Northern Ireland: The Time And Place For Urban Terror
SUBJECT AREA Topical Issues
WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR
THE TIME AND PLACE FOR URBAN TERROR
Major Michael V. Maloney, USMC
1 April 1985
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Development and Education Command
Quantico, Virginia 22134
List of Tables ii
List of Figures iii
1. Plantation to Partition - An 9
2. The Rise of an Embarrassed Splinter 40
3. From Guardians to Invaders - An 79
Untimely Change of Mission
4. Legitimacy Spurned - The Madmen Emerge 100
A. The Origins of Hate 149
1. The Death Toll, 1970-1972
2. IRA Discipline, 1971-1975
1. IRA Staff Structure and Functions
Have you ever watched three children playing together?
Unless it is within a well-defined activity or game,
play usually just does not seem to work in threes.
Invariably there is a pairing, a combination designed to
exclude the odd child out from participating; other times it
is a conspiracy to include the third party as the object of
teasing or ridicule. Often, as perhaps only the pure
cruelty of youth can fully devise, they can do both.
Occasionally the isolated child strikes back in confusion or
pain. How does one achieve harmony or maintain equality?
How does one small child keep from becoming the embattled
minority? Once the pairing occurs, what does one do? How
do you restore equilibrium? Can you? Should you? What
does one say to assuage the pain of the victim, lonely,
uncertain, pained and tearful? And how do you control his
childish revenge? Then, to confuse the issue, what does one
do five minutes later when the pairing shifts, subjecting a
different third person to a similarly cruel but usually
The war in Northern Ireland is not child's play, but it
is clearly three-sided. In fact, it seems that Anglo-
Irish history has rarely enjoyed the simplicity of
bipartisan relationships but rather from the first, it
appears as an intermittent, erratic series of triangular
problems or conflicts. Strongbow brought the first English
army to Ireland at the behest of one tribal chieftan who was
at odds with another. After 1534 and the Act of Supremacy,
Catholic Ireland adjacent to newly-converted Protestant
England loomed as a potential ally to England's continental
rivals and formed a likely strategic stepping-stone to
England's western flank. As many of the numerous Irish
risings attest, England's strategic concern was partly
legitimate. Third parties such as France and Spain on more
than one occasion were only too happy to support such causes
against their religious, commercial and political enemy.
But for the Irish the foremost purpose of their risings was
to drive the alien English out. The risings, particularly
after plantation, were three-sided: Catholic native,
Protestant settler, and English soldier.
This shifting but recurring triangular pattern exists
today on the international plane by lines connecting London,
Dublin, and Belfast. On the urban level within Belfast and
Londonderry primarily, it is seen in the principal urban
combatants: the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the
Protestant terrorists, and the British Army. Even the
social, economic, and political factors form a triangle.
Religion and discrimination lead to fear, and the historical
interplay between these factors has created a centuries old,
ulcerous hatred which is at the heart of the war today. The
fighting forms the most vicious triangle. Whether it
matches IRA versus British, IRA versus the Ulster Defense
Association, or in some instances, UDA versus British, one
must remember that urban guerrilla warfare by its very
nature encompasses the unfortunate inhabitants of the
battlefield as its innocent third parties.
England and later the United Kingdom have played an
inescapable, central role in Irish history and continue to
share center stage in Belfast and Londonderry today. Going
back to the introductory analogy of children playing,
Britain acts in a variety of roles which work more to her
detriment than to her benefit. Her role as one of the
players is clearcut. But what about her parental role? In
an historic sense she is both progenitor and guardian of all
three children, helpless to impartially intervene. Small
wonder that many who share England's desire for a solution
to her "Irish Question" question strongly her ability to act
as an honest broker.
This is a study of urban guerrilla warfare in Northern
Ireland and principally the Provisional Irish Republican
Army. Inherent in such a study are several major
obstacles. First, guerrillas involved in guerrilla warfare,
and particularly a war that is still occurring by obvious
necessity do not write much; thus, primary source material
from that side is difficult to come by. Of some assistance
in this report was Sean MacStiofain's autobiographical work,
Revolutionary in Ireland. Naturally, his biases must be
taken into account, but propaganda aside, MacStiofain
provided insight into the formative years of the Provisional
IRA, the organizational mindset, strategy, and tactics.
Finally, his perspective formed an interesting contrast to
the more abundant pro-British, anti-terrorist literature.
As Richard Clutterbuck, a well-known author of several
works on terrorism to include Northern Ireland, observes in
Guerrillas and Terrorists, "All those who write (on Northern
Ireland) are, with varying degrees of passion, partisans of
one side or the other."1 In the midst of Clutterbuck's
substantial contributions to the literature and his numerous
revealing insights, this concise observation is perhaps his
most profound. In one brief sentence he describes the
emotions, the biases, the polarity and distorted objectivity
which confront the uninitiated researcher and leave him
dazed and wandering like the legendary Irish traveller
wading through a pasture of Ireland's mythical "sleepy
Considering the reality of the effective propaganda
campaigns on both sides, the already mentioned literary
biases, the practical and logistical impossibility of
walking the ground and smelling the air, of talking to the
combatants and the non-combatants, of reviewing official
primary source documents such as combat operations orders,
standard operating procedures and the numerous investigative
reports resident in Great Britain, Ireland and Northern
Ireland, the analysis which follows is a best guess based
primarily on abundant secondary source material, some United
States Marine Corps' Command and Staff College lectures in
the 1984-1985 Academic Year and some limited personal
interviews with some who have travelled in Northern Ireland
during "the troubles." There is one basic assumption - that
the complete account of what is going on in the northeast
corner of Ireland is an unfinished volume lacking the
substantive truths which lie as yet undiscovered and
undocumented in that narrow strand of unbiased, impenetrable
no-man's land that separates "the partisans of one side or
Grasping the awesome historical context is a cumbersome
test. As Colonel Pat Collins, a lifelong student of Irish
history through family ties and academic interests and an
authority on terrorism and counterinsurgency, cautioned at
the outset, "To understand what's going on in Northern
Ireland today, you have to understand Irish history."
Clutterbuck writes, "History is the biggest bugbear in
Northern Ireland. Every child is brought up to remember
it."2 The understanding that Colonel Collins so emphat-
ically prescribes for the novice student of Irish history is
lacking as well among the people of Northern Ireland.
Clutterbuck alludes to the biased oral history or of what
people believe is their history in his earlier statement.
As parents and schools pass on their distorted versions to
their children, they transfer also the centuries old hatred,
mistrust and narrowmindedness to yet another generation.
History in Northern Ireland then is something more to be
remembered than understood.
Research on this account is no problem. The
predicament becomes one of balance, depth, and perspective
in relation to the focus of the study. Three and a half
centuries of history lead to the ten or so years' life of
the Provisional IRA. A full historical account would
totally obscure the present. A skimpy, abbreviated version,
or one drawn from a later starting point would not convey
the necessary sense of the past so vitally relevant to
understanding the present situation. The compromise which
follows certainly would satisfy neither English nor Irish
historian, but historical past and present tell us that
neither English nor Irish are generally satisfied with much
the other has to offer anyway. Quid pro quo.
This study focuses on three areas: the historical
origins of the Irish Republican Army; the events of the late
nineteen sixties which led to the formation of the
Provisional IRA; and the rise and partial fall of the IRA in
its campaign against the security forces, the Protestant
majority, and Great Britain. The central issue is urban
terrorism as waged by the Provisional IRA in all its forms.
Though the Provisional IRA continues a war of attrition
today, the years 1969 to 1973, and in particular 1972,
graphically depict the full spectrum of urban guerrilla
warfare. The war certainly did not end in 1973, but the
tactics from that point to the present, though more sophis-
ticated, have remained essentially the same. Certain
subsequent developments are germane: the peculiar twist of
sectarian murders, the leftward progression of the
Provisional IRA and its reorganization in 1977 each has had
a bearing on the war as it continues today. Others such as
the "Hunger Strikes" and the "Dirty Protest" though
interesting from a politico-social aspect do not figure
prominently in the conduct of the war.
PLANTATION TO PARTITION - AN HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
So much has been written about Northern Ireland,
like South East Asia, that the essentials have become
obscured. This has been made worse by the fact that almost
all those who write are, with varying degrees of passion,
partisans of one side or the other.
Richard Clutterbuck, Guerrillas
and Terrorists, 1977
The Irish have a gift for gentle understatement par-
ticularly when unpleasantness is involved. Trouble or
troubles, for example, has a far more expansive meaning than
it does in most other corners of the English-speaking
world. At a funeral a sympathetic friend may offer
condolences to the bereaved by expressing his sorrow for
their "troubles". In the larger and more enduring
historical context, the Irish have referred to the
British-Irish dilemma over Northern Ireland with its painful
heritage of hatred, violence and death through the years
simply as "the Troubles." Not to be outdone, however, the
British, with equal conciseness but a more typically
analytical bent, refer to the whole matter as "The Irish
Question." Some like George Dangerfield, in a phrase which
reflects better both the persistency and insolvability of
the problem and its accompanying frustration, perhaps more
aptly call it "the Damnable Question," the title of his book
in the subject.1 Regardless of position, few would
disagree with Clutterbuck that the issues are indeed
From the 16th Century England grew into a world power
and came into conflict with the traditional European powers,
notably Spain, the Netherlands and France. As part of this
process English monarchs viewed Ireland to the west both
with imperial design and in the sense of strategic defense.
Much like the military leader studying his area of
operations, England identified Ireland as "key terrain"
which if controlled denied any potential enemy's access to
her flank. In her strategic analysis, England employed
faulty tactics in choosing her familiar imperial methods to
displace the natives and occupy the land. Whether unable or
unwilling to see the distinction, for many years to come she
continued to blindly ahhere to her plan, confident in her
mistaken impression that she could "Anglicize" Ireland.
Ultimately England in her efforts toward achieving unity set
the stage for the disunity of Ireland today.
From the earliest times life in Ulster, the
northernmost of Ireland's four historical provinces,
differed due in part to geography and a tradition of strong
tribal chieftans. These differences assisted in creating an
even greater distinction as the 16th century ended; Ulster,
unlike her three sister provinces, had succeeded in
maintaining her Gaelic culture and, to a large degree, her
After the O'Neill rising in Ulster in 1598 reemphasized
that distinction, Elizabeth I decided to initiate a
deliberate plan to crush the Gaelic culture in Ireland. As
part of this, starting in the early 17th century Scottish
settlers, who were predominantly Protestant, came to Ulster
and displaced the Irish natives in a system of colonization
The Irish natives responded with periodic uprisings,
almost at the rate of one per generation. Initially these
risings stemmed directly from social and economic factors
such as those inherent in plantation. As plantation took
root, however, a religious line of demarcation was inevit-
able which, once drawn, would divide Ulster to this day.
The rising of 1648 was the first to mix religion with
warfare in an ugly exchange of brutal massacres. The Irish
initiated the action and their leaders, who had tenuous
control at best, were unable to prevent the butchery that
In 1649 Oliver Cromwell landed with an army of ten
thousand veteran soldiers and quickly crushed the Irish
rebels with military victories followed by massacres at
Drogleda and Wexford. He then proceeded to offer the
natives of Ulster a choice between two unpalatable
alternatives: "Hell or Connaught." Connaught, the province
southwest of Ulster, had poor soil and offered any
prospective inhabitant a meager, spartan existence at best.
Cromwell's other option needs no explanation. Since
Cromwell's day religion and Irish history are tragically and
bitterly interwoven. Since his time too, for the Irish to
wish someone ill was to wish "the curse of Cromwell" on
Forty years after Cromwell the Irish supported James
II, the Catholic King of England, in his efforts to regain
the throne. This rising left Irish history with its orange
Protestant legacies which Ulstermen celebrate annually with
huge marches and commemorative speeches: the heroic actions
of the Apprentice Boys at the seige of Londonderry on August
12, 1689 and William of Orange's victory at the Battle of
Boyne in 1690.
The 18th century brought the infamous Penal Laws, a
series of repressive restrictions whose purpose and intent
were clear to all. Not only did they subjugate their
primary target, the Irish Catholic population, but they also
limited to some extent the rights of non-Anglican dissenters
as well. Under these laws, for example, an Irishman could
be shot if found with a horse worth more than five pounds as
Arthur O'Leary, a colonel in the Austrian Army, fatally
learned while home on leave in 1773.
Nevertheless, despite the Penal Laws the 18th century
was one of relative peace and almost passed without an Irish
rising. Two years before the turn of the century, however,
the Irish rose again stirred by the example of the French
Revolution and led by an Ulster Presbyterian, Theobald Wolf
Tone. This rising, like those past and those to come,
failed but was significant for two reasons: it marked the
true birth of Irish nationalism and in Wolf Tone, who
committed suicide while imprisoned and awaiting trial,
Ireland had a martyr of lasting national fame.
At the start of the 19th century the British effec-
tively bought out the Irish Parliament in orchestrating the
Act of Union, a peculiar political maneuver in which the
Irish Parliament actually voted itself out of existence.
For the remainder of the century, Irish politicians like
Daniel O'Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell would strive to
regain "Home Rule."
Basic survival overwhelmed politics in mid-century when
Ireland's staple, the potato, fell victim to blight in three
out of four years running. The "famine" decimated the
population and scarred the national psyche with its
combination of starvation, death and emigration. Those who
left Ireland during this tragic era settled in many parts of
the world. But neither they nor subsequent generations
would forget their homeland nor her painful Anglo-Irish
From this point in history Ireland, north and south,
saw the rise of secret and not so secret organizations, many
of which had conflicting interests and contradictory
national objectives. From this point too the politics and
the politicians could not keep pace with the whirlpool of
violent forces which were drawing them, Britain, and Ireland
closer and closer to their vortex. Even the best intended
statesmanship was destined to remain at least one step
behind violence. The legitimate effort to right the
previous wrongs would always seem to be too little, too
Just as the two-hundred fifty years of English
occupation from plantation to the end of the famine
established the roots of hatred, the next seventy to
seventy-five years would define the triangular issues,
establish the corresponding three-cornered battlefield, and
produce a confused operations overlay of dual-colored battle
lines: orange and green, black and tan, red and blue.
Henceforth, violence or the threat of violence would either
precede, accompany, or follow major political issues. The
most prominent puppeteers on the narrowing triangular stage
were William Gladstone in London, Charles Parnell in Dublin
and, later, Edward Carson, a Dubliner in Ulster.
According to several accounts, William Gladstone, upon
first hearing of his appointment as Prime Minister in 1868,
said, "My mission is to pacify Ireland."2 That same year
he successfully disestablished the (Anglican) Church of
Ireland, a move which was generally accepted in England.
Next he extended the "tenant right" or Ulster custom* to the
rest of Ireland. Four years after his rise to power in
1872, Gladstone and the Liberals pushed the Ballot Act of
1872 through Parliament. This act with its requirement for
secret voting "changed Irish political life...(and) with the
general election of 1874 the Parliament of the United
Kingdom saw a third party, the Irish."3 Gladstone, though
not publically saying so, was heading towards home rule.
* Tenant rights to this time in Ireland were virtually
non-existent. Even a tenant who paid his rents was not
guaranteed tenure except in Ulster. There, by custom not
law, if a tenant kept up with the rent, he could not be
evicted, i.e, Ulster custom.
Not too far down the path, however, Ulster Unionists and
English Conservatives reinforced by the Orange Society*
waited in ambush determined to meet force with force, if
Charles Parnell, whom many consider the first great
Irish politician, lead the Irish home rule fight in
He took command of the Irish by his personal
power and soon forged a new political weapon,
obstruction. He used the Rules of Parliament
to block business till the Irish got what they
wanted. Every twist and turn of rules was
utilized, if that would gain an end. 'Irish
Nights' became a horror as Parnell's machine
tightened its grip. Behind him, founded in
1879, was Michael Davitt's Land League, formed
to force rents down, either by reform of the
land laws or by intimidation. Between the
Nationalist party and the Land League, by the
early 1880's Parnell became 'the uncrowned king
With this burgeoning power and such tactics Parnell,
supported by the Liberals, was instrumental in the passage
of the Land Act of 1881, an important measure which
* The Orange Society, also the Orange Order, originated
in Armagh circa 1795 and shortly became the first
Ulster-wide Protestant paramilitary organization whose aim
was simply: to maintain Protestant ascendancy and to keep
the Ulster Catholics in their place.
"guaranteed the three F's to Irish farmers."*
Terrorism also was a vital influence during this
period. Obviously no one was more aware of its power and
used it to such a degree of success as Charles Parnell.
Careful never to publically espouse tactics of fear, he
allowed the latent potential of civil violence to subtlely
intimidate his opponents. The political battle over the
enactment of the Land Act of 1881 best illustrates Parnell's
political savvy and his understanding of use of force.
Concerned that the land reform might conciliate the tenant
farmers to the extent that they might not support home rule
or his party, Parnell fought a political delaying action.
Some like William Forster, the chief secretary to Ireland,
believed Parnell was deliberately and illegally obstructing
progress. Believing that removing Parnell would solve the
problem, the authorities incarcerated Parnell under the
coercion act at Kilmainham.
Rather than achieve the desired effect, greater
acceptance of the land act, "Captain Moonlight" struck as
Parnell had predicted. Agrarian disorder ensued, and both
* Three F's, fixity of tenure, fair rent and the right
to sell freely their holdings. Essentially the Land Act of
1881 extended the "Ulster Custom" to all of Ireland and made
it law vice custom.
the authorities and Parnell negotiated what is referred to
as the "Kilmainham treaty."5 Beckett summarized the terms
Parnell was to be released, coercion relaxed,
the land act amended, and protection given to
tenants in arrears; in return, Parnell was to
use his influence to calm the country, and to
secure general acceptance for the land act in
its amended form.6
The Irish has learned how to mix terror with politics. With
land reform accomplished, Parnell and Gladstone separately
set their sights on the same objective - home rule for
In Ulster emotions were running high. The Protestants'
greatest fear was that "Home Rule" if it ever passed would
lead to "Rome Rule," a perception profoundly understandable,
a likelihood highly improbable. The thought that the stroke
of a pen could shatter their political dominance and convert
their two thirds regional majority into a one third national
minority would have been traumatic enough without the
preceding centuries of hatred mixed with religious
differences. On the practical side their opposition was
understandable too. Their political and economic ties had
always been to England and not the south. But religion or
fear of religion was dominant. Some may have feared
Catholic retribution. Others may have just been consumed by
fear and hate. Most Protestants, however, probably shared
the same religious concerns articulated by a fellow
Ulsterman a century later:
I suppose that at the very heart of Protestant
fears is the historic Catholic claim to be the
one, true, universal Church and the ultimate
arbiter of religious truth. For by implication,
at any rate if interpreted in extreme form, all
other churches are to a degree heretical and in
some sense incomplete and lacking in authority...
A perhaps even more serious implication for
Protestants is their feeling that a Church which
claims to have such knowledge of absolute truth
much inevitably be intolerant of lesser truths or
what is even considered to be untruth.7
These words are insightful on two counts. First, it
demonstrates that the fundamental religious issues remain
unchanged by time or intervening events. And, if one
accepts the supposition that "Time heals all wounds," it is
painfully clear that time has stood still in Ulster.
Neill describes the effect of the rising uncertainities
which but for the dates could probably fit into any decade
The Orange Order (Orange Society) was seldom
far removed from the Catholic-Protestant riots
which continued to be regular features of the
Belfast social calendar. The First Home Rule
Bill was greeted in that city with the worst
urban disturbances in its turbulent history.
Over 30 people were killed and a hundred wounded
in a series of riots which dragged on throughout
the summer of 1886.8
Despite the growing military strength of the Orange Society
the Protestants were still losing ground. Politically their
position was similar to the Irish rebels' military
predicament in Ulster in 1648. Home Rule like Cromwell's
Army loomed large on the horizon. Unlike the earlier
rebels, however, the Protestants had the vision and the
means to avoid a similar outcome.
In 1886 the Protestants formed the Unionist Party
"intent on maintaining the political connection with Great
Britain." Once organized they sought and obtained the
support of the British Conservatives. The strength of that
alliance and its unity of purpose were almost immediately
demonstrated. On a visit to Belfast in the same year Lord
Randolph Churchill stirred Protestant passions when he
declared, "Ulster will fight! Ulster will be right." The
predicted fight did not materialize immediately, however, as
the new political alliance successfully dominated British
politics. But the Orange Order's drums would begin to beat
more stridently in 1906 when the Liberals returned to power.
The next fourteen years form the heart of modern Irish
history. So many events transpired so quickly; so many
people played so many varying roles; so much violence was
done and so much was left undone that any attempt to
visualize this crucial period is at once as alternately
clear and out of focus as the prints of the novice camera
buff. As he focuses on what he believes is the main
subject, another object previously unseen moves distorting
all sense of proportion. As he methodically and carefully
rotates his lens to achieve order, almost kaliedescopically
more things change. The image in the eye as the shutter is
released changes in the instant of flight from subject to
camera imprinting a picture that the confused photographer
will not later recognize. Worse yet many of the best shots
pass too swiftly between frames. However, since this period
is still before the advent of motion pictures in Ireland,
still photographs and words, no matter how amatuer, provide
the only sensual description of this sensitive,
With the Liberals return to power in England, the home
rule issue revived. Nevertheless, even in Gladstone's time
many actions which passed handily in the House of Commons
died many an untimely death at the hands of the conservative
Democracy ... found a constitutional obstacle
in the House of Lords. That body blocked,
among others, the following measures: the
abolition of purchase in the Army in 1870, the
Ballot Act of 1872, the Irish land legislation
of the 1880's, the Home Rule Bills of 1892 and
1911, and Welsh Disestablishment in 1911, as
well as the Budget of 1908 ... More and more
the House of Lords stood out as an adjunct of
the Conservative Party. Increasingly the
liberals demanded "to mend it or end it."9
Without digressing further into English political
history, the end came after many political machinations on
both sides with the Parliament Act of 1911. Basically this
statute created an avenue for the House of Commons to pass
legislation over the objections of the House of Lords. If
the House of Commons passed the same bill in three
consecutive years, it would become law despite the House of
Lords' opposition.10 As many an Irish grandmother has
often taught, "Patience and perseverance will get the snails
to Jerusalem." Politically the Irish would patiently
persevere. Home rule was written on the wall as plainly as
IRA or UDA graffitti is in Derry or Belfast today. For once
time and tide seemed to favor the Irish. And the "following
wind" they have traditionally wished departing friends
seemed at long last firmly at their own backs.
Meanwhile in Ulster Edward Carson, the heretofore
undiscussed member of the trio of politician puppeteers
mentioned earlier and the leader of the Unionist Party, had
seen the storm signals clearly, had anticipated the falling
tides and knew that he, like the Catholic rebels of 1648,
was running short of time. Unlike them, he knew what had to
be done and had the leadership ability and courage to carry
it through. Beckett emphasized Carson's total perspective:
Carson realized from the first that his task
was not merely to lead a parliamentary party, but
to act as sponsor for a popular movement that might
easily overstep the limits of the constitution, and
he accepted the risk with open eyes.11
With such vision and his Dublin roots, Carson was sure
to have seen the dual success of mass popular action and
the effective use of implied force so well employed together
by Parnell. He proceeded to use every constitutional avenue
open to him at Westminster to fight the rising tide of "Home
Rule." While at home he prepared his contingency plan which
some have called "the Orange Card."
