The Roots Of Terrorism In Northern Ireland AUTHOR Major Alexander C. Roy, United Kingdom CSC 1991 SUBJECT AREA - General EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: THE ROOTS OF TERRORISM IN NORTHERN IRELAND I. Purpose: To provide a concise history of the sectarian trouble in Northern Ireland, and an understanding of the different perspectives of the Catholic and Protestant communities, in order to highlight the exploitation of Irish nationalism by terrorists. II. Problem: Among Americans, particularly of Irish descent, there remains a belief that Irish terrorists are "freedom fighters". This misconception has resulted in significant financial and moral support for the Provisional IRA in its current campaign of violence. III. Irish nationalism has evolved over a very long time (since 400 AD). A complex and fascinating history has led to the establishment of two opposing groups, Catholic and Protestant. The latter represents a significant percentage of the overall island population, and a clear majority in what is now Northern Ireland. Sectarian troubles have ranged from minor disagreements to appalling acts of violence. While in the past there has been justifiable cause for armed insurrection, today the situation is very different. The extremists no longer represent their respective communities, though they purport to do so. The Provisional IRA maintains a stranglehold on elements of the population by corruption and coercion. Protestant extremists, though less publicized, do the same. The use of terror as a weapon against a liberal democracy, as Great Britain now is, cannot be condoned. If the people of Northern Ireland chose to opt out of the United Kingdom, the British Government would certainly agree. In the meantime, there is a clear obligation on the Government to ensure that British citizens are protected from violent extremists, whether Catholic or Protestant. IV. Conclusions: The British government will continue to protect the interests of the people of Northern Ireland for as long as the population chooses to remain part of the United Kingdom. The Provisional IRA could be decisively defeated if it were not for the political, social and moral constraints on the Security Forces. The Catholic extremists now depend on support from support abroad and, as this includes the United States, it is important that the root cause of Ireland's violence is understood by Americans. V. Recommendations: A campaign to win the trust of Northern Ireland's Catholic community is required. This should be focused on the Republican enclaves in an effort to integrate them with the Protestants. Maximum internal and international publicity should be given to the defeat of terrorism and the improvement of the Catholic / Protestant relationship. THE ROOTS OF TERRORISM IN NORTHERN IRELAND OUTLINE Thesis Statement. Understanding the historical background, and the different perceptions of the people of Northern Ireland, will lead to an appreciation of Irish Nationalism and its recent exploitation by terrorists in pursuit of their anti democratic goals. I. TERRORISM AGAINST BRITISH DEMOCRACY A. The myth of the Irish "freedom fighter" B. Sectarian strife C. Terrorist support 1. Ignorance 2. Coercion II. THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO VIOLENCE IN IRELAND A. The wake of the Roman Empire B. After the Dark Ages C. Norman Invasion D. Ireland as an issue in English defense policy C. The Protestant Ascendancy D. British oppression and Irish nationalism E. The grievance and emigration to America F. Early 20th Century backlash to military operations III. RECENT HISTORY A. The Irish Government against Westminster B. Acceptance of partition C. The North's discontented Catholic minority D. Terrorist exploitation of sectarian strife E. Undermining law and order F. Terrorist coercion of the people IV. ROLE OF THE SECURITY FORCES A. Hearts and minds B. Religious segregation C. Protestant bigotry and the incitement of the Catholics D. The two communities and their mutual fear V. CONCLUSIONS A. Military defeat of terrorism B. Alienation of the extremists form their communities C. Future resurgence - minimizing the damage THE ROOTS OF TERRORISM IN NORTHERN IRELAND by Major Alexander C Roy, Royal Marines As a British officer attending the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, I have frequently been asked to comment on the internal terrorist threat to the United Kingdom. Despite repeated atrocities by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and other extremist groups, there remains, primarily among Americans of Irish descent, a misconception that the Irish terrorist is a "freedom fighter." My intention is to dispel the myth that this type of urban guerrilla deserves some form of romantic recognition. Later in this paper, when I discuss current terrorist coercion techniques, it will become clear that terrorism, in one form or another, is the Irish urban guerrilla's principal weapon. This explains my frequent and easily justifiable substitution of "terrorist" for "urban guerrilla." The