath of the incident, largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame. It described the soldiers’ shooting as “bordering on the reckless”, but accepted their claims that they shot at gunmen and bomb-throwers. The report was widely criticised as a “whitewash“. The Saville Inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, was established in 1998 to reinvestigate the incident. Following a 12-year inquiry, Saville’s report was made public in 2010 and concluded that the killings were both “unjustified” and “unjustifiable”. It found that all of those shot were unarmed, that none were posing a serious threat, that no bombs were thrown, and that soldiers “knowingly put forward false accounts” to justify their firing. On the publication of the report, British prime minister David Cameron made a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom. Following this, police began a murder investigation into the killings.
Bloody Sunday was one of the most significant events of “the Troubles” because a large number of civilians were killed, by state forces, in full view of the public and the press. It was the highest number of people killed in a single shooting incident during the conflict. Bloody Sunday increased Catholic and Irish nationalist hostility towards the British Army and exacerbated the conflict. Support for the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) rose and there was a surge of recruitment into the organisation, especially locally
The City of Derry was perceived by many Catholics and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland to be the epitome of what was described as “fifty years of Unionist misrule”: despite having a nationalist majority, gerrymandering ensured elections to the City Corporation always returned a unionist majority. At the same time the city was perceived to be deprived of public investment – rail routes to the city were closed, motorways were not extended to it, a university was opened in the relatively small (Protestant-majority) town of Coleraine rather than Derry and, above all, the city’s housing stock was in an appalling state. The city therefore became a significant focus of the civil rights campaign led by organisations such as Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in the late 1960s and it was in Derry that the so-called Battle of the Bogside – the event that more than any other pushed the Northern Ireland administration to ask for military support for civil policing – took place in August 1969.
While many Catholics initially welcomed the British Army as a neutral force, in contrast to what was regarded as a sectarian police force, relations between them soon deteriorated.
In response to escalating levels of violence across Northern Ireland, internment without trial was introduced on 9 August 1971. There was disorder across Northern Ireland following the introduction of internment, with 21 people being killed in three days of rioting. In Belfast, soldiers of the Parachute Regiment shot dead 11 Catholic civilians in what became known as the Ballymurphy Massacre. On 10 August, Bombardier Paul Challenor became the first soldier to be killed by the Provisional IRA in Derry, when he was shot by a sniper on the Creggan estate. A further six soldiers had been killed in Derry by mid-December 1971. At least 1,332 rounds were fired at the British Army, who also faced 211 explosions and 180 nail bombs, and who fired 364 rounds in return.
IRA activity also increased across Northern Ireland with thirty British soldiers being killed in the remaining months of 1971, in contrast to the ten soldiers killed during the pre-internment period of the year. Both the Official IRA and Provisional IRA had established no-go areas for the British Army and RUC in Derry through the use of barricades. By the end of 1971, 29 barricades were in place to prevent access to what was known as Free Derry, 16 of them impassable even to the British Army’s one-ton armoured vehicles. IRA members openly mounted roadblocks in front of the media, and daily clashes took place between nationalist youths and the British Army at a spot known as “aggro corner”. Due to rioting and damage to shops caused by incendiary devices, an estimated total of £4 million worth of damage had been done to local businesses.
On 22 January 1972, a week before Bloody Sunday, an anti-internment march was held at Magilligan strand, near Derry. The protesters marched to a new internment camp there, but were stopped by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment. When some protesters threw stones and tried to go around the barbed wire, Paratroopers drove them back by firing rubber bullets at close range and making baton charges. The Paratroopers badly beat a number of protesters and had to be physically restrained by their own officers. These allegations of brutality by Paratroopers were reported widely on television and in the press. Some in the Army also thought there had been undue violence by the Paratroopers.
NICRA intended, despite the ban, to hold another anti-internment march in Derry on Sunday 30 January. The authorities decided to allow it to proceed in the Catholic areas of the city, but to stop it from reaching Guildhall Square, as planned by the organisers. The authorities expected that this would lead to rioting. Major General Robert Ford, then Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland, ordered that the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1 Para), should travel to Derry to be used to arrest possible rioters. The arrest operation was codenamed ‘Operation Forecast’. The Saville Report criticised General Ford for choosing the Parachute Regiment for the operation, as it had “a reputation for using excessive physical violence”. The paratroopers arrived in Derry on the morning of the march and took up positions in the city. Brigadier Pat MacLellan was the operational commander and issued orders from Ebrington Barracks. He gave orders to Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, commander of 1 Para. He in turn gave orders to Major Ted Loden, who commanded the company who launched the arrest operation.
The Bogside in 1981, overlooking the area where many of the victims were shot. On the right of the picture is the south side of Rossville Flats, and in the middle distance is Glenfada Park
The protesters planned on marching from Bishop’s Field, in the Creggan housing estate, to the Guildhall, in the city centre, where they would hold a rally. The march set off at about 2:45pm. There were 10–15,000 people on the march, with many joining along its route.Lord Widgery, in his now discredited tribunal, said that there were only 3,000 to 5,000.
The march made its way along William Street but, as it neared the city centre, its path was blocked by British Army barriers. The organisers redirected the march down Rossville Street, intending to hold the rally at Free Derry Corner instead. However, some broke off from the march and began throwing stones at soldiers manning the barriers. The soldiers fired rubber bullets, CS gas and water cannon to try and disperse the rioters. Such clashes between soldiers and youths were common, and observers reported that the rioting was not intense.
Some of the crowd spotted paratroopers hiding in a derelict three-storey building overlooking William Street, and began throwing stones at the windows. At about 3:55pm, these paratroopers opened fire. Civilians Damien Donaghy and John Johnston were shot and wounded while standing on waste ground opposite the building. These were the first shots fired. The soldiers claimed Donaghy was holding a black cylindrical object.
At 4:07pm, the paratroopers were ordered to go through the barriers and arrest rioters. The paratroopers, on foot and in armoured vehicles, chased people down Rossville Street and into the Bogside. Two people were knocked down by the vehicles. Brigadier MacLellan had ordered that only one company of paratroopers be sent through the barriers, on foot, and that they should not chase people down Rossville Street. Colonel Wilford disobeyed this order, which meant there was no separation between rioters and peaceful marchers.
The paratroopers disembarked and began seizing people. There were many claims of paratroopers beating people, clubbing them with rifle butts, firing rubber bullets at them from close range, making threats to kill, and hurling abuse. The Saville Report agreed that soldiers “used excessive force when arresting people […] as well as seriously assaulting them for no good reason while in their custody”.
One group of paratroopers took up position at a low wall about 80 yards (73 m) in front of a rubble barricade that stretched across Rossville Street. There were people at the barricade and some were throwing stones at the soldiers, but none were near enough to hit them. The soldiers fired on the people at the barricade, killing six and wounding a seventh.
A large group of people fled or were chased into the car park of Rossville Flats. This area was like a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by high-rise flats. The soldiers opened fire, killing one civilian and wounding six others. This fatality, Jackie Duddy, was running alongside a priest, Father Edward Daly, when he was shot in the back.
Another group of people fled into the car park of Glenfada Park, which was also a courtyard-like area surrounded by flats. Here, the soldiers shot at people across the car park, about 40–50 yards away. Two civilians were killed and at least four others wounded. The Saville Report says it is “probable” that at least one soldier fired from the hip towards the crowd, without aiming.
The soldiers went through the car park and out the other side. Some soldiers went out the southwest corner, where they shot dead two civilians. The other soldiers went out the southeast corner and shot four more civilians, killing two.
About ten minutes had elapsed between the time soldiers drove into the Bogside and the time the last of the civilians was shot. More than 100 rounds were fired by the soldiers, who were under the command of Major Ted Loden.
Some of those shot were given first aid by civilian volunteers, either on the scene or after being carried into nearby homes. They were then driven to hospital, either in civilian cars or in ambulances. The first ambulances arrived at 4:28pm. The three boys killed at the rubble barricade were driven to hospital by the paratroopers. Witnesses said paratroopers lifted the bodies by the hands and feet and dumped them in the back of their APC, as if they were “pieces of meat”. The Saville Report agreed that this is an “accurate description of what happened”. It says the paratroopers “might well have felt themselves at risk, but in our view this does not excuse them”.
Belt worn by Patrick Doherty. The notch was made by the bullet that killed him.
In all, 26 people were shot by the paratroopers; 13 died on the day and another died four months later. Most of them were killed in four main areas: the rubble barricade across Rossville Street, the courtyard car park of Rossville Flats (on the north side of the flats), the courtyard car park of Glenfada Park, and the forecourt of Rossville Flats (on the south side of the flats).
All of the soldiers responsible insisted that they had shot at, and hit, gunmen or bomb-throwers. The Saville Report concluded that all of those shot were unarmed and that none were posing a serious threat. It also concluded that none of the soldiers fired in response to attacks, or threatened attacks, by gunmen or bomb-throwers.
The casualties are listed in the order in which they were killed
John ‘Jackie’ Duddy,
Shot as he ran away from soldiers in the car park of Rossville Flats. The bullet struck him in the shoulder and entered his chest. Three witnesses said they saw a soldier take deliberate aim at the youth as he ran. He was the first fatality on Bloody Sunday. Like Saville, Widgery also concluded that Kelly was unarmed. His nephew is boxer John Duddy.
Shot in the stomach while standing at the rubble barricade on Rossville Street. Both Saville and Widgery concluded that Kelly was unarmed.[42
Shot through his left elbow, the bullet then entering his chest as he ran away from the paratroopers near the rubble barricade on Rossville Street. Widgery acknowledged that a photograph taken seconds after Gilmour was hit corroborated witness reports that he was unarmed, and that tests for gunshot residue were negative.
