Tag Archives: Hungry Strikes

2nd August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

2nd August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

 

Monday 2 August 1976

Cornelius Neeson (49), a Catholic civilian, was killed with an axe as he walked home along the Cliftonville Road, Belfast. Members of he Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ were responsible for the killing.

See Shankilll Butchers Documentary

2 August 1978

Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that a sports car factory would be built in West Belfast and would mean 2,000 new jobs. The new factory was seen as a breakthrough in securing American investment in Northern Ireland.

 

However the DeLorean factory required a British investment of £56 million out of a total of £65 million. At the time a number of commentators expressed reservations about the potential success of the venture and indeed the business did fail with the loss of substantial public funds.

Thursday 2 August 1979

Two British soldiers were killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in a landmine attack at Cathedral Road, Armagh.

These deaths brought the total number of British Army soldiers killed in Northern Ireland since 1969 to 301.

A Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer was shot dead by the IRA in Belfast.

Sunday 2 August 1981

Eighth Hunger Striker Died

Kieran Doherty (25) died after 73 days on hunger strike. Doherty was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and had been elected as a Teachta Dáil (TD) during the general election in the Republic of Ireland on 11 June 1981.

   

John Smyth & Andrew Wood

Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were killed in a landmine attack carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Loughmacrory, near Omagh, County Tyrone.

Sunday 2 August 1992

Two bombs, each estimated at 200 pounds, exploded in Bedford Street, Belfast. Extensive damage was done to buildings in the area.

Hugh Annesley, Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), issued a statement on the Channel 4 programme entitled ‘The Committee’ broadcast on 2 October 1991. Annesley stated that there was no truth to the allegations.

Tuesday 2 August 1994

According to a report in the Irish Press (a Dublin based newspaper) on 8 August 1994 a meeting took place on 2 August between representatives of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and those of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name (pseudonym) used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

At that meeting it was decided that Loyalist paramilitaries would continue with their campaigns of attacking Catholics irrespective of any future Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire.

Friday 2 August 1996

U.V.F Logo

In a statement the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) announced that the Portadown unit of the Mid-Ulster Brigade was to disband. The statement also said that activities of the Portadown unit would be investigated.

Sinn Féin (SF) denied organising boycotts of Protestant businesses in rural areas of Northern Ireland.

Since the stand-off at Drumcree some nationalists had been boycotting Protestant businesses in Armagh, Castlederg, Lisnaskea, Omagh and Pomery.

Nationalists claimed that the business people had taken part in Orange roadblocks during the stand-off.

Thursday 2 August 2001

Amateur footage of the explosion

Bomb Explosion in London

Republican paramilitaries carried out a car bomb attack in the Ealing area of London. The explosion occurred just before midnight and caused six injuries and some damage to property. A telephone warning was received at 11.33pm (2333BST) but the area was still being cleared when the explosion happened.

The bomb (estimated at 40 kilograms of home-made explosives) was thought to have been planted by the “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA).

Police in London criticised the warning as being imprecise as to the location; the warning referred to ‘Ealing Broadway Road’ instead of ‘The Broadway, Ealing’ .

 

Edward_Daly_Bloody_Sunday

Former soldiers who were involved in the shootings in Derry on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972, announced that they would seek a judical review of a ruling by the Inquiry that they must give their evidence in Derry rather than in Britain.

The soldiers had won an earlier ruling allowing them to retain anonymity when giving evidence.

See Bloody Sunday

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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.

11 People lost their lives on the 2nd August  between 1975 – 1988

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02 August 1975

George McCall, (22)

Protestant

Status: ex-Ulster Defence Regiment (xUDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot while walking near his home, Moy, County Tyrone.

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02 August 1976

Cornelius Neeson,  (49)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Died a short time after being found badly beaten, at the junction of Manor Street and Cliftonville Road, Belfast.

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02 August 1978

John Lamont, (21)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot from passing car, while on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) foot patrol, George Street, Ballymena, County Antrim.

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02 August 1979

Paul Reece, Paul (18) nfNI

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) mobile patrol, Cathedral Road, Armagh.

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02 August 1979

Richard Furminger , (19) nfNI

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) mobile patrol, Cathedral Road, Armagh.

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02 August 1979

Derek Davidson, (26)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot by sniper when Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) patrol lured to scene of bogus robbery, Clondara Street, Falls, Belfast.

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02 August 1981

Kieran Dohert (25)

Catholic

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: not known (nk)

Also Teachta Dala. Died on the 73rd day of hunger strike, Long Kesh / Maze Prison, County Down.

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02 August 1981

John Smyth , (34)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) mobile patrol, Loughmacrory, near Omagh, County Tyrone.

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02 August 1981

Andrew Wood, (50)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) mobile patrol, Loughmacrory, near Omagh, County Tyrone

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02 August 1988

John Warnock, (45)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed by booby trap bomb attached to his car outside Lisburn Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base, County Antrim.

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02 August 1988

  Roy  Butler (29)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Off duty. Shot while in Park Shopping Centre, Donegall Road, Belfast.

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1st August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

 

1st August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles Claudy Bomb

Friday 1 August 1975

James Marks

 Two Catholic civilians, Joseph Toland (78) and James Marks (42), died as a result of a gun attack on a minibus near Gilford, County Down. Marks died from his injuries on 7 January 1976.

No group claimed responsibility but ‘Lost Lives’ (2004; p614) records: “the attack …, according to reliable loyalist sources, was carried out by the UVF”.

Lt Gen David Leakey.jpg

David House, then a Lieutenant-General in the British Army, replaced Frank King as General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the army in Northern Ireland.

Tuesday 1 August 1978

 Tomás Ó Fiaich, Catholic Primate of Ireland, who had paid a visit to Republican prisoners in the Maze Prison on 30 July 1978, issued a statement saying that the prisoners engaged in the ‘blanket protest’ where living in ‘inhuman’ conditions.

At this stage of the ‘blanket protest’ over 300 Republican prisoners were refusing to wear prison clothes or follow normal prison regulations. This protest was an attempt to secure a return of special category status for people convicted of politically motivated crimes.

Wednesday 1 August 1979

The United States (US) State Department halted a private firearms shipment to Northern Ireland. The shipment also included firearms that were intended for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The RUC later purchased the arms from West Germany instead.

This decision by the US State Department was brought about by a campaign to try to bring pressure on the British government to undertake a new political initiative in Northern Ireland to find a solution to the conflict.

The campaign was headed by the so-called ‘Four Horsemen’ who were: ‘Tip’ O’Neill, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Edward Kennedy, then a Senator, Daniel Moynihan, then a Senator, and Hugh Carey, then Governor of New York. Previously the US had been uncritical of British policy in Northern Ireland and these developments were to prove worrying for the British

Saturday 1 August 1981

Seventh Hunger Striker Died

Kevin Lynch (25) died after 71 days on hunger strike. Lynch was a member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

See 1981 Hungry Strikes

Monday 1 August 1988

An Irish Republic Army (IRA) bomb killed one soldier and injured nine at an army barracks in London. It was the first IRA bomb in Britain since the ‘Brighton’ bombing on 12 October 1984.

Friday 1 August 1997

Stewart Hunter (24), a Protestant civilian, was found dead at the side of a road near his home near Larne, County Antrim.

It was believed that Loyalist paramilitaries were responsible for the killing

Saturday 1 August 1998

Thirty-three civilians and two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) were injured when a car bomb, estimated at 500 pounds, exploded in Banbridge, County Down.

Extensive damage was also caused in the explosion that was later claimed by the “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA).

The government in the Republic of Ireland took the decision to release six Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners from Portlaoise Prison. [Unionists reacted angrily to the announcement.

Sunday 1 August 1999

In the aftermath of the killing of Charles Bennett on 30 July 1999, John Bruton, then Leader of Fine Gael, called upon Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), to make “an authoritative statement” on the relationship between Sinn Féin (SF) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

 

Wednesday 1 August 2001

Implementation Plan Published and Bomb At Belfast Airport

British Army technical officers defused a car-bomb was left in the main car park at Belfast International Airport. There had been an initial warning at 5.00am (0500BST) but security forces were unable to locate the bomb. Following a second warning the vehicle was found close to the main terminal building.

The car park was closed but flights in and out of the airport were not affected. The “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA) was thought to have been responsible for the attack.

The British and Irish governments published their Implementation Plan for the Good Friday Agreement. The document addressed the remaining issues of policing, normalisation, stability of the institutions, and decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.

The political parties were given until Monday 6 August 2001 to give their response to the proposals. The funeral of Gavin Brett (18), who had been shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries on 29 July 2001, took place at Carnmoney Parish Church. Nigel Baylor (Rev), then Church of Ireland rector, said that those responsible for the killing “have done nothing but bring shame on the name of Protestantism

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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.

