Tag Archives: IRA

JFK assassination papers contain IRA reference

Nearly 3,000 more records related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy were released to the public 26 October. Almost 4,000 records became available in July under a 1992 law requiring the disclosure of U.S. government documentation of the event. A few thousand remaining files remain under review.

By coincidence, the releases come in the centenary of JFK’s birth. His death in Dallas was five months after his triumphal visit to Ireland.

My search of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s special Kennedy Assassination Records database found about two dozen documents with references to “Ireland” or “Irish.” The document images are not available online, but the result list provides some basic details.

The collection includes a 22 November 1963 condolence cable from Taoiseach Seán Francis Lemass to President Lyndon Johnson, and resolutions of sympathy from Dáil Éireann. Johnson replied to Lemass on 29 November.

The records include “Irish participation in JFK funeral,” “participation by the Irish Guards,” and “guidance on memorials to President Kennedy in Ireland.”

Most intriguing, however, is a one-page 29 November cable from the American Embassy in Dublin to the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. The description says:

Telegram reporting information from FBI informant claimed IRA in Ireland planned to “commit mayhem in Dallas.”

Without reading the cable, it is impossible to say whether this “mayhem” foretold the assassination, or retaliation on the city for the murder of the world’s most famous Catholic Irish-American.

In 1992, Oklahoma historian Kendrick Moore suggested the IRA may have killed Kennedy because he spoke out against isolationism from the Protestant north during his June 1963 visit. “It had to be the IRA; they are the last ones you would suspect,” he told The Oklahoman newspaper.

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Here’s another: The index of the September 1964 Warren Commission report on the assassination is missing one letter, and only one letter: I for Ireland.

JFK in Dallas shortly before the 22 November 1963 assassination.

Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness dies at 66

Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister in January, forcing the Northern Ireland Assembly to shut down for a new election, held at the beginning of March. It was already clear the former IRA commander was ill, and he said as much in announcing his decision not to seek to re-election. Now, his death stirs further remembrances of The Troubles, and raises more questions about the future of the province as Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists face the uncertainties of Brexit.

Here is a sample of the first wave of international coverage:

“This election is about equality and respect for all our people and integrity in the institutions. Vote SF for the politics of hope not fear.”

–Last tweet of Martin McGuinness, 1 March 2017, just before Sinn Féin‘s historic success in Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

McGuinness and the Queen shake hands in Belfast, July 2012. Probably no other photo says as much about the arc of the former IRA leader’s life.

Belfast boyhood and beyond

Shaun Kelly, global chief operating officer for KPMG International, was born in 1959 and grew up in the Catholic Falls Road section of Belfast during the worst of the Troubles. One of his uncles was shot and killed by the British Army, which mistakenly believed he was holding a gun. Kelly said he didn’t meet a Protestant until he was 19.

“You didn’t realize what you were going through,” he said during a 25 October Irish Network-DC event. “It’s really only when you look back” that the turmoil of the period can be put in perspective.

Shaun Kelly, left, interviewed by journalist Fionnuala Sweeney at Irish Network-DC event 25 October.

Shaun Kelly, left, interviewed by Irish journalist Fionnuala Sweeney.

Kelly attended University College Dublin with the help of a British government scholarship Ironically, it allowed him to continue playing Gaelic football, though he acknowledged being much smaller than the lads from Cork and Kerry. 

“Dublin in the late 1970s was not quite third world, but it was still developing,” Kelly said. “The cars and roads were not as good as in Northern Ireland.”

Kelly qualified as an accountant in Ireland and joined KPMG in 1980, soon relocating to the firm’s San Francisco office. His tenure included a return to Belfast during an upsurge of violence in the 1990s. At the time, KPMG managed the Europa Hotel, known as the most bombed hotel in Europe.  

After one of those bombings, Kelly said he discussed the possibility of shuttering the operation with hotel staff. They would hear none of it. “The IRA didn’t close this hotel, some short accountant is not going to close it,” Kelly quoted one of the workers saying to him.

His global travels and experiences with his native city have convinced him that economic development helps reduce violence by creating opportunities on both side of the sectarian divide. He acknowledged that Brexit will challenges both sides of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“That border makes no sense from a business perspective,” he said. “There is much more to be gained from an open economy.”

Here’s a more lengthy profile of Kelly from the October/November 2015 issue of Irish America.   

Guest post: Outrage over inclusion of IRA in new video game

Timothy Plum has been traveling to Ireland for more than 20 years on business, academic and personal reasons. His last guest post for this blog was about Brexit. MH

***

The latest iteration of the “Mafia” video game series, which references IRA violence, is drawing criticism in Northern Ireland for trivializing the Troubles.

“Mafia III” is set in 1968 in a recreation of New Orleans. The player is on a quest to build a new crime organization to confront the Italian mob over the killings of his friends. Players game through the third-person perspective of fictional orphan and Vietnam War vet Lincoln Clay.

In a segment titled “The IRA Don’t Ask,” Clay’s mission includes stealing cars for an Irish underboss named Thomas Burke. The cars are destined for use as car bombs meant to “keep the Belfast law guessing.” The game also includes a Northern Ireland flag defaced with the word “traitor.”

Screen grab from "Mafia III" by 2K Games.

Screen grab from “Mafia III” by 2K Games.

The game uses stereotypes to glorify the IRA, including drunkenness, rowdiness and extreme violence. Using a time period as fresh and raw as 1960’s Northern Ireland, in my opinion, is a disservice to gamers–most of whom will have no idea of the actual events–and the public at large.