The military force behind the card was the Orange
Society which in 1912 matured into the Ulster Volunteer
Force, in effect a private army. During the two years,
1912-1914, the UVF had a retired British officer in command,
who trained and organized on the British model. With the
addition of German arms it:
was very quickly an army in being, with the
necessary supporting services as signals,
engineers and medical service, even a corps
of women to carry out clerical and other such
work. It lacked only artillery and a naval arm,
nor was it equipped with the heavy weapons such
as mortars and machine guns, of the age. But it
was ... most certainly an army, ... small ... but
From its conception it had but one too obvious purpose which
was to remain forever unfulfilled. Many would die for
another cause in France.
Before World War I intervened, however the British
were faced with an unprecedented, historic dilemma. The UVF
was clearly a standing army and even more clearly a
legitimate threat to the peaceful enactment of home rule.
As the British government contemplated military action to
support implementation of home rule in March 1914, some
members of the British Army staged what is commonly called
the Curragh mutiny in which fifty-eight officers of the 3rd
Cavalry Regiment at Curragh, believing an order to action
against the Ulster Unionists imminent, resigned rather than
carry out their anticipated orders. But the order was never
issued and World War I did intervene.13
Home rule was less than two months from official
enactment when Britain fortuitously declared war on
Germany. It was fortuitous in that it averted what surely
would have been a civil war. In response to the growing
militancy of the UVF and in part to signal equally their
resolve to Britain, the Irish in the south had formed their
own Irish Volunteers. But the war preempted all these
warlike gestures. With little fanfare or record of
opposition Parliament postponed implementation of home rule
for the duration of the war. A civil war had been averted,
maybe only delayed, by a world war.
Many Irishman, more from the north than the south, left
Ireland... fought and died alongside their British cousins in
the bitter trench warfare of France. In fact the UVF,
remaining essentially intact, went to war redesignated as
the 36th Ulster Division.14 Many of the British troops
too had left Ireland for the same purpose. Many shared
similar fates. With Britain's attention naturally directed
towards the continent and the reduced size of British forced
in Ireland, the IRB seized the initiative. The same Fenian
group that in 1867 had lain comatose until transfused with
the lifeblood of new martyrs* stirred from their impatient
rest and with their morbid sense of the past remembered.
The signals were there. If the British had listened to the
words of one of the leading figures in Dublin at this time
and a known republican, Padraic Pearse, when he eulogized
O'Donovan Rossa, another leading nationalist, they would
have sensed that a "rising" was in the offing. Pearse
*In March 1867 the Irish Republican Brotherhood's
attempted rising was such a dismal failure that the
organization was virtually broken. In September of that
year, however, IRB members in Britain ambushed a prison
vehicle carrying IRB leaders in an escape attempt. The
escape was accomplished, but one policeman was killed. In
retribution three of the ambush party who were captured were
sentenced to death and hung in November 1867.
The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in
secret and in the open. They think that they
have pacified Ireland. They think that they
have purchased half of us and intimidated the
other half. They think that they have forseen
everything, think that they have provided against
everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools -
they have left us our Fenian dead, and while
Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall
never be at peace.15
The rising when it came combined all, and probably
more, of the historical flaws of earlier risings. Confident
of German arms and expecting the Irish Volunteers to rise in
force with them, the IRB military council planned an Easter
Sunday rising. One key member, Eoin MacNeill, the leader of
the Volunteers, was opposed for a tremendously important
reason: he knew that they "lacked widespread popular
support." Serious romantics more than revolutionaries, the
leadership with the exception of MacNeill ignored such
logical, revolutionary fundamentals and even went so far as
to deceive MacNeill into lending support.16 They made
many mistakes, but as Dangerfield explains it was almost by
The explanation of these mistakes is not just
that they were part of a romantic Fenian
muddle - although there were elements of that
in them too. The explanation lies in the very
character of the Rising itself - namely that it
had taken on a symbolic, not a military purpose;
that it was not expected to succeed; that it was
expected only to happen.17
Happen it did, naturally according to the confused plan, one
day late on Easter Monday, 1916. And fail it did, as
expected. Or, did it?
The plan called for the rebels to occupy six strong-
points in Dublin which:
roughly speaking ... called for drawing a
circle around the heart of the city ... formed
by occupying two posts north of the river
(Liffey) (the General Post Office and the Four
Courts of Justice) and four posts to the south
of it (the South Dublin Union, Jacob's Biscuit
Factory, St. Stephens Green and Boland's Bakery).
Two small groups were to occupy positions near
Dublin Castle and in the Mendicity Institute, a
building on the south bank of the Liffey almost
opposite Four Courts.18
Dangerfield concludes that the plan "could have only
gratified a romantic mind."19
The British knew through intelligence that a rebellion
was imminent. They had traced Sir Roger Casement's
movements and were fully aware of his dealings with the
Germans. Armed with this intelligence they were able to
strike logically preemptive twin blows on Good Friday 1916
with the capture of Casement and the intercept of a German
arms shipment at sea.
A military mind would have agreed, but the romantic
Fenian mind did not. The decision to execute in its
defiance of military logic did achieve tactical surprise;
but, the plan, obviously flawed in design, was destroyed in
execution. Due to garbled communications and the one day
shift of D-Day, the expected numbers of Volunteers did not
materialize. It started barely noticed at first on Monday.
It ended with Pearse's surrender on Saturday, April 29, but
some units did not put down their arms until later Sunday
when they received the official word of surrender. Never-
theless the rebellion had been convincingly defeated:20
On Monday 1 May, ... the Rising had apparently
vanished into the past, a dismal failure. It
had failed as an armed 'putsch'; and it had
failed as a political gesture. It had conspic-
uously not aroused the sympathies of the city of
Dublin upon whom it had visited many discomforts,
whose private and public buildings it had burned
or been responsible for burning to the tune of an
estimated 2,500,000 pounds.21
Pearse and the other members of the Military Council
might well have died of disappointment at the total failure
of their rising. Dangerfield described the initial response
of their fellow countrymen and women as more inclined
towards disdain. The British, however, whose national
survival was at stake in France, saw the rebels as traitors
whose misdeeds merited one rapid and final response. They
would not let the rebels live with the misery of their
defeat. Between May 3-12 fourteen of the rebels were tried
by court-martial, sentenced to death and shot. The
romantic's plan had succeeded.
Pearse had obtained his desired "Blood Sacrifice."
In death they had mobilized the Irish spirit they had so
vainly sought to capture in life. By these executions
Britain had shaken part of the Irish nation out of her
By executing these men ... the British govern-
ment committed perhaps its biggest blunder in
seven centuries of dealing with Ireland ...
Prison terms would have denied them the martyr-
dom they sought. Execution made them the heroes
of the nation.22
The indifferent majority of the Easter just past was now
infused with the spirit of nationalism. The key element for
guerrilla war had been won. The others, including a
brilliant military leader, Michael Collins, were already in
place. Finally, the rebels had acquired a greater sense of
military unity. Somewhere in the course of the week's
fighting, the motley force of rebels from the Irish
Citizen's Army, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish
Republican Brotherhood acquired a new title: the Irish
Republican Army. Once again, but this time in a more
fatalistic sense, it was just a matter of time.
In the aftermath, independence rather than home rule
became the issue, and the previously dominant Home Rule
Party gradually lost power. Then in 1918 Sinn Fein, whose
aim was complete separation from Britain, completely
overwhelmed the Home Rule Party. Consistent with their
platform and their non-recognition of English rule Sinn Fein
initiated their active policy of refusing to take their
seats at Westminster. Of course some, for their part in
recent non-political activities, were still in jail and
could not have taken their seats in any regard. Those who
were not, however, twenty-seven in all, met in Dublin in
January 1919, "where they drew up an Irish Declaration of
Independence, and took the title of 'Dail Eireann,' claiming
to be the real parliament of the country."23 They also
selected a ministerial cabinet and appointed Eamon de
Valera, who was still imprisoned, as President. In their
minds the Irish Republic was established, but they also knew
that such simple and blatant political defiance alone would
not bring independence. They would have to rise again.
During this time the IRA became identified as, and in
fact were, the military arm of Sinn Fein, an alliance which
continues today. The leaders who succeeded those martyred
after the Easter Rebellion were unlike Fenians past in one
vital aspect; they had military minds. And, the army as a
whole was more cohesive and proficient than the paramilitary
militia of 1916 had been.
Taking advantage of their tremendous popular support
and their knowledge of their own countryside, the IRA
launched a widespread campaign of terror. Michael Collins,
who had fought in the Easter Rising, was the mastermind. He
appreciated the importance of intelligence and knew how
easily infiltrated past republican movements had been. He
quickly reversed that situation.
It was he who did the infiltrating, he had
friends everywhere - in the G Division of the
DMP, the Castle, the post office, even among
the officers of the British Army. He was so
well protected that he could move freely from
place to place, although officially a hunted
The IRA under his skillful leadership continued an
aggressive campaign which combined guerrilla hit and run
tactics like ambushes and attacks on police stations, tax
offices, and military barracks with acts of terrorism like
assassinations. For example, on November 21, 1919, another
Irish Bloody Sunday, an IRA squad raided a British
intelligence unit's safe house killing fourteen undercover
agents and two policemen (RIC) crippling the intelligence
unit in the process.25 As in the past such brutal rebel
success would meet a similar English response - more
military force. This time it would bring the soon to be
infamous "Black and Tans."
The "Black and Tans" role in Ireland could be the
subject of a separate study. They had been so hastily
assembled and moved that they did not have complete
uniforms. Instead they wore an improvised, mixed uniform of
leather and khaki; hence the "Black and Tans." Formed to
reinforce the depleted and beleagured Royal Irish
Constabulary (RIC), the Black and Tans virtually replaced
them. However, they were neither militarily nor
psychologically prepared for the war which would bestow upon
them their perverse fame. Their ill-preparedness and
numerous excesses only served to sustain the IRA by rein-
forcing popular support.
The war continued on into 1921 stalemated - the IRA
ruling the countryside, the British controlling the cities.
Raiding groups called "Flying Columns" struck throughout the
country in quick-hitting raids and ambushes. For the most
part, however, the IRA was too ill-armed to fight a
sustained battle or in many cases even a sustained
firefight. Hence, they sought to create chaos hoping to tie
down more forces and induce their predictably aggressive and
violent counter-actions. In the cities the IRA simply
employed and in some respects created urban terror.
By June 1921 Britain had almost 40,000 troops in
Ireland. As a nation she was tired of war and the Irish;
militarily she could not defeat the IRA in detail; and
politically she was unwilling to continue a war which had
become both a burden and, in some respects, an embarrass-
ment. Thus, on July 11, 1921, Britain and a similarly
exhausted IRA began a truce. Both were ready to talk.
Ulster was by no means tranquil during these times.
Most probably this is when the Protestants' fear of Catholic
dominance was greatest. Consequently this period really
marks the modern starting point of the Protestants'
"embattled minority" syndrome which manifests itself in
violent form to this day whenever the subject of a united
Ireland arises. For the Protestants, Catholics, Irish and
Nationalists were one in the same: they were all "enemies."
Despite their regional majority and their even greater
political majority, the Northern Protestants' overwhelming,
all consuming fear of the Catholics north and south
extinguished any measure of tolerance that might have ever
existed in Ulster. This great fear of becoming a subjugated
minority, like the Ulster Catholics, not only generated this
seige mentality but also became hereditary, almost in the
form of a genetic defect. With each successive generation
of inbreeding, it manifested itself in more varied and more
sinister forms. Violence seemed to accelerate its
reproduction. Needless to say it has thrived in Ulster
The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 officially
established two Irish Parliaments: one for six of the nine
countries in Ulster, another for Ireland's remaining
twenty-six. It also provided for continued representation
at Westminster and called for the establishment of a
"Council of Ireland," a bipartisan forum intended to
administer matters of common interest or concern and, in
Britain's most optimistic hopes, to decide on a peaceful
course to a united Ireland. Though the act became law, no
such council appeared.27
While the political background of this is a tangle of
debate, deception, compromise, counter-deception, trust and
false trust, the decision to draw the line was merely a
formal recognition of what polarity already existed in
Ireland. It was not a good decision as most interested
parties on any side of the triangle would now agree. In
fact they did not like it then but for different reasons.
Catholics could, would, and do argue that the line, if drawn
at all, should have been drawn elsewhere and encompassed
less of Ulster. The Protestants for their part swallowed
hard the compromise to cede three of the nine countries of
historic Ulster that they gave up: Donegal, Cavan, and
Monaghan despite their Catholic majorities.28
The issue in Northern Ireland has never been so much
where the line was drawn but rather that the line was drawn
at all. Partition caused Irish north and south to see
differences rather than similarities, to become more
regionally insular and intolerant and to communicate until
only the most recent years indirectly via a third party like
Westminster or the media. In its intent to avert a possible
civil war it may have temporarily succeeded. Yet by
avoiding the hard answer to the Irish Question Great Britain
with plenty of later assistance from the Irish ensured that
future generations would be able to experience their own
In relation to what exists today in Ireland, the iron-
ies of the act are in many ways more telling and lasting
than the intricacies. Ulster, which had so vehemently
opposed Home Rule to the point of arming for civil war in
Iceland and rebellion against the British Government, now
had her own local home rule in Stormont and remained firmly
united and even more defensive. Witness the popular
Unionist slogan, "What we have, we hold." Partition and the
later treaty debates had an opposite and divisive effect in
At the time of this act the IRA was still fighting
their guerrilla war which, if successful, would bring an
independent, united Ireland. Thus, the IRA barely took
notice of the act if at all. For them it was an issue which
could be addressed later.
Much has been written about the negotiations which led
to the end of the war. Whether Lloyd George and his
negotiators diplomatically finessed the inexperienced Irish
delegation is not important to this study. On December 6,
1921 the delegation signed the treaty and returned home.
The treaty established a separate but not totally
independent "Irish Free State" which obviously did not
include Ulster and in fact acknowledged Ulster's
partition.29 Not all, however, could accept the terms of
the treaty, nor could they grasp what Michael Collins, the
crafty guerrilla leader and one of the delegates, had
accepted perhaps as an intermediate step to complete
independence and a united Ireland. Out of this came the
next bitter irony, one perhaps unrivaled in Irish history
until the 1969 events in Ulster.
The debate over the treaty in the Dail Eireann was so
intense, emotional, bitter and hard-fought that it shattered
the fragile bonds so recently fused by the shared triumphs
and tragedies of the last five years of war.
"A vote was taken after twelve days of heated
debate, and the controversial treaty was rati-
fied by the slender margin of sixty-four votes
to fifty-seven. But bittnerness reigned supreme,
as the anti-treaty TDs withdrew from the assembly,
labelling their former comrades as traitors to the
The Irish Free State was born, but independence in the south
did not bring peace. So bitterly strong was the division
over the treaty that civil war unexpectedly erupted with the
recent Irish comrades-in-arms fighting among themselves over
what would appear to the modern eye to be primarily a
question of semantics.
The civil war which followed is significant for several
reasons. First, it demonstrated how cruel Irishman could be
to Irishman regardless of religion. Many historians (not
just British) justifiably suggest that this internecine
conflict made some of the earlier British actions pale by
comparison. This strain of cruelty would reappear in the
sectarian violence which occurred in Ulster in 1975.
Second, it caused the familiar splintering of the IRA. Like
the IRB earlier and as they would do several times in the
future, the IRA divided this time over the treaty issue.
Those who opposed the treaty retained the IRA title. Those
that supported the treaty became the "establishment."
Perhaps the most tragic result of the civil war was its
death toll on the leadership of both sides. In Neill's
opinion, "No loss was more tragic for the future of the
country than that of Michael Collins."31
Collins was a composition of opposing qualities:
a hero, a desperado; a high patriot, a ruthless
killer. He was also, unlike so many Fenians, a
Fenian with a hold on reality. He was a fine
adminidtrator; and given the time and experience,
he would have become an able statesman. But he
was not given the time...(In August 1922) he was
killed in an ambush, and by the side which after-
ward got the higher marks in popular history.32
The full impact of his loss will never be known. He
was different. That difference had already brought results;
in it lay hope. Somewhere in Collins' Irish mind might have
been the answer to England's Irish question. The IRA's
fatal ambush, however, extinguished whatever ideas Collins
may have had.
One final point exists upon which both the British and
some Irish agree: the civil war truly created a new IRA.
In pragmatic terms whether the IRA is genuinely linked to
the Fenian tradition or is a synthetic likeness is
irrelevant. In the propaganda campaign it becomes vital.
Nevertheless this new IRA did not have the popular support
of the country and soon became outlawed there. Sinn Fein
would continue as its political arm. Slowly but inalterably
the IRA would orient northward, then eastward. Her leaders
would meet many times over more frequently inside prisons
rather than out. Yet as they looked north they could not
help but see the enclaves of the Northern Catholics
particularly in the cities like Belfast and Londonderry,
compelled it seemed both by law and by threat of orange guns
to second-class citizenship. The IRA would take root in the
urban heart of the former plantation. Like a parasite it
would feed on an already cancerous and open sore. Nourished
by a steady diet of puss-like hatred and discrimination, it
would grow. Never would it completely flourish, but never
to this day could it be excised.
THE RISE OF AN EMBARRASSED SPLINTER GROUP
She scarcely speaks,
wakes in the night screaming.
Yet she was fortunate
when the street exploded into flame.
She only took one bruise
though Mother was thrown to the wall,
the basket whirled into nothingness,
and the pram was crushed.
Now she expects
the whole world to explode again:
She hides her eyes and stares
into her bomb
Meta Mayne Reid
"Three Year Old: Belfast 1972"
Ulster exploded in 1972. John Montague, Ulsterman and
Irish poet, described the people, their mindset, and the
driving emotion in his homeland in three succinct lines:
"twin races petrified/ the volcanic ash/ of religious
hatred."1 Metaphorically then Montague would say that
Ulster erupted. The combined images of Montague and Meta
Mayne Reid poetically illustrate both cause and devastating
effect of the troubles in Northern Ireland. But 1972 did
not just happen. The half century which followed partition
included a world war in which the Republic of Ireland
remained neutral and illustrated the intransigence of the
Northern Protestants, the continuing belligence of the IRA,
and the general indifference of the English. These
attitudes were unintentionally symbiotic; and, once
combined, they had a synergistic magnetism from which none
of the partners could escape.
On the international scale Ango-Irish relations after
the Irish Civil War to the present time remained distant and
often strained. The Irish Free State evolved into the
Republic of Ireland and left the United Kingdom. Ireland's
subsequent decision to remain neutral in World War II
further understandably chilled the British attitude towards
her former step-child. Conversely Northern Ireland's active
participation as a member of the United Kingdom served to a
greater degree to strengthen the bonds between London and
her loyal step-children in Belfast.
After the civil war the IRA was more of a nuisance than
a threat. Their internal security, as their Fenian
predecessors' had been except in Collins' time, was flawed.
They did not enjoy strong popular support and they remained
an illegal organization in the south. Hence as an
organization they were largely ineffective; and, as
individuals many IRA members spent many years from the end
of the civil war to the 1950's in Irish jails for their
After World War II the leadership began to reform and
to orient towards the north. Then in 1956 the IRA initiated
a poorly organized, disjointed border campaign which
consisted primarily of cross-border raids and ambushes which
did little to win popular support on either side of the
border. This effort was so effectively neutralized that
some authorities mistakenly believed that the IRA had ceased
to exist. Disorganized, perhaps disintegrating, defeated,
and dormant, they were. Dead they were not.2
As the IRA recuperated from its escape from death, new
leadership emerged with a Marxist bent more oriented toward
indirect political action than the traditional republican
method of direct military action. The Officials saw in the
ghettoes of Belfast and Londonderry the necessary
combination of discrimination and social and economic
deprivation so vital to their revolutionary movement and
their goal of a united Ireland - a united socialist state.
They were looking beyond the Catholic areas to the
neighboring and equally depressed Protestant ghettoes hoping
to unite the workers regardless of religion in their cause.
The Officials' ultimate goal was a united Ireland, but not
the same one aspired to by Tone, Pearse, or Collins.3
The conditions in Northern Ireland in the sixties were
ripe for social unrest; however, with communal discord of
such historic depth and religious animosity which took on a
decidedly racial nature, it is unlikely that a "workers'
movement" could ever transcend sectarian lines. Raymond J.
Helmick, S.J., in his 1973 article, "Hope For Northern
Ireland???" explains further:
If we examine the last fifty years in Northern
Ireland politically, we find only a stagnating
polarization. The frozen state of Northern
politics has generally produced nothing more
than a paralyzed apathy on the part of both
communities, a kind of apathy never far removed
from a flash point of violence. The violence in
Ireland came out periodically in civil riots and
border raids conducted against customs houses,
police stations and military depots by the Irish
Republican Army, the embittered "last ditchers"
who remained over from the earlier struggle for
Discrimination by the Protestant majority in every conceiv-
able form was at the heart of the issue, and many of the
discriminatory procedures were wholly legal under the laws
of Northern Ireland.
On the national scale voting rights were equally
applied with each citizen of voting age having one vote,
but this caused the Protestant powers in Stormont little
concern. The two-thirds popular Protestant majority ensured
the political majority at Stormont; thus, the Unionists had
no need to resort to political tricks on that level. Resort
they did, however, below that at the local level. In local
elections at the county or urban council level different
rules applied. Only householders, the person who actually
owned real estate had the franchise. Thus, a prosperous
individual both in theory and practice had as many votes as
houses he owned and could vote in any and all localities
where he owned property. His tenants could not. Few
Catholics owned property, so fewer voted locally. Conse-
quently, through such electoral restrictions and judicious
gerrymandering Protestants were able to dominate local
governments and urban councils even in those counties and
cities where the Catholics were in the majority.5
Economically and socially the discrimination was more
blatant. Some have compared the plight of the Ulster
Catholic to the American Black. The racial suggestion and
the conditions match in many respects as Alfred Alcorn, a
native of Belfast and a Protestant, described in 1971:
The Catholic working class areas in Belfast
and Derry ... include some of the worst slums
in western Europe. Large families are piled
into squalid redbrick row houses with inadequate
plumbing. The physical environment in these
places is reminiscent of a prison camp. Unem-
ployment is high and frequently it's the mother
who must work - usually for a pittance - to keep
the family going. The police are largely
Protestant and justice has an orange flavor. The
better jobs in government and private industry
go to Protestants because they control both. For
the past several generations, simply by being a
working class Catholic ... one was doomed to a
niggerdom not dissimilar to that faced by blacks
in the United States.6
If one changed the words "Catholics" and "Protestants"
to "Blacks" and "Whites" and picked any two large urban
areas in the United States regardless of region, the
preceding quote could well have described the situation in
America at the start of the Civil Rights movements of the
1950's and early 1960's.