extremists responsible for the current violence fall into two distinct groups; the Republicans (Catholics striving for a united Ireland) and the Loyalists (Protestants who seek to keep Northern Ireland independent of Dublin). The former includes the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and it is this organization that poses the main terrorist threat to the security of Northern Ireland. The Official IRA is at present maintaining a cease-fire, but it reserves the right to carry out operations against the Security Forces (the Police and the Army) of a "defensive and retaliatory" nature. The long term aim of both Catholic groups is to establish a united Socialist Republic of Ireland. PIRA's primary operating method has been the use of indiscriminate violence although, faced by almost total military defeat in 1975, it did declare a brief cease-fire. (12: 155) Its main targets are police and military personnel, on or off duty, in order to undermine law and order in an attempt to make the Province ungovernable. Other forms of attack, such as the bombing of commercial premises and sectarian murder, have been used in an effort to weaken the Economy and gain publicity. Both Catholic and Protestant terrorists fear violent reprisals from opposing extremists and this accounts for the relatively few assassination attempts against prominent Northern Irish public figures. The use of terror as a weapon against a democratic nation is an especially appalling crime. Even taken in the context of Northern Ireland's inter-sectarian strife it is impossible to justify. Unfortunately, the human character weakness of self interest, and the resultant emotional "eye for an eye" mentality, accounts for much of the violence. However, the hard core terrorists are not emotional, they murder in cold blood. Those that actively or passively support Irish terrorism are either evil, ignorant, misled by propaganda, or coerced by the extremists. Many decent people in the Province fall into the latter category, but there are others who remain unwilling to accept the harsh facts of life which, if analyzed with reason and compassion, would cause them to switch their allegiance or sympathies. It has been argued that the term "terrorism" has no precise or widely accepted definition. (12: 48-50) Acts which in themselves may be classic forms of crime, such as murder, coercion and arson, may be committed by terrorists, who claim there is an indisputable political motive. The terrorist aims to create panic or disorder to facilitate the destruction of social discipline, paralyze the established authority and to create misery and suffering in the community as a whole. A less complex description of terrorism is, "any threat of violence, individual acts of violence, or a campaign of violence designed primarily to instill fear." Terrorism is violence for effect and often it is not the actual victims who are the focus of effort, it is usually aimed at the people watching. (12: 49) This paper will examine the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland and it will highlight two separate issues. One problem is the civil disorder and this is directly attributable to the population tolerating bitter and twisted individuals who purport to be religious, political and community leaders. A more serious and sinister matter is the emergence of Catholic and Protestant urban guerrillas. Both sides terrorize, torture and murder as they exploit others in a shameful quest for power and recognition. Understanding the historical background, and the different perceptions of the people in Northern Ireland, will lead to an appreciation of Irish Nationalism and its recent exploitation by terrorists in pursuit of their anti democratic goals. The following simplified political history provides the background to the present campaign. To understand the Irish situation, the historical facts must be weighed together with the prejudices, fears and beliefs of the Irish people. The very different perspectives of the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland evolved over many generations. Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain, around 400 AD, the Celtic population which had been settled in the British Isles for several centuries was mostly driven out of England by the Anglo-Saxons. However, in Scotland, Wales and Ireland the Celtic Race survived. Around this time Ireland was converted to Christianity and became the "Land of Saints and Scholars" in a Western cope swept by barbarism, as the Dark Ages descended on the remnants of the Roman Empire. (9: 196) In 1171, a century after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, Norman barons invaded and settled parts of southern and eastern Ireland. They rapidly blended with the native Irish chiefs, losing their allegiance to the King in England, and thus Ireland remained a federation of quarreling earldoms.