HET findings published as Haass talks break up without agreement -into ‘Shot-to-Kill’ policy’s in the North of Ireland.
TWO IRA men were shot in the back by SAS soldiers in Co Tyrone 30 years ago, a report has found. The families of Colm McGirr (23) and Brian Campbell (19) on Monday 30th December said they planned to sue the British government and wanted fresh inquests into their deaths.
The news came as US diplomat Richard Haass failed to make the party’s in the North of Ireland come to an agreement on dealing with the past, parades and flags. Among the issues holding up the progress have been mechanisms for giving evidence to Historical inquires by bodies taking over the functions of the PSNI‘s/RUC‘s Historical Enquires Team (HET) and the Police Ombudsman. The fresh report into the Co Tyrone killings was carried out by a forensic pathologist for the HET. It appears to contradict accounts given by the undercover soldiers who claimed the pair were shot dead while pointing weapons towards them. Mr McGirr and Mr Campbell, who were members of the Provisional IRA, were murdered by the SAS in a field on Cloghog Road near Coalisland, Co Tyrone, on December 4 1983. A third man was injured but escaped. Their deaths fuelled claims of a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy by the British government against IRA members.
Testimony from the soldiers had claimed that the men were removing weapons hidden in the field and on being challenged “Colm McGirr turned and pointed a shotgun towards one of the soldiers who then fired several shots at him”. Forensic pathologist Richard Shepherd reviewed the postmortem examination scene photographs and statements from four of the six soldiers prescent. He said he did “not believe Colm McGirr would have turned far enough to threaten soldiers” and “no shots had struck Brian Campbell from the front”. In his report, which the families have received, he concluded that because Mr McGirr was right handed, he did “not believe he would have turned far enough to threaten soldiers” if he was holding a weapon. “In my opinion therefore it is more likely that [Mr McGirr] received shots to his right side and back as he was facing into or towards the bush,” he said. The SAS also claimed one of the squad, known as Soldier A, then fired towards Brian Campbell who was holding an armalite rifle and had also turned and was facing them” However, Dr Shepherd concluded that “no shots had struck Brian Campbell form the front”. “I cannot exclude the possibility that the injury to the left upper back was inflicted as he lay on the ground,” he said, without ruling out the soldiers’ version of events in both cases. The IRA men’s families have now called for a fresh inquest into their deaths/murders. Solicitor Padraig O Muirigh, acting on behalf of the relatives said they would also take legal action against the British government.
“This report raises serious concerns in relation to the original soldiers’ statements,” he said. “In light of the disclosure of the Dr Shepherd’s report the families have made an application to the attorney general to direct a fresh inquest into the deaths/murders of Colm McGirr and Brian Campbell. “They will also be issuing civil proceedings against the minister of defence in relation to the unlawful actions of the soldiers.” Colm McGirr’s brother Brian (58), from Coalisland, claimed the British army discovered the arms cache three days earlier on December 1, but the weapons were not removed or disabeled. “We have no doubt that a carefully planned ambush was set by undercover British security forces that evening,” he said. “Through the 30 years that have passed we have sought the truth of what happened. We were led to bbelieve that the PSNI’s/RUC’s Historical Enquiries Team would make every effort to achieve the truth. “As part of this, a second pathologist has confirmed that the shootings could not have happened as described by security forces. Both men, Colm and Brian, were shot in cold blood in the back.” Mr McGirr said the families have been informed that the HSE investigation “is at an end and will proceed no further”. “We lived with a charade of an inquest in early years with no evidence of any sort offered as to what occurred. The McGirr and Campbell families will continue to demand that a new inquest is held to fully investigate all that occourred on that evening.” Reacting to the findings on Monday nnight, Dungannon Independent Republican councillor Barry Monteith said he was “not surprised” by the pathologist’s review and accused the British government of operating a ‘shot-to-kill policy in the North of Ireland. However, Dungannon DUP councillor Samuel Brush said he had no confidence in the HET. “There are dozens and dozens of murders around this area in South Tyrone that have not been looked at,” he said. “It baffles me that these things didn’t ccome to light then and can be turned up. “All we can do is work on reports as they come but is this report any better or any worse than the previous ones?”
With many thanks toto: The Irish News.
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Letter which was published in today’s Irish News – Monday December 16 2013 – Martin Galvin, Bronx, New York.
FERGAL Hallahan was more right than he imagines (November 25) about the derision accorded anyone with the temerity to accuse Britain of deploying a Military Reaction Force (MRF) of plain-cloths British troopers who gunned down unarmed nationalists using non-military weapons.