6 People lost their lives on the 1st August   between 1972 – 2001

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01 August 1973

Peter Wilson, (21)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Abducted somewhere in the St. James area, Belfast. His remains eventually found by information supplied anonymously, buried in land at foreshore, Waterfoot, County Antrim, on 2 November 2010.

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01 August 1975

Joseph Toland,  (78)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)

Shot during gun attack while travelling in mini bus, near Gilford, County Down.

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01 August 1975

James Marks,  (42)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)

Shot during gun attack while driving mini bus, near Gilford, County Down. He died 7 January 1976.

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01 August 1976

John Bovaird, (33)

Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)

Shot at his home, Annalee Street, Lower Oldpark, Belfast. Lived with Catholic family.

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01 August 1981

Kevin Lynch, (25)

Catholic

Status: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),

Killed by: Hunger Striker

Died on the 71st day of hunger strike, Long Kesh / Maze Prison, County Down.

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01 August 1988

Michael Robbins, (23) nfNIB

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in time bomb attack on Inglis British Army (BA) base, Mill Hill, London.

Bobby Sands 9 March 1954 – 5 May 1981

 

Robert Gerard Sands

Robert Gerard Sands (Irish: Roibeárd Gearóid Ó Seachnasaigh; 9 March 1954 – 5 May 1981) was a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who died on hunger strike while imprisoned at HM Prison Maze.

He was the leader of the 1981 hunger strike in which Irish republican prisoners protested against the removal of Special Category Status. During his strike he was elected to the British Parliament as an Anti H-Block candidate. His death and those of nine other hunger strikers were followed by a new surge of Provisional IRA recruitment and activity. International media coverage brought attention to the hunger strikers, and the republican movement in general, attracting both praise and criticism.

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/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.

 

Early years

Sands was born in 1954 to Roman Catholic parents, John and Rosaleen, who were both raised in Belfast. After marrying, they relocated to the new development of Abbots Cross, Newtownabbey, County Antrim outside North Belfast.Sands was the eldest of four children. His sisters, Marcella and Bernadette, were born in 1955 and 1958, respectively. After experiencing harassment and intimidation from their neighbours, the family abandoned the development and moved in with friends for six months before being granted housing in the nearby Rathcoole development. Rathcoole was 30% Catholic and featured Catholic schools as well as a nominally Catholic but religiously-integrated youth football club known as Star of the Sea (of which Sands was a member and for whom he played left-back), an unusual circumstance in Northern Ireland. His parents had a second son, John (born 1962), their last child.

By 1966, sectarian violence in Rathcoole (along with the rest of Belfast) had considerably worsened, and the minority Catholic population there found itself under siege; Sands and his sisters were forced to run a gauntlet of bottle- and rock-throwing Protestant youths on the way to school every morning, and the formerly integrated Rathcoole youth football club banned Catholic members and renamed itself “The Kai”, which stood for “Kill All Irish”. Despite always having had Protestant friends, Sands suddenly found that none of them would even speak to him, and he quickly learned to associate only with Catholics.

He left school in 1969 at age 15, and enrolled in Newtownabbey Technical College, beginning an apprenticeship as a coach builder at Alexander’s Coach Works in 1970. He worked there for less than a year, enduring constant harassment from his Protestant co-workers, which according to several co-workers he ignored completely, as he wished to learn a meaningful trade. He was eventually confronted after leaving his shift in January 1971 by a number of his colleagues wearing the armbands of the local Ulster loyalist tartan gang. He was held at gunpoint and told that Alexander’s was off-limits to “Fenian scum” and to never come back if he valued his life. This event, by Sands’s admission, proved to be the point at which he decided that militancy was the only solution.

In June 1972, Sands’ parents’ home was attacked and damaged by a loyalist mob and they were again forced to move, this time to the West Belfast Catholic area of Twinbrook, where Sands, now thoroughly embittered, rejoined them. He attended his first Provisional IRA meeting in Twinbrook that month and joined the IRA the same day. He was 18 years old. By 1973, almost every Catholic family had been driven out of Rathcoole by violence and intimidation.

Provisional IRA activity

In 1972, Sands joined the Provisional IRA He was arrested and charged in October 1972 with possession of four handguns found in the house where he was staying. Sands was convicted in April 1973, sentenced to five years imprisonment and released in April 1976.

Upon his release, he returned to his family home in West Belfast, and resumed his active role in the Provisional IRA. Sands and Joe McDonnell planned the October 1976 bombing of the Balmoral Furniture Company in Dunmurry. The showroom was destroyed but as the IRA men left the scene there was a gun battle with the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Leaving behind two wounded, Seamus Martin and Gabriel Corbett, the remaining four (Sands, McDonnell, Seamus Finucane, and Sean Lavery) tried to escape by car, but were arrested. One of the revolvers used in the attack was found in the car. In 1977 the four were sentenced to 14 years for possession of the revolver. They were not charged with explosive offences.

Immediately after his sentence, Sands was implicated in a ruckus and spent the first 22 days “on boards” (all furniture was removed from his cell) in Crumlin Road Prison, 15 days naked, and a No. 1 starvation diet (bread and water) every three days.

Long Kesh years

In late 1980 Sands was chosen as Officer Commanding of the Provisional IRA prisoners in Long Kesh, succeeding Brendan Hughes who was participating in the first hunger strike. Republican prisoners organised a series of protests seeking to regain their previous Special Category Status which would free them from some ordinary prison regulations. This began with the “blanket protest” in 1976, in which the prisoners refused to wear prison uniform and wore blankets instead. In 1978, after a number of attacks on prisoners leaving their cells to “slop out” (i.e., empty their chamber pots), this escalated into the “dirty protest“, wherein prisoners refused to wash and smeared the walls of their cells with excrement.

Published work

While in prison Sands had several letters and articles published in the republican paper An Phoblacht under the pseudonym “Marcella” (his sister’s name). Other writings attributed to him are: Skylark Sing Your Lonely Song  and One Day in My Life.  Sands also wrote the lyrics of Back Home in Derry and McIlhatton, which were both later recorded by Christy Moore, and Sad Song For Susan which was also later recorded. The melody of Back Home in Derry was borrowed from Gordon Lightfoot‘s famous 1976 song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The song itself is about the penal transportation of Irish republicans to Van Diemen’s Land in the 19th century (modern day Tasmania, Australia).

Member of Parliament

Shortly after the beginning of the strike, Frank Maguire, the Independent Republican MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, died suddenly of a heart attack, precipitating the April 1981 by-election.

The sudden vacancy in a seat with a nationalist majority of about 5,000 was a valuable opportunity for Sands’s supporters “to raise public consciousness”. Pressure not to split the vote led other nationalist parties, notably the Social Democratic and Labour Party, to withdraw, and Sands was nominated on the label “Anti H-Block/Armagh Political Prisoner”. After a highly polarised campaign, Sands narrowly won the seat on 9 April 1981, with 30,493 votes to 29,046 for the Ulster Unionist Party candidate Harry West. Sands also became the youngest MP at the time.However Sands died in prison less than a month afterwards, without ever having taken his seat in the Commons.

Following Sands’s success, the British Government introduced the Representation of the People Act 1981 which prevents prisoners serving jail terms of more than one year in either the UK or the Republic of Ireland from being nominated as candidates in British elections. This law was introduced to prevent the other hunger strikers from being elected to the British parliament.

Hunger strike

The 1981 Irish hunger strike started with Sands refusing food on 1 March 1981. Sands decided that other prisoners should join the strike at staggered intervals to maximise publicity, with prisoners steadily deteriorating successively over several months.

The hunger strike centred on five demands:

  1. the right not to wear a prison uniform;
  2. the right not to do prison work;
  3. the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
  4. the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
  5. full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

The significance of the hunger strike was the prisoners’ aim of being considered political prisoners as opposed to criminals. The Washington Post reported that the primary aim of the hunger strike was to generate international publicity.

 

Death

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Bobby Sands Funeral Original Footage
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Bobby Sands’s grave in Milltown Cemetery

Sands died on 5 May 1981 in the Maze’s prison hospital after 66 days on hunger strike, aged 27. The original pathologist‘s report recorded the hunger strikers’ causes of death as “self-imposed starvation”, later amended to simply “starvation” after protests from the dead strikers’ families. The coroner recorded verdicts of “starvation, self-imposed”.

The announcement of Sands’s death prompted several days of rioting in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland. A milkman, Eric Guiney, and his son, Desmond, died as a result of injuries sustained when their milk float crashed after being stoned by rioters in a predominantly nationalist area of north Belfast. Over 100,000 people lined the route of Sands’s funeral, and he was buried in the ‘New Republican Plot’ alongside 76 others. Their graves are maintained by the National Graves Association, Belfast.

Reactions

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The International Reaction to the Death of Bobby Sands

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In the Republic of Ireland, Sands’s death led to riots and bus burnings.