(9: 319-330) For a while the country co-existed well enough with England, but increasing influence from London caused disaffection. In the 1530s, under Henry VIII, England broke with the Church of Rome and Catholic Ireland was then seen as a threat to English security. For more than a century England lived under the shadow of a threatened Catholic invasion from a French-Scottish alliance, or the Spanish Hapsburg Empire, The English feared that Ireland would be used as a spring-board. For this geographic reason, Ireland became an important issue in defense policy. Elizabeth I began the military subjugation of Ireland in the second half of the 16th Century. There was enormous loss of life and great destruction of property. (9: 401-4O4) The Irish earls fled in 1607 and, with the succession of the Scottish King James I to the English throne, the Crown sought to achieve lasting control of Ireland by planting loyal English and Scottish Protestant settlers in the confiscated lands of the displaced earls. As this occurred mainly in Ulster (now Northern Ireland), the result was a concentration of mutually hostile populations, the Protestant settlers and the dispossessed Catholics. In 1641 the Irish Catholics revolted and several thousand Protestants were massacred in Ulster. (7: 33-34) Protestant folklore preserves the memory of these atrocities, and it accounts for the continued sense of insecurity passed down from generation to generation. Oliver Cromwell's equally fierce revenge created a similarly bitter memory for Irish Catholics. (9: 422-427) His policy created an Anglo-Scottish landed ruling class that spread from Ulster into southern and eastern Ireland. In time this became known as the Protestant Ascendancy, those privileged people who owned four fifths of the land and dominated the native Catholic population. After the expulsion of James II from England, William III of Orange further developed the Anglican ruling class in Ireland. The passage of the "Penal Laws" deprived Catholics of voting rights and the right to carry arms. (9: 458-459) They were excluded from certain professions and restricted in their ability to own or inherit land. Discrimination was also imposed on non-conformist Protestants, in particular the Presbyterian settlers of Scottish descent. This resulted in an alliance between these Protestants and the Catholics. Ireland as a whole suffered because of restrictions on economic development designed to benefit English merchants who were anxious to protect their overseas markets. Only Ulster's linen industry, which posed no threat to the English economy, was allowed to expand and this resulted in Ulster becoming the most prosperous part of Ireland. Oppressive English legislation created the sense of Irish nationalism that resulted in an armed uprising. This coincided with the American War of Independence, and the bold capture of a British warship, in Belfast Lough, by the USS Ranger under John Paul Jones. (7: 66-67) The Irish uprising was crushed and brought about the "Union" which simply meant the abolition of the Irish Parliament and direct rule of government by Westminster, with appropriate Irish representation. Early in the 19th Century the alliance between the Irish Catholics and Presbyterians broke down. The latter saw the Union as the best guarantee for their lives, property and future. (8: 42) In 1829, the Catholics were at last allowed to vote and this lead to the disestablishment of the Anglican Church of Ireland. The Westminster Government failed to provide effective relief during the Potato Famine of 1845-50. (9: 602-610) The Irish peasants suffered terribly, a million died and another million emigrated, most of them to the United States (the population of Ireland is now only about half what it was immediately before the Famine). Not surprisingly, these people carried with them a grievance that still produces considerable emotion and accounts for the misguided American goodwill to the "oppressed" Irish. While American financial support for the IRA has decreased significantly, it still remains a problem in the last decade of the 20th Century.(12: 167) By the end of the 19th Century, a well-organized movement for Irish Home Rule had evolved and it sought devolved government by constitutional means. Despite the British Prime Minister's willingness to concede Home Rule, it did not come about until 1914 due to the English electorate and a divorce scandal involving Parnell, the Irish Party's leader.