Shot in the chest at the rubble barricade. Witnesses stated Nash was unarmed. Three people were shot while apparently going to his aid, including his father Alexander Nash.
Shot in the face at the rubble barricade, apparently while crouching and going to the aid of William Nash. Two witnesses stated Young was unarmed.
Shot in the face at the rubble barricade, apparently while crouching and going to the aid of William Nash.
Shot from behind, near the rubble barricade, while attempting to crawl to safety. Two witnesses stated McElhinney was unarmed.
James ‘Jim’ Wray,
Shot in the back while running away from soldiers in Glenfada Park courtyard. He was then shot again in the back as he lay mortally wounded on the ground. Witnesses, who were not called to the Widgery Tribunal, stated that Wray was calling out that he could not move his legs before he was shot the second time.
Shot in the back as he attempted to flee through Glenfada Park courtyard.
Shot in the chest at Abbey Park. A soldier ran through an alleyway from Glenfada Park and shot him from a few yards away. Witnesses said that when he saw the soldier, McKinney stopped and held up his arms, shouting “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”, before being shot. The bullet apparently went through his body and struck Gerard Donaghy behind him.
Shot in the stomach at Abbey Park while standing behind Gerard McKinney. Both were apparently struck by the same bullet. Bystanders brought Donaghy to a nearby house, where he was examined by a doctor. The doctor opened Donaghy’s clothes to examine him, and his pockets were also searched for identification. Two bystanders then attempted to drive Donaghy to hospital, but the car was stopped at an Army checkpoint. They were ordered to leave the car and a soldier drove it to a Regimental Aid Post, where an Army medical officer pronounced Donaghy dead.
Shortly after, soldiers found four nail bombs in his pockets. The civilians who searched him, the soldier who drove him to the Army post, and the Army medical officer, all said that they did not see any bombs. This led to claims that soldiers planted the bombs on Donaghy to justify the killings. Donaghy was a member of Fianna Éireann, an IRA-linked republican youth movement. Paddy Ward, a police informer who gave evidence at the Saville Inquiry, claimed he gave two nail bombs to Donaghy several hours before he was shot. The Saville Report concluded that the bombs were probably in Donaghy’s pockets when he was shot. However, it concluded that he was not about to throw a bomb when he was shot; and that he was not shot because he had bombs. “He was shot while trying to escape from the soldiers”.
Shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety in the forecourt of Rossville Flats. He was shot by soldiers who came out of Glenfada Park. Doherty was photographed, moments before and after he died, by French journalist Gilles Peress. Despite testimony from “Soldier F” that he had shot a man holding a pistol, Widgery acknowledged that the photographs show Doherty was unarmed, and that forensic tests on his hands for gunshot residue proved negative.
Bernard ‘Barney’ McGuigan,
Shot in the head when he walked out from cover to help Patrick Doherty. He had been waving a white handkerchief to indicate his peaceful intentions.
Shot in the leg and left shoulder on William Street 15 minutes before the rest of the shooting started. Johnston was not on the march, but on his way to visit a friend in Glenfada Park. He died on 16 June 1972; his death has been attributed to the injuries he received on the day. He was the only one not to die immediately or soon after being shot.
13 people were shot and killed, with another man later dying of his wounds. The official army position, backed by the British Home Secretary the next day in the House of Commons, was that the paratroopers had reacted to gun and nail bomb attacks from suspected IRA members. All eyewitnesses (apart from the soldiers), including marchers, local residents, and British and Irish journalists present, maintain that soldiers fired into an unarmed crowd, or were aiming at fleeing people and those tending the wounded, whereas the soldiers themselves were not fired upon. No British soldier was wounded by gunfire or reported any injuries, nor were any bullets or nail bombs recovered to back up their claims.
Although there were many IRA men—both Official and Provisional—at the protest, it is claimed they were all unarmed, apparently because it was anticipated that the paratroopers would attempt to “draw them out.” March organiser and MP Ivan Cooper had been promised beforehand that no armed IRA men would be near the march. One paratrooper who gave evidence at the tribunal testified that they were told by an officer to expect a gunfight and “We want some kills.” In the event, one man was witnessed by Father Edward Daly and others haphazardly firing a revolver in the direction of the paratroopers. Later identified as a member of the Official IRA, this man was also photographed in the act of drawing his weapon, but was apparently not seen or targeted by the soldiers. Various other claims have been made to the Saville Inquiry about gunmen on the day.
The city’s coroner, Hubert O’Neill, a retired British Army major, issued a statement on 21 August 1973 at the completion of the inquest into the deaths of those killed. He declared:
This Sunday became known as Bloody Sunday and bloody it was. It was quite unnecessary. It strikes me that the Army ran amok that day and shot without thinking what they were doing. They were shooting innocent people. These people may have been taking part in a march that was banned but that does not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately. I would say without hesitation that it was sheer, unadulterated murder. It was murder.
Two days after Bloody Sunday, the Westminster Parliament adopted a resolution for a tribunal into the events of the day, resulting in Prime Minister Edward Heath commissioning the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, to undertake it. Many witnesses intended to boycott the tribunal as they lacked faith in Widgery’s impartiality, but were eventually persuaded to take part. Widgery’s quickly-produced report—completed within 10 weeks (10 April) and published within 11 (19 April)—supported the Army’s account of the events of the day. Among the evidence presented to the tribunal were the results of paraffin tests, used to identify lead residues from firing weapons, and that nail bombs had been found on the body of one of those killed. Tests for traces of explosives on the clothes of eleven of the dead proved negative, while those of the remaining man could not be tested as they had already been washed. Most witnesses to the event disputed the report’s conclusions and regarded it as a whitewash. It has been argued that firearms residue on some deceased may have come from contact with the soldiers who themselves moved some of the bodies, or that the presence of lead on the hands of one (James Wray) was easily explained by the fact that his occupation involved the use of lead-based solder. In 1992, John Major, writing to John Hume stated:
The Government made clear in 1974 that those who were killed on ‘Bloody Sunday’ should be regarded as innocent of any allegation that they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives. I hope that the families of those who died will accept that assurance.
The 35th Bloody Sunday memorial march in Derry, 28 January 2007
Following the events of Bloody Sunday Bernadette Devlin, an Independent Socialist nationalist MP from Northern Ireland, expressed anger at what she perceived as government attempts to stifle accounts being reported about the day. Having witnessed the events firsthand, she was later infuriated that Speaker Selwyn Lloyd consistently denied her the chance to speak in Parliament about the day, although parliamentary convention decreed that any MP witnessing an incident under discussion would be granted an opportunity to speak about it in the House. Devlin punched Reginald Maudling, the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the Conservative government, when he made a statement to Parliament on the events of Bloody Sunday stating that the British Army had fired only in self-defence. She was temporarily suspended from Parliament as a result of the incident. Nonetheless, six months after Bloody Sunday, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford who was directly in charge of 1 Para, the soldiers who went into the Bogside, was awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, while other soldiers were also decorated with honours for their actions on the day.
In January 1997, the UK television broadcaster Channel 4 carried a news report suggesting that members of the Royal Anglian Regiment had also opened fire on the protesters, and could have been responsible for three of the 14 deaths.
On 29 May 2007, General (then Captain) Sir Mike Jackson, second-in-command of 1 Para on Bloody Sunday, said: “I have no doubt that innocent people were shot.” This was in sharp contrast to his insistence, for more than 30 years, that those killed on the day had not been innocent. In 2008 a former aide to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, described Widgery as a “complete and utter whitewash.” In 1998 Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford expressed his anger at Tony Blair’s intention of setting up the Saville inquiry, citing he was proud of his actions on Bloody Sunday. Two years later in 2000 during an interview with the BBC, Wilford said: “There might have been things wrong in the sense that some innocent people, people who were not carrying a weapon, were wounded or even killed. But that was not done as a deliberate malicious act. It was done as an act of war.”
On 10 November 2015, a 66-year-old former member of the Parachute Regiment was arrested for questioning over the deaths of William Nash, Michael McDaid and John Young.
Although British Prime Minister John Major rejected John Hume’s requests for a public inquiry into the killings, his successor, Tony Blair, decided to start one. A second commission of inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville, was established in January 1998 to re-examine Bloody Sunday. The other judges were John TooheyQC, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia who had worked on Aboriginal issues (he replaced New Zealander Sir Edward Somers QC, who retired from the Inquiry in 2000 for personal reasons), and Mr Justice William Hoyt QC, former Chief Justice of New Brunswick and a member of the Canadian Judicial Council. The hearings were concluded in November 2004, and the report was published 15 June 2010. The Saville Inquiry was a more comprehensive study than the Widgery Tribunal, interviewing a wide range of witnesses, including local residents, soldiers, journalists and politicians. Lord Saville declined to comment on the Widgery report and made the point that the Saville Inquiry was a judicial inquiry into Bloody Sunday, not the Widgery Tribunal.
Evidence given by Martin McGuinness, a senior member of Sinn Féin and now the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, to the inquiry stated that he was second-in-command of the Derry City brigade of the Provisional IRA and was present at the march. He did not answer questions about where he had been staying because he said it would compromise the safety of the individuals involved.
A claim was made at the Saville Inquiry that McGuinness was responsible for supplying detonators for nail bombs on Bloody Sunday. Paddy Ward claimed he was the leader of the Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of the IRA in January 1972. He claimed that McGuinness, the second-in-command of the IRA in the city at the time, and another anonymous IRA member gave him bomb parts on the morning of 30 January, the date planned for the civil rights march. He said his organisation intended to attack city-centre premises in Derry on the day when civilians were shot dead by British soldiers. In response McGuinness rejected the claims as “fantasy”, while Gerry O’Hara, a Sinn Féin councillor in Derry stated that he and not Ward was the Fianna leader at the time.