Britain

In response to a question in the House of Commons on 5 May 1981, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims”.

Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, condemned Sands, describing the hunger strike as a form of violence. However, he noted that this was his personal view. The Roman Catholic Church’s official stance was that ministrations should be provided to the hunger strikers who, believing their sacrifice to be for a higher good, were acting in good conscience.

At Old Firm football matches in Glasgow, Scotland, some Rangers fans have been known to sing songs mocking Sands to taunt fans of Celtic. Rangers fans are mainly Protestant, and predominantly sympathetic to unionists; Celtic fans are traditionally more likely to support nationalists.

Celtic fans regularly sing the republican song The Roll of Honour, which commemorates the ten men who died in the 1981 hunger strike, amongst other songs in support of the IRA. Sands is honoured in the line “They stood beside their leader – the gallant Bobby Sands.” Rangers’s taunts have since been adopted by the travelling support of other UK clubs, particularly those with strong British nationalist ties, as a form of anti-Irish sentiment. The 1981 British Home Championship football tournament was cancelled following the refusal of teams from England and Wales to travel to Northern Ireland in the aftermath of his death, due to security concerns.

Europe

 

Memorial mural along Falls Road, Belfast

In Europe, there were widespread protests after Sands’s death. 5,000 Milanese students burned the Union Flag and chanted ‘Freedom for Ulster’ during a march. The British Consulate at Ghent was raided Thousands marched in Paris behind huge portraits of Sands, to chants of “the IRA will conquer”.

In the Portuguese Parliament, the opposition stood for Sands. In Oslo, demonstrators threw a tomato at Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom, but missed. (One 28-year-old assailant said he had actually aimed for what he claimed was a smirking British soldier.) In the Soviet Union, Pravda described it as “another tragic page in the grim chronicle of oppression, discrimination, terror, and violence” in Ireland. Russian fans of Bobby Sands published a translation of the “Back Home in Derry” song (“На Родину в Дерри” in Russian)  Many French towns and cities have streets named after Sands, including Nantes, Saint-Étienne, Le Mans, Vierzon, and Saint-Denis  The conservative West German newspaper Die Welt took a negative view of Sands.[5]

Africa

News of the death of Bobby Sands influenced political prisoners and the African National Congress in South Africa, and reportedly inspired a new form of resistance.

 

Nelson Mandela was said to have been “directly influenced by Bobby Sands”, and instigated a successful hunger strike on Robben Island.

Americas

A number of political, religious, union and fund-raising institutions chose to honour Sands in the United States. The International Longshoremen’s Association in New York announced a 24-hour boycott of British ships. Over 1,000 people gathered in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral to hear Cardinal Terence Cooke offer a reconciliation Mass for Northern Ireland. Irish bars in the city were closed for two hours in mourning.

The New Jersey General Assembly, the lower house of the New Jersey Legislature, voted 34–29 for a resolution honouring his “courage and commitment.”

The US media expressed a range of opinions on Sands’s death. The Boston Globe commented, a few days before Sands’ death, that “[t]he slow suicide attempt of Bobby Sands has cast his land and his cause into another downward spiral of death and despair. There are no heroes in the saga of Bobby Sands.”. The Chicago Tribune wrote that “Mahatma Gandhi used the hunger strike to move his countrymen to abstain from fratricide. Bobby Sands’ deliberate slow suicide is intended to precipitate civil war. The former deserved veneration and influence. The latter would be viewed, in a reasonable world, not as a charismatic martyr but as a fanatical suicide, whose regrettable death provides no sufficient occasion for killing others.”

The New York Times wrote that “Britain’s prime minister Thatcher is right in refusing to yield political status to Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army hunger striker”, but added that by appearing “unfeeling and unresponsive” the British Government was giving Sands “the crown of martyrdom”.The San Francisco Chronicle argued that political belief should not exempt activists from criminal law:

“Terrorism goes far beyond the expression of political belief. And dealing with it does not allow for compromise as many countries of Western Europe and United States have learned. The bombing of bars, hotels, restaurants, robbing of banks, abductions, and killings of prominent figures are all criminal acts and must be dealt with by criminal law.”

Some American critics and journalists suggested that American press coverage was a “melodrama”.[49] Edward Langley of The Pittsburgh Press criticised the large pro-IRA Irish-American contingent which “swallow IRA propaganda as if it were taffy“, and concluded that IRA “terrorist propaganda triumphs.”

Archbishop John R. Roach, president of the US Catholic bishops, called Sands’s death “a useless sacrifice”. The Ledger of 5 May 1981 under the headline “To some he was a hero, to others a terrorist” claims that the hunger strike made Sands “a hero among Irish Republicans or Nationalists seeking the reunion of Protestant-dominated and British-ruled Northern Ireland with the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic to the south.”

The Ledger cited Sands as telling his friends: “If I die, God will understand” and one of his last messages was “Tell everyone I’ll see them somewhere, sometime.”

In Hartford, Connecticut a memorial was dedicated to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers in 1997, the only one of its kind in the United States. Set up by the Irish Northern Aid Committee and local Irish-Americans, it stands in a traffic island known as Bobby Sands Circle at the bottom of Maple Avenue near Goodwin Park.

In 2001, a memorial to Sands and the other hunger strikers was unveiled in Havana, Cuba.

Asia

The Iranian government renamed Winston Churchill Boulevard, the location of the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Tehran, to Bobby Sands Street, prompting the embassy to move its entrance door to Ferdowsi Avenue to avoid using Bobby Sands Street on its letterhead. A street in the Elahieh district is also named after Sands. An official blue and white street sign was affixed to the rear wall of the British embassy compound saying (in Persian) “Bobby Sands Street” with three words of explanation “militant Irish guerrilla”. The official Pars News Agency called Bobby Sands’s death “heroic”.  There have been claims that the British pressured Iranian authorities to change the name of Bobby Sands Street but this was denied. A burger bar in Tehran is named in honour of Sands.

  • Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in the Israeli desert prison of Nafha sent a letter, which was smuggled out and reached Belfast in July 1981, which read; “To the families of Bobby Sands and his martyred comrades. We, revolutionaries of the Palestinian people…extend our salutes and solidarity with you in the confrontation against the oppressive terrorist rule enforced upon the Irish people by the British ruling elite. We salute the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his comrades, for they have sacrificed the most valuable possession of any human being. They gave their lives for freedom.
  • The Hindustan Times said Margaret Thatcher had allowed a fellow Member of Parliament to die of starvation, an incident which had never before occurred “in a civilised country”.
  • In the Indian Parliament, opposition members in the upper house Rajya Sabha stood for a minute’s silence in tribute. The ruling Congress Party did not join in. Protest marches were organised against the British government and in tribute to Sands and his fellow hunger strikers.
  • The Hong Kong Standard said it was ‘sad that successive British governments have failed to end the last of Europe’s religious wars.’

Australia

Political impact

Nine other IRA and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) members who were involved in the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike died after Sands. On the day of Sands’s funeral, Unionist leader Ian Paisley held a memorial service outside of Belfast city hall to commemorate the victims of the IRA. In the Irish general elections held the same year, two anti H-block candidates won seats on an abstentionist basis.

The media coverage that surrounded the death of Sands resulted in a new surge of IRA activity and an immediate escalation in the Troubles, with the group obtaining many more members and increasing its fund-raising capability. Both nationalists and unionists began to harden their attitudes and move towards political extremes. Sands’s Westminster seat was taken by his election agent, Owen Carron standing as ‘Anti H-Block Proxy Political Prisoner’ with an increased majority.

In popular culture

Éire Nua flute band inspired by Bobby Sands, commemorate the Easter Rising on the 91st anniversary

The Grateful Dead played the Nassau Coliseum the following night after Sands died and guitarist Bob Weir dedicated the song “He’s Gone” to Sands. The concert was later released as Dick’s Picks Volume 13, part of the Grateful Dead’s programme of live concert releases. French musician Léo Ferré dedicated performances of his song “Thank You Satan” to Sands in 1981 and 1984.

Songs written in response to the hunger strikes and Sands’s death include songs by Black 47, Nicky Wire, Meic Stevens, The Undertones, Eric Bogle, and Christy Moore. Moore’s song, “The People’s Own MP“, has been described as an example of a rebel song of the “hero-martyr” genre in which Sands’s “intellectual, artistic and moral qualities” are eulogised. The U.S. rock band Rage Against the Machine have listed Sands as an inspiration in the sleeve notes of their self-titled début album. and as a “political hero” in media interviews.

Celtic F.C., a Scottish football club, received a €50,000 fine from the UEFA over banners depicting Sands with a political message, which was displayed during a game on 26 November 2013,by Green Brigade fans.