During my years as both editor of the Irish People weekly American newspaper and national director of Irish Northern Aid, I was tasked with presenting such facts to the American public and especially congressmen. The contention we republicans repeatedly made was that the crown had sent out the MRF and later wiped British fingerprints from their killings by shifting from the MRF to having the shots fired by loyalist proxies. This tactic had obvious advantages, including avoiding British army ccasualties like those inflicted by the IRA at the Four Square Laundry. It allowed the British plausible deniability. Collusion in murders carried out by loyalists could be denied outright and blamed on a cadre of crown force bad apples, no matter how much targeting intelligence, agent control or safe passage the British had supplied. Britain’s answer to these charges never changed. British officials would declare, self-righteously that “Her Majesty’s government” would never stoop to deploy such a unit. The British army ‘yellow card’ rules were sacrosanct, they scoffed and this code was rigorously applied whenever British troopers opened fire.
These sanctimonious British denials were believed by the public, politicians and journalists to the extent that this handpicked death squard remained largely unknown to the public. Panorama’s Britian’s Secret Terror Force proves that republicans were right about Britain’s deployment of a terror force, the MRF. It proves that those high-ranking British officials who denied that the crown would stoop to such tactics were either deliberately misled by the crown or deliberately misleading others on the crown’s behalf. Members of this British terror squad have no worries that they will face justice for killing unarmed Irish civilians like Daniel Rooney or Patrick McVeigh. They freely boast of their misdeeds, for the television cameras. Confident that they enjoy a selective immunity and impunity, not granted to republicians like Gerry McGeough, Seamus Kearney or John Downey. We republicans were right about Britain’s tactical shift from the MRF terror force to doing their ‘dirty war’ work through loyalist proxies. Must we await another documentary before people face the facts about Britain’s complicity with loyalist killers in collusion murders?
With many thanks to: Martin Galvin.
- Amnesty International demands inquiry into British Army shoot-to-kill revelations (VIDEO) (irishcentral.com)
- Northern Ireland : Military Reaction Force (MRF): Time for Truth (democracyandclasstruggle.blogspot.com)
- Police urged to probe MRF claims (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Army unit members ‘killed civilians’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Revealed: Bbc Expose on Secret Army ‘Ghost Squad’ Which Hunted Down Ira Members (belfastdaily.co.uk)
- Army ‘sanctioned shoot-to-kill policy’ in Belfast – Irish Times (irishtimes.com)
- #Panorama to show absence of very good tools to critique the state (sluggerotoole.com)
- Death Squad Britain – The Past That Won’t Stay Hidden (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Veteran reveals secrets of life inside British Army ‘ghost squad’ accused of murdering IRA suspects during the Troubles (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- British to investigate claims on 1972 shoot-to-kill policy (irishtimes.com)
Cumann Sean MacEachaidh
In View of the deliberate attempt to misrepresent the situation arising from the repeal of the external relations Act, the Army Council of Óglaigh na h-Éireann considers it desirable to issue a statement defining clearly the actual position.
By an Act of the British Parliament passed at Westminster in 1920, in the deliberate absence of the entire Irish Representation and through the acceptance of the Articles of Agreement for a Treat, the Irish Republic proclaimed in arms Easter 1916-
And ratified in 1919 by the elected representatives of the People of all Ireland – was prevented from functioning, an in its stead two Partition Parliaments were set up to Govern Ireland.
Thus Ireland was Forcibly partitioned by England and has remained Partitioned since. Any attempt to give the Twenty-six County area a new status by representing it as “The Republic of Ireland” does not and cannot alter this fundamental fact.
England still retains direct control over six counties of Irish territory, and maintains within the area an army of occupation.
While that position remains Republicans cannot concede the claim that Ireland’s centuries-old struggle for freedom is ended.
In the circumstances those owing allegiance to the Republic cannot, without sacrifice of their principles, give allegiance to either of the Partition institutions created by Britain, or recognize that the repeal of the External Relations Act is anything better than a political manoeuvre to mislead the Irish People in to the belief that the freedom of Ireland has been achieved.
While any sod of Irish territory remains occupied by the army of a foreign country, it cannot be truthfully stated that the Republic of Ireland has been restored and so it remains the duty of all Republicans to continue their efforts to rid Ireland of the last vestiges of foreign rule.
Issued by the Army Council Óglaigh na h-Éirean January 1949
- Resist British Rule in Ireland – Freedom Struggle in Ireland (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- State willing to confront unionist perceptions of role in Troubles – Gilmore (irishtimes.com)
- Royals invited to 1916 rising events (bbc.co.uk)
1920: Execution of Kevin Barry
On the morning of 20 September 1920, Kevin Barry went to Mass and received Holy Communion, he then joined a party of IRA volunteers on Bolton Street in Dublin. Their orders were to ambush a British army truck as it picked up a delivery of bread from a bakery and capture their weapons. The ambush was scheduled for 11AM, which gave him enough time to take part in the operation and return to UCD in time for a Medical examination he had at 2PM. Captured at the scene, Barry was court martialled and hanged in Mountjoy Jail November 1st 1920. He was the first Republican to be executed since the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. The execution of Barry led to a swell of support for the Independence struggle, both nationally and internationally.