Many observers allege that the Ministry of Defence acted in a way to impede the inquiry. Over 1,000 army photographs and original army helicopter video footage were never made available. Additionally, guns used on the day by the soldiers that could have been evidence in the inquiry were lost by the MoD. The MoD claimed that all the guns had been destroyed, but some were subsequently recovered in various locations (such as Sierra Leone and Beirut) despite the obstruction.
By the time the inquiry had retired to write up its findings, it had interviewed over 900 witnesses, over seven years, making it the biggest investigation in British legal history. The cost of this process has drawn criticism; as of the publication of the Saville Report being £195 million.
Banner and crosses carried by the families of the victims on the annual commemoration march
The inquiry was expected to report in late 2009 but was delayed until after the general election on 6 May 2010.
The report of the inquiry was published on 15 June 2010. The report concluded, “The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.” Saville stated that British paratroopers “lost control”, fatally shooting fleeing civilians and those who tried to aid civilians who had been shot by the British soldiers. The report stated that British soldiers had concocted lies in their attempt to hide their acts. Saville stated that the civilians had not been warned by the British soldiers that they intended to shoot. The report states, contrary to the previously established belief, that no stones and no petrol bombs were thrown by civilians before British soldiers shot at them, and that the civilians were not posing any threat.
The report concluded that an Official IRA sniper fired on British soldiers, albeit that on the balance of evidence his shot was fired after the Army shots that wounded Damien Donaghey and John Johnston. The Inquiry rejected the sniper’s account that this shot had been made in reprisal, stating the view that he and another Official IRA member had already been in position, and the shot had probably been fired simply because the opportunity had presented itself. Ultimately the Saville Inquiry was inconclusive on Martin McGuinness’ role, due to a lack of certainty over his movements, concluding that while he was “engaged in paramilitary activity” during Bloody Sunday, and had probably been armed with a Thompson submachine gun, there was insufficient evidence to make any finding other than they were “sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire”.
Regarding the soldiers in charge on the day of Bloody Sunday, the Saville Inquiry arrived at the following findings:
Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford: Commander of 1 Para and directly responsible for arresting rioters and returning to base. Found to have ‘deliberately disobeyed’ his superior Brigadier Patrick MacLellan’s orders by sending Support Company into the Bogside (and without informing MacLellan).
Major Ted Loden: Commander in charge of soldiers, following orders issued by Lieutenant Colonel Wilford. Cleared of misconduct; Saville cited in the report that Loden “neither realised nor should have realised that his soldiers were or might be firing at people who were not posing or about to pose a threat”. The inquiry found that Loden could not be held responsible for claims (whether malicious or not) by some of the individual soldiers that they had received fire from snipers.
Captain Mike Jackson: Second in command of 1 Para on the day of Bloody Sunday. Cleared of sinister actions following Jackson’s compiling of a list of what soldiers told Major Loden on why they had fired. This list became known as the “Loden List of Engagements” which played a role in the Army’s initial explanations. While the inquiry found the compiling of the list was ‘far from ideal’, Jackson’s explanations were accepted based on the list not containing the names of soldiers and the number of times they fired.
Major General Robert Ford: Commander of land forces and set the British strategy to oversee the civil march in Derry. Cleared of any fault, but his selection of 1 Para, and in particular his selection of Colonel Wilford to be in control of arresting rioters, was found to be disconcerting, specifically as “1 PARA was a force with a reputation for using excessive physical violence, which thus ran the risk of exacerbating the tensions between the Army and nationalists”.
Brigadier Pat MacLellan: Operational commander of the day. Cleared of any wrongdoing as he was under the impression that Wilford would follow orders by arresting rioters and then returning to base, and could not be blamed for Wilford’s actions.
Major Michael Steele: With MacLellan in the operations room and in charge of passing on the orders of the day. The inquiry report accepted that Steele could not believe other than that a separation had been achieved between rioters and marchers, because both groups were in different areas.
Other soldiers: Lance Corporal F was found responsible for a number of the deaths and that a number of soldiers have “knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing”.
Intelligence officer Colonel Maurice Tugwell and Colin Wallace, (an IPU army press officer): Cleared of wrongdoing. Saville believed the information Tugwell and Wallace released through the media was not down to any deliberate attempt to deceive the public but rather due to much of the inaccurate information Tugwell had received at the time by various other figures.
“Mr Speaker, I am deeply patriotic. I never want to believe anything bad about our country. I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our army, who I believe to be the finest in the world. And I have seen for myself the very difficult and dangerous circumstances in which we ask our soldiers to serve. But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”
When it was deployed on duty in Northern Ireland, the British Army was welcomed by Roman Catholics as a neutral force there to protect them from Protestant mobs, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the B-Specials. After Bloody Sunday many Catholics turned on the British army, seeing it no longer as their protector but as their enemy. Young nationalists became increasingly attracted to violent republican groups. With the Official IRA and Official Sinn Féin having moved away from mainstream Irish republicanism towards Marxism, the Provisional IRA began to win the support of newly radicalised, disaffected young people.
In the following twenty years, the Provisional Irish Republican Army and other smaller republican groups such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) mounted an armed campaign against the British, by which they meant current and former members of the RUC, the British Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) of the British Army, the Prison Service, suppliers to the security services, the judiciary and opposition politicians amongst others (and, according to their critics, the Protestant and unionist establishment and community). With rival paramilitary organisations appearing in both the nationalist/republican and Irish unionist/Ulster loyalist communities (the Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), etc. on the loyalist side), the Troubles cost the lives of thousands of people. Incidents included the killing by the Provisionals of eighteen members of the Parachute Regiment in the Warrenpoint Ambush – seen by some[who?] as revenge for Bloody Sunday.
With the official cessation of violence by some of the major paramilitary organisations and the creation of the power-sharing executive at Stormont in Belfast under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Saville Inquiry’s re-examination of the events of that day is widely hoped to provide a thorough account of the events of Bloody Sunday.
In his speech to the House of Commons on the Inquiry, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated: “These are shocking conclusions to read and shocking words to have to say. But you do not defend the British Army by defending the indefensible.” He acknowledged that all those who died were unarmed when they were killed by British soldiers, and that a British soldier had fired the first shot at civilians. He also said that this was not a premeditated action, though “there was no point in trying to soften or equivocate” as “what happened should never, ever have happened”. Cameron then apologised on behalf of the British Government by saying he was “deeply sorry”.
A survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion in June 2010 found that 61 per cent of Britons and 70 per cent of Northern Irish agreed with Cameron’s apology for the Bloody Sunday events.
Stephen Pollard, solicitor representing several of the soldiers, said on 15 June 2010 that Saville had cherry-picked the evidence and did not have justification for his findings.
Parachute Regiment flag and the Union flag flying in Ballymena.
In 2012 an actively serving British army soldier from Belfast was charged with inciting hatred by a surviving relative of the deceased, due to their online use of social media to promote sectarian slogans about the killings while featuring banners of the Parachute Regiment logo.
In January 2013, shortly before the annual Bloody Sunday remembrance march, two Parachute Regiment flags appeared in the loyalist Fountain, and Waterside, Drumahoe areas of Derry. The display of the flags was heavily criticised by nationalist politicians and relatives of the Bloody Sunday dead. The Ministry of Defence also condemned the flying of the flags. The flags were removed to be replaced by Union Flags. In the run up to the loyalist marching season in 2013 the flag of the Parachute Regiment appeared alongside other loyalist flags in other parts of Northern Ireland. In 2014 loyalists in Cookstown erected the flags in opposition, close to the route of a St.Patrick’s Day parade in the town.
The John Lennon album Some Time in New York City features a song entitled “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, inspired by the incident, as well as the song “The Luck of the Irish”, which dealt more with the Irish conflict in general. Lennon, who was of Irish descent, also spoke at a protest in New York in support of the victims and families of Bloody Sunday.
The Roy Harper song “All Ireland” from the album Lifemask, written in the days following the incident, is critical of the military but takes a long term view with regard to a solution. In Harper’s book (The Passions of Great Fortune), his comment on the song ends “…there must always be some hope that the children of ‘Bloody Sunday’, on both sides, can grow into some wisdom”.
Black Sabbath‘s Geezer Butler (also of Irish descent) wrote the lyrics to the Black Sabbath song “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” on the album of the same name in 1973. Butler stated, “…the Sunday Bloody Sunday thing had just happened in Ireland, when the British troops opened fire on the Irish demonstrators… So I came up with the title ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, and sort of put it in how the band was feeling at the time, getting away from management, mixed with the state Ireland was in.”
Christy Moore‘s song “Minds Locked Shut” on the album Graffiti Tongue is all about the events of the day, and names the dead civilians.
Irish poet Thomas Kinsella‘s 1972 poem Butcher’s Dozen is a satirical and angry response to the Widgery Tribunal and the events of Bloody Sunday.
Irish poet Seamus Heaney‘s Casualty (published in Field Work, 1981) criticizes Britain for the death of his friend.
Willie Doherty, a Derry-born artist, has amassed a large body of work which addresses the troubles in Northern Ireland. “30 January 1972” deals specifically with the events of Bloody Sunday.
In mid-2005, the play Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry, a dramatisation based on the Saville Inquiry, opened in London, and subsequently travelled to Derry and Dublin. The writer, journalist Richard Norton-Taylor, distilled four years of evidence into two hours of stage performance by Tricycle Theatre. The play received glowing reviews in all the British broadsheets, including The Times: “The Tricycle’s latest recreation of a major inquiry is its most devastating”; The Daily Telegraph: “I can’t praise this enthralling production too highly… exceptionally gripping courtroom drama”; and The Independent: “A necessary triumph”.
Swedish troubadour Fred Åkerström wrote a song called “Den 30/1-72” about the incident.
Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles
Wednesday 27 September 1972
Five people died in separate incidents across Northern Ireland.
Monday 27 September 1976
Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, gave his first press conference since his appointment. In a statement he stressed the importance of trying to improve the Northern Ireland economy and in trying to reduce unemployment.
Sunday 27 September 1981
Garret FitzGerald, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), gave an interview on Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE) and set out his vision for a new Republic of Ireland in what became know as his ‘constitutional crusade’.
[The main theme of his ideas was to make the Republic of Ireland a society where the majority ethos would be expressed in a way so as to not alienate Protestants living in Northern Ireland.]
Thursday 27 September 1984
There were serious disturbances at the Maze Prison involving Republican and Loyalist paramilitary prisoners. Eight Prison Officers and five prisoners were injured in the clashes.
Wednesday 27 September 1989
John Taylor, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Member of Parliament, issued proposals for a devolved assembly in Northern Ireland.
Friday 27 September 1991
The Irish Times carried a report of an interview with Peter Brooke, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Brooke was reported as stating that Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic of Ireland’s constitution were “not helpful” in finding an agreement in Northern Ireland. He also warned that people should not seek to stretch the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA).
Monday 27 September 1993
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a large bomb, estimated at 300 pounds, in the centre of Belfast and caused extensive damage. The IRA exploded a second bomb, estimated at 500 pounds, in south Belfast. John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), suspended their talks while a report from them (the Hume-Adams Initiative) was being considered by the British and Irish Governments.
A report in the Irish Times (a Republic of Ireland newspaper) claimed that the Hume-Adams Initiative asked the British government to state that it no long-term interest in Northern Ireland and that it would use its influence to persuade Unionists that their best interest lay in a united Ireland.
Tuesday 27 September 1994
The European Parliament passed a motion which called for all paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland to begin ceasefires. John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Socialist Group of the European Parliament.
In Strasbourg the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the shooting on 6 March 1988 of three unarmed Irish Republican Army (IRA) members in Gibraltar by undercover members of the Special Air Service (SAS) breached the Human Rights Convention in relation to the right to life. The court found that the SAS killings were “unnecessary” and that the three IRA members could have been arrested. No damages were awarded but the British government was ordered to pay the legal costs of the families. [On 24 December 1995 the British government paid £38,700 to cover the legal costs.]
Saturday 27 September 1997
Following an increase in sectarian tensions in the Oldpark area of north Belfast, the homes of two Protestant families were attacked.
[There were attacks on Catholic homes on 28 September 1997.]
Loyalists took part in a picket of the Catholic church at Harryville, Ballymena.
Monday 27 September 1999
Interlocutory hearings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry took place in the Guildhall in Derry. The hearings were chaired by Lord Saville and discussed the issue of anonymity for up to 500 security force witnesses to the shootings on 30 January 1972.
[The first of the main hearings began on 27 March 2000.]
Sinn Féin (SF) demonstrators disrupted the public launch of the annual report of the Police Authority of Northern Ireland (PANI). Figures in the report indicated that recorded crime for 1998/99 had increased by 28 per cent while detection rates had dropped by 5 per cent. Michael Cunningham, then an Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) councillor, pleaded guilty to 13 charges of indecent assault on two girls aged six and seven years.
[On 12 November 1999 Cunningham was sentenced to two years imprisonment.]
Thursday 27 September 2001
There was a second night of shooting and rioting following Loyalist protests in north Belfast. Loyalist paramilitaries fired approximately 30 shots at security forces on Cambrai Street, off the Crumlin Road. One woman was injured when she was shot in the leg. 13 Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were injured as a result of the rioting. Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the RUC, stated in an interview on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ‘Newsline’ programme that the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was involved in the most recent shooting and rioting in north Belfast.
British Airways announced that it was cutting back on a number of its European and United States routes. The service between Belfast and London is one of the ones to close on 27 October 2001. Up to 160 employees are expected to lose their job.
Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles
Today is the anniversary of the follow people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland
To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever
– To the Paramilitaries –
“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.
9 People lost their lives on the 27th September between 1972 – 1992
27 September 1972 Daniel McErlane, (46)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Died one day after being injured during car bomb attack on social club, Upper Library Street, Belfast.
27 September 1972
Daniel Rooney, (19)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) member, from passing car while walking along St James Crescent, Falls, Belfast.
27 September 1972
George Lockhart, (24) nfNI Status: British Army (BA),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died four days after being shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Lecky Road, Bogside, Derry.
27 September 1972 Alexander Greer, (54)
Protestant Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while standing with friend at the corner of Ligoniel Road and Mill Avenue, Ligoniel, Belfast.
27 September 1972 James Boyle, (17)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Found shot by Flush River, Elswick Street, off Springfield Road, Belfast.
27 September 1978 Mary McCaffrey, (65)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died four weeks after being injured in remote controlled bomb attack near to her home, Forfar Street, off Springfield Road, Belfast.
27 September 1981
Anthony Braniff, (27)
Catholic Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Found shot in entry off Odessa Street, Falls, Belfast. Alleged informer.
27 September 1982 Leon Bush, (22) nfNI Status: British Army (BA),
Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Killed by booby trap bomb attached to security barrier, West Circular Road, Highfield, Belfast.
27 September 1992
Gerard O’Hara, (18)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by:
Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot at his home, North Queen Street, New Lodge, Belfast.
The IRA’s initial strategy was to use force to cause the collapse of the government of Northern Ireland and to inflict enough casualties on British forces that the British government would be forced by public opinion to withdraw from the region. This policy involved recruitment of volunteers, increasing after the 1972 Bloody Sunday incident, in which the British military killed unarmed protesters, and launching attacks against British military and economic targets. The campaign was supported by arms and funding from Libya and from some groups in the United States.
The IRA agreed to a ceasefire in February 1975, which lasted nearly a year before the IRA concluded that the British were drawing them into politics without offering any guarantees in relation to the IRA’s goals (as well as launching an intelligence offensive), and hopes of a quick victory receded. As a result, the IRA launched a new strategy known as “the Long War”. This saw them conduct a war of attrition against the British and increase emphasis on political activity, via the political party Sinn Féin.
The success of the 1981 Irish hunger strike in mobilising support and winning elections led to the Armalite and ballot box strategy, with more time and resources devoted to political activity. The abortive attempt at an escalation of the military part of that strategy led republican leaders increasingly to look for a political compromise to end the conflict, with a broadening dissociation of Sinn Féin from the IRA. Following negotiations with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and secret talks with British civil servants, the IRA ultimately called a ceasefire in 1994 on the understanding that Sinn Féin would be included in political talks for a settlement. When the British government, dependent on Ulster Unionist Party votes at Westminster, then demanded the disarmament of the IRA before it allowed Sinn Féin into multiparty talks, the IRA called off its ceasefire in February 1996.
This demand was quickly dropped after the May 1997 general election in the UK. The IRA ceasefire was then reinstated in July 1997 and Sinn Féin was admitted into all-party talks, which produced the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The IRA’s armed campaign, primarily in Northern Ireland but also in England and mainland Europe, caused the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 640 civilians. The IRA itself lost 275–300 members and an estimated 10,000 imprisoned at various times over the 30-year period.
On 28 July 2005, the IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign, stating that it would work to achieve its aims using “purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means”, and shortly afterwards completed decommissioning. In September 2008, the nineteenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission stated that the IRA was “committed to the political path” and no longer represented “a threat to peace or to democratic politics”, and that the IRA’s Army Council was “no longer operational or functional”. The organisation remains classified as a proscribed terrorist group in the UK and as an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland. Two small groups split from the Provisional IRA, the Continuity IRA in 1986, and the Real IRA in 1997. Both reject the Good Friday Agreement and continue to engage in paramilitary activity.
On 26 July 2012, it was announced that some former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army were merging with the Real Irish Republican Army, other independent republican paramilitary groups and the vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs (but, notably, not with the Continuity Irish Republican Army) into a unified formation known simply as the “Irish Republican Army”. This new IRA group is estimated by Police Service of Northern Ireland intelligence sources to have between 250 and 300 active militants and many more supporting associates.
An IRA badge – the Phoenix is frequently used to symbolise the origins of the Provisional IRA.
In August 1969, a confrontation between Catholic residents of the Bogside and police Londonderry ollowing an Apprentice Boys of Derry march led to a large communal riot now referred to as the Battle of the Bogside – three days of fighting between rioters throwing stones and petrol bombs and police who saturated the area with CS gas.
Protests and riots organised by NICRA in support of the Bogsiders began elsewhere in the Province sparking retaliation by Protestant mobs; the subsequent burning, damage to property and intimidation largely against the minority community forced 1,505 Catholics from their homes in Belfast in what became known as the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969, with over 200 Catholic homes being destroyed or requiring major repairs and a number of people were killed on both sides, some by the forces of law and order. The Irish Republican Army had been poorly armed and unable to adequately defend the Catholic community, which had been considered one of its traditional roles since the 1920s.
Veteran republicans were critical of the IRA’s Dublin leadership which, for political reasons, had refused to prepare for aggressive action in advance of the violence. On 24 August Joe Cahill, Seamus Twomey, Dáithí Ó Conaill, Billy McKee and several other future Provisional leaders came together in Belfast intending to remove the Belfast leadership and turn back to traditional militant republicanism. Although the pro-Goulding commander Billy McMillen stayed in command, he was told it was only for three months and he was not to have any communication with the IRA’s Dublin based leadership.