Bobby Sands has also been portrayed in the following films:

Family

Sands married Geraldine Noade while in prison on robbery charges on 3 March 1973. His son, Gerard, was born 8 May 1973. Noade soon left to live in England with their son.

Sands’s sister, Bernadette Sands McKevitt, is also a prominent Irish Republican. Along with her husband, Michael McKevitt, she helped to form the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and is accused of involvement with the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA).

Bernadette Sands McKevitt is opposed to the Belfast Agreement, stating that “Bobby did not die for cross-border bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state. The RIRA was responsible for the Omagh bombing on 15 August 1998, in which 29 people, including a mother pregnant with twins, were killed and more than 200 injured. This is the highest death toll from a single incident during the Troubles. Michael McKevitt was one of those named in a civil suit filed by victims and survivors.

See Hungry Strikes

 


1981

The grave of hunger striker Bobby Sands, just one of the graves smashed at the Republican plot in Milltown cemetery, Belfast.

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/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.

24th September – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

24th September  

Tuesday 24 September 1968

Civil Rights Campaign; Derry March

Monday 24 September 1973

Garret FitzGerald, then Irish Foreign Minister, said that the British and Irish governments had agreed on the formation of an Executive for Northern Ireland, and on the reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the reform of the civil service, and on the creation of a Council of Ireland.

Friday 24 September 1976

Two Protestant civilians were shot dead by Republican paramilitaries during an attack on Crangle’s Bar, Cavehill Road, Belfast. A Catholic civilian was shot dead by Loyalists in Belfast.

Sunday 24 September 1978

Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), held a religious service in Dublin, at the Mansion House, for the first time.

Wednesday 24 September 1980

Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, said that he was hopeful of progress on the issue of the blanket protest at the Maze Prison.

Thursday 24 September 1981

Bernard Fox, then on day 32 of his hunger strike, ended his fast. Fox’s condition had deteriorated quickly and Sinn Féin (SF) was reported as having said that he was ‘dying too quickly’.

Monday 24 September 1984

Oliver Napier resigned as leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI). His successor was John Cushnahan.

Wednesday 24 September 1986

James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), called off the ‘rates’ strike that had been announced on 23 April 1986. The two leaders advised people on strike to now pay the amounts owed in full.

Saturday 24 September 1994

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), flew to the United States of America (USA) for a second visit. [Adams received an enthusiastic reception in America.] Michael Mates, a former Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Minister, also flew to the USA in an attempt to counter some of the publicity surrounding Adam’s visit.

Wednesday 24 September 1997

Procedures Agreed at Multi-party Talks A bomb was sent by post to the constituency office of Robert McCartney, then leader of the United Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP). The bomb was defused by the British Army.

[This was the second bomb that had been sent to McCartney in two months.]

At the multi-party talks there was agreement over the procedures that would govern the conduct of the negotiations. This agreement on procedures took 16 months to achieve.

[In effect the issue of the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons was side-stepped with the parties agreeing to move to “substantive issues” on 29 September 1997. This was the first time in 70 years that Unionist parties had sat at the same talks table as Republicans.]

The Independent Commission on Decommissioning was formally launched. The Commission members were: John de Chastelain, who was a co-chair of the multi-party talks and a General in the Canadian Army, Tauno Nieminen, then a Brigadier in the Finnish Army, and Donal Johnson, then a United States of America (USA) diplomat.

Thursday 24 September 1998

There was disagreement between David Trimble, then First Minister designate, and Seamus Mallon, Deputy First Minister designate, over the establishment of the North-South Ministerial Council. Trimble said that the inaugural meeting of the new body should take place within weeks. However, Mallon said that he would not agree to such a move until the “shadow” Executive was set up first.

Friday 24 September 1999

The 29 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) belonging to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) travelled to Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss the Mitchell Review of the Good Friday Agreement and political strategy. The exact location of the meeting was not revealed to the media. The arrangements for the meeting were criticised by anti-Agreement unionists. There were claims in the Irish News (a Belfast based newspaper) that Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD), believed to be a cover name used by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), had ordered nine people to leave Bessbrook in south Armagh.

Monday 24 September 2001

Loyalists held a protest on the Crumlin Road, north Belfast. More than 100 protesters blocked the main road in what they said was a protest against attacks by Republicans. There was further serious rioting in north Belfast during Monday night and the early hours of Tuesday. The British Army was called to make safe an explosive device found in Newington Avenue, north Belfast, just before 11.00pm (23.00BST).

There were three incidents when shots were fired [from an automatic weapon (?)] and a number of pipe-bombs and blast bombs were also thrown. Eight shots were fired from the Nationalist end of Hallidays Road, north Belfast, at a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) patrol. Later in the evening approximately 15 shots were fired at a Protestant house at the end of the same street. No one was injured in during these attacks.

[Unionist politicians called on the British government to review the status of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire. Sinn Féin (SF) accused Loyalist paramilitaries of stoking up the recent violence.]

RUC officers also investigated two loud explosions at Clanchattan Street. Sinn Féin claimed that blast bombs had been thrown across the interface at Catholic owned homes. A pipe-bomb also exploded near a house at Hallidays Road.

There were no reported injuries. Alan McQuillan, then Assistant Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), said the rioting was the worst that Belfast had experienced for 20 years. A man (19) was shot in a paramilitary ‘punishment’ attack in Newtownabbey, County Antrim. The man was forced into a van at about 8.00pm (2000BST) and was taken to the Fairview area where he was shot. A man (27) was shot in a paramilitary ‘punishment’ attack in Bangor, County Down. The man was taken from the Kilcooley estate at about 9.30pm (21.30BST) and driven to the Old Bangor Road where he was shot.

Mark Durkan (Social Democratic and Labour Party; SDLP), then Minister of Finance and Personnel, announced a period of consultation on the draft Programme for Government (2002-2003) {external_link} [draft document – PDF file; 395KB]. David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), held a meeting in Stormont to discuss their separate attempts to obtain enough votes bring froward a motion to exclude Sinn Féin (SF) from the Northern Ireland Assembly. The UUP and the DUP had been unable to agree who should introduce the motion to the Assembly. The UUP motion is short of three signatures while the DUP is short by one.


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.

5 People lost their lives on the 24th September  between 1976 – 1992

————————————————————–

24 September 1976
Pauline Doherty,   (17)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot while in her home, Oldpark Avenue, Belfast

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24 September 1976
Frederick McLaughlin,  (27)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Shot during gun attack on the Cavehill Inn, Cavehill Road, Belfast.

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24 September 1976
George Rankin,   (50)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Shot during gun attack on the Cavehill Inn, Cavehill Road, Belfast.

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24 September 1987


Ian McKeown,   (37)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while driving his car along Kilmorey Street, Newry, County Down.

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24 September 1992
Leonard Fox,   (40)

Catholic
Status: ex-Irish Republican Army (xIRA),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Former republican prisoner. Shot while renovating house, Kilmuir Avenue, Dundonald, Belfast.

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21st September – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

21st September

Thursday 21 September 1972

A member of the UDR and his wife were killed in an IRA attack near Derrylin, County Fermanagh.

Thursday 21 September 1978

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a bomb attack on Eglinton airfield, County Derry. The terminal building, two aircraft hangers, and four planes were destroyed in the attack.

Monday 21 September 1981

Michael James Devine

James Devine, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) was openly critical of the hunger strike.

Saturday 21 September 1991

Loyalist prisoners started a fire in the dining-hall of Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast. Peter Brooke, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, left Northern Ireland to begin a five-day visit to the United States of America (USA).

Monday 21 – Wednesday 23 September 1992

James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), led a delegation from the UUP to talks in Dublin Castle, Dublin, with the Irish Government. The talks were based on Strand Two and the topics discussed included constitutional matters, security co-operation, channels of communication between the two states, and identity and allegiance. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) did not attend the talks in Dublin.

[These were the first formal discussions by Unionists in Dublin since 1922.]

Tuesday 21 September 1993

The Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name (pseudonym) used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), placed bombs at the homes of four Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) councillors. No one was injured in the attacks. Senior members of the SDLP expressed support for the ‘Hume-Adams’ talks.

Thursday 21 September 1995

It was revealed that the total amount of compensation paid by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) for ‘Troubles’ related incidents (to the end of March 1995) was £1.12 billion.

Sunday 21 September 1997

[Frank Steele, formerly a member of MI6, claimed that various British governments had been in contact with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) since the first contact was established on 7 July 1972.]

Monday 21 September 1998

Members of the Garda Síochána (the Irish police) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detained 12 men as part of their investigation into the Omagh bombing. Six were arrested in south Armagh, six in north Louth, Republic of Ireland. Jeffrey Donaldson, then a Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Member of Parliament (MP) and a critic of the Agreement, said that David Trimble, then First Minister designate, had mentioned in several private meetings the possibility of his resignation over the issue of decommissioning. Trimble said that he had never made such a threat.