Though not tainted by the color of their religion, poor
Protestants shared similarly degrading conditions in their
ghettoes. Nevertheless their total circumstance by virtue
of their religion could never counterbalance the Catholics'
experience in the area of social, economic and religious
discrimination. Out of their common poverty arose perhaps
one of the few understandable points of contention in the
whole troubled affair. These poor Protestants competed with
the poor Catholics for whatever lesser jobs were available.
Thus, they saw the Catholics in much the same light as
Catholic South Bostonians view the black Roxbury school-
children who are bussed to schools in their neighborhoods.
In fact the attitudinal comparisons between the religion-
based issues in Belfast correspond remarkably to the forced
bussing issue in Boston. Ironically the predominantly Irish
Catholic residents of South Boston most closely resemble the
Protestants in Belfast in their unyielding defiance of law
and by their embattled minority disposition.
As Ulster stood transfixed in time, old wounds festered
consuming what paltry new medicines progressive thought
might bring while simultaneously building greater immunity.
Only the dynamics of mass communication could penetrate the
stagnant atmosphere of thought and social action in Northern
Ireland: this it did with dramatic impact in the sixties.
Concerned citizens on both sides watched with interest as
the civil rights movement in the United States evolved.
"Following the example of American blacks, a Northern
Ireland Civil Rights Association* was founded in 1968. This
aimed to use public protests and marches to focus British
and internatinal attention upon the problems of Ulster
Catholics." to assist in bringing about necessary social,
economic and political reform.7 Strangely, as Clutterbuck
explains, the success of the movement and the legitimate
attempts of the Stormont government to correct the
inequities had an aggravating rather than ameliorating
The situation which led to the explosion of the
Province into violence in 1969 arose, not because
oppression and discrimination were at a peak, but
because they had begun to be erased ... When
things began to move the Northern Irish Catholics
wanted them to move faster, while the hardline
Protestants wanted to check the move altogether.8
*Hereafter referred to in text as NICRA
Politics proved Clutterbuck's apparent contradiction. Prime
Minister Terrence O'Neill who had the courage to initiate
reform and to open channels with the Dublin Government lost
the support of the Protestand right and ultimately resigned
under pressure from the same quarter. Rising Catholic
expectations brought rising Protestant fears.
The civil rights movement in Northern Ireland began
quietly enough with a peaceful march from Coalisland to
Dungannon outside Belfast to bring attention to a housing
discrimination case. It drew the interest and participation
of several diverse elements: bonafide moderates,
communists, radicals, some Members of Parliament, university
students among whom was an unknown young woman by the name
of Bernadette Devlin, and members of the Official IRA.
After this march the movement fell victim to internal
disagreement and power struggles over tactics. The moderate
founders preferred to continue the non-violent protests and
to force change from within the system. The increasingly
more powerful and more numerous extremists favored more
direct confrontation with the authorites. As the next
march would demonstrate, the moderates inexorably gave way
to the proponents of confrontation.9
The next march came in Londonderry on October 5, 1968,
and established an ominous portent of things to come. From
this point on marches, countermarches or reactions to either
or both would consistently spark future violence. In this
instance NICRA had properly requested permission to conduct
their march but had tipped their confrontational hand in
designating a route of march into a Protestant area,
something frowned upon by the authorities for sound reasons
and by the Protestant inhabitants of Londonderry for less
noble ones. When the Protestant Apprentice Boys of
Londonderry subsequently filed a march application for the
same day to the same point, the Minister of Home Affairs in
an unprecedented, preemptive move prohibited any marches for
that date.10 This seemingly wise move had a wholly
unintended and adverse effect. Clutterbuck explains this
contradiction as well:
This prohibition attracted more publicity than
the march would otherwise have gained. Up till
then, there had been a marked lack of enthusiasm
amongst moderate Catholics who realized that its
leadership had passed to extremists with whom they
had little sympathy. The Government intervention,
however, in the face of the threat of the Apprentice
Boys General Committee, was much resented and drew
many who would not otherwise have attended. The
press and television descended upon Londonderry in
The stage could not have been more perfectly set by the
NICRA stage directors themselves both for the violent effect
and the media impact desired.
Anticipating that the police would intervene the NICRA
marchers advanced on an alternate route which the police
soon blocked with its reserve. The batons came out. The
police cracked a few heads. NICRA speakers responded with
inflammatory speeches, and the crowd with rocks and other
articles. The police over-reacted and attacked the crowd
which "found their escape blocked by another RUC detachment
coming in behind them". The police erred on both accounts;
however, with the latter blunder more a result of poor
communication than flawed tactical design. With emotions
stirred to new heights communal rioting started and
continued into the night and the next day injuring 18
policemen and 77 civilians.12 The precedent was set. The
familiar script appeared again and again.
The police knew that any unchecked confrontation would
be a bloodbath. They also knew who would be the aggressor.
On November 30, sound police work averted a potential
disaster in Armagh. The now famous Reverend Ian Paisley had
organized the Protestant counter-action to a scheduled NICRA
march. As his "gentle congregation" arrived for their
"christian observance" the police moved in and confiscated
"two revolvers and 220 other weapons such as billhooks,
pipes hammered into sharp points and scythes. Other
demonstrators were seen to be armed with cudgels, some of
which were studded with nails."13 Wisely the police had
simultaneously diverted the civil rights marchers, and this
particular march ended without confrontation. Probably the
extremists on neither side were happy.
1969 was a critical year. NICRA would retain center
stage and achieve confrontation like it had never seen
before. Waiting and impatiently watching in the Official IRA
were a group of impatient understudies envious of NICRA's
position, aching for direct military action and growing more
disenchanted by the day with the leftward political drift of
Belfast and Londonderry are about seventy-three miles
apart. NICRA started 1969 with a march which left Belfast
on New Year's Day destined for Londonderry. All along the
route Paisley's followers set ambushes, creating numerous
clashes during the first three days. They were ready again
on the fourth day waiting "in a well-suited ambush position
at Burntollet Bridge some six miles south of Londonderry,
where they had stacked missiles in the form of stones,
bottles and pieces of iron".14 They also carried their
trusty cudgels. NICRA got confrontation. The Paisleyites'
ambush inflicted enough injuries that eighty-seven marchers
had to be hospitalized.
The majority of the marchers continued, joined by large
numbers of local supporters as they entered Londonderry.
Estimates put their numbers as high as 2,000. More rocks,
bottles and missiles flew ending the march and creating for
both sides the desired effects. The Protestants had bashed
some "Taigs", and NICRA had worldwide front-page copy for
the better part of four days. Future events continued to
please both groups. On the political scene Prime Minister
O'Neill's valiant efforts to walk the moderate middle ground
between these opposing factions succumbed to overwhelming
right wing Protestant pressure. Consequently, he resigned
and gave way to a government oriented along more traditional
Predictably violence erupted again in July, the month
in which the annual commemoration of the great Protestant
victory at Boyne in 1690 occurred. Londonderry, once again,
figured prominently as it would to an even greater degree
the next month. The communal disorder spread throughout the
province affecting such places as Lurgan, Omagh, Dungannon
and, as always, Belfast.
In August the troubles burst anew in the mutually
supporting hotspots of Belfast and Londonderry. The
disturbances in Belfast were the worst the city had seen in
thirty years and started with Catholic initiated stone
throwing.15 Clutterbuck describes what ensued:
Protestant marchers retaliated by attacking a
block of flats known as Unity Walk. They smashed
windows, looted shops and threw petrol bombs.
Barricades were thrown up. Youngsters overturned
cars and set some alight. Troops moved into the
Falls Road area on 15 August and in September
prevented Protestant attempts to invade it from
the Shankhill Road district by erecting a Peace
Londonderry burned even hotter. August 12 commemorated
the relief of Londonderry by the Apprentice Boys in 1689.
Like the Boyne celebrations of July, the festivities
featured orange marches, flag waving and speeches whose
implied intent was to remind the Catholics of the past and
to intimidate them in the present. With assurances from the
leaders on both sides and mindful of their error of the
previous October, the authorities allowed the march to take
place. The route of march did not cross through any
Catholic area but it did wind through the city and around
the walls of the Catholic Bogside area. What they did not
know, however, was that the Catholics had organized the
Bogside area into defensive areas and were prepared to
defend against any intrusion. "As an indication of what was
coming, dairymen reported that very few milk bottles were
put out for collection in the Bogside on 10 and 11 August.
There were none on the 12th."17
On that day a battle started and raged until the 14th.
This confrontation was significant for several reasons.
First, it demonstrated the inability of the RUC to
effectively control communal rioting in the cities. They
were numerically inadequate and overmatched, undertrained,
and almost completely Protestant. Next, it marked the first
time security forces used CS gas not just in Northern
Ireland but within the United Kingdom. Finally, for the
first time British troops had to be called in and were
warmly greeted by the Catholic Bogsiders.18
Across the province it had equally important but more
specific consequences. For the first time in the modern era
communal rioting had brought death. Ten died, 154 others
received gunshot wounds, and a total of 745 people were
injured. The B Specials, a reserve paramilitary force,
acted more like Paisleyites than a backup police force; they
were responsible for much of the violence. Both the RUC and
the B Specials lost any credibility in Catholic eyes. As a
direct result the former were disarmed and relegated to
duties in other than Catholic areas. The B Specials were
officially disbanded. Lastly, the outbreak of violence,
particularly the Protestant raids into Catholic areas,
discredited and embarrassed the IRA.19 The violence had
exposed their military impotence. By one account only 22
IRA weapons were in Belfast; thus, the IRA could not provide
the basic defense of the Catholic neighborhoods that was
implied in their charter. Slogans such as "IRA - I RAN
AWAY' were daubed on the walls. Militant members of the IRA
were furious at the humiliation."20 This humiliation
drove the final wedge between the militants and the Official
IRA leadership and ultimately gave birth to the Provisional
IRA in December 1969.
The rift had been developing since 1962. Within the
IRA in the sixties the core of traditional direct action
proponents remained intact and largely dissatisfied with the
leftist, political approach of the Official IRA. As the
civil rights marches became more confrontational, the IRA
militants unsuccessfully sought a more direct approach. The
leaders, however, did not want to alienate the Protestant
workers they hoped to coopt. Sean MacStiofain, who would
later become Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA,
described his frustration. "I had kept patience long
enough. The Irish Republican Army had been bogged down in
politics to the point where young girls from the Northern
universities had left it far behind in revolutionary
Bernadette Devlin, the most famous of "the young girls
to whom MacStiofain referred, rose to prominence during the
civil rights marches of the late sixties. Her political
rise presents an interesting perspective from which to view
the political issues which strained the unity of the IRA
during the same period. MacStiofain and his followers
envied her for her headlines and for her successful more
direct approach. The Official IRA saw her as a living
example which vindicated their shift towards a more
politically oriented movement and as irrefutable proof that
the time for the IRA's longstanding practice of political
abstentionism had long since passed.
The issue was put to a vote at the December 1969 Army
Convention, an annual gathering of the military side of the
IRA, and the proponents of the new political approach
emerged victorious.22 The losers withdrew and issued the
We declare our allegiance to the 32-County Irish
Republic proclaimed at Easter, 1916, established
by the first Dail Eineann in 1919, overthrown by
force of arms in 1922 and suppressed to this day
by the existing British-imposed Six-County and
26-County partition states.23
The following month on January 11, 1970, a vote on the same
issue at Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis, the annual political
convention, failed to reverse the policy. Consequently the
traditional Republicans walked out and the Provisional IRA
The Provisional IRA offered a somewhat novel political
policy which called for four regional parliaments, one for
each of the historic four provinces, but which at the same
time had a somewhat socialistic bent. As an organization
the IRA had five basic objectives which they first issued
publicly on September 6, 1971. The IRA wanted the British
Government to cease its violence, abolish Stormont, agree to
the regional paralimentary scheme, release all Irish
political prisoners both in England and Ireland and finally
to compensate those who had suffered financial loss at
British expense.24 Essentially these were the same five
demands the Provo's would present when they finally and
briefly came to the negotiating table in July, 1972.
MacStiofain as the newly elected Chief of Staff of the
newly formed Provisional IRA* took the managerial initiative
in 1970, immediately established a six county Northern
Command, and initiated a plan to organize, arm and execute a
three-phase guerrilla campaign. Initially they would
concentrate most where they had just been most embarrassed -
area defense of the Catholic areas. As MacStiofain writes
in his autobiography, "All our energies would be devoted to
*For the remainder of the text IRA and Provisional IRA
are synonymous. The Official IRA will be addressed as such.
providing material, financial and training assistance for
the Northern units. The objective was to ensure that if any
area where such a unit existed came under attack ... that
unit would ... be capable of adequate defensive action."
The second phase would combine "defense and retalia-
tion."25 Naturally the final phase would be the
traditional guerrilla war of movement against the British
intended not so much to drive the British out as "to render
the existing state inoperable."26
Nowhere in the stated strategy did the IRA outline
their plan to obtain popular support among the Catholics.
Whether they overlooked the need, assumed they already had
support or believed that it would follow in natural
progression, the type of committed popular support necessary
to win a guerrilla war never fully materialized despite the
IRA's alternatingly best and worse efforts to "protect" the
In 1970 the Provisional IRA organized along the
traditional Republican lines, essentially a military
structure. At the top a Provisional Executive of twelve
provided political leadership, cultivated and coordinated
external support, and influenced the strategies employed. A
seven-man Provisional Army Council coordinated military
operations led by a chief of staff selected from within the
council by the council members.27 Under the chief of
staff was a "GHQ staff who [were responsible for] ... such
areas as intelligence, supplies and finance."28 The IRA
was not, as many writers on the subject have said, blessed
with leaders of any great intellectual capacity unlike most
movements which consider themselves revolutionary. They
did, however, have strong survival instincts and a practical
understanding of what was important. After forming the
leadership "one of the first things done was to appoint a
Supply Department under a Quartermaster General. For
security they operated as a watertight section, keeping
details of those they dealt with very much to them-
selves."29 Security and logistics were from the outset
fundamentally and vitally important to their cause.
Below the GHQ level were the companies, battalions and
brigades which formed an underground military structure,
each with an assigned area of responsibility. At the lowest
level "individual operations [were] invariably carried out
by small 'active service units' or ASU's, consisting of less
than half a dozen men."30 In order to make this structure
viable, the first task, as MacStiofain and his staff knew,
was to organize, arm and train. Implied in this task was
the need for money and externally based support.
Many factors combined to favor the IRA. The Marxist
philosophy of the Official IRA leaders did not have strong
grassroots support within the IRA nor among the Irish in
general. After the events of 1969 demonstrated the
Officials' inability or reluctance to provide the protection
many had assumed they would naturally provide, the appeal of
a direct action oriented IRA drew support within the North
from two main sources - those who wanted protection and
those who wanted retaliation. There were plenty of both.
Thus, within a relatively short period the majority of
Catholic support had shifted to the Provisional IRA.
Similar shifts to even greater proportions occurred in
the United States and Canada where civil rights and Irish
movements drew astounding support from even less
well-informed and romantic sympathizers. Such sympathetic
groups have existed in various forms on both sides dating
back almost to the earliest immigrations. Few argue the
existence of such groups; however, even fewer can identify
the actual sources and channels of IRA funds. Recently in
1981 a New York federal court found the Irish Northern Aid
Committee (NORAID), a New York based Irish support
organization, in violation of the United States Foreign
Agents Registration Act for failing to register as an agent
for the IRA. Yet other older, less publicized organizations
and sources play a greater role. Those closer to the Irish
movement readily point out that the majority of funds and
support moves through older groups like Clan na Gael or the
Red Hand of Ulster, or are simply passed through family
connections. Catholic support funnels in through points in
Ireland and then overland to the North. The Protestant
support is ferried across the Irish Sea from its
intermediate stop in Scotland.
Support came from other directions as well. Provis-
ional leaders, like Sean MacStiofain had shared space in
Wormwood Scrubbs Prison in England with Cypriot guerrillas
and had also shared tactical lessons.31 This friendship,
aside from its educational value, later took the form of
external support. Later the IRA would establish more
international contacts in the expanding terror network of
the seventies; however, in this early stage of its
development it relied heavily on its traditionally strongest
sources: the Republic, the United States, Canada and of
course the Catholic ghettoes of Londonderry and Belfast.
The IRA organization was based on a "three-tier defence
structure" according to MacStiofain. Regulars formed the
first tier and were the general purpose forces of the IRA.
On the second level were the auxillaries who constituted a
quasi-ready reserve with the mobility to augment defensive
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operations when and where needed. The third tier was the
local neighborhood defense committees; they had a purely
defensive mission and an area of responsibility limited to
the street or block where they lived. In the event of a
combined effort all knew and understood that they came under
the command of the IRA local OC.32 Bell described the
organization in its geographic sense.
Belfast's religious segregation meant that
Catholic areas were safe ground, organized by
local men and protected by their neighbors,
who were in turn protected by the local IRA
company. The city was divided into three
battalion areas and commanded by a brigade staff,
directed in general terms by the seven-man Army
Council and the GHQ Staff in Dublin. There was a
large unit in Derry and smaller groups scattered
about the province, but the key was Belfast.33
The OC who commanded a given area was responsible for
any activities within his boundaries. Implicit in this
fundamental task was a sizable coordination problem,
particularly in a city like Belfast. Uncoordinated inde-
pendent action at any level or among any of the numerous
IRA-sympathetic groups could thwart or preempt planned
military operations. The OC was a jack-of-all trades:
leader, trainer, tactician, politician and recruiter.
The Battalion OC selected his company OC's, theoretically on
their respective merits, capabilities and loyalty to the
movement. Daily communications allowed the company OC to
report his unit's actions and to receive pertinent instruc-
tions from higher headquarters. Community relations was
another additional duty of the OC. The IRA supported youth
and local activities insofar as they did not detract from
command responsibilities. Finally, as reflects the IRA's
necessary preoccupation with security, the OC was the only
officer other than the quartermaster or his assistant who
knew the locations of arms and ammunition dumps in his
The Adjutant functioned as the second-in-command and
ensured that the company or ASU operated daily. By way of
comparison to American military organization, he served as a
combination chief-of-staff/operations officer; thus, he
figured prominently in such vital areas as discipline,
morale and selection of members for specific operations.35
Consistent with the emphasis already seen at the GHQ
level, the Quartermaster was one of the most important
members of the staff. Consequently, both he and his opera-
tions were a matter of highest security. The arms and
supplies, except for those related to demolitions, came
under his cognizance, as did the responsibility for their
placement, storage and local security.
Dump selection was not a simple process in the city and
the Quartermaster made his site selections only after a
careful and thorough update on enemy activity in their area
from the Intelligence Officer. Once chosen, dumps were
governed by strict rules of use and access and were planned
from the start as only short-term holding areas. Thus, the
Quartermaster constantly watched for signs that a dump was
becoming too visible; hence, both he and his assistant were
constantly searching for and evaluating future dump
As any who have experienced guerrilla warfare at any
level will attest, intelligence takes on even greater
importance for both sides. The IRA intelligence apparatus
reflected that basic understanding. The Intelligence
Officer was the most important staff officer in the unit.
As previously mentioned, he worked closely with the
Quartermaster on logistics security. Other responsibilities
included screening prospective recruits; this required a
detailed form of background investigation to ensure that
undesirables or "Touts" did not infiltrate the movement. He
also monitored the activities of off-duty members as a
security precaution against loose talk or excessive
drinking, which often led to the former. Operationally the
Intelligence Officer was the linchpin who provided tactical
intelligence from his comprehensive general files and from
his specific-mission collection capability.37
Each company also had an Engineer who was the unit
demolitions expert. Some engineers were home-grown veterans
of the Border Campaign of 1956-1962; others were sometimes
veterans of service in the British Army. Essentially a
special staff officer, the Engineer taught all aspects of
demolitions and booby traps and was responsible for
logistics planning and acquisition in his specific area. In
the same manner as the Quartermaster but independent from
him, the Engineer established his own dump sites which by
necessity required different physical specifications but
similar security procedures. Like the Quartermaster, he
sometimes had an assistant.38
The OC delegated the greater portion of his training
responsibility to the Training Officer, whose training
mission was far broader than the Engineer's. His was no
cursory training package. For each weapon in the unit's
arsenal he taught all the steps from nomenclature, assembly
and disassembly to immediate action, firing positions and
advanced firing techniques. Inherent in his training
mission was staff coordination with the Quartermaster to
obtain weapons for training sessions and for use on specific
With this basically sound staff structure the
Provisional IRA was able to capitalize further on their
"fish in the sea" position through their perception and
projection of themselves as guerrillas and through typical
guerrilla ingenuity. Intelligence drove the action. Using
information available to the public such as ordnance survey
maps, electoral registers, street directories and telephone
books, the Intelligence Officer scrubbed these sources for
their considerable intelligence value and organized his
information into five files: military, police, economic,
civilian and paramilitary.40 No doubt the skilled
Intelligence Officer effectively cross-referenced his files
and kept them constantly up-to-date.
The beauty and simplicity of this system is
astounding. For example, armed with these tools the
intelligence officer could identify nembers of the RUC,
determine if they were married or had children of voting
age, age, address, phone number, etc. all within the secure
confines of his home. From this detailed pencil sketch
direct surveillance made coloring the subject a simple
paint-by-the-numbers process which often led the IRA to
become more familiar with the target, his movements and the
target area than the victim, himself, who along with his
family may have lived in that house or neighborhood for
years or, not uncommonly, for generations.
Surveillance provided the hard, tactical data. Human
targets unwittingly betrayed often fatal information. The
IRA noted things such as color and make of car, companions,
children, patterns of movement, favorite pubs or
recreational spots and other seemingly innocuous data. For
point targets such as police stations and army forts, the
IRA required similarly keen surveillance. The company
attempted to maintain current situation maps of their
assigned sector and enlarged specific area maps highlighted
to reflect known sentry positions, entrances, watch towers
and their own best observation sites. The details extended
to noting power lines, sewers and water supply lines into
Human and vehicular activity added significantly to the
intelligence mosaic. IRA observers counted vehicles
entering and leaving, noted times, recorded descriptions of
any private vehicles and identified when possible contents
of trucks and any civilians known to work within or have
access to any of the facilities.42 A change in pattern of
vehicular traffic or an unfamiliar face or unit designation
might tip an operation or signal a rotation of units. For
patrolling soldiers any carelessly repetitive tactic or
habit if too ingrained could make them or their patrol the
next target of an IRA sniper or ambush. Thus, the IRA
combined both active and passive surveillance measures to
illuminate their targets. The intelligence derived from
surveillance, standing files and situation maps provided the
figurative IRA cameraman sufficient light to confidently
take his photographs at the slowest shutter speed and thus
obtain prints both high in quality and rich in detail.
While the IRA bought time and enjoyed their
intelligence advantage in 1970, the security forces
intelligence was out-of-date. As the intelligence war goes,
the security forces inadequacy magnified the IRA's
efficiency. Both the RUC and the British army initially
lacked the required number of skilled intelligence personnel
needed to build their own network or to impede the
IRA's.43 They were also more prone to wrestle over the
intelligence issue rather than effectively resolve it.