Traditional republicans formed the “Provisional” Army Council in December 1969, after an IRA Army convention was held at Knockvicar House in Boyle, County Roscommon. The two main issues were the acceptance of the “National Liberation Strategy” and a motion to end abstentionism and to recognise the British, Irish and Northern Ireland parliaments. While the motion on the “National Liberation Strategy” was passed unanimously the motion on abstentionism was only passed by 28 votes to 12. Opponents of this change argued strongly against the ending of abstentionism, and when the vote took place, Seán Mac Stíofáin, present as IRA Director of Intelligence, announced that he no longer considered that the IRA leadership represented republican goals. However, there was not a walkout. Those opposed, who included Mac Stíofáin and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, refused to go forward for election to the new IRA Executive.
While others canvassed support throughout Ireland, Mac Stíofáin was a key person making a connection with the Belfast IRA under Billy McKee and Joe Cahill, who had refused to take orders from the IRA’s Dublin leadership since September 1969, in protest at their failure to defend Catholic areas in August. Nine out of thirteen IRA units in Belfast sided with the Provisionals in December 1969, roughly 120 activists and 500 supporters. The first “Provisional” Army Council was composed of Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Paddy Mulcahy, Sean Tracey, Leo Martin, and Joe Cahill, and issued their first public statement on 28 December 1969, stating:
We declare our allegiance to the 32 county Irish republic, proclaimed at Easter 1916, established by the first Dáil Éireann in 1919, overthrown by forces of arms in 1922 and suppressed to this day by the existing British-imposed six-county and twenty-six-county partition states.
The Sinn Féin party split along the same lines on 11 January 1970, when a third of the delegates walked out of the Ard Fheis in protest at the party leadership’s attempt to force through the ending of abstentionism, despite its failure to achieve a two-thirds majority vote of delegates required to change the policy. Despite the declared support of that faction of Sinn Féin, the early Provisional IRA was extremely suspicious of political activity, arguing rather for the primacy of armed struggle.
There are allegations that the early Provisional IRA received arms and funding from the Fianna Fáil-led Irish government in 1969, resulting in the 1970 “Arms trial” in which criminal charges were pursued against two former government ministers. Roughly £100,000 was donated by the Irish government to “Defence Committees” in Catholic areas and, according to historian Richard English, “there is now no doubt that some money did go from the Dublin government to the proto-Provisionals”.
The Provisionals maintained the principles of the pre-1969 IRA; they considered both British rule in Northern Ireland and the government of the Republic of Ireland to be illegitimate, insisting that the Provisional IRA’s Army Council was the only valid government, as head of an all-island Irish Republic. This belief was based on a series of perceived political inheritances which constructed a legal continuity from the Second Dáil.
The Provisionals inherited most of the existing IRA organisation in the north by 1971 and the more militant IRA members in the rest of Ireland. In addition, they recruited many young nationalists from the north, who had not been involved in the IRA before, but had been radicalised by the communal violence that broke out in 1969. These people were known in republican parlance as “sixty niners”, having joined after 1969. The Provisional IRA adopted the Phoenix as symbol of the Irish republican rebirth in 1969. One of its common slogans is “out of the ashes rose the provisionals”.
All levels of the organisation were entitled to send delegates to IRA General Army Conventions (GACs). The GAC was the IRA’s supreme decision-making authority. Before 1969, GACs met regularly. Since 1969, there have only been two, in 1970 and 1986, owing to the difficulty in organising such a large gathering of an illegal organisation in secret.
The GAC in turn elected a 12-member IRA Executive, which selected seven volunteers to form the IRA Army Council. For day-to-day purposes, authority was vested in the Army Council which, as well as directing policy and taking major tactical decisions, appointed a Chief of Staff from one of its number or, less commonly, from outside its ranks.
PIRA re-enacment in Galbally, County Tyrone (2009)
The Chief of Staff would appoint an adjutant general as well as a General Headquarters (GHQ), which consisted of heads of the following departments:
Republican colour party in Dublin – March 2009. The blue flag being carried at the front is that of “Dublin Brigade IRA”
The IRA was divided into a Northern Command, which operated in the nine Ulster counties as well as County Leitrim and County Louth, and a Southern Command, operating in the rest of Ireland. The Provisional IRA was originally commanded by a leadership based in Dublin. However, in 1977, parallel to the introduction of cell structures at local level, command of the “war-zone” was given to the Northern Command. According to Ed Moloney, these moves at reorganisation were the idea of Ivor Bell, Gerry Adams and Brian Keenan.
The IRA refers to its ordinary members as volunteers (or óglaigh in Irish). Up until the late 1970s, IRA volunteers were organised in units based on conventional military structures. Volunteers living in one area formed a company as part of a battalion, which could be part of a brigade, although many battalions were not attached to a brigade.
For most of its existence, the IRA had five Brigade areas within what it referred to as the “war-zone”. These Brigades were located in Armagh, Belfast, Derry, Donegal and Tyrone/Monaghan. The Belfast Brigade had three battalions, respectively in the west, north and east of the city. In the early years of the Troubles, the IRA in Belfast expanded rapidly. In August 1969, the Belfast Brigade had just 50 active members. By the end of 1971, it had 1,200 members, giving it a large but loosely controlled structure.
The Derry Brigade had two battalions – one based in Derry City, known as the South Derry Brigade, and another in Donegal. The Derry Battalion became the Derry Brigade in 1972 after a rapid increase in membership following Bloody Sunday when British paratroopers killed 13 unarmed demonstrators at a civil rights march. Volunteers based in Donegal were a part of the Derry Brigade as well. County Armagh had three battalions, two very active ones in South Armagh and a less active unit in North Armagh. For this reason the Armagh IRA unit is often referred to as the South Armagh Brigade. Similarly, the Tyrone/Monaghan Brigade, which operated from around the Border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is often called the East Tyrone Brigade. Fermanagh, South Down and North Antrim had units not attached to Brigades. The leadership structure at battalion and company level was the same: each had its own commanding officer, quartermaster, explosives officer and intelligence officer. There was sometimes a training officer or finance officer.
Active service units
Ulster Defence Association – Hunting The IRA (Documentary
From 1973, the IRA started to move away from the larger conventional military organisational principle owing to its security vulnerability. A system of two parallel types of unit within an IRA brigade was introduced in place of the battalion structures. Firstly, the old “company” structures were used for tasks such as “policing” nationalist areas, intelligence gathering, and hiding weapons. These were essential support activities. However, the bulk of actual attacks were the responsibility of a second type of unit, the active service unit (ASU). To improve security and operational capacity, these ASUs were smaller, tight-knit cells, usually consisting of five to eight members. The ASU’s weapons were controlled by a brigade’s quartermaster. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was estimated that in the late 1980s the IRA had roughly 300 members in ASUs and about another 450 serving in supporting roles.
The exception to this reorganisation was the South Armagh Brigade, which retained its traditional hierarchy and battalion structure and used relatively large numbers of volunteers in its actions.
The IRA’s Southern Command, located in the Republic of Ireland, consists of a Dublin Brigade and a number of smaller units in rural areas. These were charged mainly with the importation and storage of arms for the Northern units and with raising finances through robberies and other means.
Following the violence of August 1969, the IRA began to arm and train to protect nationalist areas from further attack. After the Provisionals’ split from the Official IRA the Provisional IRA began planning for an all-out offensive action against what it claimed was British occupation.
The Official IRA were opposed to such a campaign because they felt it would lead to sectarian conflict, which would defeat their strategy of uniting the workers from both sides of the sectarian divide. The IRA Border Campaign in the 1950s had avoided actions in urban centres of Northern Ireland to avoid civilian casualties and resulting sectarian violence. The Provisional IRA, by contrast, was primarily an urban organisation, based originally in Belfast and Derry.
The Provisional IRA’s strategy was to use force to cause the collapse of the Northern Ireland administration and to inflict casualties on the British forces such that the British government be forced by public opinion to withdraw from Ireland. According to journalist Brendan O’Brien, “the thinking was that the war would be short and successful. Chief of Staff Seán Mac Stíofáin decided they would ‘escalate, escalate and escalate’ until the British agreed to go”. This policy involved recruitment of volunteers and carrying out attacks on British forces, as well as mounting a bombing campaign against economic targets. In the early years of the conflict, IRA slogans spoke of, “Victory 1972″ and then “Victory 1974″. Its inspiration was the success of the “Old IRA” in the Irish War of Independence (1919–1922). In their assessment of the IRA campaign, the British Army would describe these years, 1970–72, as the “insurgency phase”.
The British government held secret talks with the IRA leadership in 1972 to try and secure a ceasefire based on a compromise settlement within Northern Ireland after the events of Bloody Sunday when IRA recruitment and support increased. The IRA agreed to a temporary ceasefire from 26 June to 9 July. In July 1972, Seán Mac Stíofáin, Dáithí Ó Conaill, Ivor Bell, Seamus Twomey, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met a British delegation led by William Whitelaw. The Irish republicans refused to consider a peace settlement that did not include a commitment to British withdrawal, a retreat of the British Army to its barracks, and a release of republican prisoners. The British refused and the talks broke up.
Éire Nua and the 1975 ceasefire
The Provisionals’ goal in this period was the abolition of both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland states and their replacement with a new all-Ireland federal republic, with decentralised governments and parliaments for each of the four Irish historic provinces. This programme was known as Éire Nua (New Ireland). The Éire Nua programme remained IRA policy until discontinued by the Army Council in 1979. Éire Nua remained Sinn Féin policy until 1982.
By the mid-1970s, the hopes of the IRA leadership for a quick military victory were receding. The British military was unsure of when it would see any substantial success against the IRA. Secret meetings between Provisional IRA leaders Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Billy McKee with British Secretary of State for Northern IrelandMerlyn Rees secured an IRA ceasefire which began in February 1975. The IRA initially believed that this was the start of a long-term process of British withdrawal, but later came to the conclusion that Rees was trying to bring them into peaceful politics without offering them any guarantees. Critics of the IRA leadership, most notably Gerry Adams, felt that the ceasefire was disastrous for the IRA, leading to infiltration by British informers, the arrest of many activists and a breakdown in IRA discipline resulting in sectarian killings and a feud with fellow republicans in the Official IRA. At this time, the IRA leadership, short of money, weapons and members, was on the brink of calling off the campaign. The ceasefire, however, broke down in January 1976.