Tuesday 21 September 1999

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) met a Sinn Féin (SF) delegation at Stormont. The meeting was part of the Mitchell Review of the Good Friday Agreement.

Thursday 21 September 2000

South Antrim By-election

A 71 year old Protestant woman in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, escaped injury after she handled a pipe-bomb that had been put through her letterbox. A similar device was put through the letterbox of a house in north Belfast.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won the Westminster by-election in South Antrim taking the seat from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The area had previously been the second safest UUP seat. Willie McCrea (Rev.), who was a strong opponent of the Good Friday Agreement, won the seat by 822 votes to beat David Burnside the UUP candidate who was also an opponent of the Agreement.

[Commentators speculated that UUP supporters who were in favour of the Agreement had stayed at home and decided not to vote in the election.]

Friday 21 September 2001

Assembly Suspended For 1 Day John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that he was suspending the Northern Ireland Assembly at midnight.

[The suspension lasted just 24 hours. The effect of the suspension was to allow another period of six weeks (until 3 November 2001) in which the political parties would have an opportunity to come to agreement and elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister.]

The Irish Times (a Republic of Ireland newspaper) published the results of an opinion poll conducted on a sample of 1,000 people in Northern Ireland. Of those questioned 85 per cent said they thought the Irish Republican Army (IRA) should “now begin the process of putting its weapons beyond use”. While 64 per cent of the sample indicated that they had voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 only 52 per cent said they would vote in favour of it now.

[The survey was conducted conducted last Saturday and Monday on behalf of the Irish Times and Prime Time by MRBI Ltd.]

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), said that Nationalist recruits to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) would be “accorded the same treatment as the RUC” [Royal Ulster Constabulary].

[Unionists claimed that the comments implied a threat to Catholic recuits; this was denied by SF.]

It was reported that the number of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers claiming compensation for trauma had risen to over 3,000.


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.

3 People lost their lives on the 21st   September  between 1971 – 1972

————————————————————–

21 September 1971
James Finlay,   (31)

Protestant
Status: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Died eight days after being injured in premature bomb explosion at house, Bann Street, Lower Oldpark, Belfast. Explosion occurred on 13 September 1971.

————————————————————–

21 September 1972


Thomas Bullock,   (53)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot together with his wife at their home, Aghalane, near Derrylin, County Fermanagh

————————————————————–

21 September 1972
Emily Bullock,   (50)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot together with her husband, an Ulster Defence Regiment member, at their home, Aghalane, near Derrylin, County Fermanagh.

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6th September – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

6th September

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

Monday 6 September 1971

A 14 year old girl was shot dead by a British soldier in Derry. Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, met with Jack Lynch, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), at Chequers in England to discuss the situation in Northern Ireland.

William Craig and Ian Paisley spoke at a rally at Victoria Park in Belfast before a crowd of approximately 20,000 people. They called for the establishment of a ‘third force’ to defend ‘Ulster’ This was taken to mean the establishment of a paramilitary force in addition to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and British Army.

Wednesday 6 September 1978

Adams Cleared of IRA Membership Gerry Adams, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), was cleared of a charge of membership of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when the Judge hearing the case ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was a member of the organisation.

Sunday 6 September 1981

Laurence McKeown Hungry Striker

The family of Laurence McKeown, then on day 70 of his hunger strike, intervened and asked for medical treatment to save his life. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) issued a statement saying that it would not replace men on hunger strike at the same rate as before.

[At this stage the INLA had only 28 prisoners in the Maze Prison compared to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which had approximately 380 prisoners.]

Cahal Daly, then Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, called on Republican prisoners to end the hunger strike.

Thursday 6 September 1984

The government announced that the proposed project to build a pipe-line to bring natural gas from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland would be cancelled. It was also announced that subsidies to the ‘town gas’ industry in Northern Ireland would end with the loss of 1,000 jobs.

Sunday 6 September 1987

Chris Mullin, then English Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), claimed that he had tracked down and interviewed those who were really responsible for the Birmingham pub bombs.


See: Birmingham Pub Bombings – 21st November, 1974

Tuesday 6 September 1988

A loyalist paramilitary gun ‘factory’ was discovered by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) near Ballynahinch, County Down.

[A former member of the Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR) was jailed for his involvement in the gun ‘factory’ in March 1989.]

Tuesday 6 September 1994

Albert Reynolds, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), publicly shook hands following a meeting in Dublin. The three leaders issued a joint statement. Andrew Hunter, then MP and Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Committee on Northern Ireland, described the meeting as a “dangerous miscalculation” by Reynolds. John Major, then British Prime Minister, cut short a meeting he was having with Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), at Downing Street.

[It was reported that Major told Paisley, and the other DUP members, to leave after they refused to accept his word that he had not made a secret deal with the Irish Republican Army (IRA).]

Wednesday 6 September 1995

Johnny Adair, believed to be a leader of one of the six brigades of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for directing the activities of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name (pseudonym) used by the UDA.

Friday 6 September 1996

The Forum met for business after a break for the summer. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Féin (SF) did not attend.

Monday 6 September 1999

Start of Mitchell Review of the Good Friday Agreement George Mitchell, former Chairman of the multi-party talks, was in Castle Buildings to open the Review of the Good Friday Agreement. He made clear that the review would concentrate specifically on breaking the deadlock over decommissioning and the formation of an Executive. The talks adjourned until the following week to give politicians time to study the Patten report on policing. Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), held discussions with Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, to review the political situation in Northern Ireland.

Thursday 6 September 2001

Loyalists held another protest on the Ardoyne Road in north Belfast as Catholic parents and their children made their way to Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School. The protest was peaceful but very noisy as protesters used air horns (klaxons), blew whistles, and banged metal bin lids, as the children passed along the security cordon.

Four parents in the ‘Right to Education’ group were warned by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) that death threats had been made against them by the Red Hand Defenders (RHD), a cover name that has been used by members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). The RHD said they would be killed if they were seen taking their children to the school.

John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, cut short his holiday and returned to Northern Ireland because of the situation in north Belfast. There was much less violence in the area overnight than on previous nights.

An Orange Order hall was damaged in an arson attack in Warrenpoint, County Down. Sean Neeson, then leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), announced that he was stepping down as party leader.

[It is expected that a new leader will be appointed in October.]


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 life forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

6 People lost their lives on the 6th September  between 1971 – 1983

————————————————————–

06 September 1971


Annette Annette  (14)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during street disturbances, while standing at the corner of Blucher Street and Westland Street, Derry.

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06 September 1972
Samuel Boyde,   (20)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Found shot in entry off La Salle Drive, Falls, Belfast.

————————————————————–

06 September 1972
William Moore,   (20)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Shot from passing car while walking along Castlereagh Street, Belfast.

————————————————————–

06 September 1972
Bridget Breen,  (33)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Killed by bomb thrown into the home of James O’Kane, Republican Labour Party Councillor, Cedar Avenue, off Antrim Road, Belfast.

————————————————————–

06 September 1974

William Elliott,  (48)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA)
Shot during armed robbery at Ulster Bank, The Diamond, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, County Antrim.

————————————————————–

06 September 1983

John Wasson, (61)

Catholic
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Off duty. Shot outside his home, Dukes Grove, off Cathedral Road, Armagh.

————————————————————–

Main source CAIN Web Service

Major Events in the Troubles

See: Birmingham Pub Bombs

See: 7th September

20th August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles – Ballygawley Bus Attack

20th  August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

Friday 20 August 1971

The Northern Ireland Government published a white paper entitled ‘A Record of Constructive Change‘, (Cmd. 558).

[The Command Paper set out the Northern Ireland Government’s reponse to criticism that it had failed to meet its commitments under the ‘Downing Street Declaration‘ of 19 August 1969.]

A man died nine days after being mortally wounded in Belfast.

Thursday 20 August 1981

Michael Devine

Tenth Hunger Striker Died Michael Devine (27) died after 60 days on hunger strike. Devine had been a member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). The family of Patrick McGeown, who had been on hunger strike for 42 days, agreed to medical intervention to save his life. A by-election was held in Fermanagh / South Tyrone to elect a Member of Parliament (MP) to Westminster to the seat that became vacant on the death of Bobby Sands. Owen Carron, who had been Sands’ campaign manager, was proposed by Sinn Féin (SF). Carron won the by-election with an increased number of votes over the total achieved by Sands. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) had again decided not to contest the election.

Tuesday 20 August 1985

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) shot and killed Seamus McAvoy (46) at his home in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. McAvoy had sold portable buildings to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and was the first person to be killed for providing goods or services to the security forces in Northern Ireland.

[This killing marked the beginning of a campaign against what the IRA termed ‘legitimate targets’.]