Initially they did not share necessary information. Also
numerous adjustment difficulties arose for the British
security forces who were under Stormont's control.44
Priorities came into play here also. In 1970 though aware
of the IRA's existence and general philosophy, the security
forces, particularly the army after their warm greeting, may
have seen their principal threat and most likely enemy
avenue of approach as coming from the Shankhill side of the
"Peace Line" in the form of the Ulster Volunteer Force.
With attention thus diverted elsewhere, the IRA grew as
it had never grown before. Clutterbuck reports that
"between July 1970 and January 1971 Provo strength grew from
a few hundred, often self-selected, volunteers to a
thousand. There were arms, often ill-matched and insuf-
ficient, explosives, often primitive and unstable, and vast
enthusiasm."45 This influx of personnel while clearly
advantageous did pose two major problems. It presented the
threat to security from infiltration, and it offered a
challenge of huge proportions in terms of training.
Units did their own recruiting locally; thus, the OC as
an implied task under his security mission had to screen
recruits. The Intelligence Officer had staff cognizance for
recruit background investigations which were very thorough
when properly conducted. Aside from the normal data like
name, age, and address, the Intelligence Officer would check
out old addresses, drinking spots, past criminal record and
anything else that might pique his experienced curiosity.
Until the recruit gained the initial clearance he was kept
out of contact with other members or grouped with other
recruits of similar status in a holding section. Once
cleared they moved onto the training cycle.46
The training program encompassed both centralized army
level and decentralized unit level training. In 1974 the
Institute for the Study of Conflict described the former:
In the north training (took) place in Repub-
lican strongholds, or in remote areas on farms,
beaches, and woodlands. In the south training
took place in Monaghan, the Donegal/Londonderry
border, the Dublin area and the Wicklow mountains.
Usually less than 30 members are trained at any
one time in a camp. Instructors are usually IRA
members living in the Republic. Recruits usually
undergo a week's training in small arms, target
practice, demolition techniques and fieldcraft.
There are advanced courses for more experienced
members which include bomb-making, handling
machine-guns and rocket launchers.47
Unit level training was more related to specific
missions or proficiency and took place locally in "training
houses." Training sessions required strict security which
generally included lookouts, staggered arrival and departure
intervals, prestaging of the requisite training aids and
weapons in the vicinity of the house with a correspondingly
secure retrieval plan and the deliberate practice of having
the Training Officer depart first at least five minutes
ahead of any member.48
The training program had a superficial aspect stemming
partly from the tremendous influx of new members and the
complexities of urban guerrilla warfare; hence, this
explains in part some of the later "ghastly errors of timing
and inefficiency"49 which occurred. According to Coogan,
the British referred to this phenomenon as the "Paddy
Factor."50 It was trial and error. The IRA soldier
either learned fast or became the well-remembered object of
an IRA funeral. The "Paddy Factor" was a legitimate IRA
concern. Their front-line soldiers were:
young, working class, limited in vision and
experience, very often cut off from central
direction by the duress of circumstance, and
had to rely therefore on 'targets of oppor-
tunity' or personal initiative. These last
two circumstances in particular were sometimes
responsible for awful tragedies of bungled
warnings as to bomb explosions, or for the
Nevertheless, the endless progression of detonations in
Northern Ireland and England since 1969, the continued
existence of the IRA and the continued presence of the
British army in Northern Ireland in a counterinsurgency role
indicate that many ambushes, bombings and sniper attacks
have from the IRA perspective been successful despite the
"Paddy Factor," a variable that has diminished considerably
through better training, tactics and equipment.
IRA tactical doctrine reflects standard military
practices, is sound and has proven to be adaptable. When
time allows every move is based on detailed planning.
Ambushes are precisely detailed, much like raids, to
include: primary and alternate positions, cover for
automatic weapons if used, specific weapons for specific
targets, routes to the position, time of attack, duration
and planned withdrawal routes posted and covered.
Bombings are even more complex. Unfortunately for many
innocent people as well as the security forces trying to
protect them, the IRA has mastered the complexities and even
refined some. In the early period ASU's carried cat these
operations with a simple task organization comprised of
driver, engineer, and required covermen. Their operations
checklist included: a route reconnaissance in the form of a
dry run to detect any British checkpoints or patrols;
inspection and test-firing of weapons; ignition and
re-ignition of vehicles as a cursory safeguard against
mechanical failure and a final check on fuel so they did not
run out of petrol as some had done before. They were
cognizant of a "Lessons Learned" analysis of each operation.
The engineer, of course, worked his own pre-operations
checklist for his specialty.53
Since the cars were usually stolen or "borrowed" from a
waiting hostage, the ASU was instructed to wear gloves.
Consequently British vehicle check procedures soon included
among other items on their aide de memoire the question, "Is
the driver wearing gloves?" Procedures at the bombsite were
precise: cover the movement in; capture, isolate and
restrict hostages or witnesses while the engineer placed the
bomb; deliver instructions to those being held; conduct a
circumspect, covered withdrawal followed by a calm drive to
a pre-arranged drop off site preferably away from their home
area. After a debrief the OC disbanded the ASU, issued
necessary instructions, and reported results and any infor-
mation gained to higher headquarters.54 The fortunes of
war mostly in the form of attrition due to accidents and
arrests led the IRA to develop different tactics like the
car bomb and the use of proxy drivers while simultaneous
technological advances made bombs more sophisticated,
delivery and detonation easier, and the engineer an even
more highly valued and protected human asset.
Richard Clutterbuck, drawing on George Styles' Bombs
Have No Pity, describes a more accurate picture of later IRA
Many more people (are) involved ... than those
who actually lay the bomb and who usually get
caught. First, there is the designer, a back-
room boy far too valuable to risk on the
operation ... Next in line is the man who
assembles the bomb and its container; his
particular skill is in camouflage, so that it
looks like an innocuous hold-all or shopping bag.
Then there is the electrician, who assembles the
firing circuits and, in a sophisticated bomb,
inserts some anti-handling device; his skills lie
not only in the undetectability and effectiveness
of his current, but also in arranging a simple and
foolproof means of arming it or putting it into
operation such as can be done by the relatively
unskilled bomb layer in a tense situation without
The latter task was the counter-Paddy Factor.
As Clutterbuck described, the technicians are behind
the scenes non-operators. The overall coordinator is the
bomb officer who will designate "one or two bomb layers with
a driver, ... the exact route, where to park and "how to get
away, and precisely what time to place the bomb." As in
other tactical doctrine, pre-positioned lookouts or covering
gunmen as necessary might be employed. As the execution
phase starts, the bomb officer's final decision is then
made: when, if and how a warning will be issued.56
The sniper attack was an IRA standby which was, despite
the best intelligence and planning, at first ineffective.
Several factors contributed, not the least of which was poor
marksmanship. The British on the other hand were superior
in marksmanship, equipment and counter-sniper tactics. The
IRA snipers simplified the British mission by firing too
long, "up to an hour or more" by MacStiofain's account, from
a known position.57 In this employment the IRA sniper was
easy target practice for the highly-skilled British snipers.
It was no great act of tactical genius then that the
IRA modified their tactics. MacStiofain deduced that:
Prolonged sniping from a static position had no
more in common with guerrilla theory than mass
confrontations. When a sniper did that he was
giving away his location and presenting himself
as a target to a counter-sniper or machine-gun fire
from armoured cars.58
Out of this came the "one shot sniping" approach which when
later conducted by true marksmen raised the British's level
of respect for the IRA sniper.
To develop the marksmen the IRA began to take the high
shooter from each marksmanship course and immediately place
him in an advanced marksmanship course. They would then
take the top two shooters in the latter course, pair them
into a sniper team and train them as such.59 They were
drilled to fire one well aimed shot and then move along a
predesignated escape route dumping or handing off the weapon
enroute. They knew that the delay for a second or third
shot might be all the counter-sniper needed to accomplish
his mission or all the time the well-drilled security forces
would require to block escape routes with another of their
usually mutually supporting patrols which was not under
With these doctrinal concepts, their orgainization
fleshing out and their training program attempting to keep
pace, the IRA in 1970 was fully content to concentrate on
the first phase of their strategy: area defense. They were
buying time and not in any particular hurry to rush open
conflict with the British. Bell noted that:
Until January 1971, the British army was still
tolerated, though not welcomed as it had been a
year before, and some Provo units even cooperated
informally in keeping the peace. By that time,
however, there had been a largely unnoticed change
husbanded by the leadership, was about to be
Since August 1969, and the British army's assuming the
security functions formerly the domain of the police, many
factors had conspired to the advantage of the IRA.
Intelligence was weak or non-existent. "The network of
informers (had broken) down in 1969 when the army held the
ring and no one patrolled the ghettoes."61 This tacit
acceptance of the so called "no go" areas stemmed from
faulty intelligence and threat assessment. Tony Geraghty
corroborates the early intelligence problem in his book,
Inside the SAS, "Intelligence available to the incoming
troops was scarce and inaccurate. At the time, the total
resources devoted to the entire province comprised one
Intelligence Corps Captain and one Sergeant."62 Also, in
contrast to the warm reception of the Catholics, the
militant posture of the UVH caused the army to be "more
concerned with Protestant than Catholic guns at this
time."63 To that end the British constructed "Peace
Lines" to separate Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods in
Belfast and Londonderry and "patrolled the countryside
between the Glens of Antrim and the Mourne Mountains to
establish whether the Protestant gunrunning operations of
1914 - when the Ulster Volunteers landed 3,500 rifles at
Larne might be repeated."64 Throughout this troubled
period the UVF and other Protestant extremist groups had
been in the midst of or impatiently standing on the
periphery of the war in Northern Ireland.
As the seventies started the only Protestant terror
group of any prominence was the Ulster Volunteer Force, UVF,
related in name only to the "Volunteers" of Carson's era.
Known to be active as early as 1966, it was proscribed in
the same year. Its primary tactic, like the IRA's, was
terror. It was loosely organized along military lines, had
uniforms and conducted regular training sessions. They
supported themselves via criminal activities and protection
rackets which was also similar to their Catholic rival's
modus operandi. Many of their arms were World War II
vintage or earlier. Their newer arms were generally stolen
in "raids on arms dealers, the UDR and rifle clubs." Like
the IRA again, they were extremely security conscious and
well-hidden within the much larger and equally supportive
Protestant sea. Their single objective was "to destroy the
IRA and to uphold the constitution of Ulster 'by force if
necessary'." Thus, the UVF presented an interesting paradox
of an illegal organization fighting for constitutional
integrity with the threat and actual use of illegal
Closely identified with and often mistaken for the UVF
is the Ulster Defense Association, UDA, which first appeared
in the Shankhill area of Belfast in August 1971. In theory
it differed from the UVF. "The UVF [was] illegal while the
... [UDA] had solid links with the Loyalist Association of
Workers ... and William Craig's Vanguard movement." It was
organized along geographic lines with eight "company"
sectors in Belfast. The UDA also differed in its stated
purpose which was to retain their (Ulster's) ties to Britain
and maintain Protestant ascendancy. While heavily armed
they were for the most part legally armed.67 And, though
not openly espousing terrorism, "some of its fitful violence
has differed little from that of the UVF."66 To the
British "peacekeepers" these groups, not the IRA, were the
threat in 1969 and on into 1970. Hence, when the attitude
of the Catholic population shifted and then the Provisional
IRA rose out of their midsts, the security forces were not
FROM GUARDIANS TO INVADERS - AN UNTIMELY CHANGE OF MISSION
Maybe we cannot understand this thing
That makes these rebels die;
And yet all things love freedom and
Clear in the sky!
I would not do this deed again
For all that I hold by;
Gaze down my rifle at his breast - but then
A soldier I.
Thoughts of a Welsh "Tommy"
who was a member of the firing
squad that executed James
Connolly in May 1916 as written
by Liam MacGowan, a contemporary
Irish poet in "Connolly."
If the combined forces of the factors which helped the
IRA during their build-up and the diversion provided by the
Protestants were not enough of a challenge for the British
army, that of a conventional force trying to intervene as a
peacekeeping one certainly was. Yet as the RUC and B
Specials were discredited, one disarmed and the other
completely disbanded, the British were compelled to assume
their role. Even before, their mission was a classic "no
wind situation. Positioned as a neutral third force between
the Catholics and Protestants, they could satisfy neither.
The polarity that existed was so extreme that even
legitimate actions appeared partisan in the eyes of the
opposing faction. Whether the forces in Northern Ireland
fully realized it at the time, as they assumed the police
function their neutrality expired. Their position was
similar to that of a referee trying to officiate a contest
in which he is also a participant, an impossible task
despite his qualifications. So, as June 1970, and marching
season approached, the IRA was buying time while the British
army struggled to retain its image as the officiating third
force and simultaneously enter the match.
By June 1970 the British Army, having assumed the
majority of the police function for the Catholic areas, was
"seriously overstretched" and unable to control all areas of
the cities.1 In fact, they allowed both sides free rein
within "no go" areas in their respective sectors. In
partial response the British fed in more troops. By this
time, 17 battalions compared to the normal three were in
Northern Ireland.2 On July 3, 1970, when the Army found a
weapons cache in the Official IRA stronghold in the Falls
Road area of Belfast, the situation in Ulster took a
The Officials took the British under fire and the local
populace too responded against the British. Barricades went
up. The British sent in more troops. Even the Provo's
joined in. The British imposed a curfew and restricted
public movement for the better part of three days while they
conducted aggressive house to house searches. In a military
sense the venture was successful as "over 100 guns were
seized, along with 20,000 rounds of ammunition, 100
incendiary devices and 20 pounds of gelignite."3 But, for
all intents and purposes, they had lost whatever remained of
their mantle of neutrality, and what was a successful
military operation paradoxically was simultaneously a
In this incident also they had killed four Catholic
civilians,4 had restricted an entire area and searched
homes, thus lending visible support to the IRA's description
of them as foreign invaders and supporters of the
Protestants. Clutterbuck describes two major results of
this July confrontation.
It brought the IRA Provisionals [in Bally-
macarett ] into a direct shooting war before
they had intended it. Secondly whether the
soldiers knew it or not it drove the Catholic
population to the IRA and effectively ended
any role as "peacekeepers" they might have
fulfilled to that point.5
For the remainder of 1970 the IRA attempted to return to
their phase one objective - defense.
If the IRA intentions were not clear after the
unplanned firefight of 1970, both their intentions and their
target became abundantly so on February 6 of the next year.
In the early hours on that day a British patrol was ambushed
"by snipers using machine guns." As a direct result, the
British had their first KIA at the hands of the IRA in the
modern era and an additional four wounded.6 MacStiofain
and his army council had decided that now "it was time to
move into a far more determined phase of retaliation, one of
anti-personnel operations."7 Clutterbuck summarizes the
plan in action.
The Provisionals had declared war on the army.
Within the next six months, seven soldiers
were shot dead, including three who, off duty,
were on 10 March lured into a pub and then
shot in the back of the head. All were Scots
and their murders could have only one purpose;
to provoke the soldiers to overreact, thereby
in turn whipping up public support for the IRA
If overreaction was the desired effect, the IRA did not
immediately obtain its objective. Nevertheless, other
results did follow and by any account have to be considered
plusses for the terrorist side. On the political scale the
selective terrorism campaign brought enough Unionist
political pressure on the Prime Minister, Major James
Chichester-Clark, that he chose to resign, an event which
the IRA certainly considered a victory.
In his article "The Security of Ulster," published in
Conflict Studies in November 1971, Robert Moss gained his
readers' attention by bluntly stating, "It is already clear
that the IRA have succeeded in many of their tactical
goals."9 Moss identified six IRA objectives: assass-
ination of British soldiers; disruption of the government's
economy and security through terror; sponsored riots and
demonstrations; incitement of security forces and the
Protestant community into violent overreaction and backlash
which hopefully would impact on British national will;
involvement of Dublin's government in the crisis ideally in
an adversary role with Great Britain; and force emergency
measures from the government that would be or appear
repressive to the Catholic community.10
The IRA had achieved several of these by mid-1971.
Soon they would gain more ground with the enactment by
Stormont of internment without trial in August 1971, and
then in 1972 they would gain a strategic victory of
tremendous proportion when the British imposed direct rule.
Despite their success the IRA faced a similar situation like
their southern brethren in the Civil War earlier in the
century--the might of the British Army. This army, however,
was not inexperienced or psychologically unfit as were the
"Black and Tans." It was better led and had come fully
expecting that their stay would by necessity be a long
one.11 It is unlikely that the IRA ever underestimated
the British soldier or expected to drive him from Ireland by
military force. But in their strategic concept of creating
a failure of will in Great Britain proper or in Westminster
in particular, the IRA had made a serious misjudgement.
Also, though they were on a successful course to this point,
their failure to truly win the "hearts and minds" of their
people was about to be exposed by their own tactics.
After the IRA saw that they could not draw the Army
into the desired overreaction, they resorted to the old
tactic - selective assassination. Of course, they would
still pick off soldiers if the chance presented itself.
They focused instead on "softer" targets using assassination
and bombings. The RUC now became the target.12 The IRA
could use local public directories to identify policemen,
and then after a period of observation, would spring a well
planned ambush. The statistics reveal their success. In
1969 and 1970, three RUC policemen had been killed and no
Army or UDR personnel. In 1971, as a result of the IRA's
selective terrorism campaign, the figures were 11 RUC and
48 Army/UDR respectively.13
However, the most casualties were suffered by the
non-combatants and predominantly the Catholic non-combatants
as a result of the bombing campaign. According to
Only 33 civilians had been killed up to
January 1971 but by March 1972 after
fourteen months of the urban guerrilla
campaign, this figure had reached 200,
with over 3,000 injured.14
The majority were bombing victims whose only crime had been
their presence in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In addition to the human carnage and losses, tremendous
physical damage occurred. Janke cites the bill for
1971-1972 attributable to bomb damage at 3.97 million pounds
up from the 2.98 million the year before and from the 1.98
million in 1969-1970.15 Also no pattern to the bombing
appeared once it started. Restaurants, shopping areas, bus
stations and other soft targets seem to have been
preferred. The frequency was astounding. For example, in
1971, "there were thirty-seven major bomb explosions in
April, forty-seven in May, fifty in June and ninety-one in
July."16 In other words, they ranged from daily to thrice
It was in using this violent tactic against such
defenseless targets that many authorities believe the IRA
started to alienate what legitimate support they did have
within the Catholic population. Senseless and counter-
productive as it appeared to be for the IRA, Clutterbuck
postulates that the IRA bombing did have a purpose.
The IRA Provisionals had spent one and a
half years in planning, preparation and
stocking up with arms and explosives, and
during this time they had been studying
the urban guerrilla classics--Carlos
Marighella and Grivas. They knew that the
urban guerrilla is most vulnerable to
betrayal by the public amongst whom he lives
and fights, and this can best be discouraged
by fear--or terror.17
But logical an example as that sounds for what seems such a
vicious and counterproductive tactic, at this time the IRA
already controlled the Catholic areas by a mixture of fear,
terror, and respect. Their objective was most probably
unchanged: demonstrate the government's inability to
govern, hope for over-reaction or repressive measures,
strain the British national will and keep the Protestant
community aroused. They succeeded in all these objectives.
Repressive measures came before the year ended. Mr.
Brian Faulkner, the Prime Minister, introduced internment
without trial on August 9, 1971, one of the most
controversial and, in retrospect, poor decisions of the
entire period. It was a desperate measure by a government
desperately trying to maintain its credibility and internal
order. J. Bowyer Bell describes Stormont's and Westminster's
conflicting and irreconcilable goals:
What Stormont wanted was a sweep of known
agitators and traitors, that is, visible
Catholic troublemakers to humiliate the
truculent minority - and incidentally hamper
the IRA. What the British security forces
wanted and what they told London they could
not get was an effective sweep that would break
the IRA ... Internment was a disaster.18
Robert Moss also describes its impact:
Internment changed the whole political context
of the terrorist campaign in the North. In
military terms, it formalized the basic change
in the army's role that had come about since it
had first been brought in as a peacekeeping
force in 1969. The British army was now
committed to an offensive role designed to root
out the IRA as an organization. Some 300 suspects
were rounded up in the early hours of Monday, 9
August, but 70 of them were released shortly
aterwards, and the dramatic appearance of Joe
Cahill, the leader of the Provisionals in Belfast,
at a crowded press conference a few days later
showed that many of the IRA leaders had slipped
through the net.19
Internment had not surprised the IRA. In fact, the IRA
had expected that internment would have come much earlier.
By MacStiofain's account, the IRA had seen and read the
signals in the weeks prior to internment:
there had been a vast intensification of British
army intelligence work ..., which was noted in
turn by Republican counter-intelligence. One
symptom was increased activity by British army
cameramen at funerals, demonstrations, and
meetings. They were taking hundreds and hundreds
of photographs ... But the photographs they were
taking now were of individuals. Collated with
other intelligence and the analysis of various
bits of open information, it pointed to a big move
As a further indicator starting on July 23 the British
started a series of raids "all over the North" detaining and
interrogating certain people. Finally, in observing the
ports and airfields, the IRA had detected an increased
influx of men and equipment.21
In the first stroke of internment the security forces
arrested 342 people, most in the dark of night and in their
homes, some in bed, and all Catholics.22 Of those
arrested the IRA would claim that less than sixty had any
IRA connections.23 Using Moss's figure of 70 whom he said
were immediately released as a base, the British perception
of what percentage had IRA connections was almost exactly
opposite. Assuming error on either side, the clear losers
were the security forces. Even if only a handful of
innocent people had been incarcerated in this manner, no
matter how swift their release, irrevocable damage would
have been done. With the spectacle of at least seventy
innocent people arrested in their homes at nights and the
IRA still publically walking the streets in Belfast by day,
internment provided the IRA with a lucrative propaganda item
ideal for consumption at home, in the South, and abroad. As
a direct result of internment, the IRA enjoyed its highest
level of active popular support ever in the North.24
Aside from the severe loss on the propaganda front, the
British did not lose all. If the major leaders escaped,
some of the lesser ones did not, and some of them talked. A
form of interogation known as "interrogation in depth",
though highly controversial in the human rights arena25
and later discontinued by the British in part because of
that controversy, proved highly effective on the twelve
Armed with this intelligence and that which
MacStiofain's counterintelligence network had previously
noted being collected, the British were building the
effective intelligence base which they had so sorely
lacked. The potential security threat was MacStiofain's
only serious concern from internment. As he later wrote,
"By the first day it was obvious that internment had failed
on every level except one. We could not tell how much
intelligence they might have obtained."27
As MacStiofain had suspected the concerted intelligence
effort actually preceded internment. Geraghty explains:
By the spring of 1971, ... the authorities had
become desperate to penetrate the terrorist
network. The Army did so by adopting the
'countergang' tactics developed during Kenya's
Mau Mau campaign by Kitson. Ten proven IRA
activists, including one who was a recently
demobized soldier of the Royal Irish Rangers,
were arrested and given the choice between long
terms of imprisonment or undercover work for the
British army. They opted to join the British.28
This Special Detachment of the Mobile Reconnaissance Force
or Freds as they came to be known focused their attention on
attempting to identify IRA members. Geraghty describes how
they operated and the risks they ran.
