The IRA in the South

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2009), Volume 17

In mid-1969 the Department of Justice presented the Irish government with its view of the threat posed by the IRA, which it suggested had perhaps 1,200 members in the Republic. IRA members were said to be centrally involved in housing protests and land agitation, having decided that ‘social unrest would be exploited’ in order to turn their organisation into a ‘dynamic political force on whom workers and small farmers could alone depend for improved social conditions’. Since 1967 the IRA had been ‘openly advocating the establishment of a “Workers’ Republic” and the eventual resort to arms for that purpose’. What caused most concern was that the IRA had carried out a number of ‘serious crimes’ since May 1968. These included arson attacks during strikes, the blowing up of an American-owned trawler and the burning of foreign-owned farms. A cash-strapped IRA had also reverted to armed robbery to secure funding. The department suggested that a campaign aimed at exposing the IRA’s links to communism might be beneficial, as ‘in different parts of the country units of the IRA [and Sinn Féin] are uneasy about the new left-wing policy of their leadership and about the violent methods that are being adopted in the destruction of private property. Their uneasiness needs to be brought to the surface in some way with a consequent fragmentation of the organisation.’

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