Unionist politicians have condemned the game. DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told The Irish News that he is “very concerned” about the impact the game could have on “impressionable” minds. “The IRA were a terrorist organisation that murdered very many innocent men, women and children in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.”

As of 15 October, news coverage from the North has not included any reaction to the game from Sinn Féin or other nationalists.

So far, “Mafia III” has been poorly received by the gaming community, so perhaps the damage of misunderstanding and myth perpetuation will be tamped down by poor sales. But it is sad to have the past dredged up in such a poor fashion that only perpetuates stereotypes and does not further discussion.

British MP’s killing recalls earlier IRA assassinations

The shooting/stabbing death of Labour Party MP Jo Cox on 16 June is the first killing of a British politician since Conservative MP Ian Gow was assassinated by the IRA in a 1990 car bombing.

Four other British politicians in addition to Gow were killed by militant Irish republicans since 1979, according to a timeline in The Guardian. The list includes the 1984 bombing at the Brighton hotel, which targeted then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet attending a political conference. Thatcher escaped, but Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry and four others were killed.

The IRA claimed responsibility for killing Gow because of his close association with Thatcher and his role in developing British policy on Northern Ireland. In a 2010 remembrance in The Telegraph, Bruce Anderson wrote:

In October 1984, the IRA came close to assassinating her. In 1990, by murdering Ian, they helped to bring her down. If Ian Gow had been slain while protecting Margaret Thatcher, he would have died with a smile on his face. But when she most had need of him, her enemies had ensured that he would not be available.

Ian Gow and Margaret Thatcher in 1984. He was assassinated by the IRA six years later.

Ian Gow follows Margaret Thatcher in 1984. He was assassinated by the IRA six years later.

IRA of the Troubles “well beyond recall” report says

A special three-member panel reviewing paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland released its report 20 October 2015.

The report found the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) “remains in existence in a much reduced form” and that an IRA army council is still operating, The Irish Times reports. More coverage from The New York Times.

“PIRA of the Troubles is well beyond recall,” the report says. “It is our firm assessment that PIRA’s leadership remains committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means. … The group is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist attacks against the state or its representatives.”

Read the report.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers commissioned the independent assessment of paramilitary organisations and organized crime in the six-county province in September to avert the collapse of the power-sharing government at Stormont.

Peace and politics on edge in Northern Ireland

The power-sharing government in Northern Ireland is going though yet another crisis. Whether this round, largely driven by police and government statements about the IRA remaining an active organization, is enough to unravel Stormont remains to be seen.

Scotland-based journalist Peter Geoghegan published this 28 August roundup piece in Politico‘s European Edition. The theme is captured by this quote from a unionist political commentator:

“…There is a general sense of despondency with the [power-sharing] assembly. People don’t hate each other, but Sinn Féin and the DUP hate each other.”

In a 30 August editorial, The Guardian says “everything possible must be done to prevent the collapse of a devolved system that, for all its limitations, has helped bring genuine security and has restored growth to Northern Ireland after long decades of conflict which revealed the bankruptcy of both unionist hegemony and republican violence.”

The gun in Irish politics and revolution, 1914-1923

John Dorney at The Irish Story blog has produced a three-part series about “the decade of the gun.” It explores the hardware of Ireland’s revolutionary period, now the subject of centennial reflections. Up to 5,000 people were killed in armed conflict during this stretch, which Dorney describes as “a number of discrete episodes with different combatants arrayed against each other.” He continues:

Partisan debate raged at the time about whether the ‘Trouble’ amounted to political violence or warfare. The point has been made that it was not so much the quantity or quality of weapons that caused deaths and injuries as the willingness to use them.

Here’s the series:

Part 1, 1914-1916, looks at the run up to the Rising.

Part 2, 1919-1921, explores the War of Independence.

Part 3, 1922-1923, concludes with Ireland’s Civil War.

Anti-treaty IRA on Grafton Street in Dublin, 1922.

Anti-treaty IRA on Grafton Street in Dublin, 1922.

Adams: “I was not a member of the IRA”

The CBS News program 60 Minutes has landed a rare interview with Gerry Adams. It airs Easter Sunday, 5 April.

Adams2Feb14_Swf

Snippets of the interview are being released early to drive interest in the broadcast and have already generated news headlines, such as this story in the Irish Independent. Here’s the 60 Minutes website and video clip.

“I don’t disassociate myself from the IRA,” Adams says. “I think the IRA was a legitimate response to what was happening here. I never will [disassociate himself from the IRA]. But I was not a member of the IRA.”

Cardinal Dolan’s comparison of ISIS and IRA draws criticism

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has sparked outrage among some Irish republicans and their supporters for comparing the violent Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq to the late 20th century IRA in Northern Ireland.

“The IRA claimed to be Catholic,” Dolan said on CNN. “They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity. But what they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a 2013 "Today" show appearance. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a 2013 “Today” show appearance. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

Dolan insisted that Islamic State extremists “do not represent genuine Islamic thought” but are “a particularly perverted form of Islam.”

IrishCentral published a roundup of harrumphs from republican sympathizers. Father Sean McManus, leader of the Irish National Caucus, which lobbies for the North in Congress, said Dolan’s remarks were “profoundly ignorant, totally irresponsible and lacking all credibility.”

As Religion News Service noted, “Some Catholic leaders [in Ireland, north and south] strongly denounced the IRA and sought to downplay the religious aspects of the violence, but the IRA also found support among many clergy and the faithful.”

So far no prominent Irish, Irish-American or Catholic leaders have come to Dolan’s defense. It will be interesting to see if this tempest in a teapot cools off before he leads the annual St. Patrick’s Day in New York later this month.