It was a lethal, complex and bewildering
game of cat-and-mouse and not many of the
'Freds' survived to enjoy the freedom
promised them after the MRF service. Some
attempted to become double agents. Others
made the mistake of returning home to their
Catholic ghettoes after a decent interval.29
Once the British sensed the former case, they would
compromise him to the IRA. In the latter case, the IRA took
direct action. The work of the "Freds" no doubt figured
into the planning for the execution of internment; and
internment always provided a new group of prospective
The IRA's "initial response to internment was clumsy.
and disorganized."30 Moss' analysis is easily understand-
able since the majority of the IRA leaders had left the
immediate area in anticipation of internment.31 Good
communications had never been the IRA's forte as the
numerous garbled warnings in their bombing campaign would
indicate. Without strong local leadership or clear standing
orders, the local IRA men did what came naturally to them.
They fought. "The IRA cells engaged in stand-up street
battles in which they were bound to be outgunned; one group
even occupied a bakery and allowed themselves to be
beseiged,"32 reminiscent of Jacob's Biscuit Factory in the
Easter uprising of 1916. The IRA leadership quickly
realized that it could not stand and fight for a variety of
practical reasons. They could not afford the personnel
losses, combat the British superiority in firepower and
accuracy, nor logistically sustain a street battle.33
Hence, "after a week of open confrontation, the IRA went
back to more selective operations."34
Internment and the week of open conflict with the
security forces, ineffective as it was, drove IRA stock at
home among Ulster Catholics and abroad to its peak. The
British aimed internment indisputably at the Catholic
population, and the Catholics responded, as one would
expect, with even more active support for their only
protectors, the IRA. Abroad the sympathy for the "oppressed
Catholic minority" grew due largely to worldwide mass tele-
communications. As MacStiofain recalled,
The international media went overboard for
the 'Provo Press Conference' ... stories and
pictures went all over the globe ... [it] was
a brilliant piece of propaganda which well and
truly twisted the lion's tail."35
Notwithstanding the important short-term intelligence
benefits, internment was a double-edged failure. It failed
to reduce IRA terrorism, and more importantly it "served
merely to strengthen the Provisional bonds with the Catholic
population."36 Finally, as a direct result of its
failure, internment would paint Britain further into her no
win corner and lead the IRA to its first and only strategic
victory - imposition of direct rule from Britain. Britain
would have no viable alternative.
For those who prefer order in historical analysis, the
period of the present day troubles causes endless agony. It
does not lend itself to convenient phasing where one key
event or one timely or untimely decision simultaneously ends
one phase and introduces the next. There are distinct
phases but with a perplexing, disorderly twist; phases never
end and often merge. As a new one is discernible it merely
super imposes itself over the earlier phase or phases
creating a collage of violent effects. Communal rioting did
not end with IRA bombing nor sectarian assassination. Thus,
concludes Janke, "the successive phases super-impose them-
selves building up into a complex terrorist phenomenon."37
Thus the month after internment saw rioting mixed with IRA
sniping and ambushes, selective bombing and assassination,
and unpatterned sectarian violence consistent in only one
aspect: certainty of occurrence.
From a military perspective 1972 stands out as the
turning point of the war. The IRA would raise urban
violence to unprecedented levels, bomb their way to the
bargaining table thus coming as close to political
legitimacy as they ever would and fail, choosing instead
their all too familiar path of violence. The British would
continue to build their intelligence base, make inroads into
the IRA security structure and begin to counter IRA
propaganda. They would rebound from some serious blunders
early in the year with concentrated effort on the cities
culminating in the military masterstroke which struck at the
heart of the IRA.
If nothing else comes clear from a study of Northern
Ireland, it should be absolutely clear that guerrilla
warfare and counterguerrilla warfare is indeed a dirty
business. Both sides propagandize. Both sides brutalize at
least in the eyes of the other. Both sides sanitize reports
and rationalize legitimate errors. Either will deny all
just said for their own part while at the same time
emphatically claiming that their opponents wrongs are
understated. Somewhere in the midst of this contorted
obfuscation lies the truth, perhaps never to be fully sifted
out, partly distorted through bias and the reporting of the
mass media. No year better paints the dirty picture and
coldblooded nature of urban guerilla warfare than 1972 in no
other place than Northern Ireland.
The IRA introduced 1972 with a vicious bombing campaign
which had commenced in earnest in August 1971 in direct
response to internment. One-hundred separate bombings shook
Northern Ireland in August, and the figure increased monthly
to a total of one-hundred forty-six in January 1972.
Clutterbuck recorded that on one day in December over thirty
bombing operations took place throughout the province.38
The 1971 statistics appeared gruesome in comparison to
1970. Deaths went from 25 to 174; 48 army or UDR, 115
civilians, and the remaining 11 RUC. Injuries jumped from
290 in 1970 to 2,395, almost 1,800 of whom were civilians.
With the exception of RUC deaths and injuries, each of these
categories would more than double in 1972.39
If the 146 bombings which occurred in January 1972 were
not enough terror for one moonth, "Bloody Sunday" was a
fitting coup de grace. NICRA, the civil rights group, had
announced a march for January 30, and had on this occasion
for the first time since 1968 support from almost every
faction of the Republican movement.40 The setting was the
same Londonderry which had erupted in October 1968 and whose
chaos had led to police over-reaction, riots and ultimately
to the disestablishment of the B Specials. NICRA intended
to conduct the march despite a ban. Fearful of a violent
Click here to view image
Catholic/Protestant confrontation, the security forces which
included the British Parachute Regiment planned to block
off the Catholic areas of Creggan and Bogside. One
battalion, 1st Battalion of the Paras, was held in reserve
as the arrest force.41 Clutterbuck summarized the action
and the ensuing debate concisely:
The actual events of the day are not generally
in dispute, though there is some divergence of
detail and interpretation between the public
inquiry by Lord Widgery and the inquiry by the
Sunday Times. Both agree that all the deaths
took place within twenty or thirty minutes;
during which both the IRA and the soldiers
fired at each other, and that the soldiers
killed thirteen while the IRA did not hit any
soldiers at all. The Sunday Times, however,
said that the soldiers fired first; Lord Widgery
that the IRA fired first.42
In addition to the dead thirteen others had been wounded.
As Bell aptly points out, explanations and investigations
"could not transform what in Catholic eyes was a
massacre."43 Not only Catholic eyes or Irish saw red.
Clutterbuck details the reaction abroad:
Overseas - and particularly in the Republic
of Ireland and the United States - the
reaction was quite different (from that of
England). The only facts they knew were that
there had been a Civil Rights march, that
troops had fired, that thirteen civilians had
been killed, but that no soldiers had been
killed. Understandably they deduced that the
soldiers had fired upon unarmed marchers, and
the IRA were commendably quick in dissemina-
ting this view.44
To Americans it kindled memories of Lexington, Concord and
the Boston Massacre. As the British army knew all too well
in the furor that arose following Bloody Sunday, except to
them and their country it did not matter if the IRA had
fired the modern shot heard around the world.
Internment followed closely by Bloody Sunday carried
the IRA to their single great strategic victory. On March
24, 1972, the British Government imposed direct rule. The
IRA barely paused to applaud its victory, mistakenly sensing
or hoping that continued pressure would undermine the
British resolve. Their objective now was to incite
Protestant backlash to direct rule, a task for which the
Protestant majority needed little encouragement.45 The
number of bombings rose again in April. In one twenty-four
hour period on April 13-14 thirty-one bombs exploded.46
In seeking the Protestant backlash the IRA had two
objectives: assistance in driving British out and
assistance in keeping the Catholic population with them.47
Even before direct rule the Protestants had complained
about the security forces' "soft" approach toward the IRA
whom they had allowed to control "Free Derry" in what
Clutterbuck described as a "live and let live policy [with
security forces] patrolling those areas only at night.
After direct rule ... they dropped even the night
patrols."48 This low profile approach was a boost for the
IRA who were able to openly patrol these recognized "no-go"
areas in uniform, thus reinforcing their control on the
Catholic areas and their inhabitants. It was another
frustrating discouragement for the security forces
particularly in the intelligence area they had so diligently
been developing. D. L. Price writing for Conflict Studies
made the following observation in 1974 article on the
security forces intelligence plight:
The breathing space afforded the terrorists was
a net loss in intelligence gathering ... Overt
operations virtually ceased while covert
operations became increasingly hazardous to
acquire. New recruits joined the IRA so that
when the conflict intensified the security forces
... did not know who the gunmen were. This lack
of information led to costly delays which caused
military and civilian casualties.49
As frustrating as the "no-go" areas were to the army, they
caused even greater consternation within the neighboring
In the Protestants' eyes the light treatment of the IRA
after direct rule was just another indication of the long-
feared British sell out; hence their embattled minority
syndrome came to the fore once again. In response to the
British toleration of the "no-go" areas and as a direct
challenge to the IRA, the Protestant UDA established similar
barricades and "no-go" areas similarly patrolled by
"uniformed and masked vigilantes," all members of the UDA.
Other than to issue a direct challenge to the IRA, the
objective of this gesture was to induce the British to
invade the Catholic "no-go" areas.50 The British response
took them by surprise, and the Protestant counteraction
probably surprised the British. On May 20, the British
removed the barricades with bulldozers setting off riots and
shooting much like that they had experienced in the Catholic
areas.51 Northern Ireland was on the verge of anarchy.
Bell summarizes the IRA's violent half-year's success:
By mid-1972 Belfast and Derry were cities
under seige. Large areas were demolished by
bombs, British roadblocks faced those of the IRA,
there was armor in the streets and constant
sniping. The car bomb was introduced in March
and more shops and offices were turned into
rubble. Constant ambushes in the country and a
border war drew forces away from the urban areas.
There was no peace with or without justice, and
more and more people began to feel that the
Provos just might bomb their way to a place at
some ultimate bargaining table. And in fact
LEGITIMACY SPURNED - THE MADMEN EMERGE
He is not a person who thinks a lot. He
is continually trying to prove that he is
as much an Irishman as anyone else. He has
no time for politics of any kind - and a
revolutionary who has no time for politics
is in my opinion a madman.
Cathal Goulding, Official IRA
leader, on his past friend,
The civilians are casualties of war.
At the end of May 1972 the Official IRA agreed to a
ceasefire. The Provisionals were reluctant, but they
finally agreed late in June due primarily to pressure from
within their Catholic community. In early July repre-
sentatives of the IRA met secretly with the new British
cabinet Minister in charge of Ireland, William Whitelaw, in
London.1 They talked. The IRA made their demands known.
Nothing was resolved nor agreed upon, but they had talked,
and they had stopped shooting and bombing.
If ever the IRA had an opportunity to bring about some
form of negotiated political settlement, these talks marked
the beginning. Several political factors conspired against
any settlement. First, the IRA by their own choice was not
a legitimate political representative of any constituency.
As a natural corollary to political abstentionism, the IRA
was then politically inexperienced and naive. Last and
clearly the most significant point is that the negotiations
did not include representatives of Stormont or the
Protestant terror groups, both of whose consensus is vital
to any lasting solution.
The IRA knew that they could not carry Northern Ireland
by force of arms, nor did they stand any chance of weakening
the British determination to endure regardless of the
costs. They must have known. Only by negotiations could
they, as Michael Collins and the treaty delegation had fifty
years before, have brought about positive change.
Yet as the parties on both sides came face-to-face, an
almost sinister disparity immediately became visible. The
incongruity must have been almost tangible. On one side
were the cultured, experienced and intellectual English
statesmen. On the IRA side were MacStiofain, the OC's from
Belfast and Londonderry, two Provisional staff officers from
Belfast, one high ranking IRA official and a Dublin lawyer
who acted as secretary for the delegation. Among this high
powered delegation were a former bookmaker's runner, a
barman, a mechanic and a butcher's assistant.2 This
undereducated but streetwise cross-section illustrated the
grass roots origin of the IRA leadership and further
demonstrated that the IRA was somewhat distinct amongst
revolutionary movements by its lack of intellectuals in its
hierarchy. The disparity between the negotiating parties,
however, did not defeat the talks. It was a start and it
took considerable courage and entailed considerable risks
for both parties. But the truce broke down before any
further negotiations or any positive results could ensue.
The IRA broke the truce. Seamus Twomey, OC of Belfast
and one of the recently returned secret delegation, decided
that a Protestant move to force Catholics out of their homes
in Lenadoon on the western fringe of Andersontown could not
pass unchallenged. The Catholic inhabitants had already
moved out under Protestant pressure. When the IRA tried to
move the former occupants and their belongings back into the
neighborhood, shooting broke out between the IRA and UDA.3
Coogan in writing on this action observed, "Whether the IRA
were wise to attempt to force the housing issue during the
July period or whether the truce would have ever come to
anyghing is arguable - what is certain is the ensuing death
Twomey's move was a blunder of unprecedented proportion
which hurt the IRA on several fronts. They had handed the
British a major victory in the propaganda war. In an ironic
twist of fate, the IRA was in the same position as the
British Paratroopers of Bloody Sunday notoriety; who fired
first was irrelevant. This cost the IRA dearly in terms of
support. Pressure from among their supporters had led them
into the truce. In breaking it after such a short period of
peace, the IRA severely disappointed their supporters
crushing their rising hopes and shattering in them any image
the IRA may have enjoyed as a concerned protector. Even in
the worst case had the British not been genuine in the
negotiations, the IRA would have benefitted significantly.
They could have turned that into successful propaganda
against the British and still continued the fight. If
nothing more, they could have enjoyed the respite provided
by a longer truce to rest, resupply and prepare for the next
phase of action. From this point on, the IRA's failure to
revise or rethink their strategy would guarantee that they
would never again approach the zenith of July 1972.
On the IRA's lack of strategic sense, J. Bowyer Bell
The IRA did not create long-range scenarios.
Its prime concern was to manipulate conditions
... [that] would make the province ungovernable
... Few recognized that ... tactical options
would be limited unless seriously reappraised
... Provo tactics ... were not carefully
orchestrated for effect or cunningly directed at
target rather than victim ... Provo hopes
shifted to the prolonged effect of violent
attrition ... Accordingly the same tactics,
improved or elaborated, were continued; commercial
sabotage by means of bombs, sniping, mass confron-
tations, and ambushes in the countryside. There
was some improvement in techniques and more
sophisticated weapons were introduced, but, with
one or two exceptions no novel tactical innova-
tions were attempted.5
Just how closely the IRA would follow their same old tactics
and how much they would elaborate on them became obvious on
July 21, 1972, which is more commonly called "Bloody
Friday." That strain of cruelty that Irishman seems to
reserve for Irishman burst in all its viciousness and
cruelty in the form of nineteen bombings in central Belfast
within a one hour and five minute period in mid-afternoon,
"a busy time of day." The targets inclued bus and train
stations, a ferry terminal and a shopping center. Nine
people died; one hundred thirty were injured. Seventy-seven
of the injured were women or young girls. A mother of six
and a boy of fourteen were among the dead. "The targets
selected left no doubt that the aim was to kill and maim the
maximum possible number of ordinary people. It was an
operation of war."6
The IRA motive behind this offensive was simply to
reassert its presence. MacStiofain felt that it was
necessary to indicate to all concerned that the IRA "had in
no way lost heart for the struggle."7 Actually the IRA
claimed to have set off twenty-two bombs in Belfast and
thirteen elsewhere on Bloody Friday, all aimed at
"industrial, commercial or economic" targets in their eyes.
MacStiofain further claimed that "three warnings were given
for each bomb placed" via separate channels as "a further
precaution against risk to life."8 Whether what he
alleged was true mattered little and was believed less,
particularly from a man who had earlier stated coldly, "The
civilians are casualties of war."9
Bloody Friday set the stage for the major British mili-
tary move of the entire troubles. Sensing the mood of the
people and keenly aware of the military necessity of force-
ful action, they launched Operation Motorman, a well-
conceived, well-executed coordinated night maneuver to elim-
nate the no-go areas in Belfast and Derry. In preparation:
on 27 July 4,000 extra troops arrived in Ulster
bringing the total to 21,000. At 1:30 a.m. on
31 July, the security forces...entered the
no-go areas .... barricades were removed and
despite sporadic shooting there were few
casualties. Details of the massive build-up
had been announced, a fact which convinced the
IRA that a straight confrontation with a modern
counter-insurgency force would be tactically
unwise. The gunmen in Londonderry ... dispersed
across the border ... while those in Belfast
went south to Dundalk.10
Peter Janke identifies Motorman as the:
turning point in the military campaign
because the security forces, following
classic counter-insurgency practice, had
driven a wedge between the terrorists and
a section of the community.11
It also yielded tangible results. The influx of new
information stimulated intelligence.
Within two weeks the security forces had
arrested ten senior Provisionals in Belfast.
By the end of November they had captured
more than 150 gunmen at least 100 of whom
were officers from the IRA command structure
in the north. . . . Materiel captured
included large quantities of arms, more than
14,000 rounds of ammunition and over two
tons of explosives.12
Though Motorman was not the Hue City type urban fight some
British might suggest, it was a brilliantly conceived plan.
By announcing the imminent move,13 the British separated
the IRA from their arms and from their support without the
costly street fighting that surely would have met a complete
surprise attack. They had given the IRA time to run but not
time to pack. Though IRA violence would continue, the
British had broken the stranglehold of terror on the cities
and would continue to control the military action to the
As 1972 drew to a close, MacStiofain was arrested and
jailed in the South under the Republic of Ireland's Special
Powers Act aimed specifically at the IRA.14 The British
kept up the pressure which would yield big dividends in 1973
and 1974. There is no doubt that the war continued into
those years or that it continues today. But, in retrospect,
1972 ended the classic brand of urban guerrilla warfare the
IRA had waged, and waged with some measure of success.
Perhaps the lesson of 1972 at least for terrorists is that
terror beyond a certain point of irrationality is
counterproductive. In 1972, 468 people died, and of them
322 were innocent civilians. Almost 4,000 civilian
casualties, more than double the previous year's toll, were
recorded. Between the RUC, the UDR, and the army, almost
1100 were injured and 146 were killed.15 The bombing tab
for destruction skyrocketed from 3.97 million pounds in
1971-72 to 26.59 million pounds. The IRA had crossed their
Rubicon, but unlike Caesar who had tremendous support on the
other side of the river, the IRA had crossed in the opposite
direction, leaving their dwindling and exhausted support
The ensuing years would see the bombing damages
continue to soar to a peak over fifty million pounds for the
year 1977.16 The British security forces since 1973 have
placed a greater concentration on Belfast and on destroying
the IRA command structure at the command and brigade
level.17 Their improved intelligence capability and the
infusion of fresh, mission-trained troops in a carefully
thought out rotation enhanced their overall control of the
military situation, particularly in the cities.
From a purely military standpoint the training program
and the supporting training fcilities developed by the
British were remarkable for their quality and detail.
Starting in late 1973-1974, before any soldier set foot in
Northern Ireland, he was thoroughly familiar with his area
of operations, or "patch," he knew who the known IRA gunmen
were by name and sight; he had drilled under live fire for
the entire gamut of known IRA tactics in a realistic mock
up. Often RUC policemen with whom the unit would be working
participated in the training, thus providing first-hand
information and breeding even greater RUC-army
The British rotated units at four and one-half month
intervals. To compensate for the danger of lost continuity,
the inbound unit's advance party, primarily intelligence
men, preceded their unit by a month and one-half thereby
serving six month tours. During this period the incoming
unit's personnel would work closely with the in country unit
and with their counterparts in the RUC; thus, the army's
vital recent term corporate memory was effectively passed
The combined effect of British persistence and their
thorough approach to their military mission bore fruit in
On 19 June the Security Forces acting on
"information received," arrested 16 members
of the Provisional IRA, four of them were
members of the brigade staff, in parts of
Belfast and Co. Armagh. Of those arrested
the most important was Gerry Adams, commanding
officer of the Provisionals. In political and
military terms the capture of Adams...
compelled the Provisionals Belfast brigade
to reorganize drastically. In material terms
an equally important capture, in the New Lodge
district of Belfast, was that of a Provisional
The increased success of the security forces directly con-
tributed to reduced casualty figures except in one area
which really gave them no cause for concern, within the IRA.
Given the high priority placed on security within any
"secret" society or guerrilla movement, security breaches
breed mistrust, break down unit cohesion and generally lead
to increased security measures and stricter disciplinary
procedures. Consider such a breach within an organization
as inherently violent as the IRA in the light of arrests
such as those of June 1973 just described, and severe
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repercussions were bound to follow. The incessant British pressure
continued to strain and crack IRA security which led to incredibly
brutal disciplinary actions within the IRA. The most well-known
punishment is kneecapping which was accomplished by any of several
methods: a bullet through the kneecap fired either from the front
or rear of the knee; the simple use of an electric drill;
or sometimes a cinder block dropped from a
step ladder upon the outstretched legs of the guilty party.
Kneecapping was more effective in many respects than death
because the crippled victims were marked for life, and their
hobbling presence reinforced the terror and fear so vital to
the IRA's existence. Another older form of punishment, and
one familiar to Americans from their own history, was tar
and feathers or a similar form of public humiliation which
usually reserved for women for dating or socializing with
British soldiers or for violations of secrecy.21
Tarring and feathering had been seen with some
frequency earlier with 27 known cases in 1971 and 28 in
1973. Kneecapping, however, did not surface until 1973 when
the IRA marked 74 victims by this cruel disciplinary
method. The number of such disciplinary cases jumped to 127
in 1974 and peaked at 189 for the year 1975.22 Obviously
during this period security and discipline had become a
major concern within the IRA. Their desperate internal
state and the increasingly more cohesive external pressure
from the security forces manifested themselves in other
especially in Belfast, ... the three Provisional
battalions formerly based in Andersontown, Bally
murphy and Ardoyne districts, ... virtually ceased
to exist. Consequently tactics changed to smaller
operational formations - Active Service Units (ASU) -
ideally to contain four to eight men, but the
erosion of the IRA hard-core ... meant that an ASU
[was] often nothing more than a single gunman
operating ... with sporadic local support and much
of that coerced.23
Two tactical changes came about both in the area of
bombing. The IRA began to use the more sophisticated
incendiary bomb to great effect. "These bombs are small
enough for flip-top cigarette packets, a larger one would
fit in a tape cassette box."24 In addition to more
sophisticated devices, the IRA layered their security
further by use of "proxy bomber attack" where an innocent
driver is stopped, his vehicle loaded with a bomb and
by threat either to him or to hostages, - he is forced to
drive it to a specific target."29 According to Price
these two tactics were highly favored for economy of
personnel reasons. Since 1969 over 60 IRA bomb planters had
died from either the Paddy Factor or premature explosions.
Particularly with the incendiary device, manufacture,
concealment and placement were greatly simplfied.26
In Ireland there is always a third side of war which
especially in the present conflict has played a major
supporting role. Since 1969 the Loyalists or Protestant
paramilitary forces stood always on the fringes eager to
strike at the IRA or the Catholics, which to most were one
in the same. The lack of widespread Catholic appreciation
for the reforms which evolved on paper from the civil rights
movement was surpassed in the Protestant community by an
even more widespread, almost singular, "sense of fear and
rage"27 that any concessions had been granted. This sense
of angry paranoia manifested itself in sectarian murders,
predominantly by Protestants. Lebow explained some of the
feelings which drove this murderous phenomenon.