The image attached is a poignant letter from an 18 year old boy about to meet his end.
Volunteer Kevin Barry, C Company of the first Battalion of the Dublin Brigade, A TRUE AND BRAVE IRISH SOLDIER. R.I.P.
- Was this woman responsible for Kevin Barry’s capture in 1920? (dublin7peopleshistory.wordpress.com)
- City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (ismokecigarsblog.wordpress.com)
- Oglach Tom Williams – Hung by Britain 2nd September 1942. R.I.P (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Oglach Jim Bryson and Oglach Patrick Mulvenna who died on Active Service 31 August 1973 R.I.P (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Rembering today – Oglach Tom Williams executed on this day 2nd September 1942 aged 19years. Fuair Se bas ar son Saorise ahEireann. R.I.P (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Oglach Patrick (Paddy) McAdorey 3rd batt PIRA – RIP (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
‘The secretary of state’s priority is the safety of the people of Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland Office spokesperson.
Thomas (Ta) McWilliams (47), from North Belfast, is on remand in Maghaberry Prison after being charged with attempting to murder police and possession of an assault rifle with intent o endanger life. The charges arose out of a gun attak on polic during rioting in Ardoyne on July 12 last year when a number of shits were fired. McWilliams had previously served seven years in jail for kiling Norman Truesdale (39) in March 1993. He was released on licence in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Mr Truesdale was shot dead in his shop in the Oldark Road in North Belfast. The IRA later said he was a member of a loyalist paramilitary organisation – a claim denied by his family. A UDA mural in his memory was later painted on a gable wall in the area.
During a court hearing last year it emerged that police beleive McWilliams drove a car contining the gun used in the attack away frm the scene. A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office said Ms Villes suspended McWilliam’s release licence “on the basis of information presented to her indicting that he has breached the conditions attached to his licence, including the condition that he must not becme a danger to the public”. “Mr McWilliam’s case will now be reveiwed by the independant sentence reveiw commissiiners who will determine whether to revoke or reinstate his licence,” she said. “The secretary of state’s priority is the safety of the people of Northern Ireland. The givernment will not hesitate to the use all the powers at its disposal under the law to counter the residual terrorist threat.”
With many thanks to : Connla Young, The Irish News.
Remembering today the deaths of Oglach Jim Bryson and Oglach Patrick Mulvenna who died on active service 31st August 1973 both volunteers were shot during gun battle from concealed British Army observation post while alighting from car, Ballymurphy Road, Ballymurphy, Belfast. Fuair siad bas ar son na saoirse na hEireann
- Oglach Patrick (Paddy) McAdorey 3rd batt PIRA – RIP (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Oglach Thomas McElwee 30/11/1957 – 8/8/1981 Died after 63 days on Hunger-Strike RIP (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Flag protester Jamie (Provo Bhoy) Bryson wants his bail conditions relexed !!! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Cuimhnigh linn Óglach Eamonn Bradley inniú. (rsfnational.wordpress.com)
- Cuimhnigh linn Óglach James Crossan inniú. (rsfnational.wordpress.com)
Friday, 6 July 2007, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Army concedes for first time it did not win the battle against the IRA
The admission is contained in a discussion document released by the Ministry of Defence after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The 100 page document analyses in detail the army’s role over 37 years.
It focuses on specific operations and gives an overview of its performance.
The six-month study, covering the period 1968-2005, was prepared under the direction of the then chief of general staff, General Sir Mike Jackson.
The document, obtained by the Pat Finucane Centre, points to a number of mistakes, including internment and highlights what lessons have been learnt.
It describes the IRA as “a professional, dedicated, highly skilled and resilient force”, while loyalist paramilitaries and other republican groups are described as “little more than a collection of gangsters”.
It concedes for the first time that it did not win the battle against the IRA – but claims to have “shown the IRA that it could not achieve its ends through violence”.
In a statement, the Pat Finucane Centre – a human rights group – said the document “betrays a profoundly colonial mindset towards the conflict here and those involved in it”.
“Loyalist violence and the links between loyalist paramilitaries and the state has been airbrushed out of this military history,” it said.
In a statement issued on Friday, an Army spokesman said: “This publication considers the high level general issues that might be applicable to any future counter-terrorist campaign that the British Armed Forces might have to undertake.
“It is critically important to consider what was learned by those who served in Northern Ireland.”