Saturday 20 August

See bottom of page for more details on Ballygawley Bus Bombing

1988 Ballygawley Bombing

Eight British Army soldiers were killed when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb at Ballygawley, County Tyrone. A further 28 soldiers were injured.

————————————————————————————–

IRA kill 8 British soldiers in landmine attack!.

————————————————————————————–

See Ballygawley Bus Attack Post

Saturday 20 August 1994

Loyalists carried out a bomb attack on a Catholic public house in the Markets area of Belfast. Republicans held a ‘Time for Peace – Time to Go’ rally in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. There was an estimated crowd of 10,000 people at the rally.

Tuesday 20 August 1996

John Alderdice, then leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), was awarded a life peerage to the House of Lords. His name had been sponsored by the British Liberal Democrats.

Wednesday 20 August 1997

Up to 30 men who claimed to be members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) badly damaged a public house, The Golden Hind, in Portadown, County Armagh. The pub was allegedly a frequent meeting place for members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).

Friday 20 August 1999

There were disturbances between Nationalists and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers in the Seacourt Estate in Larne, County Antrim. During the trouble a shotgun was fired and stones thrown.

Nine men, including Gerard Rice, then spokesman for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community, were charged with obstruction following the protest on 14 August 1999. There was a meeting between the Bogside Residents’ Group and the Apprentice Boys of Derry to discuss the Lundy’s Day parade planned for December.

Monday 20 August 2001 SDLP Support Policing Plan

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) held a meeting to decide on whether or not to accept the ‘Patten Report – Updated Implementation Plan 2001’ that was issued on 17 August 2001. Following the meeting the party announced that it would nominate representatives to the proposed 19 member Policing Board which would oversee the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). John Hume, then leader of the SDLP, said:

“We will respond positively to an invitation to join the Policing Board and we will be encouraging people from all sections of the community to join the new police service.”

The SDLP issued a document outlining its reasons for the change in policy.

[The decision represented a historic shift in SDLP policy given that the party had withheld support from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) since 1970. The decision was welcomed by the Irish government, the British government, the Catholic Church, and the Department of Sate in the United States of America (USA).]

There was a gun attack on a house at Mounthill Drive, Cloughmills, County Antrim, at approximately 10.30pm (2230BST). Two shots were fired at a bedroom window of the dwelling but none of the family of five in the house at the time were injured. The estate where the shooting happened was mixed and the house was owned by a Protestant family.

[The RUC have not established a motive for the attack.]

A ‘paint-bomb’ was thrown at the home of a Protestant man in Hesketh Park, north Belfast. The bottle of paint broke a window and caused paint damage to fittings and furnishings. The man had taken part in a Loyalist stand-off in Ardoyne in June which prevented primary school-children from going to the Catholic Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School. Nelson McCausland, then Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor, accused Republicans of being responsible for the attack.

There were two security alerts in west Belfast. One suspect device was thrown at a house in Tullymore Gardens in Andersonstown, while the other device was discovered on the Hannahstown Road. Sinn Féin accused the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) of being responsible for the attacks.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland published an annual report on the religions composition of the workforce in the region: A Profile of the Workforce in Northern Ireland, Summary of 2000 Monitoring Returns. The report showed that the overall composition of the monitored workforce was 60.4 per cent Protestant and 39.6 per cent Catholic. Other surveys showed that the economically active population is 58 per cent Protestant and 42 per cent Catholic. The imbalance between Catholic and Protestant employment rates has narrowed over the past 10 years. However the last year saw the smallest improvement at 0.1 per cent.


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.

13 people lost their lives on the 20th August between 1971 – 1988

————————————————————–

20 August 1971
John McKerr,   (49)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Died nine days after being shot while standing outside Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, Ballymurphy, Belfast.

————————————————————–

20 August 1972
James Lindsay,   (45)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Found shot, Glencairn Road, Glencairn, Belfast.

————————————————————–

20 August 1973

Charles O’Donnell,   (61)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed by bomb thrown into his home, Grampian Avenue, Strandtown, Belfast.

————————————————————–

 20 August 1981

Mickey Devine,  (27)

Catholic
Status: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Died on the 60th day of hunger strike, Long Kesh / Maze Prison, County Down.

————————————————————–

 20 August 1985

Seamus McEvoy,  (46) Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot at his home, Eglinton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin. Contractor to British Army (BA) / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) .

————————————————————–

 20 August 1988

Jayson Burfitt,   (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone

————————————————————–

 20 August 1988
Richard Greener,   (21) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

20 August 1988

Mark Norsworthy,  (18) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

 20 August 1988


Stephen Wilkinson,   (18) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

 20 August 1988


Jason Winter,   (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

20 August 1988


Blair Bishop,   (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

 20 August 1988
Alexander Lewis,   (18) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

20 August 1988


Peter Bullock,   (21) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) coach, Curr, near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–


See: Ballygawley Bus Bombing

17th August Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

17th August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

Monday 17 August 1981

Jackie McMullan, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike. [ 1981 Hunger Strike.]

Friday 17 August 1984

Clive Soley, then Labour Party spokesperson on Northern Ireland, called for ‘harmonisation’ of Northern Ireland society to that in the Republic of Ireland in preparation for the reunification of the island.

Wednesday 17 August 1994

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out two bomb attacks on public houses in Belfast. One bomb exploded and badly damaged a bar on York Road. The second bomb in a pub on the Shankill Road was defused. Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said that his party would not take part in any fresh round of political talks.

Thursday 17 August 1995

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), said that the Republican Movement was ready to make “critical compromises” to achieve peace. He appealed to Unionists to enter all-party talks.

Thursday 17 August 1995

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), said that the Republican Movement was ready to make “critical compromises” to achieve peace. He appealed to Unionists to enter all-party talks.

Monday 17 August 1998

The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) issued a statement calling upon the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) to announce a ceasefire. The IRSP said that it felt, in the light of the Omagh bombing, that the ‘armed struggle’ could no longer be justified. The IRSP also felt that the INLA would call a ceasefire in the near future.

Tuesday 17 August 1999

Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, met the Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), at Stormont. She was seeking further information from US and Irish authorities on the attempt to import arms from Florida and the recent murder in west Belfast of Charles Bennett, before deciding if the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had broken its ceasefire.

Friday 17 August 2001 Policing Implementation Plan Published

A number of shots were fired at a house in the Westacres area of Craigavon, County Armagh. Nobody was injured in the attack which happened at around 12.20am (0020BST). A gang of seven or eight masked men broke into a house at Donegore Drive in Antrim shortly after midnight. They were armed with a handgun, a machete, and knives. There were seven people in the house at the time and all were assaulted and injured. The revised proposals for the policing service were published. Entitled ‘The Patten Report | Updated Implementation Plan 2001‘ [PDF document; 366KB] the report was issued by the British government. John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, urged everyone to back the Implementation Plan and said it offered “unprecedented opportunities for a new start, a real partnership to policing”. He set a deadline of midday on Tuesday (21 August 2001) for the political parties to respond to the plan. The Northern Ireland Police Federation welcomed the fact that many of the recommendations in the plan were dependent on an assessment of the security situation. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) rejected the plan stating that the measures it contained went far beyond the Patten Report. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) said it would consider the plan in detail before responding. [Some of the pro-Agreement political parties had been shown a copy of the plan prior to its publication. Sinn Féin (SF) had rejected the document for not going far enough and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) stated that it would not consider the issue of policing without IRA decommissioning.] The Irish government called on the SDLP and SF to support the Implementation Plan and to nominate representatives to the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Nuala O’Loan, then Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, announced that her office would investigate claims that security sources had prior warning about the Omagh bomb (15 August 1998). The claim was made by former British Army informant who uses the pseudonym Kevin Fulton. Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), welcomed the investigation but said the claim was “preposterous”.

Friday 17 August 2001 Policing Implementation Plan Published

A number of shots were fired at a house in the Westacres area of Craigavon, County Armagh. Nobody was injured in the attack which happened at around 12.20am (0020BST). A gang of seven or eight masked men broke into a house at Donegore Drive in Antrim shortly after midnight. They were armed with a handgun, a machete, and knives. There were seven people in the house at the time and all were assaulted and injured. The revised proposals for the policing service were published. Entitled ‘The Patten Report | Updated Implementation Plan 2001‘ [PDF document; 366KB] the report was issued by the British government. John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, urged everyone to back the Implementation Plan and said it offered “unprecedented opportunities for a new start, a real partnership to policing”. He set a deadline of midday on Tuesday (21 August 2001) for the political parties to respond to the plan. The Northern Ireland Police Federation welcomed the fact that many of the recommendations in the plan were dependent on an assessment of the security situation. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) rejected the plan stating that the measures it contained went far beyond the Patten Report. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) said it would consider the plan in detail before responding. [Some of the pro-Agreement political parties had been shown a copy of the plan prior to its publication. Sinn Féin (SF) had rejected the document for not going far enough and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) stated that it would not consider the issue of policing without IRA decommissioning.] The Irish government called on the SDLP and SF to support the Implementation Plan and to nominate representatives to the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Nuala O’Loan, then Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, announced that her office would investigate claims that security sources had prior warning about the Omagh bomb (15 August 1998). The claim was made by former British Army informant who uses the pseudonym Kevin Fulton. Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), welcomed the investigation but said the claim was “preposterous”.

