The Battle of the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 12-13-14 August 1969, roughly marks the beginnings of the "IRA" as we think of it here in the U.S.. This was a 3 day riot, Catholic against Protestant, which finally was put down by British Troops. The Troubles, as the Northern Ireland problems are called in Britain, were more or less born of this fight.
The BBC, Reuters, NYT and many others are reporting the standown of the IRA, as announced by Senn Fein. The statement was read out on a DVD by Seanna Walsh, a member and Sinn Fein employee, who spent 21 years in prison for his I.R.A. activities. Walsh was jailed at various times for bank robbery, weapons possession and bomb making.
I hope these guys are serious but the situation is very complicated, more than the press and the politicians are admitting. First, what is the "IRA"?
IRA - Irish Republican Army - Proclaimed in the Easter Rising in 1916 and recognized by the First Dail (Irish Parliament) as the legitimate army of the Irish Republic in January 1919. Split into pro-Treaty forces (the National Army, also known as the Government forces or the regulars) and anti-Treaty forces (the Republicans, irregulars or Executive forces) after the Treaty. This IRA was founded in Ireland and no longer exists.
All of the following "IRA's" are based in Northern Ireland.
OIRA - The Official IRA, the remainder of the main body of the IRA after the 1969 split with the Provisionals, now apparently inactive in the military sense.
PIRA - The Provisional IRA, broke from the OIRA in 1969 over the latter's failing to protect nationalist communities in Northern Ireland, left wing orientation and increasing political activity; the term 'IRA' is almost always now used to denote this particular group.
CIRA - The Continuity IRA, broke from the PIRA in 1986 because the latter ended its policy on abstention (thus recognizing the two states on the Island of Ireland).
RIRA - The "Real" IRA, a 1997 breakaway from the PIRA consisting of members opposed to the peace process.
To draw some analogies, the "IRA" of today in Northern Ireland would be about like a criminal gang in, say, Charleston, SC, calling itself the Confederate Army or a gang of bank robbers and murderers in Pierre, SD, calling themselves The 7th Cavalry. The IRA didn't start out that way, but that is what it has become.
So the question is, which of the "IRA's" will disarm? Secondly, did Seanna Walsh speak for all the following individuals?
PIRA army council at start 2005:
Thomas "Slab" Murphy, chief of staff
Brian Keenan, assistant chief of staff
Gerry Adams president of Sinn Fein since 1983, MP for West Belfast
Martin Ferris, Sinn Fein T.D. for Kerry North, convicted IRA gun-runner
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein MP for Mid Ulster, MLA, former head of the Derry IRA and IRA Northern Command
Sean Hughes from South Armagh.
(possibly) Martin Lynch, Brian Arthurs, Sean "Spike" Murray, and someone identified as "a Dublin man"
PIRA General headquarters staff, among whom are:
Martin Lynch, adj-general.
Bernard Fox, engineering.
Patrick Thompson, director of finance.
Bobby Storey, director of intelligence, jailed on arms charges.
Adams, McGuinness and Ferris have always insisted that they played no part in PIRA activities. For one thing, the PIRA is a secret organization that tortures and murders anyone suspected of informing. For another, admitted membership in the PIRA is illegal, carrying a 10 year jail sentence.
The IRA, mainly the PIRA, killed between 1,800 and 3600 people, 1,200 of whom were British soldiers, RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary - NI police) officers or unionist (Protestant) paramilitaries. 600 to 2400 civilians also died at the hands of the IRA, mostly Catholics. Many of the civilians were deliberately killed for having aided the British army or the RUC. No organization has killed more IRA members than the IRA itself,
The trick now is to see how long it takes and how many people will die while the PIRA tries to wean itself from connections to organized crime and terrorist organizations such as ETA, FARC and Al Qaeda with which it has become entangled over the years. As for the OIRA, CIRA, and RIRA, who knows?
And this may simply be the massed retirement of the PIRA staff. Last December 20 they robbed the Northern Bank of Belfast of over 50 million dollars. Sounds like it's Tahiti time.
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TAGS: IRA, PIRA, Sinn Fein, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Britain, Bogside