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Liam O Loinsigh – Liam Lynch
Jeremiah and Mary Lynch (née Kelly) had seven children: John (Seán), Jeremiah, Margaret, Martin, Liam, James and Thomas. At the time of writing Thomas (‘Tom’), to whom the letters are addressed, was a clerical student at St. Patrick’s College, Thurles, until he was ordained to the priesthood on 11 June 1922. He was afterwards Very Reverend Dean Lynch, P.P. of Bega, New South Wales, and died in a Sydney hospital on 28 March 1950. Martin, frequently referred to in the letters, joined the Christian Brothers and took the name Brother Placidus. He died in 1964.
Liam was born on 9 November 1893, five miles north of Mitchelstown, in the townland of Barnagurraha, near Anglesboro in county Limerick. He was baptised William Fanaghan Lynch. In 1910, when he was seventeen years old, he entered upon a term of three years’
apprenticeship to the hardware trade with Mr. P. O’Neill of Baldwin Street, Mitchelstown.
He joined the Mitchelstown Company of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913. Having completed his term of apprenticeship in 1913, he remained at O’Neill’s for a further year. In the autumn of 1915, he transferred to Messrs. J. Barry & Sons, Ltd., Patrick Street, Fermoy,
where he continued to be employed until he took up whole-time active service with the Army.
During the War of Independence he commanded the Cork No. 2 Brigade of the I.R.A. He was captured on 12 August 1920, but not being recognized he was released by the British troops. In March 1921 he was appointed to the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican
Brotherhood. Appointed Divisional Commandant, 1st Southern Division, on 26 April 1921, he was an influential figure in the War of Independence. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty but worked to avoid a split in the Army and the nationalist movement in general. Appointed Chief of Staff in April 1922 at the Army Convention outlawed by the Provisional Government, he escaped following the attack on the Four Courts and returned to the south.
There he re-assumed command of the 1st Southern Division of the I.R.A. or ‘Irregulars’, the largest command, being one-quarter of the total force. Arriving in Mallow on 29 June he also announced his resumption as Chief of Staff of the I.R.A. In July/ August 1922 he directed that the I.R.A. should break up into small active service units of ‘flying columns’ in order to operate more effectively against the Provisional Government’s troops. He was a member of the Army Council which hoped to negotiate terms of peace that would not bring the country ‘within the Empire’. Following the killing of Seán Hales, T.D. on 7 December 1922 and the wounding of Deputy Speaker Padraic O’Máille, the Government instituted a round of executions of Republican prisoners. Lynch called on Republicans in arms not to surrender, but over the next two months, more of his battalion were captured by Government forces. Despite the hopelessness of his position he attempted to carry on the fight. A meeting of the I.R.A.
Executive was called to consider the new situation, as by now both Eamon de Valera and Frank Aiken favoured coming to terms with the Free State Government. Accompanied by Aiken, Lynch travelled to Cork to attend the meeting, stopping at a hideout owned by the
Phelan brothers in the townland of Poulacappal, county Tipperary on the way. On the morning of 10 April, the day of the meeting, he was shot and fatally wounded in a skirmish with Free State troops at Crohan West on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains. He died later that night in Clonmel. His death signalled the end of hostilities in the Civil War, as his successor, Frank Aiken, called a unilateral cease-fire on 30 April 1923.
On 7 April 1935, on the spot where Liam Lynch fell, a 60-foot high round tower surrounded by four bronze wolfhounds, was unveiled in his memory. Built with the volunteer labour of many of his old friends and comrades, it replaced the simple wooden cross that had stood
there for many years. A crowd estimated at fifteen thousand gathered that day to honour a man who had given his life in the cause of Irish freedom.
The letters were acquired by the National Library of Ireland from a niece of Liam Lynch, Mrs Peggy Lyne (née Lynch) in May 2001 (Accession No. 5760). Her father, Séan Lynch, received them from his brother, Fr. Tom, who brought them back from Australia
in the 1940s.
The letters were used by Florence O’Donoghue in his biography of Lynch entitled No Other Law: The Story of Liam Lynch and the Irish Republican Army, 1916-1923 (Dublin: Irish
Press Ltd, 1954). The letters were also referred to by Meda Ryan in her book Liam Lynch −the real chief (Cork: Mercier Press, 1986), and in Joe Walsh’s booklet The Story of Liam Lynch (Cork: Lee Press, 1973) produced on the fiftieth anniversary of Lynch’s death.
Note: all the letters are addressed to ‘Tom’, unless otherwise stated.
General Liam Lynch – Chief of Staff – Irish Republican Army.
22 July 1921.
Written from: Address torn away.
Signed: ‘L. L’.