The expression of Protestant rage in the form
of sectarian killings must be understood in the
terms of the military dilemma faced by the
Protestant activists. IRA violence had been
directed ... against ... realistic pressure
points for an organization striving to force a
British withdrawal ... Protestants, by way of
contrast, have no such obvious targets save IRA
cadres which they found difficult to identify and
attack. They were thus reduced to striking out
against the Catholic community as a whole and
whose opposition to the status quo and support for
the IRA was taken for granted by the Protestant
militants. Sectarian assassination became a surro-
gate for more effective kinds of political-military
Lebow further explained the more specific motives behind
these killings noting first that their incidence rose as
political initiatives toward compromise or settlement
brightened. They also wanted to help influence public
opinion against the IRA and attempted to do so by IRA style
bombings and killings which, they hoped, would be attributed
to the IRA. The third underlying motive and the strongest
factor was simply revenge which appeared as a "tit-for-tat
response ... of sectarian killings on both sides."29
This wave of Protestant sectarian terror demonstrates
more dissimilarities between the IRA and the Protestant
terror groups than similarities. In Lebow's opinion, the
Protestants exploited the violence internally as an
enforcement measure to ensure their own cohesion while IRA's
role in sectarian violence was mission oriented. Many of
these killings were not random. Such operations were
authorized from above, had specific political objectives,
and were carried out in a comparatively professional
manner.30 The Protestant groups were more gang-like in
organization than military; more reliant on charismatic
leaders than on a chain of command; and more subject to lack
of cohesion and breakdown of discipline than was the IRA.
Their attacks on Catholics were more likely to be random and
more violent than the IRA killings. Torture, mutilation,
and ritualistic initiation murders by the Protestant terror
groups are documented.31
Citing statistics for Belfast alone, Lebow attributed
198 deaths to sectarian assassination from 1971 to 1976.
Casting aside the common notion of random selection, he
further convincingly argued that almost half were planned
and that many
victims were killed by their own kind either
for security reasons, jeolousy or in more
instances as a deliberate ruse made to appear
as an IRA act.32
Lebow astutely identified the most significant result of
With such a threat breeding and crossbreeding
in adjacent ghettoes within one city, it is
understandable why the Catholics have supported
the IRA and why, despite British military effec-
tiveness, recruits kept coming to the IRA.33
If the flow of new recruits was not a problem, it did
present the IRA with the same problems it had failed to
fully master since its founding: security from penetration
and training. In 1977 Gerry Adams, one of the publically
recognized leaders of the IRA and a former OC of Belfast
identified this twin problem and introduced a reorganization
plan intended both to enhance security and to
re-indoctrinate some members of the army.34 An IRA "Staff
Report" prepared to define the new structure outlined the
weaknesses of the traditional army model:
We are burdened with an inefficient infra-
structure of commands, brigades, battalions,
and companies ... with which the Brits and
Branch* are familiar ... We recommend reor-
ganization and rebuilding of a new Irish
This reorganization established an additional staff
position, the Education Officer, whose responsibilties would
entail indoctrination lectures and instructions on
anti-interrogation procedures. Additionally below the
Brigade level, a cellular structure replaced the traditional
army structure of battalions and companies.
* Special Branch, RUC
Cells, according to the same "Staff Report," would
consist of four members and would be controlled at the
Brigade level by the Operations Officer. In practice they
were sometimes larger. The Brigade task organized these
cells according to mission specialties, such as intelligence
operations, sniping, assassination, bombings and robberies
and supported the cells centrally both in terms of funding
The report revealed two additional significant changes,
one both organizational and philosophical, the other
strategic. In the former case, Cumann na mBan, the women's
wing of the IRA which had heretofore played a supporting
role, was "dissolved with the best being incorporated in the
IRA cells"; thus, the IRA reflected the more contemporary
terrorist thought that "women and girls have greater roles
to play as military activists."37
Strategically the IRA finally accepted the long term
war of attrition. In a clever twist which both enhanced
security and supported the long term strategy, they selected
new leaders from their best younger but unknown volunteers.
The older but more well-known leaders remained visible as
front men.38 The combined effect of these changes was
evident in a British army document which the IRA intercepted
late 1978-early 1979 which acknowledged the increased
efficiency and elusiveness of the new IRA. It noted,
"The mature terrorists ... are sufficiently cunning to avoid
arrest ... [and] are continually learning from mistakes and
developing their expertise."36
Hence since 1977 the reorganization of 1977,"activists
are told only of their particular task, not the names of
colleagues, and disperse afterwards until called upon."35
Dobson and Payne estimated in 1982 that the Provisional
IRA's strength was 300-400 hard core36 "who were better
trained and better equipped than before. The IRA has the
U.S. M-16 Armalite, Remington Woodmaster equipped with
telescopic sights for sniping and the U.S. M-60 machine
gun."37 Janke also reports that the Russian-made RPG-7
has been used and suggests, with the international links
that have developed between terrorist groups, that the SA-7
could ultimately find its way to Northern Ireland.38
With these newer, more capable weapons, the IRA has
improved upon but not radically altered their traditional
tactics of ambush, bombing and sniper attacks. "A typical
activist cell in Belfast's Ballymurphy district, may be from
five token strong," where formerly there was a battalion.
"For sniping two covers and lookouts are used, the gunman
being equipped with a pocket sized walkie-talkie
radio."39 The most significant breakthrough, according to
Janke, is the IRA's enhanced communications intercept
capability. The IRA constantly monitors "the security
forces radio channels, and has become adept at cracking
codes. Also they have penetrated the telephone system
and are known to engage in bugging and telephone tapping."40
Looking at the enhanced security, the regenerated hard core
and the better equipment of the IRA, this conflict will
continue into the indefinite future. And with their
increasing leftward progression politically, the IRA is in a
position to enjoy the fruits of both east and west
continuing to find substantial support in the United States
while more recently finding powerful boosters within the
European terrorist network and those governments which
actively support them.41 This new IRA is now content to
fight the long war of attrition.
The security forces despite all their best efforts have
not rooted out the IRA. The British presence has been
reduced in terms of size of "areas controlled and numbers of
troops involved. They have turned many of the police
functions back over to the RUC and an ever-increasing share
of the military responsibility to an expanded UDR.
Nevertheless, the underlying problems which lit the fires in
1969 lie in the social, economic and the political arenas,
remain largely unchanged and have roots which extend deeply
into Anglo-Irish history. Military action cannot alter or
alleviate such problems. In this impasse lies the very
existence of the IRA. As one writer wrote:
The key point of the matter is that the
fossil which is Northern Ireland hasn't
evolved beyond the conditions imposed upon
it in the 17th century. Little Cromwells
like Ian Paisley are still stomping the
hedgerows and beating the bushes for wayward
As long as Catholic thoughts and perceptions run along those
lines and the economic, social and political ills persist,
he IRA will continue to live. And, as long as the
politicians on all three sides of the Irish Question demur,
he IRA will continue to fight, to bomb and to kill. The
British as much as acknowledged this stalemate in the army
document previously mentioned which concluded:
The Provisionals' campaign of violence is
likely to continue while the British remain
in Northern Ireland. We see little prospect
of a political development of a kind which
would seriously undermine the Provisionals'
To merely state that political consensus must be gained
or argue that the British must go or remain is too simple
and too superficial for a situation of such historical and
and emotional depth. Ultimately the solution must encompass
change, concession and compromise, actions virtually alien
to all sides of the confrontational triangle.
Several basic assumptions underly any political
solution. First is that no quick solution is possible. No
political act or series of actions will eradicate the
ingrained perceptions of Catholics or Protestants.
Consensus can only follow confidence in the political
system. Building the necessary confidence will be an
evolutionary process requiring patience, perseverance,
courage and most assuredly, a considerable period of time.
After more than fifteen years of terror in Northern
Ireland, it should be clear that no purely military solution
is possible. The idea behind the movement lives on fed by
the social, economic and political ills which continue;
thus, political inaction guarantees future long term
military action. Security and stability are vital to any
solution; but, without concurrent political action aimed at
the root causes military effort no matter how efficient can
at best severely restrict but never eliminate terrorist
A third assumption is that constructive dialogue must
include all parties to include terrorist leaders on both
sides. Unorthodox as this is in the counterterrorist area
and as revolting as it would be to those legitimate powers
who have opposed the terrorists for so long, the
participation of the terrorist leaders in Northern Ireland
is vital. Tremendous risks are involved in conceding any
status to such groups; however, if the invitation to
participate and to lay down the gun coincides with
legitimate change and increasing popular confidence in the
government, the terrorists will again face the alternative
of working within or continuing to fight the system. They
might still opt to fight, but in doing so they will have
established beyond question their position as an
illegitimate force unrepresentative of any responsible
segment of the population, and their popular support will
The tenuous prospect of the last assumption being met
with acceptance either by the legitimate authorities or
groups such as the Provisional IRA supports the final
assumption: that there is no bloodless solution. Even if
all terrorist factions participated, some within their ranks
would resist, probably form new more radical groups and
definitely fight the prospects of a political consensus with
extreme, perhaps unprecedented, violence. The best a well-
orchestrated solution can hope for then is to keep further
bloodshed to a minimum. To seek a bloodless answer is to
continue without one.
With such formidable obstacles as basic assumptions and
the additional barriers posed by history and religion, one
could reasonably conclude that no solution exists, or that
only impossible tongue-in-cheeks solutions such as the one
ascribed to George Bernard Shaw appear to have any merit.
Shaw suggested that the Dutch and Irish should change
countries. The Dutch, he believed, would civilize Ireland;
the Irish, he was sure, would be too busy fighting among
themselves to maintain the dikes. Hence they would drown.
One element of Shaw's humorous proposal is critical to
the final solution. At some point the Irish issue must be
left to the Irish, but not immediately. Neither Northern
Ireland nor the Republic of Ireland individually or
collectively is as capable of providing the security that
the British presently do. Thus, the British must remain for
the near term. Nevertheless, the British must plan to
leave, establish a date and plan the related timetable which
will allow for the gradual but irrevocable return of
responsibility for the destiny of Northern Ireland to the
people who live there.
Many crucial initiatives must concurrently occur. The
lines of communication must be cleared and kept open to all
parties. The British, who have tried before, must continue
to actively find a way to return political power to Northern
political power to Northern Ireland. For their part, the
people of that troubled state must make politics in Northern
Ireland different than it was in the past. But the most
critical and most difficult to achieve change must be in the
attitudes and the education of the inhabitants of Ulster and
their future generations. Here is where the compromise,
concession and courage must show.
Catholics and Protestants must learn to understand both
the history they so bitterly re-live annually and the
senselessness of living in that past. They must see the
absurdity, ineffectiveness and ultimate hopelessness of an
educational system split along sectarian lines both in
demographics and curriculum. Over time they must build a
public educational system. Initially perhaps they should
strive to develop a non-sectarian core curriculum for use in
the present school system.
Finally the churches must reorient themselves, becoming
at once both more and less involved in the affairs of
state. The Catholic Church must accept segregation of
church and state in the Republic of Ireland and bring itself
more in step with the rest of the contemporary Catholic
Church beyond Ireland. The Protestant leaders too must turn
more to their people than their politics. Both sides must
concede and work together on the issue of education; both
must recognize their common christianity over their more
deeply rooted, historical opposition.
Only in the legitimacy of such a solution can the
British ever hope to establish the illegitimacy of the IRA.
Without such a solution future politicians turning to view
Northern Ireland will find the same frozen vista that
Winston Churchill observed in 1922.
Then came the Great War ... Great empires have
been overturned ... The position of countries
has been violently altered. The modes of
thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs,
the grouping of parties, all have encouraged
tremendous changes ... But as the deluge subsides
and the waters fall short we see the dreary
steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once
again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of
the institutions that has been unaltered by the
Political impasse, social ills, economic discrimination,
religious hatred, military stalemate will all continue. So
too will the IRA; so too will the war.
Many intelligent and concerned persons have struggled
in search of a solution. The British attempted to return
power as early as 1973 in a promising power sharing
arrangement supported by moderate Protestants and
Catholics. All was undone, however, in the face of mass
action in the form of a Protestant workers' strike in May
1974. More recently, the New Ireland Forum, one of the most
remarkable and constructive organizations yet to study the
problems of Northern Ireland, offered some ideas. The
members would be the first to admit that they did not solve
the problems, but their collective efforts were a positive
first step. For a brief moment at least, Irishmen from
North and South were looking forward in hopes of finding
common objectives rather than looking backward to dwell on
their past differences as Irishmen seem more often inclined
to do. They did not ignore their troubled past nor the
problems the Irish sense of past poses in the present; but,
they focused on the future. Most importantly they
established a political discourse where none had previously
existed at least in such constructive terms. The Report of
the New Ireland Forum demonstrated Dublin's willingness to
commit to their part of the challenge of ending the
troubles. It inspired hope among all parties of moderation.
In the North voices of moderation also have spoken.
The Ulster Unionist Party published a discussion paper on
"Devolution and the Northern Ireland Assembly" which
discussed quite accurately the problems on all sides of the
political situation. While certainly more conservative in
tone, it acknowledged the need for "a dependable constant
minority" in any future devolved government.1 Their
conservatism is understandable considering their past.
Nevertheless, their concluding paragraph too raised hope.
The Ulster Unionist Party recognizes that its
proposal may be considered by some to be modest,
but it has watched while grander and more
ambitious schemes have failed. The ... objective
is to find a level at which consensus may be
obtained to effect a beginning in the recon-
ciliation of divided communities. Roads owe no
allegiance to those who travel upon them and, for
the traveller, such roads are neither green nor
orange but only good or bad. It would be a start
if the travellers were given a chance to repair
The IRA, feeling threatened, saw the need for dramatic
life preserving action. In October 1984, just one month
before British Prime Minister Thatcher and Irish Prime
Minister Garrett Fitzgerald were to meet in what would be
the first Anglo-Irish conference since publication of the
New Ireland Forum report, the IRA detonated a bomb which
devastated a hotel in Brighton, England; it almost killed
Mrs. Thatcher and much of her cabinet. Other British
subjects were not as fortunate. Worldwide outrage followed
the bombing. A week after the incident an editorial in The
Economist discussed the bombing and its probable impact on
Anglo-Irish relations. "The Brighton bomb ... alters nothing
in the framework of Anglo-Irish policy. It does, however,
reinforce its urgency." The editorial went on: "All it has
produced is a new emphasis on Anglo-Irish security
cooperation, which is precisely what the ... IRA wants to
avoid." Later it emphasized that "London must equally
acknowledge that improved Anglo-Irish relations are built in
reciprocity. It matters how (emphasis supplied) London
reacts to the Forum report."3 The editor's conclusion is
poignant both in its truth and in its error.
The understandable hesitancy Mrs. Thatcher
retains towards policy innovation in Ulster
[has] left London as the less willing partner
in the search, for a movement in Ulster. Most
serious evidence of this is the cabinet's
failure to respond constructively to the Forum
report. Both Britain and Ireland have a vested
interest ... leaders in Dublin and London should
now prove it was truly a bomb in vain.4
On November 23, 1984, the Washington Post described the
results of the Anglo-Irish summit. "Statements by Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher and her new minister for Northern
Ireland after this week's Anglo-Irish summit have shattered
what was characterized as the 'positive' mood of the
meeting, ... Irish officials ... said today." The article
further asserted that "Thatcher flatly rejected three major
models ... for some new form of joint authority in
British-ruled Northern Ireland that had been proposed by the
New Ireland Forum in May." Mrs. Thatcher's press conference
remarks and leaks in his own government caused Mr.
Fitzgerald considerable embarrassment at home.
One final extract illustrated yet another disastrous
British political judgement on Northern Ireland. As
reported in the article, Mrs. Thatcher expressed an opinion
"that Britain cannot impose any solution in Northern Ireland
... only the people of Ulster can."5 If the country that
governs and provides the security for Ulster rationalizes
itself out of its responsibility in this manner, that
country has granted a lifetime to the IRA. Mrs. Thatcher's
actions have proven the editorial in The Economist wrong.
The IRA bomb may have missed its most important human
target, but it was not in vain.
Irish history has completed another of its uneven,
triangular cycles. English and Irish leaders bicker
publically in the press while British soldiers still fight
terrorists on British soil on the island called Ireland.
After fifteen years they must wonder how and why the IRA
fights on. While the politicians dance around the perimeter
of the triangular stage, the IRA stands protected by their
lack of choreography. Politics, like chldren's play, just
does not seem to work in threes. Have you ever watched
three children playing?
1 Richard Clutterbuck, Guerrillas and Terrorists
(London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1977), p. 60. Hereafter
cited as Guerrillas.
2 Clutterbuck, Guerrillas, p. 61.
Plantation to Partition - An Historical Overview
1 George Dangerfield, The Damnable Question (Boston/
Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1976).
2 Robert B. Eckles and Richard W. Hale, Jr., Britain,
Her Peoples and the Commonwealth (New York: McGraw-Hill
Book Company, Inc., 1954), p. 54.
3 Eckles and Hale, pp. 541-42.
4 Eckles and Hale, p. 541.
5 J. C. Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1966), pp. 390-392.
6 Beckett, p. 392.
7 Norman J. Gibson, "The Irish Problem," The Holy
Cross Quarterly, 6 (1973), p. 16.
8 Neill, p. 156.
9 Eckles and Hale, p. 522.
10 Eckles and Hale, p. 523.
11 Beckett, p. 425.
12 Constantine FitzGibbon, Red Hawk, The Ulster
Colont (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1972),
13 Patrick Buckland, A History of Northern Ireland
(Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1981), p. 14.
14 A. J. Barker, Bloody Ulster (New York: Ballantine
Books, Inc., 1973), p. 41.
15 As quoted in Holy Cross Quarterly, p. 60.
16 Dangerfield, pp. 165-178.
17 Dangerfield, p. 169.
18 Dangerfield, p. 177.
19 Dangerfield, p. 177.
20 Dangerfield, pp. 186-206.
21 Dangerfield, p. 207.
22 Neill, pp. 170-71.
23 Neill, p. 173.
24 Dangerfield, p. 313.
25 J. Bowyer Bell, The Secret Army (New York: The
John Day Company, 1971), p. 23. Hereafter cited as
26 Bell, Army, pp. 21-22.
27 Buckland, pp. 17-21.
28 Buckland, p. 20.
29 Tim Pat Coogan, The I.R.A. (Glasgow: William
Collins Sons & Co., Ltd., 1980), p. 41.
30 Neill, p. 176.
31 Neill, p. 180.
32 Dangerfield, p. 294.
The Rise of An Embarrassed Splinter Group
1 John Montague, as quoted in Holy Cross Quarterly,
2 For a detailed account of the period between the
end of the Civil War and 1962 see either J. Bowyer Bell, The
Secret Army (New York: The John Day Company, 1971) or Tim
Pat Coogan, The IRA (London: Fontana, 1980).
3 Bell, pp. 337-50.
4 Raymond G. Helmick, S.J., "Hope for Northern
Ireland???," Holy Cross Quarterly, p. 90.
5 Neill, p. 191.
6 Alfred J. Alcorn, "Ulster--Politics of Sectarian-
ism," Holy Cross Quarterly, p. 27.
7 Neill, p. 215.
8 Richard Clutterbuck, Protest and the Urban
Guerrilla (New York: Abelard-Schuman Limited, 1973), p. 56.
9 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 63-65.
10 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 62-63.
11 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 61.
12 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 68.
13 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 69.
14 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 69.
15 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 71-79.
16 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 85.
17 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 74.
18 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 71-79.
19 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 71-79.
20 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 62.
21 Sean MacStiofain, Revolutionary in Ireland
(London: Gordon Cremonesi, 1975), p. 113.
22 Bell, Army, p. 366.
23 Bell, Army, p. 366.
24 Coogan, pp. 469-470.
25 Sean MacStiofain, p. 146.
26 Coogan, p. 470.
27 MacStiofain, p. 132.
28 Peter Janke, "Ulster: A Decade of Violence,"
Conflict Studies, 108 (June 1979), p. 17.
29 MacStiofain, p. 147.
30 Janke, p. 17.
31 MacStiofain, p. 146.
32 MacStiofain, pp. 146-47.
33 J. Bowyer Bell, On Revolt (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1976), p. 196. Hereafter cited as
34 "Copy of Documents Found During a Search of the
Maze," 17 pages. Hereafter cited as "Documents."
43 Brian Crozier, ed., "Ulster Politics and
Terrorism," Conflict Studies, 36 (June 1973), 9. Hereafter
cited as "Politics."
44 Janke, p. 19.
45 Bell, Revolt, p. 196.
47 Kenneth MacKenzie, ed. dir., "Ulster: Consensus
and Coercion," Conflict Studies, 50 (October 1974), 22.
Hereafter cited as "Consensus."
49 Coogan, p. 472.
50 Coogan, p. 472.
51 Coogan, p. 472.
55 Clutterbuck, Guerrillas, p. 97.
56 Clutterbuck, Guerrillas, pp. 97-98.
57 MacStiofain, p. 301.
58 MacStiofain, p. 301.
59 MacStiofain, p. 301-02.
60 Bell, Revolt, p. 196.
61 Robert Moss, "The Security of Ulster," in "The
Spreading Irish Conflict," Conflict Studies, 17 (November
1971), 21. Hereafter cited as "Security."
62 Tony Geraghty, Inside the SAS (New York:
Ballantine Books, 1982), p. 160.
63 Geraghty, p. 160.
64 Geraghty, pp. 160-61.
65 MacKenzie, "Consensus," p. 24.
66 Crozier, "Politics," pp. 15, 19.
From Guardians to Invaders--An Untimely Change of Mission
1 Moss, "Security," p. 21.
2 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 94.
3 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 94.
4 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 94.
5 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 94-95.
6 Moss, "Security," p. 13.
7 MacStiofain, p. 166.
8 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 96.
9 Moss, "Security," p. 13.
10 Moss, "Security," p. 13.
11 Moss, "Security," pp. 20-21.
12 Janke, p. 16.
13 The Institute for the Study of Conflict, "Northern
Ireland: Problems and Perspectives," Conflict Studies, 135
14 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 98. Janke claims 35
civilians were killed.
15 Janke, p. 16.
16 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 100.
17 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 98.
18 Bell, Revolt, p. 197.
19 Moss, "Security," p. 19.
20 MacStiofain, p. 176.
21 MacStiofain, p. 176.
22 Buckland, pp. 149-50.
23 MacStiofain, p. 184.
24 Buckland, pp. 149-52.
25 Buckland, p. 150.
26 Clutterbuck, pp. 104-06.
27 MacStiofain, p. 186.
28 Geraghty, p. 161.
29 Geraghty, p. 163.
30 Moss, "Security," p. 19.
31 MacStiofain, p. 186.
32 Moss, "Security," p. 19.
33 MacStiofain, p. 186.
34 Moss, "Security," p. 19.
35 MacStiofain, p. 190.
36 Janke, p. 12.
37 Janke, p. 11.
38 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 111-17.