The “Long War
IRA political poster from the 1980s, featuring a quote from Bobby Sands – “There can never be peace in Ireland until the foreign, oppressive British presence is removed, leaving all the Irish people as a unit to control their own affairs and determine their own destinies as a sovereign people, free in mind and body, separate and distinct physically, culturally and economically”.
Thereafter, the IRA evolved a new strategy which they called the “Long War”. This underpinned IRA strategy for the rest of the Troubles and involved the re-organisation of the IRA into small cells, an acceptance that their campaign would last many years before being successful and an increased emphasis on political activity through Sinn Féin. A republican document of the early 1980s states, “Both Sinn Féin and the IRA play different but converging roles in the war of national liberation. The Irish Republican Army wages an armed campaign… Sinn Féin maintains the propaganda war and is the public and political voice of the movement”. The 1977 edition of the Green Book, an induction and training manual used by the IRA, describes the strategy of the “Long War” in these terms:
A war of attrition against enemy personnel [British Army] based on causing as many deaths as possible so as to create a demand from their [the British] people at home for their withdrawal.
A bombing campaign aimed at making the enemy’s financial interests in our country unprofitable while at the same time curbing long term investment in our country.
To make the Six Counties… ungovernable except by colonial military rule.
To sustain the war and gain support for its ends by National and International propaganda and publicity campaigns.
Confidential documents released on 30 December 2008 from the British state archives show that the IRA leadership proposed a ceasefire and peace talks to the British government in 1978. The British refused the offer. Prime Minister James Callaghan decided that there should be “positive rejection” of the approach on the basis that the republicans were not serious and “see their campaign as a long haul”. Irish State documents from the same period say that the IRA had made a similar offer to the British the previous year. An Irish Defence Forces document, dated 15 February 1977, states that “It is now known that feelers were sent out at Christmas by the top IRA leadership to interest the British authorities in another long ceasefire.”
1981 hunger strikes and electoral politics
Insight: The 1981 Hunger Strike 20 Years On – 2001
After the success of IRA hunger strikers in mobilising support and winning elections on an Anti H-Block platform in 1981, republicans increasingly devoted time and resources to electoral politics, through the Sinn Féin party. Danny Morrison summed up this policy at a 1981 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis (annual meeting) as a “ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other”.
The success of the 1981 Irish hunger strike in mobilising support and winning elections led to what was referred to by Danny Morrison as, “the Armalite and ballot box strategy” with more time and resources devoted to political activity. The perceived stalemate along with British government’s hints of a compromise and secret approaches in the early 1990s led republican leaders increasingly to look for a political agreement to end the conflict, with a broadening dissociation of Sinn Féin from the IRA. Following negotiations with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and secret talks with British civil servants, the IRA ultimately called a ceasefire in 1994 on the understanding that Sinn Féin would be included in political talks for a settlement. When the British government then demanded the disarmament of the IRA before it allowed Sinn Féin into multiparty talks, the organisation called off its ceasefire in February 1996. The renewed bombings caused severe economic damage, with the Manchester bombing and the Docklands bombing causing approximately £500 million in combined damage. After the ceasefire was reinstated in July 1997, Sinn Féin was admitted into all-party talks, which produced the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The IRA’s armed campaign, primarily in Northern Ireland but also in England and mainland Europe, caused the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 630 civilians. The IRA itself lost 275–300 members, of an estimated 10,000 total over the 30-year period.
According to author Ed Moloney, the IRA made an attempt to escalate the conflict with the so-called “Tet Offensive” in the 1980s, which was reluctantly approved by the Army Council and did not prove successful. On the other hand, public speeches from two Northern Ireland Secretaries of State, Peter Brooke and Patrick Mayhew hint that, given the cessation of violence, a political compromise with the IRA was possible. Gerry Adams entered talks with John Hume, the leader of the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1993, and secret talks were also conducted since 1991 between Martin McGuinness and a senior MI6 officer, Michael Oatley. Thereafter, Adams increasingly tried to disassociate Sinn Féin from the IRA, claiming they were separate organisations and refusing to speak on behalf of the IRA. Within the Republican Movement (the IRA and Sinn Féin), the new strategy was described by the acronym “TUAS”, meaning either “Tactical Use of Armed Struggle” or “Totally Unarmed Strategy”.
Weaponry and operations
The Armalite AR-18, obtained by the IRA from an IRA member in the United States in the early 1970s, was an emotive symbol of its armed campaign
An AK-47 assault rifle (over 1,000 of which were donated by Muammar Gaddafi to the IRA in the 1980s)
Heckler & Koch G3. 100 of these, stolen from the Norwegian police, finished up with the IRA
In the early days of the Troubles the IRA was very poorly armed, mainly with old World War II weaponry such as M1 Garands and Thompson submachine guns, but starting in the early 1970s it procured large amounts of modern weaponry from such sources as supporters in the United States, Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and arms dealers in Europe, America, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Libyans supplied the IRA with the RPG-7.
In the first years of the conflict, the IRA’s main activities were providing firepower to support nationalist rioters and defending nationalist areas from attacks. The IRA gained much of its support from these activities, as they were widely perceived within the nationalist community as being defenders of Irish nationalist and Roman Catholic people against aggression.
Grand Hotel following a bomb attack
Thatcher and the IRA Dealing with Terror BBC Documentary 2014 Full
From 1971–1994, the IRA launched a sustained offensive armed campaign that mainly targeted the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), and economic targets in Northern Ireland. In addition, some IRA members carried out attacks against Protestant civilians.
The IRA was chiefly active in Northern Ireland, although it took its campaign to England and mainland Europe. The IRA also targeted certain British government officials, politicians, judges, establishment figures, British Army and police officers in England, and in other areas such as the Republic of Ireland, West Germany and the Netherlands. By the early 1990s, the bulk of the IRA activity was carried out by the South Armagh Brigade, well known through its sniping operations and attacks on British Army helicopters. The bombing campaign principally targeted political, economic and military targets, and approximately 60 civilians were killed by the IRA in England during the conflict.
It has been argued that this bombing campaign helped convince the British government (who had hoped to contain the conflict to Northern Ireland with its Ulsterisation policy) to negotiate with Sinn Féin after the IRA ceasefires of August 1994 and July 1997.
Ceasefires and decommissioning of arms
On 31 August 1994, the IRA declared an indefinite ceasefire. However, from February 1996 until July 1997, the IRA called off its 1994 ceasefire because of its dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations. They re-instated the ceasefire in July 1997, and it has been in operation since then.
A “Sniper at Work” sign in Crossmaglen. The PIRA used snipers as a tactic in south Armagh to disrupt foot patrols
Having compared the weapons destroyed with the British security forces’ estimates of the IRA weaponry, and because of the IRA’s full involvement in the process of destroying the weapons, the IICD arrived at their conclusion that all IRA weaponry has been destroyed.
Since the process of decommissioning was completed, unnamed sources in MI5 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have reported to the press that not all IRA arms were destroyed during the process. This claim remains unsubstantiated so far. In its report dated April 2006 the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) stated that it had no reason to disbelieve the IRA or to suspect that it had not fully decommissioned. It believed that any weaponry that had not been handed in had been retained locally and against the wishes of the IRA leadership. The Russian and British Intelligence services alleged that during the decommissioning process the IRA secretly purchased a consignment of 20 Russian special forces AN-94 rifles in Moscow.
In mid-July 2013, the Gardaí displayed arms and explosives (Semtex) recently recovered from dissident republicans in the Dublin area. The Gardaí believe this Semtex to have come from the Libyan connection back in the 1980s and therefore should have been decommissioned.
Apart from its armed campaign, the IRA has also been involved in many other activities.
IRA, purely sectarian, calculated slaughter of Protestants at Kingsmill
The IRA publicly condemned sectarianism and sectarian attacks. However, some IRA members became involved in sectarian tit-for-tat violence and attacked Protestants in retaliation for attacks on Catholics. Of those killed by the IRA, Sutton classifies 130 (about 7%) of them as sectarian killings of Protestants. Unlike loyalists, the IRA denied responsibility for sectarian attacks and the members involved used covernames, such as Republican Action Force. Many in the IRA opposed these sectarian attacks, but others deemed them effective in preventing sectarian attacks on Catholics.
Some unionists allege that the IRA took part in “ethnic cleansing” of the Protestant minority in rural border areas, such as Fermanagh. Many local Protestants allegedly believed that the IRA tried to force them into leaving. However, most Protestants killed by the IRA in these areas were members of the security forces, and there was no exodus of Protestants.
Alleged involvement in organised crime
The IRA have allegedly been involved in criminal activities, including racketeering, bank robbery, fuel laundering, drug dealing and kidnapping.
In 2004, £26.5m was stolen from the Northern Bank‘s vaults in Belfast city centre. The British and Irish governments agreed with the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s report blaming the robbery on the IRA. On 18 January 2005, the IRA issued a statement denying any involvement in the robbery. In February 2005, the Independent Monitoring Commission’s Fourth Report stated their belief that the robbery was carried out with the prior knowledge and authorisation of the IRA’s leadership. Commentators including Suzanne Breen have stated that the IRA was the only organisation capable of carrying out the raid. In May 2009, two men were arrested in Cork, and charged with IRA membership and offences relating to the robbery.
