Tag Archives: IRA

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.


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.

Bill O’ in the no-go zone. Oh no!

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said he saw “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs.”


But it turns out he only saw photographs shown by police while on a freelance reporting trip to Northern Ireland in 1984, for a book he never finished, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Liberal watchdog group Media Matters For America further reports that a similar claim about witnessing IRA killings, made in a 2013 book that O’Reilly did get to print, will not be corrected by the publisher.

O’Reilly’s paternal ancestors lived in County Cavan since the early eighteenth century, and his mother’s side were from the north, according to Wikipedia.

More troubles about the past for Adams; Hart named envoy

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has new troubles with the past not six months since being released from police questioning about the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville.

This time around Adams and republicans are facing harsh accusations about how they handled, or mishandled, allegations of rape by members of the IRA. Adams claims the charges are being politicized by opponents.

For perspective on IRA justice during the Troubles and the political implications of this scandal, in the North and the Republic, read this piece by Brian Feeney. He is head of history at St Mary’s University College in Belfast, and the author of Sinn Féin: A Hundred Turbulent Years and Insider: Life in the IRA.


An additional note about the North: former U.S. Senator and two-time presidential candidate Gary Hart has appointed to help jump-start political negotiations in Northern Ireland. As the Belfast Telegraph says with a sigh, Hart is “the latest in a decades-long parade of special U.S. peace process envoys — and a man long off the radar of mainstream American political life.”

But the story also contains this reality check:

One Washington insider with long-time involvement in Irish affairs said that Belfast’s politicians shouldn’t take high-level US governmental attention for granted. “Northern Ireland, like lots of places around the world, tends to think that their problems are the biggest on the board. And they aren’t,” he said.

Can Hart finish the work on “flags, parades and the past” that Richard Haas nearly concluded at the end of 2013? Let’s see.

Historic IRA ceasefire hits 20th anniversary

Recognising the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the democratic process and underlying our definitive commitment to its success, the leadership of the IRA have decided that as of midnight, August 31, there will be a complete cessation of military operations. All our units have been instructed accordingly.

— Irish Republican Army ceasefire statement of August 1994

Some great coverage of this historic event is emerging from Irish and British media outlets.

Writing for the BBC, Vincent Kearney recounts obtaining the ceasefire statement through a republican source as a reporter for the Belfast Telegraph. He tells the back story leading up to the deal, such as the secret meetings between Gerry Adams and John Hume facilitated by a Catholic priest at Clonard Monastery.

Kearney recalls the violence preceding the Downing Street Declaration between prime ministers John Major of Britain and the recently deceased Albert Reynolds of Ireland. He also quotes republican leader and now Deputy First Minster Martin McGuinness:

People make a mistake if they think that the engagement that took place between ourselves and the British government back channel, for want of a better word, was the motivating factor in bringing about the IRA ceasefire of 1994, that’s not the way the process worked. What brought about the IRA ceasefire was the coming together of Irish America, support from the White House, the Albert Reynolds input and, of course, the initiative led by Gerry Adams and by John Hume, with the support of Father Alec Reid.

Adams, Reynolds and Hume shortly after the IRA ceasefire. Belfast Telegraph image.

Adams, Reynolds and Hume shortly after the IRA ceasefire. Belfast Telegraph image.

The Irish Times has a couple of pieces by two insiders. Nancy Soderberg, a foreign policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton, details the persistence of Reynolds and others to obtain a visa for IRA man Joe Cahill to sell the ceasefire to republican hardliners in the U.S. Former Reynolds press secretary Seán Duignan tells the same story from the Irish side.

Gerry Adams questioned about ’72 IRA murder

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has been arrested for questioning about the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a widow wrongly suspected of informing against the Irish Republican Army.


Adams was implicated by two IRA veterans who gave taped interviews to researchers for a Boston College oral history project on the four-decade Northern Ireland conflict known as the Troubles. The tapes were made available to Northern Ireland/British police in a complicated court battle. Here’s some perspective from a B.U. trustee.

Adams made himself available to the authorities, but denies any role in the killing. Here’s his statement on the Sinn Féin website.

Obviously, this story is developing. We will have to see if Adams is charged, and what impact this might have on upcoming elections and the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland. No doubt many on the island of Ireland would like to see Adams removed from politics and the public stage. But he has his supporters, as well, and has demonstrated an amazing talent for survival over the decades.

Report: Garda-IRA collusion in murder of two RUC officers

Most daily news stories in Ireland don’t make headlines in the U.S., so it’s usually a blockbuster or controversy when it does, such as the abortion debate over the summer.

News broke Dec. 3 that the Republic of Ireland government apologized to the families of two Northern Ireland policemen ambushed and gunned down by the IRA in 1989.

The story is still developing and needs more context. Here are links to U.S. and Irish coverage.

Garda collusion found in IRA murders of RUC officers, The Irish Times

Judge: Irish police colluded in IRA murder, Associated Press via The Washington Post

Smithwick inquiry finds Irish police may have colluded in two IRA murders, Irish Central

Read the full report here via the Irish Government News Service.

Thatcher, no friend of Ireland, dead at 87

Irish republicans are unlikely to shed any tears today about the death of Margaret Thatcher. It will be interesting to see what statements are issued by Gerry Adams and others.

The BBC quickly posted this overview of her relationship with Ireland.

In Irish affairs Margaret Thatcher was a tough and uncompromising believer in the Union, and instinctively loyal to the security forces she saw as society’s bulwark against a slide into the anarchy of terrorism.

She was hated by republicans and despised them in return, and her blunt-speaking style won her few friends on either side of the border, even if many had a sneaking admiration for her status on the world stage.

We’ll update this post with more links through the day.


Adams, quoted in the Irish Independent:

“Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister. Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies…”


The Irish Examiner reports “measured praise” for Maggie from Irish leaders.

Here’s a good overview from Bloomberg:

Thatcher’s uncompromising treatment of the hunger strikers led only to an increase in terrorism and the ascension of the IRA as a potent political force. … Thatcher’s unyielding position was that public sympathy for the hunger strikers quickly morphed into political support for Republicanism. Bobby Sands, one of the strikers, was elected to the British House of Commons for Fermanagh-South Tyrone while imprisoned.

Another first in cross-border relations

It was not the same attention-grabber as the July handshake between Martin McGuinness and the Queen, or Herself visiting the Republic in May 2011 and laying a wreath at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance.

But Enda Kenny has become the Republic’s first taoiseach to attend Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Northern Ireland. As the Guardian reported, he did so at an event in Enniskillen, where 25 years ago 11 Protestant civilians where killed in an IRA bomb. Eamon Gilmore, Kenny’s deputy, attended an event in Belfast.

Gilmore said people of all traditions on the island of Ireland would be “remembering together” in a “decade of commemorations” that include the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the end of the first world war in 1918 and the foundation of the two states in Ireland in 1921.

Their presence is seen as another gesture of reconciliation between the two political traditions on the island, as well as official recognition in Dublin of the thousands of Irish men who served in the British armed forces, particularly during the two world wars.