39 Janke, p. 18.
40 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 118.
41 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 118-28.
42 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 118-19.
43 Bell, Revolt, p. 198.
44 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 128-29.
45 Clitterbuck, Protest, p. 134.
46 CLutterbuck, Protest, p. 134.
47 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 134.
48 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 137.
49 Crozier, "Consensus," p. 6.
50 Crozier, "Consensus," p. 6.
51 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 139-40.
52 Bell, Revolt, p. 198.
Legitimacy Spurned--The Madmen Emerge
1 Coogan, pp. 490-95.
2 Coogan, p. 492.
3 Coogan, p. 495.
4 Coogan, p. 496.
5 Bell, Revolt, pp. 202-03.
6 Clutterbuck, Protest, pp. 140-41.
7 MacStiofain, p.
8 MacStiofain, p.
9 Crozier, "Politics,", p. 7.
10 Crozier, "Politics," p. 7.
11 Crozier, "Politics," p. 7.
12 Clutterbuck, Protest, p. 142.
13 Coogan, p. 516.
14 Janke, p. 18.
15 Janke, p. 16.
16 Janke, p. 16.
17 D. L. Price, "S.F. Attrition Tactics," in "Ulster:
Consensus and Coercion," Conflict Studies 50 (October 1974),
7. Hereafter cited as "Attrition."
18 Major Scott McKenzie, "Preparing A Commando For
Northern Ireland," Marine Corps Gazette,
19 Lt.Col. Jake Hensman, British Royal Marines, Class
presented to United States Marine Corps Command and Staff
College, January 30, 1985.
20 Price, "Attrition," p. 7.
21 Janke, p. 15.
22 Janke, p. 15.
23 Price, "Attrition," p. 7.
24 Price, "Attrition," p. 9.
25 Price, "Attrition," p. 10.
26 Price, "Attrition," p. 10.
27 Richard Ned Lebow, "The Origins of Sectarian
Assassination," International Terrorism, p. 43.
28 Lebow, pp. 43-44.
29 Lebow, p. 44.
30 Lebow, p. 45.
31 Lebow, p. 45.
32 Lebow, pp. 45-46.
33 Lebow, p. 46.
34 Janke, p. 17.
35 Coogan, p. 578.
36 Coogan, pp. 578-581.
37 Coogan, p. 580.
38 Coogan, pp. 578-579.
39 Coogan, pp. 581-582.
40 Janke, p. 17.
41 Christopher Dobson and Ronald Payne, The
Terrorists (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1982), p. 199.
42 Janke, p. 17.
43 Janke, p. 17.
44 Janke, p. 17.
45 Janke, p. 17.
46 Dobson and Payne, pp. 198-99.
47 The Institute for the Study of Conflict,
"Problems," pp. 19-24.
48 Thomas P. McDonnell, "Catholic Press Reprinting on
Northern Ireland," Holy Cross Quarterly, p. 71.
49 Coogan, p. 582.
50 Winston S. Churchill, as quoted in Holy Cross
Quarterly, p. 36.
1 Ulster Unionist Assembly Party's Report Committee,
"Revolution and the Northern Ireland Assembly: The Way
Forward," (Belfast: The University Press Limited), p. 5.
2 Ulster Unionist Assembly Party's Report Committee,
3 "After the Bomb," Editorial, The Economist, 20
Oct. 1984, pp. 13-14.
4 "After the Bomb," p. 14.
5 Michael Getler, "Thatcher Remarks Anger Irish,"
Washington Post, 23 Nov. 1984, pp. A37, A39.
A. Primary Sources
MacStiofain, Sean. Revolutionary in Ireland. London:
Gordon Cremonesi, 1975. Autobiographical account of
events leading to establishment of Provisional IRA,
early strategy, organization, tactics. Useful to this
study. Propaganda effect must be recognized.
Copy of document found in a search of the Maze. undtd. 17
pages. Single-spaced typewritten IRA mini-manual which
discussed organization, tactics, training, recruiting,
etc. Used extensively in conjunction with
MacStiofain's work to describe the inner workings of
New Ireland Forum. Report. Dublin: Stationery Office, 2
May 1984. An information packed document. Reviews
historical causes of the crisis, economic results and
proposes possible models for the much-needed political
solution. A visionary study.
"The Cost of Violence Arising from the Northern
Ireland Crisis since 1969." 3 Nov 1983.
Ulster Unionist Assembly Party's Report Committee.
"Revolution and the Norther Ireland Assembly: The Way
Forward." Belfast, The Universities Press, Limited,
undtd. A discussion paper. Outlines the moderate
Protestant position in Ulster and recognizes the need
for minority representation and participation.
B. Secondary Sources
Bartlett, Jonathan, ed. Northern Ireland. New York: The
H. W. Wilson Company, 1983. A series of
excerpts/articles which range from historical
background, IRA hunger strikes, and life in prison in
Northern Ireland to life in general in that country.
Provides tremendous contemporary insights. Useful to
this study for its descriptive articles on the
atmosphere of Northern Ireland and for its description
of the IRA organization and discipline in prison.
Beckett, J. C. The Making of Modern Ireland. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1966. An excellent general
history which covers the period 1603-1923. Rich in
detail and explanatory background. Used extensively to
develop historical perspective.
Bell, J. Bowyer. The Secret Arm . New York: The John Day
Company, 1971. Comprehensive history of the IRA from
1916-1970. Emphasis and detail on years after Civil
War to beginning of the present troubles. Excellent
background for this study.
---------. On Revolt. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univeristy
Press, 1976. An analysis of seven guerrilla campaigns
or wars of national liberation. Emphasis on British
colonial experience and that in Northern Ireland.
Suggests British continue to follow similar patterns.
Interesting and valuable to this study.
---------. A Time of Terror. New York: Basic Books, Inc.,
1978. A general study of government response to
terrorism. One chapter devoted to "The Irish
Experience" from 1922-1977.
Buckland, Patrick. A History of Northern Ireland. Dublin:
Gill and Macmillan, 1981. A recent history of Northern
Ireland since partition. Full of vital statistics.
Last third of book deals with present troubles.
Obtained late in research. Therefore, not as fully
utilized as it could have been. One of two books I
would start with next time.
Churchill, Winston S. A History of the English Speaking
Peoples, The New World. New York: Dodd, Mead and
"Company, 1956. Second of four volumes by reknowned
author and statesman. Provided vital English
historical perspective to study.
---------. A History of the English Speaking Peoples, The
Age of Revolution. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company,
1957. See comments for The New World immediately
Clutterbuck, Richard. Protest and the Urban Guerrilla. New
York: Abelard-Schuman Limited, 1973. A study of
violence in Britain, Ireland and then elsewhere.
Provides a detailed account of the sixties and early
seventies: civil rights marches, Provo/Official IRA
split, British response, etc. Relied upon heavily in
---------. Guerrillas and Terrorists. London: Faber and
Faber Limited, 1977. A more recent work on growing
terrorist phenomenon. Better suited to general study
of terrorism than for Northern Ireland specifically.
Useful. Not essential.
Coogan, Tim Pat. The I. R. A.. Glasgow: William Collins
Sons & Co. Ltd., 1980. Sixth impression. First
published by Pall Mall Press, 1970. A comprenensive
history of the IRA. Revised edition has added benefit
of section on the Provisional IRA. Particularly useful
on details of IRA reorganization, 1977.
Dangerfield, George. The Damnable Question. Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1976. Focuses on
Anglo-Irish past from 1800-1921. Extensively
referenced. Provides in-depth study of the period.
Particularly adept at portraying depth of major figures
and events. Used extensively in developing chapter one
of this study.
Deutsch, Richard. Mairead Corriqan, Betty Williams.
Woodbury, N.Y.: Barrows, 1977. Introduction by Joan
Baez indicates the slant. Describes peace movement in
Northern Ireland. Useful in combination with other
sources for perspective.
Dobson, Christopher and Payne, Ronald. The Terrorists. New
York: Facts on File, 1982. Revised edition. Examines
internationally known terrorist groups and profiles
each in terms of organization, training, funding, arms,
etc. Good source for thumbnail sketch with current, as
of 1980, data.
Eckles, Robert B. and Hale, Richard W., Jr. Britain, Her
Peo" les and the Commonwealth. New York: McGraw-Hill
Boo Company, Inc., 1954. A general history used
primarily to balance historical perspective of Parnell,
Gladstone and Home Rule Era.
Fields, Rona. Society Under Seige. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1977. Interesting book by
psychologist. Provides detailed discussion of
"interrogation in depth" and its effects. Valuable as
background for the 1970 period in Ulster and for
acquiring a sense for what life is like in this
Fitzgibbon, Constantine. Red Hand: The Ulster Colony.
New York: Doubleday and Co., 1972. One of the
foremost studies of the plantation of Ulster and
resulting effects on the people of Ulster. Critical
Heskin, Ken. Northern Ireland: A Psychological Analysis.
Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1980. Author is Belfast
native and psychologist. Highly interesting psycho-
analysis of the situation, to include factors
influencing both group and individual behavior.
Includes analysis of motivation of Catholics to join
Geraghty, Tony. Inside the SAS. New York: Ballantine
Books, 1982. One of the few books which openly
discusses the SAS in Northern Ireland. Though
not extensive, the details are interesting and
objective. 39 pages on the Northern Ireland role of
Hyams, Edward. Terrorists and Terrorism. New York: St.
Martins Press, Inc.:, 1974. Study of terrorism in 20th
century. Argues that terrorism does work. Citng
Ireland 1912-1921 as example. Also briefly discusses
Ulster later. Concludes that IRA has been largely
successful in terrorists' terms. Not used.
Lebow, Richard Ned. "The Origins of Sectarian Assassina-
tion: The Case of Belfast." In International
Terrorism, pp. 41-56. Edited by Alan D. Buckley and
Daniel D. Olson. Wayne, N.J.: 1980. An extremely
well-written, well-documented article. Describes the
frustrations of the Protestant population of Belfast in
clear terms and contrasts the IRA and Protestant
terrorist groups. Read as initial background and used
in the latter portion of the study.
MacManus, Seamus. The Story of the Irish Race. New York:
The Devin-Adair Company, 1977. Comprehensive history
of Ireland. Extensively referenced. A must for
students of Irish history. Provides excellent
background on early Fenian movement.
Moss, Robert. The War For the Cities. New York: Coward,
McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., 1972. Study of urban
terrorism. Uses several case studies. Well-written.
Chapter on Ireland is basically same material Moss
wrote for Conflict Studies, Nov. 1971 (See Periodicals
Neill, Kenneth. The Irish People. New York: Mayflower
Books, Inc., 1979. A well-written, illustrated
history. An excellent chronology. Used extensively in
researching the historical background.
O'Brien, Maire and Conor Cruise. A Concise Histor of
Ireland. New York: Beckman House, 1972. A brief
history. Useful for general reference, not detail.
Thompson, Sir Robert, ed. War in Peace. London: Harmony
Books, 1982. Excellent reference book on war since
1945. Provides initial starting point for study but
lacks specific detail on the IRA to the extent sought
for this study.
Weiner, Joel H. ed. Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the
Span of Empire. Vol. II. New York: Chelsea House
Publishers, 1972. Provides actual content of documents
and debates in Parliament in the period 1691-1922.
Invaluable for in depth study of that period.
Collins, Col. Patrick. USMC. Personal interview at Colonel
Collins' home, Fairfax, Virginia, 16 Feb. 1985. Well-
read on Ireland and Northern Ireland. Extensive
personal library generously made available. Strong
emphasis on understanding history as key to grasping
situation in Northern Ireland.
Getler, Michael. "Thatcher Remarks Anger Irish."
Washington Post, 23 Nov. 1984, pp. A37, A39. Washington
Poet Foreign Service. Report of Mrs. Thatcher"s press
conference after Anglo-Irish summit with Prime Minister
Garrett Fitzgerald. Mrs. Thatcher reported opposed to
proposals of New Ireland Forum. Her remarks a
political embarrassment to Mr. Fitzgerald. Used in the
Casey, William Van Etten, S.J. ed. The Holy Cross
Quarterly, 6 (1973). Entire issue devoted to the Irish
issue. A series of essays, excerpts and observations
from scholars from all sides of the issue, many of
which could be considered primary sources. This is
an excellent place for one to start learning about
Northern Ireland. Articles by Norman J. Gibson, "The
Irish Problem"; Raymond G. Helmick, S.J., "Hope for
Northern Ireland???;" and Thomas P. McDonnell,
Catholic "Press Reporting on Northern Ireland" were
specifically cited in the study. Quotes from poetry
of John Montague used in text also come from this
Crozier, Brian, ed. "The Spreading Irish Conflict."
Conflict Studies, 17 (Nov. 1971). Contains work of two
authors: Iain Hamilton and Robert Moss. The latter's
"The Security of Ulster," pp. 5-23 was particularly
---------. "Ulster: Politics and Terrorism." Conflict
Studies, 36 (June 1973). Divided into two parts. The
first entitled "The Constitutional Issue" and the other
"The Problem of Security." Second used extensively.
Two appendices provide brief descriptions, facts and
figures on known terrorist groups and their goals and
on terrorist related casualties, incidents, etc.
Grear, Lt. Col. J.F.M. RE, ANBIM. "Engineer Operations in
Northern Ireland August 1969-February 1971." The Royal
Engineers Journal, LXXXV, No. 3 (Sept. 1971), pp
Extremely informative article on the extensive engineer
efforts that went into the early years of the crisis.
Discusses construction of "Peace Lines" and some futile
attempts at constructing obstacles along the border.
Hamilton, Iain. "The Irish Tangle." Conflict Studies, 6
(Aug. 1970). The first of the Institute for the Study
of Conflict's works on the situation in Northern
Ireland. Gives a good account of the events of the
late sixties as the situation was just starting to
Hennen, 1st Lt. Christopher, "Terrorism in Northern
Ireland." Military Intelligence, (Oct-Dec. 1984), pp.
17-22. A recent article which discusses the intelli-
gence aspects, to include army-police cooperation,
initial intelligence deficiencies and some methods of
obtaining intelligence in such a situation. Used
to corroborate analysis of intelligence.
Institute for the Study of Conflict. pub. "Northern
Ireland: Problems and Perspectives." Conflict Studies,
135 (1982). An excellent summary piece complete with
statistics and charts.
----------. "Political Violence and Civil Disobedience in
Western Europe 1982." Conflict Studies, 145 (1982),
pp. 1-4, 11, 12, 25-31. A chronology of terrorist
related events in Great Britain, the Republic of
Ireland and Northern Ireland. Cites names, places,
groups involved if identified. Not used directly
in study; however, the volume of activity had a
definite impact on the study's basic conclusion.
Janke, Peter. "Ulster: A Decade of Violence." Conflict
Studies, 108 (June 1979). Probably the best of the
series for detail. Emphasizes the importance of a
credible role for the police. Sees the IRA as most
efficient. Concludes that political settlement "is
government's most important task." Used extensively.
Mackenzie, Kenneth, ed. "Ulster:. Concensus and Coercion."
Conflict Studies, 50 (Oct. 1974). Contains two
authors' works. Peter Janke writes on "Return to
Direct Rule" and D. L. Price on "S(ecurity) F(orces)
Attrition Tactics." Price's article bears particular
interest because 1974 was when the British security
measures were really beginning to have their intended
effect. Contains appendix which profiles known
McKenzie, Maj. Scott W. "Preparing a Commando for Northern
Ireland." Marine Corps Gazette, 66, No. 8 (Aug. 1982),
pp. 70-74. Excellent article which describes the
standard training package all British units receive
prior to assignment to Northern Ireland.
APPENDIX A. The Origins of Hate
To the glorious, pious and immortal memory or
William III, Prince of Orange, who saved us all from popery,
brass money and wooden shoes.
Irish Protestant Toast
Up the long ladder and down the short rope,
To hell with King Billy and God bless the Pope,
If that doesn't do it, we'll tear them in two
And send them to hell with their red, white and blue.
Irish Republican Chant
Centuries of history provide the background for such
chants and toasts which abound in Ulster today. To those
who live in Northern Ireland and who chant or toast in this
manned humor is not their intent. The purpose of either
side is similar: to embrace their version of history, to
signal their defiance to their historical opponents and to
ensure that the multiple wounds of centuries past are left
open and are not forgotten. To understand how such seemingly
innocuous chants and toasts have taken on such profound
historical and emotional depth, one must first examine the
history of Great Britain and Ireland to identify the origins
Anglo-Irish history is a tangle or misunderstanding
mixed with hatred. The hybrid fruits or this bitter history
are Northern Ireland and the "troubles" which have plagued
her for the past fifteen years and which remain unresolved
to this day. To understand the present one must first
traverse the confusing twists and turns of Ireland's
past. No single event stands out to illuminate the issue.
From the time of the first English plantations, political,
economic, social and religious factors have become so
entwined as to be at times indistinguishable one from
If the politics and history of Ireland are clouded,
the legendary founding of Ulster is not. Michael Olmert,
writing in a May 1984 article in Smithsonian, recounted
the discovery of Ulster:
Once upon a time, a few Celtic warlords were
roving over the wide Atlantic, extending them-
selves and their boats northwest from Europe.
When they spied a green headland, it occurred
to them to race for the beach - the first one
to touch land, it was understood, would acquire
the whole place for himself and his descendants.
But as one slower boat slipped slightly but
inexorably behind in the churning surf, its
captain, the Brave O'Neill, decided on a rash
act. Deliberately wielding his battle-ax,
he chopped off his own left hand and hurled
it ashore, thus claiming the territory forever.
In the bargain, O'Neill won for his people not
only a homeland, but also an emblem, the Red
Hand, a badge by which their shields and
property could be spotted from afar. The
Bloody Hand of Ulster, as it is sometimes
called, is one of the oldest of heraldic
Neither the ancient author of the legend nor the
herald who first depicted "the red hand" knew how
prophetic their creative efforts would be. The legendary
O'Neill's rash act was the first of many to impact on
Ulster's history, but at least in his actions there was
an unselfish purpose. To this day the thirsty soil of
Ulster remains bloodied but unquenched. The Red Hand
continues to mark Ulster from afar, but not as the herald
intended. Bloody hands, however, are not confined to
Northern Ireland; they may be found elsewhere in such
places as Dublin, London and even New York. Again
history provides the only clues.
Kenneth Neill in his introduction to The Irish People
has written a most concise yet complete description of
Ireland's geography and its impact on her history past
and present. And from this description alone, much of the
historical background of today's troubles comes into
Despite occupying a similar geographical position and
climate as England, Ireland unlike her powerful neighbor
to the east never developed into a seafaring state due in
large part to a rugged coastline and an agricultural base
which adequately supported the native population. Neither
the forces of nature nor history forced the Irish to the
sea; both, however, would conspire to drive them west in
their native land or to leave Ireland for adopted homelands
troughout the world.
Like most countries Ireland was not blessed with
favorable soil throughout, a point not missed by those
who were to come. Neill pointed out that there is less
desireable and productive land which "often coexists with
the good"; this increases in proportion to the good as
one moves west across the island, and across the River
Shannon. As any of the native Irish displaced and driven
west first by colonization and then by Cromwell in the
17th century could later attest, "Those areas west of the
Shannon were considerably poorer than those to the east."2
The topography of Ireland, though her mountains are
not impressive by international standards, has made a
distinct impression on her history. Kenneth Neill
described the relationship:
Virtually the entire coastline is ringed with
rugged highland, from the Mourne Mountains in
the north east to Macgillicuddy reeks in the far
south west. . . . Inside the coastal ring of
mountains lies a central basin that contains few
major geographical obstacles aside from some
fairly small rivers. This saucer-like arrange-
ment has been very advantageous in one sense
throughout the island's history; it has promoted
a high degree of cultural unity. While travel
in the more mountainous coastal regions has
often been difficult, it has always been relative-
ly easy for people - and ideas - to move across
the central part of the country.3
Consistent with her later history, Ulster differs
geographically from the rest of Ireland. Not surprising
but nonetheless perplexing is the reversibel role her
geography has played: initially as a barrier to keep
foreigners away and then, once penetrated, as an effective
outer fortification providing relative sanctuary for the
foreigners it for so many years repelled. Neill decribed
The atlas . . . does not yield all of Ireland's
geographical secrets so easily. While on a map
the terrain of the north-eastern province of
Ulster appears only somewhat rougher than usual,
the medium-high region shown on the map acturally
consists of steep hills known as drumlins. Today
these seem little more than scenic variations of
the terrain from the motor car window. In earlier
time, however, these drumlins presented a form-
idable barrier. For the weary traveller on horse
or foot, entering Ulster was like entering a maze;
as each steep hillock was painfully traversed,
it was followed by another, and another, and
Geography, therefore, a stood in the way of
Ulster's full participation in the affairs of the
island. Ulster developed its own particular
variation of Irish culture; even today, Ulster
speech patterns are radically different from
those of the rest of the country. Not surprisingly,
the north-east was the last province conquered
by the British during the sixteenth century. When
the province was colonized by Scottish immigrants
during the next century, georgaphy contributed
to the antipathy and hatreds which developed
between these people and the rest of the Irish
Some Irishmen might argue that the seeds of hatred
were effectvely sown in the first English invasion by
Strongbow in 1169. Officially known as Richard, Earl of
Pembroke, he did not come the Ireland as an invader; rather
he arrived at the request of Dermont MacMurrough, the recently
deposed king of Leinster, who was seeking to regain his
lost throne. Dermot enticed Strongbow by offering his
daughter's hand in return for military support. Strongbow
succeeded in restoring his soon-to-be father-in-law;
later in 1171 he, himself, became king after the untimely
death of Dermot.5
To say that the roots of hatred extend this deep in
history is both hyperbole abd distortion. The distortion
lies in the fact that, as Dermot's war indicates, no
sense of Irish nationalism existed at this time. Tribal
chieftans rules georgraphic areas by force and custom, and
they were more preoccupied with fighting among themselves
and protecting their regions than responding to the call
of their still undiscovered and undeveloped spirit of
nationalism. The exaggeration is proven by the fact that
Strongbow and the ensuing Normans, though indeed foreign
and victorious on the battlefield, did not assume the
role of conquerors. Rather than remain foreign, they
were assimilated into the Irish culture thus becoming in
the words of an oft quoted phrase "more Irish than the
Irish themselves." The hatred does not run this deep.
This acculturation process was of no small concern in
London to those in government whose foremost intent was to
maintain clear economic, social and political distinction
between English and Irish. This led to the issuance of
the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 which belatedly "forbade
Norman and English settlers to practise Irish customs, to
speak Irish language and to have any social or economic
dealings with the native population."6 Though perhaps an
early indicator of the English's historically condescend-
ing attitude toward the Irish and their tendency toward
impractical, unenforceable laws, these new laws had little
legal or emotional effect in Ireland.
As English grew into an imperial power in the late
16th and early 17th century, she established a pattern of
colonial development called plantation. At the same time
that John Smith and company were founding the Jamestown
plantation, England made similar plantings in Ireland.
These were not the first.
