Some areas , like Belfast , are co-ordinated by an IRA Brigade Staff , while other areas are co-ordinated by local Commands , a ‘watered-down’ version of a Brigade Staff , whereas other areas are so weak that they can only support one or two cells and they are directly co-ordinated by the IRA Northern Command . One area still retains the IRA Battalion structure , and the three Battalions in that area report to , and are co-ordinated directly by , the Northern Command .
It’s a confused and mixed structure whose features seem to be determined entirely by area strength . The effect though is to make British Army and RUC penetration extremely difficult – its principal advantage seems to be increased security and secrecy for the IRA cells but its ‘Achilles Heel’ is that it is highly dependent on good co-ordination at local IRA Brigade and Command level as well as at Northern Command level , what the British Army terms ‘middle management’ . The arrest and imprisonment of a small number of leaders would seriously impair the organisation – hence demands from senior British Army officers after Warrenpoint for the introduction of selective internment .
Although British Army sources claim that the IRA structure has now been penetrated in Belfast and East Tyrone , the ‘successes’ that the Brits have had this year seem to be the result more of increased undercover surveillance and disruption of IRA communications and co-ordination than from information supplied by informers . Indeed , one Brit source complains that they haven’t received one decent bit of inside information from the Northern IRA for more than a year…….
IRIS : ” In recent months the IRA has employed car bombs extensively , often with devastating success but also with an apparently high risk to civilians . Does the IRA intend to continue with its use of car bombs , and how would you answer this criticism ? ”
IRA: ” Yes , we intend to continue with the car bomb tactic . Because of the length of warning we give on a car bomb prior to its detonation , if the enemy act on the warning there’s no danger to civilian lives . The car bomb is used on property only , and this is accepted even by the British Army and RUC . It is not an anti-personnel bomb , that’s why we give warnings . It does not serve our cause to inflict civilian casualties , and all our operations , whether against military or commercial targets , are planned and conducted with this in mind.”
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.
On February 26th 1971 , 38 women and six men were arrested outside Chichester Street Court in Belfast on one of the ‘combat jacket’ pickets , organised to protest at the arrest of republicans who had been wearing uniforms at the funerals of Volunteers . Another similar protest was to take place two days later in Beechmount Avenue , Belfast . All those arrests resulted in a dozen women being sentenced to six months in jail .
The stance taken by those women was based not so much on a family tradition of republicanism as born of the Civil Rights marches , the ensuing backlask of the loyalists and the increasingly threatening presence of thousands of British troops on Irish streets . Yet there was no special status for those women . Therefore , in 1971 , women like Rose MacAllister from Ardoyne , Rita O’ Hare from Andersonstown and Anne Maguire from Ballymurphy had to wear the prison uniform . For the first-timers , the prison uniform was coloured blue – blue tweed skirt , blue sweater and polka-dot blouse . Prisoners under 21 years of age wore red , and green for those who had been in before .
Women prisoners , political or otherwise, were put in ‘A1’ Wing and were ‘entitled’ to one visit a month . Prison work was for all – laundry , cleaning and sewing , yet those nationalist women were quick to stand up to the system and to assert their dignity , refusing to be institutionalised . The Prison Governor at that time was to go on to ‘make a name’ for himself by allowing for the torture of POW’s in his later years…….