December 11, 1971: IRA bombing in Belfast

In what appeared to be a tit-for-tat attack, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) bombed a furniture store in Belfast in December 1971, killing four

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – The ‘Irish question’ has been around forever and has led to many tit-for-tat attacks.

There are few nationalist subjects in the world that have led to more discussion – and more violence as we shall see – than that of the status of Ireland, and by extension Northern Ireland.

Battles, wars and atrocities between England and Ireland over who is to rule the ‘Emerald Isle’ have been going on for centuries. Whether we are looking way back, say the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 which secured the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland for generations, or more recent violent exchanges in Northern Ireland, say Bloody Sunday 1972, the nation has certainly had more than its fair share of violence.

Busting the Historical Myths Conclusion: The Battle of the Boyne… – Slugger  O'Toole
That’s that! I think we are over the worst of the violence! (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Out of all this death and injury has some one of the world’s most well-known terrorist groups: the Irish Republican Army (IRA, almost labeled the Provisional IRA and the Real IRA). That group has been behind bombings and shootings in Ireland and England and has enjoyed support (including fundraising networks) in many parts of the English-speaking world (including Canada).

As a counter to the IRA, which self-identified as representative of Irish Catholics both in the Republic as well as Northern Ireland, there arose the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and others. The two engaged in tit-for-tat attacks over the decades.

Today’s featured attack is a good example.

On this day in 1971 the IRA carried out a bombing outside the busy Balmoral Furniture Company in Belfast, killing four and wounding 19. The blast was in retribution for an attack a week earlier in McGurk’s Bar in the same city in which 15 civilians were killed and 17 wounded. The UVF is believed to have been behind that attack.

Women were crying. Men were trying to dig out the rubble. Other men were hitting the walls. One person was crying beside you and the next person was shouting ‘Bastards’ and things like that.

Eyewitness to the IRA attack

As of today the level of violence seems to have leveled off in Ireland: we sure don’t see it as frequently as we once did. Yet, as the fundamental issue, i.e. what to do about Northern Ireland, has not been resolved to the satisfaction of all I would not want to bet on acts of terrorism never occurring again.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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