According to several sources, the organisation has also been involved in the Irish drugs trade. A 1999 report by John Horgan and Max Taylor cited Royal Ulster Constabulary reports, alleging that this involves the “licensing” of drug operations to criminal gangs and the payment of protection money, rather than direct involvement. However, Chief of the RUC Drugs Squad Kevin Sheehy notes “the Provisional IRA did its best to stop volunteers from becoming directly involved [in drugs]” and noted that on one occasion an IRA member caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use was “disowned and humiliated” in his local area. According to Horgan and Taylor’s report, the IRA are also involved in several legitimate businesses including taxi firms, construction, restaurants and pubs. The IRA have also been involved in racketeering, which involves the extortion of money from legitimate businesses for “protection”.
Speaking at Sinn Féin 2005 Ard Fheis, Gerry Adams stated that “‘There is no place in republicanism for anyone involved in criminality”. However, he went on to say “we refuse to criminalise those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives”.
In 2013 it was reported that an Italian police investigation had revealed links between the IRA and the Mafia in a €450m money laundering scheme.
The IRA saw itself as the police force of nationalist areas of Northern Ireland during the Troubles instead of the RUC. This was made possible by a feeling of mistrust by some members of the community against the police force and army. The feeling, that the RUC, B-Specials, UDR, British Army and other arms of the Governmental apparatus in Northern Ireland were biased against the nationalist community was not new; it predated the Troubles and took in organisations like the Ulster Defence Volunteers, a home guard body of World War II, who were also widely considered sectarian. Catholics did, however, serve in the UDV,Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
Also, the RUC and other forces of the authorities were, in some instances, reluctant to enter or patrol certain Nationalist areas unless it was in armoured Land Rovers and in convoy. Police stations were also heavily armoured because of persistent attacks from the IRA. This gave them the appearance of being fortresses. This vacuum in policing was functional for the IRA because it stopped the local community being in contact with the police which may have posed a threat if information was passed. Therefore, the community would turn to the IRA first to deal with troublemakers or those practising what came to be called “anti-social behaviour”. In efforts to stamp out “anti-social behaviour” and alleged instances of drug dealing reported to or noticed by the organisation, the IRA killed or otherwise attacked suspected drug dealers and other suspected criminals. These attacks varied in severity and depended on various factors. In the first instance, the IRA may warn their intended victim, with further transgressions escalated to an attack known as a “punishment beating”. The process which the IRA went through to determine an offender’s “guilt” or “innocence” was never open to debate or scrutiny. The IRA also engaged in attacks that broke the bones of alleged offenders, or involved shooting through the hands, or knees for persistent offenders of activities such as joyriding or drug dealing. In certain cases, for persistent offenders the IRA would intimidate the individual into leaving the country; this was known as being “put out” of the community/country, and the clear message given to individuals served with these notices was that if they returned to the community/country they would be killed. This practice was frequently criticised by all sections of the political establishment in Northern Ireland as “summary justice“.
Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, speaking in the Dáil Éireann, challenged Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, over allegations of sexual abuse cover up by Sinn Féin/IRA. In the same debate Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said victims of sex abuse by IRA members were sworn to silence. Adams denied there was any Sinn Féin cover up and accused Kenny and Martin of politicising the issue. Adams also apologised to abuse victims who he said were “let down” by the IRA’s failure to properly investigate their claims of abuse.
Killing of alleged informers
IRA execute suspected informer | South Armagh | 20th July 1991
In an effort to stamp out what the IRA termed “collaboration with British forces” and “informing”, they killed a number of Catholic civilians, such as Joseph Fenton. Purges against these individuals, whom the IRA considered traitors to their own community and to the cause of nationalism, were most prevalent when the IRA found itself persistently vulnerable to infiltration. Investigations into informers and infiltration are suspected to have been dealt with by an IRA unit called the Internal Security Unit (ISU), known colloquially as the “Nutting Squad”. This unit is said to be directly attached to IRA GHQ. Where a confession was solicited, the victim was often exiled or executed with a bullet in the back of the head. The body was either buried or, later in the IRA campaign, left in a public place, often in South Armagh.
One particular example of the killing of a person deemed by the IRA to have been an informer that is the source of continuing controversy is that of Jean McConville from Belfast, who was killed by the IRA. Ed Moloney and IRA sources continue to claim she was an informer despite the Police Ombudsman recently stating that this was not the case. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) have described the killing as a “war crime“. Her family contend that she was killed as a punishment for aiding a dying British soldier in West Belfast, however this claim has been rejected in an official investigation, while neither the Sutton Index or Lost Lives record the death of any British soldier near her home prior to her killing. In March 2014, Ivor Bell – former IRA Chief of Staff – was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting in the murder of Jean McConville. In April 2014, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was arrested and questioned by PSNI detectives in relation to the abduction and murder of Jean McConville. He was released four days later without charge.
In March 2007, Police OmbudsmanNuala O’Loan announced that there would be an inquiry into claims of collusion between IRA members working as agents for the Special Branch and other agencies and the British security forces.
Leading Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) member Joseph O’Connor was shot dead in Ballymurphy, west Belfast on 11 October 2000. Claims have been made by O’Connor’s family and people associated with the RIRA that he was killed by the IRA as the result of a feud between the organisations, but Sinn Féin denied the claims. No-one has been charged with his killing.
An IRA signpost with the word “Provoland” underneath in Strathroy, Omagh, County Tyrone.
The IRA was responsible for more deaths than any other organisation during the Troubles. Two detailed studies of deaths in the Troubles, the CAIN project at the University of Ulster, and the book Lost Lives, differ slightly on the numbers killed by the IRA. CAIN gives a minimum figure of 1,707 and a maximum of 1,823, while Lost Lives gives a figure of 1,781. Of these, about 1,100 were members or former members of the security forces (the British Army, Royal Ulster Constabulary etc.), while between 510 and 640 were civilians. The civilian figure also includes civilians employed by British forces, politicians, members of the judiciary, and alleged criminals and informers. The remainder were either loyalist or republican paramilitary members (including over 100 IRA members accidentally killed by their own bombs or shot for being security force agents or informers).
A little under 300 IRA members were killed in the Troubles. In addition, roughly 50–60 members of Sinn Féin were killed. However, many more IRA volunteers were imprisoned than killed. Journalists Eamonn Mallie and Patrick Bishop estimate in their book The Provisional IRA that roughly 8,000 people passed through the ranks of the IRA in the first 20 years of its existence, many of them leaving after arrest (senior officers are required to surrender their post after being arrested), retiring from the armed campaign or “disillusionment”. They give 10,000 as the total number of past and present IRA members at that time.
The IRA described its actions throughout “The Troubles” as a military campaign waged against the British Army, the RUC, other security forces, judiciary, loyalist politicians and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, England and Europe. The IRA considers these groups to be all part of the same apparatus. As noted above, the IRA seeks to draw a direct descendancy from the original IRA and those who engaged in the Irish War of Independence. The IRA sees the previous conflict as a guerrilla war which accomplished some of its aims, with some remaining “unfinished business”.
A process called “Criminalisation” was begun in the mid-1970s as part of a British strategy of “Criminalisation, Ulsterisation, and Normalisation”. The policy was outlined in a 1975 British strategy paper titled “The Way Ahead”, which was not published but was referred to by Labour’s first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Merlyn Rees, and came to be the dominant British political theme in the conflict as it raged into the 1980s.
Another categorisation avoids the terms “guerrilla” or “terrorist” but does view the conflict in military terms. The phrase originated with the British military strategist Frank Kitson who was active in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s. In Kitson’s view, the violence of the IRA represented an “insurrection” situation, with the enveloping atmosphere of belligerence representing a “low intensity conflict” – a conflict where the forces involved in fighting operate at a greatly reduced tempo, with fewer combatants, at a reduced range of tactical equipment and limited scope to operate in a military manner.
Membership of the IRA remains illegal in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but IRA prisoners convicted of offences committed before 1998 have been granted conditional early release as part of the Good Friday Agreement. In the United Kingdom a person convicted of membership of a “proscribed organisation”, such as the IRA, still nominally faces imprisonment for up to 10 years.
Strength and support
In the early to mid-1970s, the numbers recruited by the IRA may have reached several thousand, but these were reduced when the IRA re-organised its structures from 1977 onwards. An RUC report of 1986 estimated that the IRA had 300 or so members in Active Service Units and up to 750 active members in total in Northern Ireland. This does not take into consideration the IRA units in the Republic of Ireland or those in Britain, continental Europe, and throughout the world. In 2005, the then Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell told the Dáil that the organisation had “between 1,000 and 1,500″ active members.
According to the book The Provisional IRA (by Eamon Mallie and Patrick Bishop), roughly 8,000 people passed through the ranks of the IRA in the first 20 years of its existence, many of them leaving after arrest, “retirement” or disillusionment. In later years, the IRA’s strength has been somewhat weakened by members leaving the organisation to join hardline splinter groups such as the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA. According to former Irish Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, these organisations have little more than 150 members each.
Few Protestant voters voted for Sinn Féin. In 1992, many of them voted for SDLP West Belfast candidate Joe Hendron rather than a unionist candidate to make sure Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin lost his seat in the constituency.
The IRA have had contacts with foreign governments and other illegal armed organisations.
Libya has been the biggest single supplier of arms and funds to the IRA, donating large amounts: three shipments of arms in the early 1970s and another three in the mid-1980s, the latter reputedly enough to arm two regular infantry battalions.
The IRA has also received weapons and logistical support from Irish Americans in the United States. Apart from the Libyan aid, this has been the main source of overseas IRA support. American support has been weakened by the War against Terrorism, and the fallout from the events of 11 September 2001.