Twice already, during the previous thirty years,
plantation had been attempted in Ireland though without
much success . . . in the territories of Leix and Offaly,
on the borders of the Pale, . . . and in north-east
In 1583 after suppressing a rebellion in Munster, the
English planted settlers in that country. "Imperfectly
executed though it was, it marked a great advance of
royal authority"8 and set the stage for the next planta-
ion whose poisoned roots still bear poisoned fruits in
Paradoxically Ulster, which later would stand ready to
to fight to retain her ties to Great Britain, was the last
Irish province to yield to English colonization partly
because of her geography and partly because the Gaelic
inhabitants cherished both their independence and their
independent Gaelic ways. They, like their later Protestant
brethren, would not submit without one good, last fight.
Of the many risings which flood Irish histroy, the
rebellion led by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, in 1595
is significant as the last Anglo-Irish conflict free of
religious undertones. Though the English had been
Protestant now for about sixty years since Henry VIII's
break with Rome and the Irish rebels were Catholic,
independence not religion was at the heart of this rebellion.
In winning the English broke the Gaelic independence of
Ulster; in defeat, followed closely by the "flight of the
Earls," the leaderless, conquered inhabitants were defense-
less against the next English attack - plantation.
This new plantation took place in six counties, the
four forefeited by the departed earls: Donegal, Coleraine,
Armagh and Tyrone; and Cavan and Fermanagh as well.9 Of
the remaining three counties in the province "Antrim and
Down already contained large Scottish and smaller English
settlements, and were . . . loyal subjects of the London
Government."10 The ninth and last, Monaghan, in England's
estimation was successfully converting to English ways.
Accordingly, none of the last three were "planted."11
In discussing the reasons for planting Ireland,
Constantine FitzGibbon in Red Hand, The Ulster Colony
asserts bluntly that:
the motives behind the Plantation were crude;
to make money, to keep the Irish down, and if
possible to turn them into second-class
Englishmen or Scots at least to prevent them
from speaking, thinking and thus even being Irish.12
He counterbalances his bluntness by proceeding to note
with equal force that "the basic motive . . . was not
the destruction of Gaelic culture, nor even in the first
instance [of plantation] of the Roman Catholic religion."13
Most historians generally agree with FitzGibbon on these
points, though they might well state them in different
order, with different words, with varying priority and
as with most matters related to this issue in widely
ranging extremes of passion.
Without getting into prolonged discussion of the
actural plantation system and its implementation in
Northern Ireland, a brief description is essential be-
cause of its direct relation to Ulster today. J.C.
Beckett in his History of Modern Ireland described it
In each country a comparatively small area
was assigned to the 'deserving' natives, who
were to grant leases to their tennants, build
houses and follow English methods of husbandry.
The rest of the territory, apart from the
extensive church land, was set aside for
colonization. The main work was to be entrusted
to 'undertakers'. They were required to bring
over English or Scottish settlers and establish
them close togetter in villages and townships;
to build stone or brick houses with fortified
enclosures or 'bawns,' and to keep arms for
their defence. Lands were also to be granted
to 'servitors' men who had served the Crown
in Ireland ; they were under similar obligations
as to building and defence, but were allowed to
take native Irish tennants, though they were
encouraged to plant with English or Scots.14
This planting took root but not entirely as disigned.
Between 1610 and 1630 approximately 49,000 settlers,
predominantly Protestant Scots, came to Ulster, but they
were unable to displace the inhabitians for two simple
reasons. There were not enough settlers to occupy all
the estates; consequently, those settlers who did come
needed to retain the Irish as laborers out of economic
necessity. Thus, the Catholic minority which figures
so prominently to this day was created. Even with this
concerted effort toward plantation and the large influx
of protestant settlers, the more remote counties to be
"planted," Donegal and Cavan, remained predominantly
During this same period too came the first attempts
by the government to gerrymander political districts
and rig elections to ensure a Protestant majority over
the "recusants" who controlled the Irish Parliament.
With these political shenanigans, the planting of
Protestant settlers in a Catholic country, and the
subjugation and displacement of the native population,
the seed which would produce the ugly hybrid had been
planted. Nurtured by the lesser qualities of man,
soon to be spread by impassioned by unchrisitian
religious fervor, and carried forward in time by the
everpresent winds of hatred, violence and death, it
grew uncontrollably strangling the healthy fauna of
moderate thought in its birthplace; it further stretched
across local boundaries, seas, and oceans to both draw
sustenance and destroy. Ugly fruit soon appeared.
The first rebellion directly attributable to
plantation occurred in 1641, having long term political
consequences and igniting religious fires which still
burn. The issues were not religious, but since the
opposing parties were divided along religious lines,
pitting Protestant against Catholic, unavoidable
sectarian passions resulted. This rising was much
different than the O'Neill rising of 1595. The latter
was a last-ditch stand to retain independence, a simple
bipartisan war. In 1641 the rebels took the offensive
in an attempt to re-occupy lost terrain and to regain
their lost independence. It was not a gentleman's war.
Many English settlers were slaughtered in the
first heat of the rising; others, after being
held as prisioners for a time, were deliberately
murdered, sometimes by scores together. Thousands
more, driven from their homes, plundered of
their goods, stripped almost naked, were left to
find their way to some place of refuge, or perish
in the attempt. These excesses sprang from the
undisciplined fury of the Irish, chafing under
a thousand grievances, not from the settled
policies of their leaders.16
Policy or not, little astute leadership existed to prevent
such violent over-reaction.
The Irish leadership was inexperienced and poorly
organized. Successful initially in the countryside, the
Irish lacked the leadership and arms necessary to gain a
decisive victory. Realistically, victory no matter how
decisive would certainly have been short-lived enduring
only until England was able to bring her military might
to bear. The Irish could not win.
Falling back, the Protestants successfully defended
strongholds in places like Enniskillen, Coleraine and
Londonderry; they also operated offensively in parts of
Donelgal. This stalemate was extremely advantageous to the
Protestants. Concentrated in these strongholds, they
gained that unity that only the shared experience of war
can produce; they would not lose it. Successful in
holding off the Irish rebels, they gained tremendous
confidence in their ability as a group, notwithstanding
their minority, to defend their interests. This determin-
ation and confidence too have become hereditary.
Finally, and most important in terms of the outcome of the
rebellion, in delaying they bought time. With each day
the Protestants' unity, confidence and determination grew
in inverse proportion to the diminishing momentum of the
If religion was not yet indelibly inscribed in Irish
history, Oliver Cromwell and his army looming on the horizon
would forever ensure that it was. Cromwell arrived in
1649 with a highly efficient force of ten thousand veteran
troops and crushed the rebellion.17 His victories were
followed by massacres at Drogheda and Wexford, a campaign
of terror which, in the later words of Winston Churchill,
was "deeply embarrassing to Cromwell's nineteenth-
century admirers and apologists."18 Cromwell for his
part saw this campaighn as almost a holy mission.
Churchill addressed the fact and the fallacy of Cromwell's
In his hatred of Popery, which he regarded as a
worldwide conspiracy of evil, he sought to ident-
ify the garrison of Drogheda witht he Roman
Catholic Irish peasantry who had massacred the
Protestant landlords in 1961. He ought to have
known that not one of them had the slightest
connection with that eight-year-old horror.19
Churchill's cool hindsight may have been a little
unfair since neither the blazing emotions of war and
religion, which compelled and blinded Cromwell, did not
obsure his vision. Cromwell believe in the righteous-
ness of his actions. After Drogheda he wrote, "I am
persuaded that this is a righteous judgement of God upon
these barbarous wretches who have imbued their hands in
so much innocent blood."20 Churchill summarized perfectly
Cromwell's legacy to Ireland.
We have seen the many ties which at one time or
another have joined the inhabitiants of the Western
islands, and even in Ireland itself offerred a
tolerable way of life to Protestants and Catholics
alike. Upon all of these Cromwell's record was
a lasting bane. By an uncompleted process of
terror, by an iniquitous land settlement, by the
virtual proscription of the Catholic religion,
by the bloody deeds already described, he cut
new gulfs between the nations and the creeds.
"Hell or Connaught" were the terms he thrust
upon the native inhabitants, and they for thier
pare, across three hundred years, have used as
their keenest expression of hatred "The Curse
or Cromwell on you." The consequences of
Cromwell's rule in Ireland have distressed and
at times distracted English politics down even
to the present day. To heal them baffled the
skill and loyalties of successive generations.
They became for a time a potent obstacle to the
harmoney of the English-speaking people through-
out the world. Upon all of us there still lies
"the curse of Cromwell."21
A generation later in 1689 the Irish rose again
for a most unlikelly purpose - to assist James II, the
Catholic King of England, in regaining his throne. James
was the brother of Charles II, who died without heir;
by the rules of succession, he became king. James was
also a convert to Catholicism and had been less than
circumspect in his personal life, attributes which pleased
neither a Protestant Parliament nor a predominantly
Protestant country. In fact, some members of parliament
had unsuccessfully battled Charles II for several years
attempting to pass an Act of Exclusion which would have
"legally" adjusted established lineage procedures. Charles
resisted until his death in 1685, and thus was able "to
transmit the crown of a Protestant country to a Catholic
James, after thwarting an early unpopular and
unsupported rebellion, ruled for three years until the
comulative weight of his desire to rule arbitarily,
his use of a strong standing army, his tolerant measures
towards Catholics, his open policy of placing them into
incresingly important positions, and finally the birth of
his son, a Catholic heir, crushed what minimal support he
had enjoyed. He fled and William of Orange ascended to
While William III took power, James was organizing
support in France. In March 1689 the deposed Stuart
monarch landed in Ireland:
Where he was welcomed as a deliverer. He reigned
in Dublin . . . and was soon defended by a
Catholic army which may have reached a hundred
thousand men. The whole island, except the
protestant settlements in the North passed under
William did not address this threat in force until
1690, when he personally led his army into the Protestant
force beachhead area in the north. On July 1, 1690, a
mere two weeks after his landing at Carrickfergus,
William and his army met and defeated a numerically
superior Irish army at the Battle of Boyne, a victory
commemorated annually in Northern Ireland by the Protestant
Orangemen. After this defeat James fled Ireland, but the
Irish fought on for another year until they were defeated
in the truly decisive battle of this war at Aughrim on
July 12, 1961.24
The Treaty of Limerick which ended the war was in
many respects conciliatory and lenient in its terms - too
lenient in the view of Protestants, particularly in
Ireland. Not all its best intentions came to pass. By
1697 Parliament had forced William's hand, passing Laws
which forbade Catholics sending their children abroad for
education, eliminated their right to bear arms and banished
the Catholis clergy.25 Thus, within a decade after Boyne,
Of the new Protestant ascendancy had declared
itself. The practical toleration long injoyed
by the Roman Catholics was to come to an end
and they were to be deprived of every means by
which they might threaten the position of the
dominant minority. The era of penal laws had
By any standard of comparision to earlier times in
Ireland, the 18th century was a period of relative
prosperity and peace. As oppressive as the letter of the
Penal laws was, the effect, like many past statutes,
diminished rapidly over time. After thirty years of rel-
atively strict application, they lossened in practice;
by 1777 they were virtually both unenforceable and
unenforced.27 These laws affected both Catholics and
all dissident Protestants (i.e., non-Anglicans). This
along with the increasing religious tensions in Irelands,
led many "dissenters" to emigrate to the more hospitable
By 1770 it was reckoned that 12,000 Ulstermen
were reaching America each year. . . . It was
not untill well into the next century that really
massive Roman Catholic immigrations into Canada
and the United States took place.28
Beneath the peaceful facade of this period, not all
were basking in prosperity nor content with the status quo.
Underlying social ills festered, linked to the plantation
system, religious intolerance, subjugation and minority
rule. Though not yet visible or organized on a national
scale, secret Irish societies arose; notably, these were
both Catholic and Protestant bearing "such colorful names
as Blackfeet, Whiteboys, and Hearts of Oak,"29 they con-
centrated their efforts most frequently on collection
agents, not on humanitarian social issues. For similar
reasons in 1641, the "Hearts of Steel" banded together in
Antrim to take direct action against unscrupulous landlords
who had forced them to give up their lands due to
exorbitant renewal rates.30 For any who may have thought
otherwise, the actions of the "Steelboys" proved beyond
all doubt "that the presbyterian tenants of the north
were, when aroused, just as ready as the Roman Catholic
teneants of the south to defend their position by violence."31
In fact, many of them would join forces toward a common
goal in the next rising.
But no century in Ireland would be complete without
a rising of some kind. In the last decade of the 18th
century, Theobald Wolf Tone, a young Protestant lawyer
inspired by the French Revolution, strove to unite all
the Irish people. He formed the Societ of United Irishmen,
first in Belfast and largely Protestant based.32 The
Catholics did not respond quickly. Nevertheless, by
1794 the organization posed a significant enough threat
that the English banned it as dangerous and revolutionary.
Stressing union of all Irishmen regardless of religion
and aided b the excesses of a new Protestant paramilitary
organization, the Orange Society, which first appeared
in Armagh in the 1690's and later became a national
movement, Tone gradually won the much needed Catholic
support so vital to a truly national movement. While
Tone was in France attempting to muster external support,
crown agents effectively infiltrated the society and
crippled its leadership in a series of arrests.33
The actual rising was from the start widely dispersed,
uncoordinated and understandably unsuccessful. The rebels
struck the first blow in Wexford. In May 1798 a Catholic
force led by a priest won initial victories; however, it
was eventually forced on the defensive and was destroyed
a Vinegar Hill. A Protestant rising in Antrim during
August was also suppressed, but with less brutality.
Later the same month French forces landed in Connaught,
waged a valiant but hopeless campaign, and surrendered on
September 8, 1798. The final blow came about one week
later when the Royal Navy intercepted French ships off
the coast of Donegal capturing Tone along with additional
French forces. Tried and condemned to death, Tone committed
suicide in his prision cell.34 Another Irish rising had
come to a familiar conclusion.
Tone's place in Irish history is significant. Though
unsuccessfrl, the rising of 1798 was truly national in
scope and produced in Tone a martyr of lasting national
fame. But his movement did not unite all the Irish people,
particularly in Ulster. There his political actions toward
unity heightened the fears of the Protestant minority that
had remained loyal to the crown and their own economic
interests; thus in Ulster greater polarization resulted.
Consequently two armed camps developed: the Catholic
"Defenders" and the Protestant "Peep O'Day Boys,"35
precursors of later sectarian, terrorist groups. On a
larger scale the rise of the Orange Society into an
Ulster-wide organization of unprecedented political and
military force guaranteed it a decisive role in the rest
of Ireland's immediate and distant future.
In the 19th century, "Home Rule" became the dominant
issue. What home rule the Irish Parliament provided was
lost in 1800 by the Act of Union between Ireland and the
United Kingdom. On this occasion the Irish Parliament
actually voted to disestablish itself. The vote, however,
was the culmination of a deliberate English plan.
Cornwallis and Castlereagh were authorized to
promise the peerages, places, and pensions
necessary to meet the claims put forward. The
support thus gained, however, was hardly suffic-
ient for the purpose now in hand, partly because
so many of the independent gentlemen who normally
voted with the government had gone into opposition
on the question of union, partly because it was
thought neccessary that the measure should be
carried by a substantial majority. Castlereagh
set himself, therefore, to win every possible
vote, by threats, by promises, in a few cases
even by direct puchase for cash. Some members
who could not bring themselves to vote for union
were nevertheless indiced to vacate their seats
and make way for government supporters. Other
vacancies resulted from transfers of allegiance
on the part of burrough-owners, whose nominees
refused to accept the change of policy and were
obliged to resign.36
Thus Home Rule became the question and the cause of Irish
politics for the entire century and into the next.
One of the major political oversights of the Act of
Union was its failure to eradicate the Penal Laws. This
left the path for challenge open, and challenge the Irish
did. The laws restricting Catholics from holding elected
office crumbled under the weight of mass popular action
and resulted in what is commonly referred to as the
Catholic Emancipation of 1828.37 Emancipation combined
with the earlier loss of Parliament effectively sounded
the death knell for the "Ascendancy" in Ireland, except
in the Protestant strongholds in Ulster.
In Ulster, in a manner still evident today, each
perceived step forward by the Catholics in the South was
viewed as a threat by the Protestants in the North; thus
each occurrence resulted in violent repercussions against
the Catholic minority there. Led by the Ian Paisley of
that ear, the Reverend Doctor Henry Cooke, the Protestant
majority adamantly opposed home rule because home rule
to them meant southern home rule; it would be based in
Dublin and would not distinguish between "North" and
"South." They preferred the status quo.
Dr. Abraham Maslow, the noted behavioral scientist,
could have looked to Ireland in the 1840's had he wanted
a national example to support his "hierarchy of needs."
By mid-century lofty national issues vanished in the face
of a severe challenge to basic survival; the "Potato
Famine" saw to that. In 1845 a blight struck Ireland's
primary agricultural crop and then struck with even more
severity the following year. An extremely bitter winter
ensued. Starvation and hardship similar to that which,
except for climate, shock the modern world's conscience
in Central Africa in 1985 stalked Ireland in much the
same manner with much the same result. The blight did
not appear again in 1847 with even greater suffering.38 If
ever Ireland has experienced what modern psychologists
call a significant emotional event, "the Famine" more
so than any rising must be it.
Human tragedy aside, the famine is important for
a variety of reasons. Ireland's population, which had
almost doubled in the first four decades of the century,
shrunk; it became a victim of death and emigration. Some
two million Irish came to the United States alone between
1845 and 1858.39 These people brought few material belong-
ings but many bitter memories, not just of famine and
death but also of politics and history. This national
disaster furthered deepened the ingrained bitterness of the
Irish toward the British who, in the opinion of many, did
little and cared less about the famine to their west. While
it is true that the British government did little, one must
consider her inaction according to the values of that
period rather than with the modern day conscience. From
that perspective Kenneth Neill more objectively points
out that "few govenments of this period would have
behaved differently."40 Nevertheless, for the people and
the nation affected the bitter aftertaste remained.
Once in America the Irish did not forget Ireland.
Forming organizations like the Irish Republican Brotherhood
and Clan na Gael in New York and the other northern cities
where they first settled, the Irish raised funds and
collected arms in anticipation of the next rising. Much
like later republican organizations in Ireland, they split
several times over the issue of political action versus
military force; concurrently both their numbers and the
numbers of groups multiplied. As an example of just how
extreme some were, one of the more radical factions after
the United States' Civil War actually invaded Canada from
the United States to strike a blow at Great Britain.41
The Irish in America did not lose their great
love for Ireland faithfully passed this emotional
bond to subsequent generations. This romantic inheritance
brought with it the correspondingly strong hatred for
Britain, which has repeatedly mainfested itself over the
years. As one author has commented, the Irish, thought
lowly regarded initially in their adopted land:
Acquired in due time and with successive
emigrations a new respectability and an important
political influence, and became an object of
grave concern to English statesmanship. They
collected and transmitted funds to Ireland; worse
still they touched a sensitive nerve in the high-
est places in American government. By the end
of the nineteenth century, no English government
could think of them without a shudder.42
As the 20th century draws rapidly to a close, Irish-
Americans, both Catholic and Protestant, continue to
support their Irish cousins with arms, money and
propaganda. Hence they share vicariously, sometimes
unwittingly, in the "troubles" that are Northern Ireland.
If the British ever had legitimate cause to shake
their heads in wonderment and disbelief, it may have
first occurred in 1848 or during the decade or so that
followed. After a nationalist group known as the Young
Irelanders staged a feeble rising in that year which the
British easily suppressed, the British did not adopt a
hard-line stance toward the rebel leadership. Instead
they were content to deport them rather than spark the
coals of rebellion further. Thus the rebels gained no
martyrs and little national (Irish) sympathy. More import-
antly for Britian, by this wise action she preserved both
military and political victory.
This leniency, however, would very quickly come home
to roost causing subsequent British leaders to deal more
harshly with future Irish rebels. Two of the Young
Irelanders deported were John O'Mahoney and James Stephens.
Coming to America, O'Mahoney founded the first anti-Britiah
group of significance, the Irish Republican Brotherhood:
this organization's avowed purpose and clearly stated obj-
ective was the total overthrow of British rule in Ireland.
Like many things with the Irish, that single objective may
have been the only point upon which they could agree. This
Fenian movement split several times through disagreement;
nevertheless it remained strong in its adopted homeland.
With support from America and an infusion of Parisian
revolutionary spirit, the Fenian movement, like plantation
in Ulster, once planted could never be uprooted form
In the mid-19th century Paris was to revolutionaries
what Beirut has been to terrorists in the modern era. Even
today Paris is the home of many leaders and governments in
exile. After leaving Ireland, the second of the two
Young Irelanders, James Stephens, "spent much of the next
decade in Paris, where he became absorbed in the techniques
and methods of the revolutionaries who traditionally made
that city their home."43 Returning to Dublin in 1858,
he formed his "Secret, oathbound" Brotherhood, shortly to
become Ireland's twin branch of the Irish Republican
Brotherhood.44 The Fenians had landed; but without
British help, they would never have gotten the situation
APPENDIX A. The Origins of Hate
1 Michael Olmert, "Hail to Heraldry, A Most Intricate
and Revealing Art," Smithsonian, May 1984, p. 86.
2 Kenneth Neill, The Irish People (New York:
Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979), p. 8.
3 Neill, pp. 8-9.
4 Neill, p. 9.
5 Neill, pp. 38-39.
6 Neill, pp. 45-46.
7 J. C, Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1966), pp. 21-22.
8 Beckett, p.21.
9 Frank Gallagher, The Indivisible Island (Westport,
Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974), p. 23.
10 Constantine FitzGibbon, Red Hand. The Ulster
Colony (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1972),
11 FitzGibbon, p. 20.
12 FitzGibbon, p. 19.
13 FitzGibbon, p. 21.
14 Beckett, pp. 45-46.
15 Neill, p. 45.
16 Beckett, p. 83.
17 Winston S. Churchill, A History of the English
Speaking Peoples, The New World (New York: Dodd, Mead
and Company, 1956), pp. 288-292. Hereafter cited as
18 Churchill, World, p. 288.
19 Churchill, World, p. 291.
20 Churchill, World, p. 290, n. 1.
21 Churchill, World, p. 292.
22 Winston S. Churchill, A History of the English
Speaking Peoples. The Age of Revolution (New York: Dodd,
Mead and Company, 1957), p. 9. Hereafter cited as Age.
23 Churchill, A", p. 9.
24 FitzGibbon, pp. 41-42.
25 FitzGibbon, pp. 44-46.
26 Beckett, pp. 151-152.
27 Beckett, pp. 157-159.
28 FitzGibbon, p. 49.
29 Neill, p. 77.
30 Beckett, pp. 177-179.
31 Beckett, p. 179.
32 FitzGibbon, pp. 91-95.
33 Beckett, pp. 261-268.
34 Beckett, pp. 261-268.
35 Neill, p. 90.
36 Beckett, p. 278.
37 FitzGibbon, pp. 91-95.
38 Neill, pp. 109-115.
39 Neill, p. 118.
40 Neill, p. 112.
41 Neill, p. 114.
42 Dangerfield, p. 14.
43 Neill, p. 129.
44 Dangerfield, p. 94.
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