‘Sorry I had not the pleasure of meeting Br. Placidus or Austin when at home . . . I expect you little dreamt that No 2 was in same military quarters as 1 & 3 . . . our fellows are suffering terrible agony by the hunger-strike but I believe they will win through. I could nearly wish that they would leave the Lord Mayor die, his death now would be worth a thousand later.’ (Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, arrested on 19 August 1920 died in prison on 25 October after 74 days on hunger-strike). wrote to you − sometime about March − I did indeed think it would be the last as enemy were continually dogging me & often close on my trail . . . I am living only to bring the dreams of my dead comrades to reality & every hour of my life is now entirely devoted to same . . . Too bad I missed Tom the other day . . . If Placidus is calling home I will strain every point to just call as I could get back with Tom, even though Truce is on we are still at high pressure. Through the war I have got to understand so much of the human being that when peace comes I would wish for nothing more that (sic) hide myself away from all the people that know me or even follow my dead comrades.’ ‘Glad so far that I was not the cause of getting the old home destroyed by reprissals’. (Liam was appointed Divisional Commandant, 1st Southern Division, on 26 April 1921. He then commanded nine brigades, comprising more than 30,000 officers and men. The Truce came unto effect on 11 July 1921.)
12 Dec 1921.
Written from: Dublin.
The Supreme Council of the I.R.B., of which Liam was a member, met on 10 December 1921 and issued a note to divisional and county centres stating its decision that the peace treaty should be ratified. ‘Members of the Organisation, however, who have to take public action as representatives are given freedom of action in the matter’. In his letter of 12 December to Tom Liam gives his reaction to the decision: Assures Tom that ‘my attitude is now as always, to fight on for the recognition of the Republic. Even if I were to stand alone I will not voluntarily accept being part of British Empire. What ever will happen here on this week of destiny we must & will show an united front Thank God that we all can agree to differ. Minority of the Dail will stand by majority no matter what side, the same will apply to the army. It is only natural on such a big issue that there would be difference of opinion, the President has a fair backing of T.D.s but at the moment though I am almost certain of the issue I do not wish to state same. All my Division hold the one view & that strongly too, several other southern areas I know already are with us in this view. If the Government accept Treaty we shall not but strike for final victory at most favourable opportunity . . . Even if we must temporarily accept the treaty there is scarcely another lap to freedom & we certainly will knock her off next time. Speeches and fine talk do not go far these days, we have had already too much gas. What we want is a definite line of action . . . Sorry I must agree to differ with Collins, that does not make us worse friends. If the war is to be resumed he will again surely play his part as before, & that better than some of the Irish Diehards.’
6 July 1923.
To: Fr. Thomas Lynch (‘A Athair a Chara’).
Written on headed paper: ‘Óglaigh na h-Éireann (Irish Republican Army) General Headquarters Dublin.’ .
Signed: ‘Frank Aiken. Chief of Staff’.
Letter from Frank Aiken outlining the circumstances of Liam’s death on 10 April 1923, when he was shot by Government troops on the slopes of the Knockmealdown mountains. “The fight took place on a mountain as bare as a billiard table. Sean Hyde had him by the hand helping him along when he was hit . . . To leave him was the hardest thing any of us ever had to do. I was last leaving, having been carrying his feet. I was afraid to even say ‘Good-bye Liam’ least it would dishearten him . . . Liam’s death was a great blow to our chances of success, coming at the time it did. But they . . . [the press] . . . are quite wrong if they think they have heard the last of the I.R.A. & the Irish Republic. Although we have dumped our arms, we have not surrendered & there are several thousand men women & boys in Ireland yet, who believe it their duty to free our country & to see that Liam & the rest of our dead comrades have not died in vain.”
Liam Lynch – Chief of Staff I.R.A. – Killed in Action on the 10 April 1923 – Rest in Peace.
- Oglaigh na hEireann Kevin Lynch…. Died August 1st, 1981- Rest in Peace (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Kevin Lynch INLA Hunger Striker RIP (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Liam (william Joseph) Mellows, Born on May 25, 1895 in Manchester, England – Executed by Firing Squad on December 8, 1922. (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Kevin Lynch ‘A loyal, determined Republican with a great love of life’ (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Resist British Rule in Ireland – Freedom Struggle in Ireland (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- A Brief Write-up on the Great Irish Republican Socialist, Jim Gralton, Who Was Deported From Ireland in 1933. (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Kevin Lynch INLA Hunger Striker RIP (irishredstar.wordpress.com)
Supporters of the Irish Republican Army
Ever since the initial invasion in 1169, the British have attempted to assert their authority in Ireland in the face of Irish resistance. For more than a thousand years before the British invasion began, the Irish had an individual and highly developed cultural identity, a progressive legal system and established political structures. To undermine and control the Irish nation, the British had to rely on the classical imperialist tactics of “Divide and Rule” and colonisation.
