The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Morality of Terrorism

The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Morality of Terrorism

The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Morality of Terrorism

The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Morality of Terrorism

Synopsis

Is terrorism ever morally justified? Should we take historical and cultural factors into account in judging the morality of terrorist acts? What are the ethical limits of state counter-terrorism?

For three decades the Provisional Irish Republican Army waged an "armed struggle" against what it perceived to be the British occupation of Northern Ireland. To its supporters, the IRA was the legitimate army of Ireland, fighting for a British withdrawal as a prelude to the reunification of the Irish nation. To its enemies, the IRA was an illegal, fanatical terrorist organization whose members were criminals sacrificing innocent lives in pursuit of an ideological obsession. At the center of this conflict were the then unconventional tactics employed by the IRA, including sectarian killings, political assassinations, and bombings of urban centres - acts that have become increasingly commonplace in our post-9/11 world.

This book is the first detailed philosophical examination of the morality of the IRA's violent campaign and the British government's attempts to end it. Students and scholars who wish to acquire a deeper understanding of a paradigmatic conflict of the late twentieth century will find a wealth of information in this provocative inquiry.

Excerpt

The Provisional Irish Republican Army was born in December 1969 when the Dublin-based republican movement split into two factions, ostensibly over the traditional republican policy of abstensionism with regard to the Belfast, Dublin and London parliaments, but more consequentially over the issue of whether to pursue an offensive campaign in light of the arrival of the British army in Northern Ireland the previous August. One group within the pre-split IRA, led by Cathal Goulding, was reluctant to supply arms to Catholics in the North for fear of alienating the Protestant working class who were (according to its Marxist ideology) to be included in a cross-community class-based workers’ revolution. The other group preferred a more aggressive response. Led by Daithi O’Connaill, Ruairí Ó’Brádaigh and Seán MacStiofáin, it rapidly became the numerically dominant faction in Northern Ireland, attracting younger recruits such as Gerry Adams in Belfast and (later) Martin McGuinness in Derry. It was O’Connaill who proposed the name ‘Provisional Irish Republican Army’ for the new breakaway group, its name echoing the ‘Provisional Government of the Irish Republic’ declared at the General Post Office in Dublin in 1916 (White 2006, p. 151). But it was MacStiofáin who best summed up the thinking of the new group: ‘You’ve got to have military victory first and then politicize the people afterwards. To say you’ve got to unite the Catholic and Protestant working class is just utter rubbish’ (Smith 1995, p. 95). Armed struggle, not politics, would be the way forward to a united, independent, all-island Irish state – ‘the Holy Grail of republicanism’ (Holland 1999, p. 228). The Provisionals began a systematic bombing campaign the following October. By the year’s end they had detonated 153 bombs, mainly in Belfast and Derry. Their bombing . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.