Essay: Terrorism and the IRA

Since the start of 1974, the military armed wing of the Northern Irish political group Sinn Fein called the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had caused a terror outbreak in Northern Ireland against the dominant United Kingdom by using bombs as a traditional means of intimidating the British Loyalists. The IRA claimed to use these methods for religious proposes, however due to the many deaths and chaos caused by them, many people had come to acknowledge them as a terrorist organisation. Since it’s cease-fire to negotiate peace terms between Sinn Fein and other ruling parties, many members of the IRA disbanded to form many splinter groups, particularly the Real IRA (RIRA) and the Continuity IRA (CIRA) who still provoke havoc today even though the IRA had peace negotiations, making many people question if the IRA were really terrorists or justifiable freedom fighters.
The American Encyclopaedia definition for terrorism is as follows, ‘Terrorism is premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine state agents, usually intended to influence the audience.’ Sinn Fein are a Northern Ireland political group who were formed in 1905, however it was in 1969 when the IRA was formed as the military branch of Sinn Fein. The IRA fought for Irish independence and for the rights of the Catholic Church and saw themselves protectors of Ireland, this led to the main targets of the IRA onslaught to be the United Kingdom Unionist and Loyalists, as well as the Protestant church. Particularly after the Bloody Sunday incident of 1972, in which the months that followed the IRA planted bombs killing and wounding hundreds of people. British Government and Military officials would be kidnapped, assassinated or beaten by IRA members while using an assortment light and heavy weapons as well as explosives, while resorted to smuggling and robbery to achieve necessary funds.
The IRA were primarily called terrorists because of their use of bombing to create disorder among the British both in Northern Ireland and the UK, often killing and wounding hundreds. This was their primary weapon used for intimidating their opposition as it was effective in causing serious damage. Particularly in 1974 when a wave of IRA bombs in British pubs killed 28 and wounded over 200 people. The IRA almost succeeded in killing the British Prime Minister John Major and his cabinet members with mortar attack. Even with the peace-negotiations, violence continued through militarised IRA splinter groups. The RIRA opposed all peace talks and Sinn Fein’s role in it and instead wanted reunify Ireland by continuing the terrorist plans that were intended. Whereas the CIRA attempted the continuation of the IRA as Sinn Fein’s military branch, however they still implemented violence through shootings and bombings just as the predecessors had done.
Although they were formed from Sinn Fein, who were a political group, the IRA were a violent non-governmental group who disassociated themselves with the political methods used by them and instead adopted a military lifestyle where their members are heavily armed with weapons to help take control. Although through decommissioning set by the Belfast agreement, the IRA lost a lot its explosive and fire power, but are said to receive funds, weapons and terrorist- related material from sympathizers in the United States of America. Frequently the IRA would be accused of terrorist plots, especially in Ireland (Dublin) and London which led to massive conflict status’ between the IRA militia and the British Royal Army up until Sinn Fein ordered a seize-fire in order to be allowed political decision making. However in just under thirty years the IRA managed to kill over 3500 people, wounding 12 000 and create a tension between Northern Ireland the UK that still resides to this date
However, the main difference between terrorism and being freedom fighters is that freedom fighters want to negotiate terms in order to install political or religious change, whereas Terrorists do not negotiate and use intimidation and violence in order to force political or religious change among a government or land. The IRA can be considered freedom fighters because while the IRA were using intimidation to provoke change, their political branch Sinn Fein were attempting to negotiate peace terms and call a seize fire between the IRA and Royal Troops. Today Sinn Fein even participates in the Northern Ireland parliamentary running, and the violent splinter groups of the IRA following the Belfast agreement and peace negotiations officially left Sinn Fein and their actions are directed from their own beliefs and goals, not that of Sinn Fein, therefore they cannot be directly linked to the same organisation as Sinn Fein and the IRA.
Furthermore, it can be said that the IRA could been wrongly labelled as terrorists as they used forced against the English government, and even though the entire world saw it as an act of terrorism, the Irish people saw it as an act to fight for their home and country and help defend every single person who lives there. The IRA may have been forced to resolve to terrorist-like tactics through the constant pressure placed on them by the British Government and the rest of the world. The IRA also wished to protect the Catholic religion which they saw being jeopardised by the ruling Protestantism, which inspired people to fight for there freedom and be willing to die for it in order to protect their religion which caused them to take the seemingly violent and rational ‘terrorist’ tactics.
In accordance to this however, the IRA targeted the British and non-Republican Irish as well as the Protestant faith with means of planned violence and intimidation hoping to force change in the government, as well as refusing to take part in government peace talks and planning, particularly the splinter groups of the IRA, and by meeting the needed requirements the Irish Republican Army can be considered a Terrorist Organisation.

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