(9: 659) Meanwhile, the legitimacy of the constitutional nationalists was undermined by two other important factors. Opposition to Home Rule ("Rome Rule") had grown among Ulster Protestants and the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was formed in 1912. (7: 311) This threat of force, combined with the known sympathy of the British Army and the King himself, forced the Government to allow Ulster to opt out of Home Rule. At the same time, in the South, militant Nationalism had been kept alive by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and the paramilitary Irish Volunteers. Both sides began arming and training and, had it not been for the outbreak of World War I, civil war would have been likely. Tens of thousands of both Ulster and Irish Volunteers chose to fight Germans rather than each other. A few impatient Nationalists decided to take advantage of Britain's heavy involvement in the First World War and they rebelled in 1916, with virtually no support from the Irish people. (7: 315) Some 2,000 of them were crushed by the British Army in less than a week. The severity of the British operation created martyrs of the executed leaders and, sadly, helped to rally Irish popular support for militant Nationalism. In the 1919 General Election, as a result of the harsh military action, the Republican Sinn Fein party won 73 out of the 1O5 Irish seats. (8: 139) It set up its own Parliament and proclaimed an independent all-Ireland Republic. Britain was only prepared to concede limited autonomy to the 26 counties of the South, excluding the 6 counties of modern Northern Ireland, the maximum area which the Protestant Unionists could hold securely. (7: 320) From 1919 the IRB, now the IRA, fought a guerrilla war against the British Army and the police, in an effort to force a withdrawal from Ireland. The military and police reacted with a campaign of counter-terror which was a dismal failure in that it did not reduce sympathy for the IRA, and it was a political embarrassment to the British Government both at home and abroad. In 1921, a treaty was signed that established the Irish Free State, with Northern Ireland remaining inside the United kingdom but having its own Parliament. The South was split by a bitter civil war between pro and anti-Treaty forces. The pro-Treaty forces of the Irish Government ruthlessly defeated the anti-Treaty forces of the IRA by 1923. (7: 318-322) In 1937, the Irish Free State changed its constitution and claimed sovereignty over all 32 counties of Ireland. Two years later the Irish Prime minister declared that partition prevented Ireland joining with the Allies; however, he refused to allow neutral Ireland to be used as a base against England. More significantly, thousands of Irishmen volunteered to fight for Britain in the Second World War. Ireland left the Commonwealth and became a Republic in 1949. As time passed the new Republic accepted the reality of partition and, while opposing it in principle, sought to increase cooperation with Northern Ireland. In the meantime, the Protestant Unionist Government, at Stormont in Northern Ireland, was left to rule with little interference from London. The Government's internal policies were based on two perceived threats, the South's demands for a Catholic dominated united Ireland, and the one third Catholic minority in Northern Ireland that rejected the legitimacy of the Stormont Government. This Government resigned in 1972 as a result of Westminster's decision to take over responsibility for security policy in Northern Ireland. Since then, the United Kingdom has sought to reduce the military presence in the Province and to progress towards a reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant communities. The "present troubles" is a term used to describe the civil disorder and the related terrorist activities since 1969, At this time the Army was again ordered to provide assistance to the Police. (12: 150) The fact that most of the rioting developed from Catholic demonstrations meant that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was generally facing Catholics and this caused it to lose credibility as an impartial police force. For this reason, the police found it increasingly difficult to control rioters and the use of baton charges, riot control gas and even gun fire was necessary. Greater animosity was created by the employment of the "B Specials", entirely Protestant and poorly trained police reserves, who further aroused the Catholics sense of injustice. (7: 328-329) As the situation deteriorated, the police had neither the numbers nor the ability to deal with such serious civil disorder. Due to the extent of the rioting, looting and burning in mid 1969, the Army was called upon to provide military aid to the Civil Power. Ironically, the Protestants proved even more violent than the Catholic Civil Rights campaigners, so the Army was required to restore and keep the peace in West Belfast and Derry by protecting the Catholics from Protestant attacks. The violence was largely confined to the poorer areas, where sub-standard housing and the associated unemployment of both Catholics and Protestants helped to sustain the bitterness and hatred. In an effort to regain normality, the RUC reorganized and disarmed themselves. When the controversial B Specials were disbanded, the illegal Protestant paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) revived. (7: 328) This was due to the perceived Catholic threat rapidly manifesting itself in the form of a renewed IRA campaign designed to take advantage of the weakened police force, and the subsequent breakdown of law and order. The Army, caught in the middle, found itself dealing less with sectarian rioting and more with the bombs and bullets of both Protestant and Catholic extremists. By exploiting