No photos extant of ‘I Ran Away’ slogan

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2009), Troubles in Northern Ireland, Volume 17

By late August 1969 Belfast had settled down to an uneasy calm, with several areas now patrolled by vigilantes and defence committees. The barricades thrown up during August were soon adorned with all manner of slogans: ‘This is Free Belfast’, ‘The Falls will never fall’, ‘SS-RUC’ and ‘B-Men child killers beware’ among them. But while there are numerous photographs of walls bearing the slogan ‘Join the IRA’, there are none extant of the famous ‘I Ran Away’ slogan in a city where there were now 200 newsmen (including cameramen) by late August. It would be eight months later before Ardoyne priest Fr Marcellus Gillespie would tell the Scarman Tribunal, set up to examine the causes of the violence, that after the fighting some men in his area called the IRA the ‘I Ran Away’. This would seem to be the first mention of the slogan that has dominated discourse on the republican movement and its role in 1969 ever since. It may reflect the feeling in Ardoyne but it does not explain what happened elsewhere in Belfast, or indeed why the idea of an inactive IRA has been so widely accepted.

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