In the early stages of its colonial conquest of Ireland the British introduced apartheid laws which prohibited social contact, including intermarriage, between the colonists and the Irish. This apartheid legislation failed in its objective, however, because the colonists were few in number and widely dispersed so that they could not long maintain their separateness. More than four centuries after their arrival, the British effectively ruled only a tiny area of Ireland around the present capital city of Dublin, and even this area was subjected to the ever present reality of Irish resistance. Elsewhere the colonists had, as history records, become more Irish than the Irish themselves.
Britain renewed and intensified its efforts to conquer Ireland in the years following the Protestant Reformation. Since the Irish people remained overwhelmingly Catholic, they were regarded as a potential threat by Protestant Britain, especially in the era of religious wars which erupted in 16th and 17th century Europe.
A more effective method of colonisation known as Plantation, was implemented on a systematic basis with large concentrations of British people being ‘planted’ in various parts of Ireland where they received land grants. This policy was applied with particular zeal and efficiency in the northern part of Ireland (Ulster) where Irish resistance to British rule was always strongest. Here, as elsewhere, the native Irish population was dispossessed of its land and forced to flee into mountainous and boggy countryside.
The purpose of the Plantation policy was to pacify Ireland and to stabilise it in the interests of the British Government by establishing an effective garrison. The Planters constituted that garrison and their continued loyalty to Britain was secured on the basis of the social, political and economic privileges which they were given and on the continued ability of the British Government to keep them divided from the native population.
While the Plantation strategy was generally effective in stabilising British control, it was not always so, and Irish resistance continued throughout the 17th century until military defeat, dispossession and a series of Penal Laws combined to stifle opposition to Britain. By the end of the 18th century, when the religious wars were a fading memory and a new spirit of radicalism and Republicanism was spreading, it appeared that Britain’s divide and rule policy in Ireland had come unstuck when a section of the Protestant population (descendants of the Planters) joined with their Catholic neighbours in demanding an Irish Republic. The United Irishmen, as they became known, rose in rebellion in 1798 but this rebellion was brutally suppressed by the British and their native allies.
Those allies included the majority of the Protestant population (many of whom were organised in a sectarian Masonic movement known as the Orange Order) and also an emerging middle-class
which included Catholic business people and the Catholic hierarchy. All of these saw their interests being guaranteed by continued British rule rather than in a separate Irish Republic which was pledged to justice and equality for all its citizens.
In the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion the British decided that their control could only be guaranteed through direct rule from London. An Act of Union was introduced which transferred the limited legislative powers of the colonial ascendancy to the British Parliament where the interests of Ireland and the Irish people were subjected to the demands of and increasingly powerful and ambitious imperialist power.
Throughout the 19th century as the demand for Irish freedom was raised, and even the demand for limited freedom within the British Empire, the British Establishment deliberately fomented sectarian divisions and, when it suited, they gave every encouragement to the Orange Order. The Catholic middle-class which developed throughout this period articulated the demand for limited freedom through constitutional methods but they did not want to break the link with Britain. The republican tradition of militant separatism continued to win support amongst the people of no property but a large part of this support base was obliterated in the Great Famine of the 1840′s and through continued emigration to Britain, the USA and Australia.
There were several armed uprisings throughout the century but even though they followed inn the republican tradition of the United Irishmen they failed to attract the same degree of popular support and were easily suppressed.
With the gradual extension of the franchise it became clear in the late 19th and 20th centuries that the limited independence of “Home Rule” would have to be conceded if the stability which Britain needed in Ireland was to continue. In Ulster, where the descendants of the Planters still constituted a privileged Unionist majority in favour of the union with Britain, a pro-British and sectarian armed force called the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was formed to resist the democratic demands of the Irish people as a whole. The British refused to move against this force and senior political and military figures encouraged its development.
By the early years of the present century a clear pattern had emerged between the major political forces in Ireland, a pattern which continues to this day, with the limited demands of constitutional nationalism being strenuously opposed by Unionists and qualified by British administrations anxious to ensure that their self-interest was defended. Two events combined to shatter that pattern, for a time at least; first was the outbreak of World War in 1914 which put the issue of Home Rule on the back-burner of British political considerations, and second was the decision by Irish separatist forces including the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army to take advantage of Britain’s involvement in a global conflict and to strike a blow for freedom in the ranks of a combined force called the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
On Easter Monday 1916 the Irish Republic was declared and a Provisional Government established in arms by the IRA. After a week of fighting which was largely confined to Dublin, the superior armed power of the British succeeded in crushing the rebellion.
The subsequent executions of the Republican leaders and the imprisonment of the rank-and-file was resented by ordinary Irish people. Many who had not supported the rebellion changed their
opinions and popular support for Irish separatism grew from a tiny fringe to a mass movement.
