A vital element in the new structures is recruitment : the old days when virtually anyone could join the IRA are seemingly over . One IRA leader says that vetting of potential recruits is now so thorough that only 2 out of every 13 applicants are accepted and sent on for training and then placed into the ‘cell’ structure. The IRA also says that the average age of new recruits is 18 or 19 , an assertion that would seem to back IRA claims that the organisation has passed through the generation gap problem that has always spelled defeat for past campaigns .
However , it’s clear from a number of recent arrests such as that of an M60 ambush team in Belfast this year that the IRA is still heavily dependant on what British General James Glover called “…the intelligent, astute and experienced terrorist..” . The IRA also claims that less than 50 per cent of new recruits join up for the personal motive of seeking revenge for British Army violence and that most are politically committed to a socialist republic . Not even the IRA can know that for sure but if it is true then the policy of ‘Ulsterisation’, involving gradual withdrawal of troops from Nationalist areas will have less of an effect on the Provos than the architects of that policy hoped .
Once a recruit is accepted by the IRA he or she is taken along with three or four other recruits for training across the Border in ‘specialism’ ie assassination , sniping , bombing etc that his/her cell will later employ . In contrast to the past , when whole IRA Companies could be trained without firing a shot , all recruits are now trained using live ammunition , which has enabled IRA members to ‘sight’ sniping weapons more accurately : it is claimed that this sort of practice accounts for the success of the M60 machine gun in Belfast ambushes . When the M60 appeared on the scene in 1978 it was considered a propaganda weapon and too cumbersome and inaccurate for urban use but , in fact , the M60 has been responsible for the deaths of 8 members of the British ‘security forces’ since then…….
IRIS : ” The hunger-strike period was generally a time when nationalist commitment to the struggle was heightened and refreshed . But since then there have been concerted enemy efforts to confuse and demoralise * the nationalist population , through the use of informers , psychological operations and black propaganda . ( * ‘1169..’ Comment – …and , at that time, these two efforts to “confuse and demoralise” were only around the corner..) What impact on the immediate post-hunger-strike increase in support has this had , within the Movement and on external supporters ? “
IRA : ” I think you have to deal with two separate circumstances . It had little effect internally because people who are actively involved understand the situation and what the enemy is trying to achieve . The use of paid agents by the RUC did initially have some psychological impact on nationalist supporters , but this has been quickly eroded as they have deepened their understanding of the situation , and by virture also of a number of IRA operations carried out at the time when RUC Chief Constable John (‘Jack’) Hermon was making his infamous “…the IRA are reeling..” statement.”
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.
The Prison Governor in the 1970’s was a Stanley Hilditch who was to torture the blanketmen some years later in the H-Blocks. Hilditch at first didn’t know how to cope with the new situation posed by women political prisoners – Anne Maguire recalls : ” When the Governor comes into your cell , you’re supposed to stand up but we just sat down , anywhere, on the bed , on the chair . The same in the exercise yard . The Screws would get flustered , the other prisoners would stare at us…”
After four or five weeks , Hilditch copped-on . The women weren’t allowed to talk to other ‘classes’ of prisoners : juveniles in red , or the ones in green . But two of the young ones were republican too – the women would not comply . Their ration of 20 cigarettes would then be held up , and a lot of petty harassment took place . Strip-searching was used in a few instances .
In July 1971 , Maire Drumm joined the women in Armagh Jail : earlier that month , she had made a fiery speech at Free Derry Corner- ” It is a waste of time shouting ‘Up the IRA’ . The important thing is to join.” She was bound over to keep the peace for two years on a surety of £500 , refused to sign and got six months for ‘promoting the objects of the IRA’ . A few days after Maire Drumm ‘came in’ to Armagh Jail , internment ‘broke out’ on the outside…….