THE IRA : the new IRA is younger , more radical and has seen little of life other than violence…….
By Ed Moloney.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, September 1980.

In East Tyrone the IRA has had mixed results in its level of attacks : 22 bombing attacks in 1977 and 9 gun attacks , in 1978 there was a rise to 36 bombings and a fall to 7 gun attacks and in 1979 there was a drop to 18 bombings but a rise to 13 shootings aimed at the British ‘security forces’ .

South Armagh IRA units on the other hand display all the characteristics of classic guerrilla fighters ; very few incidents occur in South Armagh compared to areas like Belfast but those that are carried out have been devastatingly effective . In 1977 there were only 5 bombings and 7 shootings directed at the Brits , a low level of activity that was caused by increased SAS activity in the area . In 1978 there was a rise to 15 bombings and 5 shootings and again the same the following year . This year so far (1980) is following that pattern with 6 bombings and 3 ambushes to date .

Between 1977 and 1980 so far , the IRA in those three areas killed 173 people of the 230 total killed by the IRA in the North , including businessmen , civilians , British soldiers , RUC men , UDR men , ex-UDR men and prison warders . Belfast IRA cells incidentally were responsible for the highest number of businessmen killed , 6 out of 7 ; the highest number of civilians killed , 30 out of 49 and the most prison warders , 11 out of 15 . South Armagh clearly concentrates on the British Army – its IRA units killed 36 of the 68 British soldiers killed by the IRA during those years . The other five areas of IRA activity are quiescent by comparison . Derry and South Derry are virtually at peace and South Down , Fermanagh and North Armagh very quiet . However , the statistics do not tell the full story…….


IRIS talks to a spokesperson authorised to speak on behalf of the Irish Republican Army.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July/August 1982.

IRIS : ” The H-Block/Armagh campaign marked a departure for republicans from earlier strategies in that a broad front tactic was experimented with . What would be your attitude to future broad fronts ? ”

IRA : ” Obviously the mass mobilisation of a considerable section of nationalists opinion behind the hunger-strikers’ demands was a welcome development . We welcome any involvement of people in opposition to any aspect of British and neo-colonial rule .

It is difficult to say with certainty how such an involvement could be structured and formalised , and whether given the reality of the effects of partition a mass mobilisation would be feasible at this time . However , we view with approval the discussions taking place between Sinn Fein and other anti-imperialist groups . It would be wrong for us to pre-empt any conclusions to these discussions . “


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.

In March 1973 , seven men and three women , including Marion and Dolours Price, had been charged in London with the Old Bailey and Whitehall bombings . After being sentenced to life imprisonment the Price sisters embarked on a hunger-strike for repatriation . Their hunger-strike was to last 206 days , during which they were force-fed in horrific conditions . In support of the Price sisters the women in Armagh Jail started having a token 24-hour hunger-strike every Friday . Those prisoners on remand would also use the opportunity of court appearances to make speeches from the dock about their comrades on hunger-strike .

The Price sisters were finally transferred to Armagh Jail on March 18th 1975 – their transfer had been announced much sooner and the Armagh women prisoners didn’t expect them on that day . As Teresa Holland put it – ” We had been practising for weeks , with flags , uniforms , the lot , and they hadn’t come . And then suddenly there they were ! So we got out the flags and the uniforms and had another parade just for them . They were lost , they couldn’t believe their eyes . Everybody felt brilliant and , for a full week , every time they went into someone’s cell , the girl in that cell would make them a big feed . It actually took them a long time to settle in , with all the fuss!”

During those two years , from 1973 to 1975 , the women POW’s had almost full control of the jail : their numbers had risen above the 120 mark and , even though they came from all corners of the Six Counties and from all age groups , some were grandmothers and some were teenagers – indeed , in one instance , mother and daughter were interned together – most of them came from the nationalist ghettoes of Belfast and were aged between 18 and 24 and were single women . Most were inside for the first time…….


About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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