the situation, the Catholic terrorists were able to take control of their communities. They offered the people "protection" from the Protestants and they established their authority by coercion and torture. This particularly unpleasant form of community terrorism has been the hallmark of the IRA for the past twenty years. Today, "kneecapping", with an electric drill or more frequently a firearm, is a common punishment for non-conformists in the Republican areas. The victims are given an appointment which they keep out of fear for their lives. Depending on the degree of punishment, one or both knees will be destroyed. Sometimes elbows and thighs are included and the victim only survives the grievous injuries caused by the multiple gunshots if his family has made a prior arrangement for an ambulance to be inbound at the time of the shooting. The IRA prefers its Catholic victims to survive, as they then serve as an example to others in the community. "Punishment shooting" is also used by Protestant extremists as a means of maintaining discipline and loyalty. However, it is in the Catholic communities that the majority of these pathetic victims are found. They are most unlikely to cooperate in any way with the Security Forces and their distinctive plaster casts make them a visual deterrent to others who might otherwise reject the IRA stranglehold. Due to the highly developed skills of Belfast's surgeons most of them make remarkable recoveries from their traumatic wounds. In 1971, before the resignation of the Stormont Government, large-scale internment was introduced in an effort to counter the IRA's terrorist activities. Unfortunately, this caused the alienation of many moderate Catholics. With the benefit of hindsight this internal security policy was a mistake. From a military viewpoint it was successful, as most of the active terrorists were arrested and held. The IRA became combat ineffective.(12: 156) Politically it was a disaster and, although attempts to justify the emergency action were made, there is no doubt that many innocent people suffered. Twenty years later, among the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, the scars are still obvious. In the hard Republican enclaves, a generation has grown up with no respect for the impartiality of the Security Forces. Tragically this is being passed on to children as, barely old enough to stand, they are taught by their parents to spit on and hurl abuse or rocks at police and soldiers. Notwithstanding the relatively recent civil unrest, there are ever increasing opportunities for the Police and the Army to win the hearts and minds of those that support, or even those close to, the Catholic and Protestant extremists. An effective campaign to gain the trust and co-operation of the Catholics is required, especially in West Belfast. Circumstances today have made the Protestants less of a problem, but the situation remains volatile. A military force conducting security operations in a free society must be trusted and respected if it is to be effective. Today, in Northern Ireland, the British Army operates in support of the RUC. Both the Army and the Police must have a reputation for fairness, impartiality and professionalism - such attributes will foster trust. With a thousand years of troubled history, and countless injustices to overcome, the United kingdom's Security Forces have a difficult task, and there is no end in sight. Other guerrilla campaigns in recent history highlight the fact that guerrillas fear alienation from the people. Tactics adopted have taken into account the need to maintain popular support. (12: 106-114) In Northern Ireland, the terrorists are able to play Catholic against Protestant, exploiting generations of distrust and hatred, thus winning support from their respective side. The population's self imposed religious segregation results in businesses, factories and recreation clubs that are exclusively "green" or "orange" and these naturally become easy targets for the extremists. Even school children are segregated because the Government continues to finance schools that are exclusively for Roman Catholics. It is difficult for those from outside Northern Ireland to grasp the extent of the religious bigotry that infects the Province. The maps issued to the Security Forces are known as "tribal maps", they are color coded to show Protestant, Catholic and mixed residential areas. Green areas of west Belfast contrast with the orange areas of the eastern districts. Where the two come together there is a history of inter-sectarian strife and violence. In north Belfast, hard Republican areas such as the Ardoyne and the New Lodge are surrounded by staunch Loyalist neighborhoods such as Tiger Bay and the Shankhill. Such areas have been, and sadly are likely to continue to be, the scenes of partitularly unpleasant clashes between the Catholics and Protestants. The summer marching season is an especially emotional time and hundreds of police are required to deploy to prevent the two sides clashing in what would rapidly become