Saturday 18 August 2001

UDA Logo
UDA Logo

The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) held a parade down the Shankill Road in Belfast. The paramilitary march involved an estimated 15,000 members of the organisation. Around 100 masked members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name used by the UDA, together with 16 bands took part in the parade. The event was held to commemorate Jackie Coulter (46) who was shot dead during the Loyalist feud on 21 August 2000.

Sunday 19 August 2001

Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland issued a statement calling on people to support the latest proposals on policing in the region: “We believe the time is now right for all those who sincerely want a police service that is fair, impartial and representative to grasp the opportunity that is presented and to exercise their influence to achieve such a service.”

Monday 20 August 2001 SDLP Support Policing Plan

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) held a meeting to decide on whether or not to accept the ‘Patten Report – Updated Implementation Plan 2001’ that was issued on 17 August 2001. Following the meeting the party announced that it would nominate representatives to the proposed 19 member Policing Board which would oversee the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). John Hume, then leader of the SDLP, said: “We will respond positively to an invitation to join the Policing Board and we will be encouraging people from all sections of the community to join the new police service.” The SDLP issued a document outlining its reasons for the change in policy. [The decision represented a historic shift in SDLP policy given that the party had withheld support from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) since 1970. The decision was welcomed by the Irish government, the British government, the Catholic Church, and the Department of Sate in the United States of America (USA).] There was a gun attack on a house at Mounthill Drive, Cloughmills, County Antrim, at approximately 10.30pm (2230BST). Two shots were fired at a bedroom window of the dwelling but none of the family of five in the house at the time were injured. The estate where the shooting happened was mixed and the house was owned by a Protestant family. [The RUC have not established a motive for the attack.] A ‘paint-bomb’ was thrown at the home of a Protestant man in Hesketh Park, north Belfast. The bottle of paint broke a window and caused paint damage to fittings and furnishings. The man had taken part in a Loyalist stand-off in Ardoyne in June which prevented primary school-children from going to the Catholic Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School. Nelson McCausland, then Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor, accused Republicans of being responsible for the attack. There were two security alerts in west Belfast. One suspect device was thrown at a house in Tullymore Gardens in Andersonstown, while the other device was discovered on the Hannahstown Road. Sinn Féin accused the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) of being responsible for the attacks. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland published an annual report on the religions composition of the workforce in the region: A Profile of the Workforce in Northern Ireland, Summary of 2000 Monitoring Returns. The report showed that the overall composition of the monitored workforce was 60.4 per cent Protestant and 39.6 per cent Catholic. Other surveys showed that the economically active population is 58 per cent Protestant and 42 per cent Catholic. The imbalance between Catholic and Protestant employment rates has narrowed over the past 10 years. However the last year saw the smallest improvement at 0.1 per cent.


17th August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland 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.

4 people lost their lives on the 17th August between 1972 – 1991

————————————————————–

17 August 1972


Michael Boddy, (24) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Selby Street, off Grosvenor Road, Belfast.

————————————————————–

17 August 1978
Robert Miller, Robert (22) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb hidden in parked car, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Forkhill, County Armagh.

————————————————————–

17 August 1988

Frederick Otley,  (44)

Protestant
Status: ex-Ulster Volunteer Force (xUVF),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Shot at his shop, Shankill Road, Belfast.

————————————————————–

17 August 1991


Simone Ware,   (22) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Carrickrovaddy, near Cullyhanna, County Armagh.

————————————————————–

Irish Republican Army. (I.R.A) – History & Background

Irish Republican Army. (I.R.A) – History & Background

The views and opinions expressed in this page and  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.

Provisional Irish Republican Army

The IRA were responsible for approx.  1,823 deaths

————————————————————-

IRA Bombers (IRA Documentary

 


Gaddafi and the IRA – Full

 


The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA or PIRA) was[5][6][7][8] an Irish republican paramilitary organisation that sought to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about an independent republic encompassing all of Ireland.[9][10] It was the biggest and most active republican paramilitary group during the Troubles. It saw itself as the successor to the original IRA and called itself simply the Irish Republican Army, or Óglaigh na hÉireann in Irish.[11] It was also widely referred to as such by others. The IRA is designated an unlawful terrorist organisation in the UK and an unlawful organisation in the Republic of Ireland.[12][13]

The Provisional IRA emerged in December 1969, following a split in the republican movement. The Troubles had begun a year before, when a Catholic, nonviolent civil rights campaign was met with violence from both Ulster loyalists and the police, culminating in the August 1969 riots and deployment of British troops.[14]

Secret Undercover British Army Terrorist Force – Military Reaction Force Disclosed

 

The IRA initially focused on defence, but it began an offensive campaign in 1971 (see timeline). The IRA’s primary goal was to force the British to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland. It used guerrilla tactics against the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary in both rural and urban areas. It also carried out a bombing campaign in Northern Ireland and England against what it saw as political and economic targets. Telephoned warnings were usually sent before such bombings. The IRA called a final ceasefire in July 1997, when Sinn Féin were re-admitted into the Northern Ireland peace talks. It supported the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and in 2005 it disarmed under international supervision.

Overview of strategies

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.[15] 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.[16][17] The campaign was supported by arms and funding from Libya[18] and from some groups in the United States.[19][20]

The IRA agreed to a ceasefire in February 1975, which lasted nearly a year[21] 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),[22] and hopes of a quick victory receded.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26][27] The IRA itself lost 275–300 members[28] and an estimated 10,000 imprisoned at various times over the 30-year period.[1][29]

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”,[30] 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”.[31][32] The organisation remains classified as a proscribed terrorist group in the UK and as an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland.[12][33] 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”.[34][35] 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.[36]

Origins

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[14] 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.[37]

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.[38][39] 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.[40] 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.[40]

Traditional republicans formed the “Provisional” Army Council in December 1969, after an IRA Army convention was held at Knockvicar House in Boyle, County Roscommon.[41][42][43] 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[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]

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.[46][47] Nine out of thirteen IRA units in Belfast sided with the Provisionals in December 1969, roughly 120 activists and 500 supporters.[48] The first “Provisional” Army Council was composed of Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Paddy Mulcahy, Sean Tracey, Leo Martin, and Joe Cahill,[49] 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.[50]

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.[51] 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.[52]

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”.[53]

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.[54][55]

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.[56] 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”.[57]

Organisation

The Provisional IRA was organised hierarchically. At the top of the organisation was the IRA Army Council, headed by the IRA Chief of Staff.

Leadership

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.[58][59]

The GAC in turn elected a 12-member IRA Executive, which selected seven volunteers to form the IRA Army Council.[58] 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.[60]

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:

  • Armory
  • Finance
  • Engineering
  • Training
  • Intelligence
  • Publicity
  • Operations
  • Security

Regional command

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.[61]

Brigades

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.[62] 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.[63]

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.[64] 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.[65] 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.[66] 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.[67] 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.[65]

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.[68]

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.[69]

Details on strategy 1969–1998

Initial phase

Following the violence of August 1969, the IRA began to arm and train to protect nationalist areas from further attack.[70] 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.[71]

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.[72] 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”.[15] 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″.[16] 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”.[73]

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.[74]

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.[75] Éire Nua remained Sinn Féin policy until 1982.[76]

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 Ireland Merlyn 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.[23] 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.[21]

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”.[77] 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. To make the Six Counties… ungovernable except by colonial military rule.
  4. To sustain the war and gain support for its ends by National and International propaganda and publicity campaigns.
  5. By defending the war of liberation by punishing criminals, collaborators and informers.[78]

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.”[79]

1981 hunger strikes and electoral politics

Insight: The 1981 Hunger Strike 20 Years On – 2001

 

IRA funeral, 1981

IRA prisoners convicted after March 1976 did not have Special Category Status applied in prison. In response, over 500 prisoners refused to wash or wear prison clothes (see Dirty protest and Blanket protest). This activity culminated in the 1981 Irish hunger strike, when seven IRA and three Irish National Liberation Army members starved themselves to death in pursuit of political status. The hunger strike leader Bobby Sands and Anti H-Block activist Owen Carron were elected to the British Parliament, and two other protesting prisoners were elected to the Irish Dáil. In addition, there were work stoppages and large demonstrations all over Ireland in sympathy with the hunger strikers. Over 100,000 people attended the funeral of Sands, the first hunger striker to die.[80]

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”.[81]

Peace strategy

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[82] and secret approaches in the early 1990s led republican leaders increasingly to look for a political agreement to end the conflict,[83][84] 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.[25] 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.[26][27] The IRA itself lost 275–300 members,[28] of an estimated 10,000 total over the 30-year period.[1]

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[85] and Patrick Mayhew[86] 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.[82][84][87] 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.[88] 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”.[89]

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,[21] and arms dealers in Europe, America, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Libyans supplied the IRA with the RPG-7.

