The process of IRA re-organisation started , by some accounts, in the Spring of 1977 and according to one leading IRA source is still going on . Belfast , where the successes of the RUC were most evident , was the first to be re-organised largely under the direction of a former Belfast IRA Commander and a former IRA Brigade Adjutant . Most of the old Companies were gradually dissolved and their least-known members re-trained and passed into the new four-person cells , and were joined there by new recruits .
The old Battalion staffs were also dissolved and the Belfast Brigade assigned the task of co-ordinating the new cells . The Belfast Brigade still has three Battalions but they are composed of known IRA members who passed into the new civil and military Administration wing of the organisation . The other seven areas of IRA activity in the North of Ireland – Fermanagh , East Tyrone , South Derry , South Down , North Armagh , Derry City and South Armagh , were with varying success re-organised during the latter part of 1977 and most of 1978 .
South Armagh , where the IRA had always operated what amounted to a form of cellular structure , was the last to be re-organised in the Spring of 1979 . In fact little was changed in South Armagh except the area’s relationship to the new Northern Command . The captured British Army intelligence assessment of the IRA which fell in to the hands of the IRA in January 1979 (it was studied for several months before release to the Press Association in May 1979) demonstrated the dearth of information about the new IRA structures in British intelligence circles : in a ‘tentative order of battle’ , the document’s author , British General Jim Glover supposed that all the new IRA Cells were directly co-ordinated by the Northern Command . In fact it seems that there are a number of structures interposed between the Northern Command and the Cells…….
IRIS : ” After the massive explosion at Springfield Avenue in West Belfast, in June 1982, in which local homes were devastated by the Brits’ detonation of IRA explosives which were being temporarily stored in the area and which the Brits had uncovered , the IRA stated that the explosives had been unprimed and could have safely been removed from the area without detonating them ; that is, the Brits detonated the explosives in an attempt to discredit the IRA in nationalist eyes . Immediately afterwards , the Housing Executive chairman , Charles Brett, appeared to participate in this black propaganda campaign by saying that the effect of the bomb damage would be to delay the West Belfast housing programme , that is , again blaming the IRA by implication .What is your attitude to the Housing Executive’s apparently growing collaboration with the British military and their objectives , and the similar collaborationist attitude of other semi-governmental and public bodies ? ”
IRA: ” Firstly , I think it’s important to clarify the background to the explosion you mention . We have suspected for several months that the Brits are working at defusing our bombs before they have cleared the area , that they are deliberately ignoring bomb warnings and the locations given for bombs . In other words , they are deliberately jeopardising civilian lives , knowing that injuries or deaths can be blamed on the IRA . We don’t travel with primed bombs , we don’t store primed bombs , they are always primed ‘on target’ . It’s not a big job , only a matter of flicking a switch . Timers , also, would not be attached to explosives until they are planted on the target . Unprimed explosives are little different from having a can of petrol in your back yard -it’s safe till someone puts a match to it . The kind of explosives we use cannot detonate by friction , by being knocked about , by freezing up or being too warm . A detonator on its own will not detonate it . The only thing that can is a primer of higher velocity explosives than those being primed . In short , they cannot explode on their own , they’re probably the safest explosives that there are .
The last person to be killed by unstable IRA explosives was Volunteer Jack McCabe, as far back as 1971 . Any accidents caused by explosives since then have been manual failures by Volunteers . The explosives in Springfield Avenue were not primed and could not have exploded . The Brits primed them and detonated them as part of a classic counter-insurgency move . As always , we regret the damage to working-class homes but while the people of the area are understandably annoyed by the devastation to their homes – and while we share their annoyance – we are confident that people reject the Brits’ version of events , if only because they know the Brits of old , that they’ve lied on a hundred occasions about a hundred different things . The same politicians who gasped in horror after the explosion have also lied about sundry other things whereas , for good or ill , the IRA admits what it does .
On the second part of your question , we know that all British government and semi-government agencies are being used in line with Kitson’s theory that all government structures , at all levels , have to be used against insurgents . All these people will be treated like any other enemy of the Irish people . ”
THE UNDAUNTED WOMEN IN ARMAGH.
The full story of the republican prisoners in Armagh Jail has yet to be told. It has yet to be sung , and properly described , other than as an after-thought in public speeches – “…and of course the women in Armagh..” Republicans have a right to be proud of those women who, from the Divis Flats grandmother doing six months for what an Orange judge called “riotous behaviour” to the young IRA Volunteer inside for the second time and not yet 25-years-old , have managed, whether they numbered 12 or 120 , to maintain their resistance to the most vicious prison system in Europe. The words that follow , says writer Patricia Collins , were written to encourage more of those women to come forward and tell their story , and are based on conversations with several
ex-prisoners , and on visits and letters from those women presently imprisoned. They were written in the hope of jogging the memory of all those women who wrongly think their contribution to Ireland’s future peace is not worth mentioning.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , August 1984.
Armagh women’s prison : a Victorian granite building in the loyalist centre of Armagh city . Before 1969 virtually unknown , yet it had housed 18 republican women internees during the Second World War , and one during the Border Campaign of 1956-1961. By 1969 however , Armagh Jail’s population consisted of a few destitute women , some short-term male prisoners and borstal boys .
Bernadette Devlin brought Armagh Jail into public focus when she was sentenced to six months for rioting in Derry’s Bogside: she lost her appeal and started her sentence on June 26th 1970, a month after having been elected MP for Mid-Ulster for the second time in two years . Until her release in October 1970 , having served four months of her sentence , she was treated in effect as a political prisoner, and made a few representations to the prison governor on behalf of ordinary prisoners .
By the beginning of 1971 more nationalist women came to be sent to Armagh Prison , usually on six-month sentences . ‘Riotous behaviour’ was the usual label affixed by the British judge . ” Assaulting a British Army patrol with an offensive weapon – a yard brush …” , is how Anne Maguire from Ballymurphy describes her ‘offence’ . She recalls that, at the time, a 60-year-old granny from Divis Flats got six months for hitting a Brit with a bin lid …….