Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Easter Commemoration Parades took place this year in the North as usual . At the regular venues - Belfast , Derry , Crossmaglen , Newry - the same Proclamation was read , the usual speeches were made and the routine Army Council message was delivered to the faithful .
The only difference this year was that by Good Friday the North's death toll since 1969 had reached 2,500 and Ireland's longest period of civil disturbance appeared no nearer an end .
Behind much of the violence stands the Provisional IRA , organisers of most Easter Parades and , by their own claims , direct lineal descendants* of the men of 1916 . But how strong are they and for how long can they continue the military and political struggle ?
PATRICK MURPHY reports from Belfast .
First published in 'NEW HIBERNIA' magazine , May 1987 .
(* In 1986 the Provisional IRA abandoned that lineage and offered their support to what was to become a Leinster House-registered political party.)

Gone are the days when shots were fired at passing RUC patrols or massive landmines destroyed inadequately armoured RUC cars on border duty ; in early 1987 the tactics were switched towards the bullet in the back of the head and the success rate has been phenomenal , although the death of 'Lord Justice' Gibson shows that the Provos have not put all their eggs in one tactical basket .

The reason for the bullet in the back of the head is simple - logistically it is much easier to operate . A landmine operation can take up to a month to prepare , and sometmes longer , as it requires the movement of massive amounts of explosives , normally across country for at least the final part of the journey and , depending on the physical details of the culvert or bridge , anything up to three nights preparing , priming and running wires/fixing radio equipment .

An IRA operation like that would need at least four men , and often up to a dozen , with all of them being exposed at various points before the operation . All are potential security risks and all could 'talk' years afterwards if arrested : the operation itself can involve a wait of up to a month for a suitable vehicle to come along and the RUC are sufficiently flexible to vary their patrol routines in strategic areas . Thus up to a dozen men can be occupied for anything up to two months in the hope of carrying out an operation and always there exists the risk of prior discovery .

This type of operation can be countered by surveillance and by routine intelligence work and generally it represents the old style guerilla campaign which has varied little (apart from the radio switches) since West Cork in 1921 .......


First published in 'IRIS' magazine , Volume 1 , Number 2 , November 1981 .

The content and outcome of a meeting held on Wednesday July 29th 1981 are now well recorded historical fact - over a period of hours , Gerry Adams , Brendan McFarlane , Owen Carron and Seamus Ruddy saw all the hunger-strikers with the exception of Kevin Lynch whose deteriorating condition prevented him from being present . Having outlined the reasons for their visit the deputation , as requested , gave a painful but necessarily frank assessment of the situation to the hunger-strikers .

In a statement , prepared in conjunction with the hunger-strikers , Gerry Adams said afterwards : " We gave them a factual and hard breakdown on their position - that is , that they would all be dead very soon . They told us , individually and collectively , that they were determined to continue with the hunger-strike until the British government was pressurised into meeting in a commonsense manner with the protesting prisoners on the hunger-strikers' position as outlined in their July 4th 1981 statement . "

The hunger-strikers were fully aware of the situation outside the prison , of its inevitable consequences to themselves , but they were totally determined to continue . One other previously unknown fact arose at that July 29th 1981 meeting - Fr. Oliver Crilly of the ICJP had been in the prison the previous day to see Thomas McElwee with a proposal that the hunger-strike should be suspended to allow a 'monitoring committee' to ensure the implementation of British government commitments ; Fr. Oliver Crilly was to attend the meeting with the families later that day at Toomebridge but did not accompany them to the Belfast meeting late that night .

This strange proposal was obviously a non-starter simply because it had no basis - the British government had not given any public commitments : there was nothing to monitor and as such it was rejected that night as totally implausible by the hunger-strikers and Brendan McFarlane who had been brought from the cells to the hospital wing .......


From 'MAGILL' magazine , April 1982 .

There was a riot taking place in the vicinity of Divis Flats close to midnight between local youths and British soldiers .

Official IRA men emerged armed from the vicinity of their drinking club in Cyprus Street - they had two rifles and a handgun . They opened fire on the rioters , hitting 18 year-old Joe McCabe in the back of the head .

As McCabe lay on the ground seriously injured , one of the Official IRA men , who had been in school with him , came up and kicked him .
(Tomorrow - 'Beatings , knee-capping and intimidations ; 1975-1982' .)