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.[90]

Grand Hotel following a bomb attack

 
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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.[91]

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,[citation needed] 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.[92]

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.[93][94]

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.[95]

The IRA decommissioned all of its remaining arms between July and September 2005. The decommissioning of its weaponry was supervised by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD). Among the weaponry estimated (by Jane’s Information Group) to have been destroyed as part of this process were:

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.[97]

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.[98] 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.[99] 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.[100][101][102]

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.[103][104][105]

Other activities

Apart from its armed campaign, the IRA has also been involved in many other activities.

Sectarian attacks

IRA, purely sectarian, calculated slaughter of Protestants at Kingsmill

 

The IRA publicly condemned sectarianism and sectarian attacks.[106] However, some IRA members became involved in sectarian tit-for-tat violence and attacked Protestants in retaliation for attacks on Catholics.[106] Of those killed by the IRA, Sutton classifies 130 (about 7%) of them as sectarian killings of Protestants.[107] Unlike loyalists, the IRA denied responsibility for sectarian attacks and the members involved used covernames, such as Republican Action Force.[108][109] Many in the IRA opposed these sectarian attacks, but others deemed them effective in preventing sectarian attacks on Catholics.[110]

Some unionists allege that the IRA took part in “ethnic cleansing” of the Protestant minority in rural border areas, such as Fermanagh.[111][112] 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.[113]

Alleged involvement in organised crime

The IRA have allegedly been involved in criminal activities, including racketeering, bank robbery, fuel laundering, drug dealing and kidnapping.[114][115][116]

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.[117] On 18 January 2005, the IRA issued a statement denying any involvement in the robbery.[118] 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.[119] Commentators including Suzanne Breen have stated that the IRA was the only organisation capable of carrying out the raid.[120] In May 2009, two men were arrested in Cork, and charged with IRA membership and offences relating to the robbery.[121]

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.[114][122][123] 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.[124] 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”.[125]

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”.[126]

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.[127]

Vigilantism

The IRA saw itself as the police force of nationalist areas of Northern Ireland during the Troubles instead of the RUC.[128] 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.[129] Catholics did, however, serve in the UDV,[130] 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.[131] Therefore, the community would turn to the IRA first to deal with troublemakers or those practising what came to be called “anti-social behaviour”.[132] 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.[citation needed] 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“.[citation needed]

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.[133] Adams also apologised to abuse victims who he said were “let down” by the IRA’s failure to properly investigate their claims of abuse.[134]

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,[135] while neither the Sutton Index or Lost Lives record the death of any British soldier near her home prior to her killing.[136] In March 2014, Ivor Bell – former IRA Chief of Staff – was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting in the murder of Jean McConville.[137] 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.[138] He was released four days later without charge.[139]

In March 2007, Police Ombudsman Nuala 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.[140]

Conflict with other republican paramilitaries

The IRA has also feuded with other republican paramilitary groups such as the Official IRA in the 1970s and the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation in the 1990s.

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,[141] but Sinn Féin denied the claims.[142] No-one has been charged with his killing.

Casualties

This is a summary. For a detailed breakdown of casualties caused by and inflicted on the IRA see Provisional IRA campaign 1969-1997#Casualties

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.[143] Two detailed studies of deaths in the Troubles, the CAIN project at the University of Ulster, and the book Lost Lives,[144] 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[145] and 640[27] 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.[146] In addition, roughly 50–60 members of Sinn Féin were killed.[147] 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.[148]

Categorisation

The IRA is a proscribed organisation in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000[12] and an unlawful organisation in the Republic of Ireland under the Offences Against the State Acts.[149] Harold Wilson‘s secret 1971 meeting with IRA leaders with the help of John O’Connell angered the Irish government; Garret FitzGerald wrote 30 years later that “the strength of the feelings of our democratic leaders … was not, however, publicly ventilated at the time” because Wilson was a former and possible future British prime minister.[150] Members of IRA are tried in the Republic of Ireland in the Special Criminal Court. In Northern Ireland, the IRA are referred to as terrorists by the Ulster Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Progressive Unionist Party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland,[151] and the Social Democratic and Labour Party.[152] On the island of Ireland, the largest political party to state that the IRA is not a terrorist organisation is Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin is widely regarded as the political wing of the IRA, but the party insists that the two organisations are separate.[153]

Peter Mandelson, a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, contrasted the post-1997 activities of the IRA with those of Al-Qaeda, describing the latter as “terrorists” and the former as “freedom fighters” (though Mandelson subsequently denied this sentiment).[154] The IRA prefer the terms freedom fighter, soldier, or volunteer.[155][156][157] The US Department of State lists them in the category ‘other selected terrorist groups also deemed of relevance in the global war on terrorism.’[153] The organisation has also been described as a “private army” by a number of commentators and politicians.[158][159][160]

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”.[161]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[162] 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.[163]

Strength and support

Numerical strength

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.[65] 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.[164]

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.[148] 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.[164]

Electoral and popular support

The popular support for the IRA’s campaign in the Troubles is hard to gauge, given that Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing, did not stand in elections until the early 1980s. Most nationalists in Northern Ireland voted for the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) until 2001. After the 1981 hunger strike, Sinn Féin mobilised large electoral support and won 105,000 votes, or 43% of the nationalist vote in Northern Ireland, in the United Kingdom general election, 1983, only 34,000 votes behind the SDLP.[165] However, by the 1992 UK General Election, the SDLP won 184,445 votes and four seats to Sinn Féin’s 78,291 votes and no seats.[166] In the 1993 Local District Council Elections in Northern Ireland, the SDLP won 136,760 votes to Sinn Féin’s 77,600 votes.[167]

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.[168]

An IRA wall mural in Coalisland, County Tyrone

The IRA enjoyed some popular support in the Republic of Ireland in the early 70s. However, the movement’s appeal was hurt badly by bombings such as the killing of civilians attending a Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph in Enniskillen in 1987 (Remembrance Day bombing), and the death of two children when a bomb exploded in Warrington, which led to tens of thousands of people demonstrating on O’Connell Street in Dublin to call for an end to the IRA’s campaign. In the 1987 Irish General Election, they won only 1.7% of the votes cast.[169] They did not make significant electoral gains in the Republic until after the IRA ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. By the 2011 Irish general election Sinn Féin’s proportion of the popular vote had reached 9.9 percent.

Sinn Féin now has 27 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (out of 108), five Westminster MPs (out of 18 from Northern Ireland) and 14 Republic of Ireland TDs (out of 166).

Support from other countries and organisations

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.[18]

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.[19][20]

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.[170] 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.[171] 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.[172] 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.[173]

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.[174] In the 1970s, ETA also exchanged a quantity of handguns for training in explosives with the IRA.[175] 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.[176] Prominent former IRA prisoners such as Brendan McFarlane and Brendan Hughes have campaigned for the release of ETA prisoners.[177][178] 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.[citation needed]

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.[179][180] 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”.[181]

In December 2013 the report of the Smithwick Tribunal concluded that “on the balance of probability” collusion took place between the IRA and members of the Garda Síochána in the 1989 killing of two RUC officers; however, the report could not conclusively prove this.[182]

Aftermath of Manchester bombing

Good Friday Agreement

Main article: Good Friday Agreement

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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”,[30] 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”.[31][32] The organisation remains classified as a proscribed terrorist group in the UK and as an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland.[12][33] 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”.[30]

This is not the first time that organisations styling themselves IRA have issued orders to dump arms.[183] 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.[184] Some authors, like Patrick McCarthy, Peter Taylor and Brendan O’Brien concluded that, unlike previous IRA campaigns, the provisionals were not defeated.[185][186][187]

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.[188] 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.[189]

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.”[190] In 2014 Adams said: “The IRA is gone. It is finished”.[191]

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.[192] 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.[193]

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.[194]

On 4 October 2006, the IMC ruled that the IRA were no longer a threat.[195]

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.[193][196] 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.[197]

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.[198]

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.[199][200][201]

“P. O’Neill”

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”.[202] 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.[202]

Informers

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.[203]

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.[204] 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.[205] He was expelled from Sinn Féin and was said to have been debriefed by the party.[206] 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.[207] On 4 April 2006, Donaldson was found shot dead at his retreat near Glenties in County Donegal.[208] 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”.[209] The Real IRA claimed responsibility for his assassination on 12 April 2009.[210]

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.[211]

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