posted on Feb, 3 2005 @ 06:40 AM
The Irish Republican Army
and the armed struggle in Irish politics
There has always been a tradition of armed resistance to the British military and political occupation of Ireland. This tradition generally only
found effective expression when after a period of non-armed agitation, large sections of the Irish people, faced with the British government's denial
of the legitimate demand for Irish independence, exercised the right to use armed struggle.
This was the case with the organisation from which modern Irish republicans trace their origins - the United Irishmen of the 1790s. Inspired by the
example of the American War of Independence and by the democratic ideals of the French Revolution, the United Irishmen sought to unite the people of
Ireland in a common effort to achieve equality and freedom. Choosing initially non-violent means to win their aims, the United Irishmen quickly met
with a repressive response from the British government. It was only then that they exercised their right as Irish people to defend their liberty by
the use of arms. It was a pattern that was to be repeated several times in the next century and a half.
Armed uprisings against British rule took place in 1798, 1803, 1848 and 1867. The 45 years between 1803 and 1848 saw the Irish population mobilised in
one of the first mass movements for political reform in the history of Europe. The demand for legislative independence for Ireland, though
democratically expressed by the overwhelming majority of the people, was denied by the British government.
The Great Hunger of 1845-1852 saw a million people starve and a million more emigrate yet this catastrophe befell an unarmed people and there was only
sporadic resistance. The ill-fated uprising of 1848 was localised and abortive.
The lessons of this period were not lost on succeeding generations of Irish patriots and the Fenian Movement of the late 1850s and 1860s won
widespread support in Ireland and America for its programme of armed struggle to achieve an Irish Republic. The uprising of 1867 was crushed and
another 49 years were to pass before Irish nationalists attempted an armed resistance.
Those 49 years witnessed the most intense period of Irish 'constitutional' agitation for independence. Waged through electoral politics and
campaigns for land reform in Ireland, and by the Irish Party in the debating chamber in the British House of Commons, this struggle saw the
overwhelming majority of the Irish people again express their desire for independence from Britain. But legislation for Home Rule - limited
self-government within the British Empire - was defeated in the British parliament in 1886 and 1893.
In January 1919 Sinn Féin had established an independent Irish parliament - Dáil Eireann - and declared the sovereignty of Ireland as a Republic.
They formed independent institutions including a functioning central government, ministerial departments and republican courts of law. The Irish
Volunteers became the Army of the Republic, under the Ministry of Defence and pledging its allegiance to Dáil Eireann.
The response from the British government was to ban all these institutions and declare war on the new Irish democracy.
This period saw international revulsion at the campaign waged by British crown forces in Ireland. Three mayors of Irish cities, all members of the
IRA, were killed by the British; martial law was declared through nearly half of the country; streets, shops and factories in many towns were burnt to
the ground; there were executions in prisons and torture in internment camps. In response the IRA waged an increasingly effective guerrilla campaign
against the crack troops of the British - the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans.
The guerrilla tactics used at this time - notably those of Tom Barry's Flying Column in Cork - later became textbook examples of this type of
warfare. The popular Irish struggle, both in its civil and military side, inspired future anti-colonial struggles throughout the world.
In 1949 in response to the British government's Ireland Act which reinforced partition all parties in the Irish parliament declared their unanimous
opposition to partition. The same year the IRA issued an Order which forbade military action against the forces of the 26-County state. The early
1950s saw an anti-partition campaign conducted by Irish governments and supported by all parties in parliament. Its ineffectiveness in the face of the
British government's indifference contributed to the renewal of the IRA.
In the early to mid 50s raids for arms were carried out by the IRA on British installations in the Six Counties and Britain. This was in preparation
for an armed campaign which was conducted between 1956 and 1962. Mainly confined to border areas the campaign saw attacks on border posts and other
British military installations.
After the border campaign ended the leadership of the IRA decided that support should be given to campaigns to highlight the status of second-class
citizenship for nationalists in the Six Counties. The emergence of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960s was to transform the political
situation. Their demand for basic rights - to jobs, housing, voting - threw the Six-County state into a crisis. The peaceful demand for civil rights
was met with violence from the forces of the sectarian state.
In Belfast and Derry in 1969 nationalist districts were attacked by the state police, the RUC, and by unionist mobs. The demand for defence made by
nationalist communities could not be met initially by the IRA because, through the 1960s, the leadership had abandoned planning and preparation for a
future armed campaign. As a military organisation the IRA had been run down.
The events of 1969 precipitated a split in the IRA. Once more the peaceful pursuit of change in the form of the Civil Rights Movement had been met
with violence from the British state and so it was that the armed struggle gained predominance again as the republican strategy.
Through 1970 and 1971 the IRA gained increasing support in nationalist districts in the Six Counties and among nationalists throughout Ireland. This
accelerated with the introduction of internment without trial in 1971. IRA Volunteers carried out a campaign of urban guerrilla warfare against the
British army and economic bombings in Northern cities and towns.
In July 1972 republican leaders were flown to London for talks with British government ministers during a Truce between the IRA and the British army.
It quickly became clear that the British government was simply using the Truce as a tactical device in its military campaign and the Truce broke
The conflict in the Six Counties intensified. In England the IRA caried out a bombing campaign. Another truce was called in 1974/'75 but once more
there was no political will on the British part to reach a just political settlement.
In fact the most determined and consistent policy of successive British governments in the 1970s was counter-insurgency. Techniques perfected in other
colonial wars were used in Ireland, including the deployment of 'counter-gangs', state-sponsored deaths squads. The entire state apparatus in the
North of Ireland - the British army, the RUC, the legal system, the prisons, became, in the words of Brigadier Frank Kitson "weapons in the
government's arsenal". (Kitson Low Intensity Operations.)
Despite the British military saturation of urban areas and widespread deployment in the countryside the IRA, with wide support in nationalist
communities, continued to wage an effective campaign, making some parts of the country inaccessible by road to British forces. In August 1979 the IRA
inflicted its greatest number of casualties on the British Army in a single incident since the 1919-21 period when it ambushed and killed 18 British
soldiers at Warrenpoint, County Down.
In the 1980s Britain's counter-insurgency war manifested itself in attempts to break the IRA through the political prisoners. Having effectively
recognised IRA members as prisoners of war up to 1976 the British introduced a criminalisation policy in that year. Torture in interrogations centres
was the first stage on a 'conveyor belt' which passed through one-judge, no-jury courts, to long sentences and brutality within the prisons. But the
refusal of IRA Volunteers to succumb to this strategy - culminating in the deaths of ten republicans on hunger-strike in 1981 - led to its failure and
to a resurgance of support for republicanism.
why doesnt the "international community" want to give these people the "democracy" and "independance" like it is doing it in the middle east?
why doesnt the american democratic eagle want to save these people?
because they are criminals?
blood thirsty savages?
[edit on 3-2-2005 by Souljah]