Skip to comments.Before the Taliban, there was the IRA
Posted on 08/31/2003 8:29:47 AM PDT by aculeus
THE Belfast Provisional IRA of 1972 - of which Gerry Adams was a senior member - beat and intimidated women who had shown any sympathy to the British soldiers who had saved the Falls Road from invasion by loyalists during fierce rioting in 1969.
Between 1970 and 1972, according to local accounts and contemporaneous newspaper reports, some 14 women in Catholic west and north Belfast were kidnapped and beaten by IRA units whose specific task was to ensure that fraternising with British soldiers stopped. A number of young women who went out with off-duty soldiers were "tarred and feathered" - had their hair shaved off, were doused in black paint and covered in feathers from a pillow. They were then tied to lampposts with placards hung around their necks proclaiming them as 'soldier lovers' for public humiliation. Most of these young women had to leave the areas they lived in and never return.
Such images, reminiscent now of the Taliban regime, were almost common place in west Belfast of the early 1970s.
The IRA leadership at the time had been alarmed at the warm welcome that Catholics had given the British army when it was sent in by the British government following intense rioting in Derry and Belfast in 1969. Although barely remembered now, the army saved a large part of the Falls Road from being overrun by loyalist rioters led by the extreme loyalist figures. One of these, John McKeague, said at the time that if he and his men had "another 48 hours", they would have overrun the Falls.
Despite revised claims to the contrary, the IRA played a very little role in the defence of the Falls and other Catholic areas of Belfast from the loyalists. Almost all the defence of the areas was organised by local men with no connection to the IRA. The republicans were, in fact, widely derided for this. Graffiti famously appeared across west Belfast stating: 'IRA - I Ran Away'.
As well as welcoming the British soldiers, the Catholics of the Bogside in Derry and west Belfast gave a warm welcome to the British Home Secretary Jim Callaghan when he visited Northern Ireland. Loyalists, on the other hand, rioted when the British government disbanded the sectarian part-time police force, the B Specials, many of whom had sided with the loyalists during the August 1969 riots.
The Provisional IRA set about turning Catholic opinion in west Belfast and began staging confrontations in which the army was forced to react against teenage rioters. Attacks were launched against soldiers who were, at that stage, acting purely as a peace-keeping force between the warring communities.
A key point in this IRA campaign was the orchestration of a riot against an annual Orange parade from the Springfield Orange Hall in March 1970. The army intervened between the Orangemen and the Catholic rioters at Ballymurphy who then attacked the soldiers. The army replied with tear gas and rubber bullets, the IRA then opened fire and from that point there were frequent gun battles and riots in Catholic areas - all organised by the IRA. This had the effect of alienating Ballymurphy from the soldiers.
The project was greatly advanced when the army eventually launched a curfew in the Falls the following year amid massive disruption and the rioting in which suffocating tear gas was widely used. It was completed when internment was introduced in August 1971 during which time hundreds of homes were raided.
It should be remembered that the Provisional IRA, whose leadership at the time was deeply anti-Protestant as well as anti-British, was armed and equipped as a result of the intervention of the Dublin Government which thought it was supplying funds for community activists intent only on defending Catholic areas from attack.
As well as staging riots and gun battles, however, the IRA still had the task of clearing out any residual sympathy towards the army or RUC. The Belfast leadership, which despite his repeated denials included Gerry Adams, set up special units, officially designated to search out informers and criminals but whose actual task was to identify and target anyone who was sympathetic to the security forces.
This activity took place in almost every working class Catholic area of Northern Ireland. Anyone who was not sympathetic to the IRA and antipathetic to the security forces was branded with some kind of 'offence' from informing - the worst accusation - to criminality to selling drugs. Many innocent people were attacked or intimidated out of areas from which the IRA was recruiting and mounting acts of terrorism.
The indoctrination of young IRA members, which was essential to produce the fanatical attitudes, was helped by some republican priests and school teachers who enthusiastically helped create a brand of 'Marxist theology' mixed with traditional Northern sectarianism.
The IRA set up teams and organised campaigns specifically to intimidate and ostracise anyone who had shown friendship to the soldiers. These teams included IRA women who often displayed a fanatical enthusiasm for this work and were involved in beatings and tarring and feathering. Their conditioning meant that the worst kind of enemy they could envisage was a Protestant in their midst who fraternised with soldiers or police.
Jean McConville was a prime target for these IRA figures. She had, according to her family, placed a pillow under the head of a dying soldier shot near her home in St Jude's Walk, in the Divis Flats complex. The family's recollection that republicans daubed 'Brit Lover' on the door ties in with the recollections of other local people.
Jean McConville had been born a Protestant and married a young man from the Falls who had joined the British army - not by any means an uncommon occurrence in Belfast. The Falls was never a homogenous republican area and many local men fought for the Allies in World War II. In fact, the only Victoria Cross won by a Northern Ireland serviceman during the War was by a Falls Road man, James Magenniss VC.
