Another principal , if rarely admitted reason for switching to a long war of attrition strategy is that support for widescale IRA activity has declined significantly in recent years . The war-weariness and pessimism evident in the nationalist areas of the North is also reflected in the attitudes of many in the Movement itself who see little to be gained by continuing the fight * . (* ‘1169..’ Comment : that whole paragraph should be read with the author’s name firmly in mind – Moloney had indeed got his contacts in the Movement but was not of the Movement.)
But that sort of thinking is less true of the new IRA ; they are the younger , more radical types who have seen little of life other than violence , dawn raids , interrogations , rioting , shooting and bombing . They have taken over the mantle of militant republicanism from the men and women of the ‘forties , ‘fifties and ‘sixties and are increasingly impatient with what many of them see as conservative political and military elements in the old Dublin leadership . And the IRA they have created is much more ruthless and doesn’t need mass popular support .
With the prospect of a ‘long war’ in front of them what then keeps the IRA going ? Prime among the motives for continuing the campaign is the hope that in the harsh economic climate of the 1980’s the cost of the North of Ireland to the British will get so high that they will be forced into looking for a way out . There’s no doubt that the cost of shoring up a degenerating economy in the North combined with the damage caused by the Provisional IRA’s campaign and the cost of the security and prison services has become increasingly burdensome for the British – last year’s subvention to the North from Westminster (ie the money the British have to find to make up the difference between income from taxes and public spending in the North) was equivalent to the five year refund demanded from the EEC budget by Margaret Thatcher…….
IRIS: ” Recently there was considerable publicity given to alleged IRA attempts to obtain sophisticated heat-seeking missiles . To what extent does the present lack of such weaponry limit the IRA’s operational capacity in rural areas ? “
IRA: ” I would say that if that type of weapon was available to IRA units you would find that we would be able to physically clash with the British face-to-face , that is, do what they are always saying we can’t do – ‘stand up and fight’ . There would be a whole new phase of the war , a totally new game altogether. At present there are massive areas of the occupied territory , such as in South Armagh and in parts of Fermanagh , particularly around Lisnaskea , Donagh and Maguiresbridge , where the Brits don’t use vehicles at all . They supply all their outposts by helicopter . The same applies to large areas on the Fermanagh/Donegal and West Tyrone/Donegal borders. Without helicopters , which this kind of missile is designed to attack , there would be a complete inability to continue supplies without mounting a massive operation to secure the area using hundreds of men . So the effect of our lack of this weapon is obvious .”
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.
” We all looked forward to Christmas that year , as we did every year . Sitting together , glasses filled, we enjoyed each other’s company . Shaking the cold from my legs I opened the door to rejoin them . There they sat , laughing, oblivious of the coming nightmare . Blasted against a wall of the bar , I twisted and broke . ‘I’m sorry , son,’ my father said when I awoke . ‘Your legs…’ . ‘I know’ , I replied . Luckily no-one else was seriously hurt . I didn’t go out much in my wheelchair . Friends would call up and we’d talk for hours . I felt so cheated.
The British Government announced that political status would end on March 1st 1980 , but I don’t think any of my friends took much notice of the announcement . Frank Stagg died that February and the IRA finally admitted the ceasefire was over . Hardly a week went by without the arrest of one of my friends – Castlereagh Interrogation Centre had just finished refining its methods and , with the arrival of the enthusiastic dictator, Roy Mason, in September , its efficiency became infamous . The ghettos of Belfast and Derry suffered as Mason proved his policies ‘worked’ : people awoke to find neighbours or friends in Castlereagh , and everybody feared that early morning knock . By 1977 the British system of oppression was complete .
Judges sounding like parrots , seated on benches repeating ‘Guilty!’ , endorsed Castlereagh’s methods with a mass of convictions that imprisoned my generation . Listening to the news , the long sentences depressed me . Their time for release would never come , I thought , and, visiting them over the last number of years I have observed how different they have become . No longer the wide-eyed teenagers with adventure in mind…….”