Repression breeds resistance and, as the British vainly tried to restore stability by force and the threat of force, a strengthened Republican Movement emerged from interment camps in Britain to be greeted as heroes at home. The resurgent spirit of separatism found its political expression in support for Sinn Fein and its militant vanguard in the ranks of the IRA.
Evidence that Britain would continue to ignore the democratic will of the Irish people was provided by the general election of 1918 which saw Sinn Fein emerge with a massive majority of the
Irish seats, and more than enough to justify the establishment of an Irish Parliament, called Dail Eireann, independent of Britain. Instead of accepting the democratic decision of the electorate, the British tried to suppress Dail Eireann and jailed many of its elected members. Faced with British violence, the IRA fought a guerilla campaign between 1919 and 1921 which eventually forced Britain to the negotiating table.
The outcome of those negotiations had, to some extent, been decided by the British a year earlier with the creation of the Northern Ireland statelet. This statelet was established on the basis of a sectarian headcount which created an artificial majority comprising the privileged Unionist/pro-British population which was concentrated in that area. These were given their own devolved structure of government in return for their continued service as a strategically important British garrison.
The delegation which conducted the negotiations with the British agreed to a set of proposals contained in a Treaty. These proposals fell far short of the Republic declared in 1916 and established by the popular will of the Irish people in 1918. The Treaty established two states in Ireland, one a neo-colonial Free State still tied politically and economically to Britain but with the trappings of freedom; the other was the colonial Northern Ireland statelet.
Supported by the most reactionary elements of Irish society including the Unionists, the Catholic hierarchy and major commercial interests (none of whom had ever supported the struggle for freedom) the Treaty was forced on the Irish people under threat of “immediate and terrible war”. An emerging Free State Government which had British backing set about crushing
Republican opposition to the deal. Civil war ensued but the Republican forces which had tried desperately to avoid war were quickly defeated by the increasingly well-armed and ruthless army of the Treaty supporters.
Successive Free State governments have, since the creation of their state, claimed that the re-unification of Ireland is their primary political objective. Apart from verbalising on the issue, however, they have done nothing to achieve re-unification. On the contrary Dublin based governments have from the beginning contributed to the growth of partitionist attitudes within their own state by encouraging the development of a Catholic ethos rather than that the non-sectarian pluralism of Irish Republicanism. In this and in the declaration of a nominal Republic in 1949 they have shown that their real aim is to maintain the status-quo. This is confirmed by the efforts of those governments to undermine and defeat Republican campaigns against the Northern Ireland statelet, efforts which have included continuous emergency legislation since 1939, the use of internment and active collaboration with the British authorities including the extradition of Republican activists.
With the guarantee of British support for their position, Northern Unionists set about building their statelet on the basis of political, social and economic privileges for their own artificial majority at the expense of the equally artificial anti-Unionist minority. For nearly 50 years of unbroken Unionist rule from the Stormont parliament outside Belfast, northern Catholics were forced to endure blatant discrimination in the allocation of jobs and houses. In areas of local government administration where anti-Unionists were in an electoral majority, a system of electoral rigging known as Gerrymandering was introduced to turn those majorities into minorities.
A wide range of repressive laws which were the envy of the apartheid regime in South Africa, were enforced by vindictive and puritanical Stormomt administrations while the colonial Government in Britain (whether Conservative or Labour) simply ignored what was happening in the North of Ireland.
In every decade of Stormont rule the IRA launched military campaigns of varying intensity against the Northern state but without success. The absence of a radical political leadership within the anti-Unionist population meant that popular support for a sustained campaign of armed struggle could not be mobilised.
Following the emergence of a Civil Rights Movement for blacks in the USA in the mid-1960s, however, a similar movement grew within anti-Unionist areas of the Northern state. As this movement’s campaign of peaceful street protest gained momentum in the late 1960s, the full force of the state repression was used to crush it. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), a sectarian and paramilitary police force, and its equally sectarian reserve force, the B Specials, were deployed by the Stormont Government to beat Civil Rights’ marchers off the streets.
British troops were sent to Ireland in 1969, ostensibly to act as impartial mediators but in reality to lend support to the battle weary RUC and B Specials and to restore British control. As these troops adopted a progressively pro-Unionist stance it became increasingly clear to a growing number of anti-Unionists that the institutional injustices which had prompted the Civil Rights’ Campaign were merely symptoms of a deeper rooted injustice – the very existence of the Northern Ireland statelet. Many people concluded that peaceful and democratic methods could never radically alter the nature of the state which was established and sustained by violent and anti-democratic methods. For them it became clear that the solution lay in dismantling the state, ending British rule and re-uniting Ireland.