a bloody riot. The Protestants insist on exercising their right to conduct such marches on routes that involve Republican areas. Generations of hatred have created the insecurity felt by both sides and this militant behavior, by which the marchers aggravate the situation, is exploited by the hooligans and common thugs. For the urban guerrilla, intent on attacking the forces of law and order, the situation could hardly be better. The rights of the citizens to march or demonstrate are upheld, and the RUC are thus pre-occupied with preventing trouble. Police are forced to deploy in strength simply to keep opposing factions apart, and in doing so they become easy targets for terrorist attack. To reduce this threat the Army now provides background cover by patrolling and maintaining a poise to counter terrorists as necessary. This is one type of military operation that highlights the current policy of police primacy. The Army no longer acts as the major instrument of law enforcement and thus avoids the potential for a clash with disorderly civilians. The IRA "cease-fire", in 1975, proved that the British Army has both the experience and the capability to defeat the terrorists. Political, social and moral constraints have prevented this. Provided the Security Forces continue to act within the law, and are perceived to be just and impartial, they will eventually gain the overwhelming public support that is yet to be won in the staunch Republican areas. In common with other nations that have achieved "Great Power" status in their past, Britain has much to answer for from a moral viewpoint. Many British policies and their related military actions have been questionable, and the history of Anglo-Irish relations is no exception. Historically, the Irish who chose to emigrate to America had good reasons to bear grudges against the Westminster Government. However, today the United Kingdom is a pillar of democracy and outrageous acts of barbarism by Irish terrorists, especially the Provisional IRA, cannot be condoned. Sadly, in spite of the concerted efforts of the British and Irish Governments, terrorism in Northern Ireland continues to be a profitable trade. Taking into account today's clear political and social evidence, there is little doubt that the present trouble will continue to draw on the resources of both nations for many years to come. Even if the current violence peters out, and at present this deep rooted campaign shows few signs of abatement, the seeds of future action are already laid and there will probably be a resurgence in the 21st Century. However, the potential for damage to the fabric of the Society could be significantly reduced. Military commanders must make every effort to support the Police in an efficient and impartial joint operation to eradicate the extremists. While doing so, both the RUC and the Army must win the complete trust of the vulnerable people who deserve protection and freedom from terrorist coercion. Political and religious leaders must concentrate on breaking down the sectarian barriers, thus ensuring that the Catholic and Protestant communities have the opportunity to resolve their differences. This social, political and military campaign should focus on the Catholic minority, and it should help that group overcome the generations of actual and perceived persecution. A carefully constructed international publicity effort, targeted directly at the "Irish Americans", would play an important part in the early and final resolution of Northern Ireland's current problems. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Abels, Jules. The Parnell Tragedy. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1966. 2. Bell, J Bowyer. The Secret Army: The IRA 1916-1970. New York: The John Day Company, 1971. 3. Briscoe, Robert. "For the Life of Me." Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1958. 4. Crozier, F. P., Brigadier-General, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., Royal Irish Constabulary. Ireland For Ever. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1932. 5. Dangerfield, George. The Damnable Question. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1976. 6. Devlin, Bernadette. "The Price of My Soul." New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969. 7. Fitzgibbon, Constantine. Red Hand: The Ulster Colony. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972. 8. Gallagher, Frank. The Indivisible Island. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1957. 9. MacManus, Seamus. The Story of the Irish Race. 4th ed. New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1944. 10 MacStiofain, Sean. Revolutionary in Ireland. Edinburgh: R & R Clark Ltd., 1975. 11. O'Farrell, Patrick. Ireland's English Question. New York: Schocken Books Inc, 1971. 12. Wilkinson, Paul. Terrorism and the Liberal State. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1977. 13. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849. New York and Evanston: Hatter & Row Publishers, 1962.
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