The ‘Troubles’ as they are known in Northern Ireland may seem like yesteryear’s cause: it is not.
Put yourself in the mindset of a terrorist – but just for the sake of this blog: I don’t want to be accused of radicalising anyone!
What is it that you are trying to achieve? Individuals may differ but there are a few common underlying goals:
- You want to make a statement of some sort (political, ideological, etc.);
- You want to right a wrong, current or historical, real or imagined’
- You want to cause fear and terror (hence the word ‘terrorism’);
- You want to get noticed (cf US scholar Brian Jenkins’ famous line “Terrorism is theatre”); and
- You want to be active as long as it takes to accomplish as many as the aforementioned aims as possible.
One hit wonders and baqiyah
With respect to that last point there is a wide variety of longevity. There are what I would call ‘one hit wonders’ such as the Phineas Priesthood, which featured in an earlier Today in Terrorism piece. These ‘groups’ seem to be a flash in the pan and disappear having made little impact.
Other organisations are much hardier. Islamic State (ISIS), for example, used the Arabic term ‘baqiyah‘ – ‘enduring, everlasting’ – in its promotional material. The group may have been badly hit of late but, as I and many others are cautioning, it has not gone away.
And then there is the IRA
The Irish Republican Army, or rather several manifestations of it, have been around for over a century. Formed originally in 1919 to fight for independence from the United Kingdom, it was one of many actors that helped usher in an independent Ireland in 1922. The battle did not end there, however, as the six counties in Ulster voted to remain in the UK. The IRA eventually transformed into a terrorist organisation, one of the best known in the world.
The conflict ‘ended’ with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 – or did it? Recent events suggest otherwise.
The renewed struggle to unify all of Ireland picked up in 1969 and was fueled by the ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre in January 1972 when British soldiers fired on unarmed civilians, killing 14. This was perhaps the genesis of what became known as ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The conflict ‘ended’ with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 – or did it? Recent events suggest otherwise.
1971 McGurk’s bar bombing
Today’s contribution features attacks by both sides of the campaign on both sides of the 1998 pact. On December 4, 1971 the Ulster Volunteer Force, established in 1966 as a ‘loyalist paramilitary’ organisation which fought to keep Northern Ireland in the UK, exploded a bomb at a bar called McGurk’s in a Catholic neighbourhood of Belfast, killing 15 and wounding 17.
47 years later
47 years later, on this day in 2018, a father waiting for his son outside St. Mary’s Grammar School in Belfast was shot and killed. Two men were soon arrested in conjunction with the murder but released for lack of evidence. A police official stated months later that he suspected the IRA was behind the attack.
Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, although the Brexit fiasco may have an impact.
What does this all tell us? Quite simply that there are groups that will use violence to achieve their stated ends until they succeed. Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, although the Brexit fiasco may have an impact: I read recently that there are some who think unification will happen eventually, as support appears to be rising for an end to the division.
Here’s hoping that a peaceful solution can be had. That, and only that, may finally lead to the dissolution of the IRA.