In the United States in November 1982, five men were acquitted of smuggling arms to the IRA after they claimed the Central Intelligence Agency had approved the shipment, although the CIA denied this. There are allegations of contact with the East German Stasi, based on the testimony of a Soviet defector to British intelligence Vasili Mitrokhin. Mitrokhin revealed that although the Soviet KGB gave some weapons to the Marxist Official IRA, it had little sympathy with the Provisionals. The IRA has received some training and support from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1977, the Provisionals received a ‘sizeable’ arms shipment from the PLO, including small arms, rocket launchers and explosives, but this was intercepted at Antwerp after the Israeli intelligence alerted its European counterparts. According to Dr Mir Ali Montazam, one-time first secretary at the Iranian embassy, Iran played a key part in funding the IRA during the 1980s. Iranian officials deposited £4 million into a secret Jersey bank account, funded by the sale of artwork from the Iranian Embassy in London. Hadi Ghaffari, the “machinegun mullah”, was sent to Belfast and organised the distribution of the money via sympathetic Irish businessmen.
Falls Road in 1981
It has been alleged that the IRA had a co-operative relationship with Basque militant group ETA since the early 1970s. In 1973 it was accused of providing explosives for the assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco in Madrid. In the 1970s, ETA also exchanged a quantity of handguns for training in explosives with the IRA. In addition, the leaders of the political wings of the respective Irish republican and Basque separatist movements have exchanged visits on several occasions to express solidarity with each other’s cause. Prominent former IRA prisoners such as Brendan McFarlane and Brendan Hughes have campaigned for the release of ETA prisoners. In the mid-1990s after the IRA ceasefire, Basque media outlets followed the process carefully, sending a team to follow the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday as they campaigned for apology.
IRA propaganda poster
In May 1996, the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s internal security service, publicly accused Estonia of arms smuggling, and claimed that the IRA had contacted representatives of Estonia’s volunteer defence force, Kaitseliit, and some non-government groups to buy weapons. In 2001, three Irish men, who later became known as the Colombia Three, were arrested after allegedly training Colombian guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in bomb making and urban warfare techniques. The US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations in its report of 24 April 2002 concluded “Neither committee investigators nor the Colombians can find credible explanations for the increased, more sophisticated capacity for these specific terror tactics now being employed by the FARC, other than IRA training”.
The IRA ceasefire in 1997 formed part of a process that led to the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. One aim of the Agreement is that all paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland cease their activities and disarm by May 2000.
Calls from Sinn Féin led the IRA to commence disarming in a process that was monitored by Canadian General John de Chastelain‘s decommissioning body in October 2001. However, following the collapse of the Stormont power-sharing government in 2002, which was partly triggered by allegations that republican spies were operating within Parliament Buildings and the Civil Service, the IRA temporarily broke off contact with General de Chastelain.
In December 2004, attempts to persuade the IRA to disarm entirely collapsed when the Democratic Unionist Party, under Ian Paisley, insisted on photographic evidence. Justice Minister Michael McDowell (in public, and often) insisted that there would need to be a complete end to IRA activity.
At the beginning of February 2005, the IRA declared that it was withdrawing from the disarmament process, but in July 2005 it declared that its campaign of violence was over, and that transparent mechanisms would be used, under the de Chastelain process, to satisfy the Northern Ireland communities that it was disarming totally.
End of the armed campaign
On 28 July 2005, the IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign, stating that it would work to achieve its aims using “purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means”, and shortly afterwards completed decommissioning. In September 2008, the nineteenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission stated that the IRA was “committed to the political path” and no longer represented “a threat to peace or to democratic politics”, and that the IRA’s Army Council was “no longer operational or functional”. The organisation remains classified as a proscribed terrorist group in the UK and as an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland. Two small groups split from the IRA, the Continuity IRA in 1986, and the Real IRA in 1997. Both reject the Good Friday Agreement and continue to engage in paramilitary activity.
In a statement read by Séanna Breathnach, the organisation stated that it had instructed its members to dump all weapons and not to engage in “any other activities whatsoever” apart from assisting “the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means”. Furthermore, the organisation authorised its representatives to engage immediately with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) to verifiably put its arms beyond use “in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible”.
This is not the first time that organisations styling themselves IRA have issued orders to dump arms. After its defeat in the Irish Civil War in 1924 and at the end of its unsuccessful Border Campaign in 1962, the IRA Army Council issued similar orders. However, this is the first time in Irish republicanism that any organisation has voluntarily decided to dispose of its arms. Some authors, like Patrick McCarthy, Peter Taylor and Brendan O’Brien concluded that, unlike previous IRA campaigns, the provisionals were not defeated.
On 25 September 2005, international weapons inspectors supervised the full disarmament of the IRA, a long-sought goal of Northern Ireland’s peace process. The office of IICD chairman John de Chastelain, a retired Canadian general who oversaw the weapons’ decommissioning at secret locations, released details regarding the scrapping of many tons of IRA weaponry at a news conference in Belfast on 26 September. He said the arms had been “put beyond use” and that they were “satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA’s arsenal.”
The IRA permitted two independent witnesses, including a Methodist minister, Rev. Harold Good, and Father Alec Reid, a Roman Catholic priest close to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, to view the secret disarmament work.Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), complained that since the witnesses were appointed by the IRA themselves, rather than being appointed by the British or Irish governments, they therefore could not be said to be unbiased witnesses to the decommissioning. Nationalists and Catholics viewed his comments as reflecting his refusal to support devolution in Northern Ireland with Catholics in power.
In 2011 Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: “The war is over. The IRA is gone. The IRA embraced, facilitated and supported the peace process. When a democratic and peaceful alternative to armed struggle was created the IRA left the stage.” In 2014 Adams said: “The IRA is gone. It is finished”.
Continuing activities of IRA members
The 10th report published in April 2006 from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), an organisation monitoring activity by paramilitary groups on behalf of the British and Irish governments, prefaced its remarks about IRA activity by commenting that the IRA leadership has committed itself to following a peaceful path and that in the last three months this process has involved the further dismantling of the IRA as a military structure.
The report commented that there was no paramilitary or violent activity sanctioned by the leadership; there is a substantial erosion in the IRA’s capacity to return to a military campaign; and, that the IRA had no intentions of returning to violence. However the IMC report also noted that following decommissioning, the IRA still retained a considerable amount of weaponry beyond what was needed for self-defence.
The IMC has come in for criticism (mainly by republicans) as having been set up outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as a sop to Unionism. Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy stated that the IMC was established outside and in breach of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and that it is politically biased, and had an anti-Sinn Féin agenda.
On 4 October 2006, the IMC ruled that the IRA were no longer a threat.
In late 2008, the The Sunday Times quoted a senior Garda intelligence officer as saying that “the IRA had recruited in recent years, still held arms despite apparently decommissioning the lot, and was being maintained in ‘shadow form.’” The Gardaí also said that the IRA was still capable of carrying out attacks. A senior member of the PSNI, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan, said that it was unlikely that the IRA would disband in the foreseeable future.
At the end of March 2010, SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said that the IRA were still active and that they had been responsible for a number of incidents in his constituency including a punishment shooting and an armed robbery during which a shot was fired.
In August 2010, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the Republican Network for Unity and the UPRG, claimed that the IRA were responsible for a shooting incident in the Gobnascale area of Derry. It is claimed that up to 20 masked men, some armed with handguns, attacked a group of teenagers who were engaging in anti-social behaviour at an interface area. A number of the teenagers were attacked and shots were fired into the air. The men are then reported to have removed their masks when the PSNI arrived and were subsequently identified as members of the Republican Movement. Sinn Féin denied the IRA were involved.
The IRA traditionally uses a well-known signature in its public statements, which are all issued under the pseudonym of “P. O’Neill” of the “Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, Dublin”. According to Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, it was Seán Mac Stiofáin, as chief of staff of the IRA, who invented the name. However, under his usage, the name was written and pronounced according to Irish orthography and pronunciation as “P. Ó Néill”. According to Danny Morrison, the pseudonym “S. O’Neill” was used during the 1940s.
Throughout the Troubles, some members of the IRA passed information to the security forces. Members of the IRA suspected of being informants were usually executed after an IRA court-martial. In the 1980s, many more IRA members were imprisoned on the testimony of former IRA members known as “supergrasses” such as Raymond Gilmour. A Belfast newspaper has claimed that secret documents show that half of the IRA’s top men were also British informers.
In recent years, there have been some high profile allegations of senior IRA figures having been British informers. In May 2003, a number of newspapers named Freddie Scappaticci as the alleged identity of the British Force Research Unit‘s most senior informer within the IRA, code-named Stakeknife, who is thought to have been head of the IRA’s internal security force, charged with rooting out and executing informers. Scappaticci denies that this is the case and, in 2003, failed in a legal bid to force the then NIO Minister, Jane Kennedy, to state he was not an informer. She has refused to do so, and since then Scappaticci has not launched any libel actions against the media making the allegations.
On 16 December 2005, senior Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson appeared before TV cameras in Dublin and confessed to being a British spy for twenty years. He was expelled from Sinn Féin and was said to have been debriefed by the party. Donaldson was a former IRA volunteer and subsequently highly placed Sinn Féin party member. Donaldson had been entrusted by Gerry Adams with the running of Sinn Féin’s operations in the US in the early 1990s. On 4 April 2006, Donaldson was found shot dead at his retreat near Glenties in County Donegal. When asked whether he felt Donaldson’s role as an informer in Sinn Féin was significant, the IRA double agent using the pseudonym “Kevin Fulton” described Donaldson’s role as a spy within Sinn Féin as “the tip of the iceberg”. The Real IRA claimed responsibility for his assassination on 12 April 2009.
On 8 February 2008, Roy McShane was taken into police protection after being unmasked as an informant. McShane, a former IRA member, had been Gerry Adams’ personal driver for many years. Adams said he was “too philosophical” to feel betrayed.
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