The fact that Jean and her family had only moved to the Falls in 1969 added to the impression that she was an outsider. The suggestion that she was an active informer working for the British army is strongly disputed by her family, some of whom were teenagers at the time and recollect that she had undergone a nervous breakdown after the death of her husband from cancer in February 1972.
The IRA claim to have found two radio transmitters in her home was never backed up with any evidence. On other occasions where the IRA found electronic listening devices or other British army equipment, it was usually photographed and pictures used in An Phoblacht.
Another claim made then by a local IRA man - who is understood to have been known to Gerry Adams in west Belfast at the time - that she died from suffocation while she was being interrogated by the IRA team may also be shown to be wrong if, as has been reported, there is a bullet hole in her skull.
Mrs McConville was going through an extraordinarily difficult time. Her husband had died less than a year earlier. She was bringing up 10 young children on her husband's small pension and social security benefit. One son was in borstal, another had a severe kidney illness and one of the girls had a broken leg.
She was abducted from her home on the night of December 6, taken to a house about two miles away, beaten and left to walk home on a freezing night in her bare feet. The following night a group of men and women burst into the house, dragged her from her bath and drove off with her. She was never seen again.
The IRA gang told the children they were taking their mother for only a few hours. However, the children were left to fend for themselves over Christmas with almost no money or food. Helen, then 15, was the head of the family. Some neighbours and their grandmother helped. An IRA man later brought back their mother's purse which contained her wedding ring.
The children eventually contacted the local civil rights office which issued a statement about the disappearance. This led to some local news coverage. However, over the next few days, the IRA managed to persuade some local journalists that Mrs McConville had abandoned her children and gone to England after a soldier.
The family's story remained largely ignored until the IRA ceasefires and pressure from the McConvilles and other families of the disappeared mounted on the Irish and British Governments. A commission was set up to negotiate the return of bodies from the IRA.
It now appears that Jean McConville was shot through the back of the head and buried in Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth. Gardai suspect that a local IRA man, now associated with the dissident Real IRA and who was also involved in the murder of the Cooley Peninsula farmer, Tom Oliver, was involved in the disposal of Mrs McConville's body and maybe even her murder.
Jim Cusack worked as a journalist in Belfast in the 1970s and has researched the early years of the Troubles for two books.
30 year old news? Maybe he could write a book about Cromwell.
The remains found last week have yet to be identified.
The idea that the IRA is in any way similar to the Taleban is ridiculous on the face of it. Not many burqas to be seen on the Falls Road.
Horizontal collaboration is bitterly detested everywhere there is a shred of normal human emotion left. (Probably doesn't apply in most of the sick, decadent West, which sees sleeping with the enemy as just another lifethtyle choice.) In any case, physically punishing these girls was intensely unpopular in Nationalist areas, and soon came to a near halt.
Jean McConville was accused of being an informer by the IRA, and was warned many times to quit the area or face the consequences. But even if she was totally innocent, the victim of a horrible mistake, why is her death any worse than the hundreds of Catholics murdered by Loyalist death squads, virtually every one of whom was murdered for no other reason than their ethnicity and religion? (See The Shankill Butchers by Martin Dillon for a snapshot of the Loyalist mentality.)
Despite revised claims to the contrary, the IRA played a very little role in the defence
The IRA freely admits it played little part in stopping the pogroms of 1969. There are no "revised claims". It has been the Unionists who claim the IRA was active at this time.
The army replied with tear gas and rubber bullets
Teargas and rubber bullets were, until very recently, banned from use in Britain, they were reserved for Irishmen.
from that point there were frequent gun battles and riots in Catholic areas - all organised by the IRA.
The gun battles, certainly, but the riots, no.
It should be remembered that the Provisional IRA, whose leadership at the time was deeply anti-Protestant as well as anti-British
Anti-sectarianism is a founding priciple of Republicanism, though to be sure it has not always been perfectly followed.
This activity took place in almost every working class Catholic area of Northern Ireland. Anyone who was not sympathetic to the IRA and antipathetic to the security forces was branded with some kind of 'offence'
Nonsense. In many of these areas the most popular political party was the SDLP. They and their voters were certainly not sympathetic to the IRA.
was armed and equipped as a result of the intervention of the Dublin Government which thought it was supplying funds for community activists intent only on defending Catholic areas from attack.
There was a brief period when it appeared that mass-slaughter was under way in Northern Ireland that the government of Ireland considered giving arms to the Catholic population, but nothing really came of it. This is fantasy.
It should be remembered that the first policeman killed during the latest Troubles was killed by Loyalist Protestants. The first soldier killed was killed by Loyalist Protestants. The first bombs set off were set off by Loyalist Protestants. The first sectarian killings were done by Loyalist Protestants.