The IRA re-emerged, in a defensive capacity at first, following a series of pogroms which were directed against anti-Unionist areas of Belfast and other urban centres. Confronted by Unionist opposition to even the limited reforms demanded by the Civil Rights’ Movement and faced with violence by the official state forces as well as unofficial pro-British forces, the popular resistance campaign quickly evolved into a revolutionary struggle for self-determination. This revolution, which continues to this day, is fought on many levels, both political, cultural and social, and is spearheaded by the armed struggle of the IRA whose actions are directed against the clearly perceived forces of British rule and against the political and economic forces which sustain that rule.
British policy throughout this revolutionary struggle has been aimed at defeating Irish Republicanism, thereby restoring the stability which is necessary for them to re-assert effective control. Believing that this could be achieved through a strategy of counter-insurgency similar to the strategies employed in other colonies such as Cyprus, Kenya and Malaysia, the British tried to crush revolution by introducing internment and saturating towns and countryside with soldiers.
This ‘mailed fist’ approach failed to defeat the IRA but it did have the effect of ending the mass street demonstrations of the Civil Rights’ Campaign as rubber, plastic and even lead bullets were used to disperse such demonstrations. In the absence of massive street demonstrations it became increasingly difficult to quantify the level of support which the revolution enjoyed. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Movement, had no positive electoral role as its activities were mainly confined to protest activities. Without any evidence of demonstrable popular support for Republicanism, a second phase of the British counter-insurgency campaign began. This was based on isolating and criminalising the revolution.
The RUC took over the front line role of the British army to convey the impression that the conflict was merely a political problem. Alongside this, internment and political status were phased out and a specially designed judicial and penal system was introduced to criminalise Republican activists.
The prisoners resisted criminalisation, however, and it was their heroic protest campaign between September 1976 and the Hunger Strikes of 1981 which undermined the British strategy and
mobilised national and international interest in the Irish struggle.
Against all the odds, the IRA survived the black period from the mid to the late 1970s when torture centres and special Diplock Courts were used to rail road people into jail and the media was used to implement the policy of isolating Republicans. A re-organised and increasingly politicised IRA, committed to maintaining the armed struggle as long as necessary, emerged in the 1980s.
Like the IRA, Sinn Fein learned lessons from this period, especially the need to develop an effective political strategy which would complement the armed struggle, counter further attempts to isolate Republicanism and lay the basis for the political, cultural and economic re-conquest of Ireland.
It has been the development of Sinn Fein as an electoral force throughout Ireland (presenting a radical alternative to both the colonial and neo-colonial administrations) and the continued ability of the IRA to challenge the British presence which led to the latest counter-insurgency strategy – the Hillsborough Agreement.
This strategy attempts to undermine the Republican struggle by encouraging the middle class within the anti-Unionist population to accept and support the constitutional status-quo and British repressive measures. In return the anti-Unionists were promised reforms which, it was claimed, would give them equal status in the Northern Ireland statelet.
More than a year after the Hillsborough Agreement was signed the promised reforms had still not been delivered and, far from an improvement, the anti-Unionist population had found that their situation had deteriorated. The British were still clearly unwilling to introduce even minimal reform, in the face of almost unanimous Unionist opposition to an agreement which they regarded as a threat to their privileged position.
To a large extent the Unionist campaign of opposition to the agreement had obscured the fact that the central purpose of the strategy – the defeat of Republicanism – had been totally unsuccessful. Popular support for the Republican position had not been eroded, as intended, because after 17 years of constant struggle and 800 years of similar British strategies, a growing number of Irish people recognise that there can be neither peace nor justice until Britain, the source of violence, injustice and divisions, allows the Irish people, both natives and
colonists, the right to determine their own future as equals in a united and sovereign Ireland.
“The most powerful foe of labour is capitalistic imperialism, and in Great Britain capitalistic imperialism stands or falls by the subjection or liberation of Ireland.” – Erskine Childers
For centuries the people of Ireland have fought for the right to decide their own destiny free from external interference. The history of Ireland has been largely defined by that struggle, as generation has followed generation in a never-ending wave of resistance to British imperialism.
For more than two centuries that resistance has been intrinsically linked to the establishment of an Irish Republic. And for more than a century Irish revolutionaries have understood that that republic must be socialist in nature if it is to deliver not only national but also economic and social freedom.
In the global battle against twenty-first century imperialism the only logical place for Irish progressives to channel their energies is in the building of popular support for Irish democracy and by extension, popular resistance to British rule.
By defeating British imperialism on its own doorstep the people of Ireland could contribute a devastating hammer blow against tyranny in the global struggle for freedom and justice.
The most effective way to oppose British imperialism in Ireland today is through the building a grass-roots anti-imperialist mass movement; the objective of which should be nothing short of a total British military, political and economic withdrawal from Ireland.
“They think they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think they have foreseen everything, think that they 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”. – Padraig Pearse…
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