The IRA of the 1980’s which resulted from the re-think was no longer the victorious ‘people’s army’ of the early 1970’s which would push the British into Belfast Lough , but a small , highly organised band of politically dedicated guerrillas prepared to fight for years.
One current IRA Army Council member summed-up the new strategy in the following way : ” The IRA has the ability to force the British out but by that I don’t mean militarily . But we can make Ireland so unpopular an issue they will be forced to leave. Even at the lowest level the IRA has the capability to be a major de-stabilising force and we’re prepared for the long haul ; 30,40 or even 50 years if necessary.” (‘1169…’ Comment : what rubbish! Within three years of those words been spoken [that is, by 1983] plans were enacted by the then new leadership to begin the process of winding down the struggle . In 1986 a further step along the constitutional road was taken , leading to where the Provisionals are today : salaried administrators for Westminster’s interests in Ireland!)
In late 1976 the IRA’s General Headquarters Staff established a ‘think-tank’ which was to examine ways of implementing this new thinking and to report back directly to the Provisional IRA Army Council : the ‘think-tank’ itself was dominated by two Northern radicals , both former IRA Brigade Commanders recently released from jail. In early 1977 it reported back to the IRA Army Council and recommended that the IRA should be split into two – one part was to be responsible for fighting the war and was to consist in the main of new 4 or 5 person ‘cells’ or Active Service Units and the old British Army-style organisation of companies , battalions and brigades were to be largely scrapped. The ‘cells’ were to be responsible in the first instance to local IRA Commands or Brigades but ultimately to a new ‘IRA Northern Command’ which would replace IRA GHQ as the main IRA co-ordinating body .
The ‘other’ IRA , the ‘open’ IRA , was to fight the political war…….
ARMAGH JAIL – NO LET UP IN REPRESSION…….
Arrested on active service in April 1976 and sentenced at her ‘trial’ eight months later to 14 years imprisonment , Belfast republican Mairead Farrell became one of the first women POW’s to take part in the protest for political status . Later on she was involved in the ‘no wash’ escalation of the protest in Armagh Jail , and in December 1980 she was one of three women prisoners to join the first hunger-strike . Here , in a smuggled communication to this magazine , she writes about the strip searches , prison work and isolation that are features of the prison regime’s repression in Armagh.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July 1983.
” This repressive attitude is mirrored in all areas , and in none more so than in the area of prison work . Throughout Europe many prisons have abolished prison work due to the economic recession – since work is so scarce on the outside it is impossible to secure contracts for work within the prisons.
The same position applies to Armagh Jail , with no industry prepared to supply a contract , yet instead of the prison administration taking a sensible view of the situation by providing educational and vocational training during the day , they demand that POW’s sit at sewing machines all day every day , doing nothing but stitching prison-issue jeans which aren’t even saleable.
Such work is monotonous , and one would think that the prison administration’s interest would be in keeping minds occupied and in providing some type of mind-stimulating alternative to demeaning work which can only increase tension and discontent throughout the jail. It is hypocritical of the NIO to even speak of work inside the prisons when tens of thousands in the occupied six counties remain unemployed……. “
The Class Of ’76:(Top row L. to R.) Charlie Fagan (Arthur’s brother) , Dickie Glenholmes (Jnr) , Ciaran ‘Zack’ Smyth (served 9 years in jail) , Philip Rooney (served 8 and a half years) , Seany McVeigh (served 10 years). (Bottom row L. to R.) Eugene Gilmartin (serving life in the H-Blocks) , Arthur O Faogain.
The ghettos of Belfast and Derry are filled with stories such as this one. It is not unique. Young men and women, because of the partition of this country by the British, are killed, imprisoned and maimed.
By Artur O Faogain.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , October 1987.
” They will all be out soon . Between now and February * 1987 , one by one, they will all be released . Just two more years then freedom ; teenage friends , now grown men . A whole generation gone missing. And yet for two the torment will continue – one imprisoned for life , and me crippled for it . The Brits have stolen our time .
On a cold , clear January night in 1975 , a group of friends walked slowly down an empty street . Laughing , shouting , kicking and pushing , eager for the future . Stopping on a corner , one spoke – “I wonder how many of us will be here by this time next year?” These words , spoken in a lighthearted way , give that moment a poignance that only years later I understood . It was as if we had all accepted a violent fate for ourselves , both ‘romantic’ and eventful . Our minds were filled with images of events and people that we would someday portray in those dark empty streets .
To be IRA Volunteers was our dream and to take on the British Army was our goal . Motives were all around us , in memories and surroundings – we had all witnessed the sectarian riots of the late 1960’s and 1970’s . We had all witnessed , too , the British Army’s arrival as ‘protectors’ , and internment and its ensuing turmoil . Gun-battles at night and funerals during the day . The resistance of our people and the oppression of them by the Brits……. “
(* ” I wrote ‘Shedding Dreams’ in 1985 before the release from prison of friends that I grew up with . Their release gave me great heart but sadness still persists . For although most were released one is still held , under the ‘Secretary of States Pleasure’ . Sammy was 17 the last summer he was free – he’s now 29. The British ‘direct ruler’ must get great pleasure from that fact . Last October  another friend , Sammy’s cousin , Eugene, also got life in prison .”)