From the Archives

The IRA Launches a New Offensive

(The Inside Story: World Report v1:4, November 1994)

Since 1990, Great Britain has been traumatized by a renewed wave of terrorism. Using primarily high-powered explosives, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has unleashed a series of indiscriminate attacks in Northern Ireland. One bomb injured 27 people in “a crowded shopping area” during the Christmas season.1 In another incident, a ton of explosives wounded twelve residents and five police officers in a small town.2

England itself has not been exempt. The IRA has expanded its war right into London itself; in one six-day period, a series of eight bombings kept the city in a daily state of fear. Explosions have been set off in crowded subway stations and shopping centers, sometimes with multiple bombings hitting different targets on the same day. By mid-1993, police were forced to establish permanent roadblocks around downtown London.3

Then, on August 31 of this year, the IRA suddenly announced a unilateral cease-fire, although Gerry Adams, head of the IRA’s political front (Sinn Fein), refused to declare the “peace” permanent. Nevertheless, British Prime Minister John Major waited a mere seven weeks, then made his own announcement — that, for the first time, the government of England would negotiate openly with the IRA. He also promised that British troops would ultimately be withdrawn from Northern Ireland.4

The news media and the British government are treating the IRA truce as if it were a genuine abandonment of terrorism by the organization. But the lessons of history have already been forgotten; this is not the first time the IRA has temporarily halted its violence for tactical reasons. Previously, such IRA moves have turned out to be the calm before the storm, always leading to new escalations of terror.

The most spectacular use of this technique in recent decades was carried out in 1972. Following a nearly two-year campaign of snipings and bombings by the IRA, the group agreed to a truce with British forces in June 1972. Two minutes before the truce began, the IRA assassinated yet another British soldier. The “ceasefire” itself was marked by sporadic shootings and bombings. Then, four weeks after the truce was declared the IRA ended it, setting off 22 bombs in downtown Belfast in just an hour and a quarter; panicked crowds of Irish fled from one explosion to another. Thus began more than a decade of protracted terrorist warfare.5

The performance was repeated in the late 1980s. In 1986, Sinn Fein changed policy and began participating as a political party in the parliament of the Republic of Ireland. This move was followed by a reduction in terrorist violence.6 But just as Northern Ireland was adapting to the relative calm, IRA terrorism burst onto the scene again in 1990, launching the renewed violence of the past four years.

Why does the IRA perform such maneuvers? What are its real goals? A closer look at the organization reveals that it is carrying out a Communist war of terrorism, designed to convert Ireland into a Soviet base. If Britons will remain paralyzed by their belief in the “death” of Communism, the IRA will soon succeed.

A Communist revolution…

In 1920, Soviet dictator and Communist strategist V.I. Lenin called for an expanded Communist revolution in Ireland.7 For its part, the Official IRA has never hid its Communist allegiance, and has openly called for “an Irish Socialist Republic allied with the Soviet Union.” In the 1920s, its representatives went to the Soviet Union for arms and other help.8 During World War II, the IRA even met with top Nazi leaders, who allocated one U-boat to the IRA and worked with the group in trying to infiltrate German spies into Ireland.9 In the 1960s, the Soviets made the decision to escalate the revolution in Ireland, and the KGB soon sent officers to supervise the IRA — including Vladimir Kozov of the KGB’s Department V, which handled “assassinations and sabotage.” The Communist Parties of Britain and Ireland became transmission belts for Soviet directives for the IRA, and the Cuban DGI agreed to train the terrorists.10

But the Official IRA’s main drawback was its overt Marxism-Leninism. The Soviets preferred to disguise the nature of the revolution by using a group less publicly recognized as Communist. The answer emerged in 1969, in the form of a breakaway faction known as the Provisional IRA.

Despite the less Marxist image of the “Provos,” as they were called, their new group’s formation had been inspired by the group People’s Democracy, a Communist “civil rights” front. The founders of People’s Democracy, Bernadette Devlin and Michael Farell, were members of the Trotskyite Fourth International and advocates of revolutionary violence. People’s Democracy has functioned as a front for the Provisional IRA, and Devlin has been a leading spokesperson for the IRA movement. As Devlin put it, the IRA’s war against England was not being fought merely over Northern Ireland, but was “an integral part of the international working-class movement” [emphasis added].11

As if to confirm its Marxist bent, the Provisional IRA declared it was fighting for a radical socialist system in Ireland, in which all key economic sectors would be nationalized and the rest tightly controlled by the government. Agriculture would also be seized, with farmers being forced to operate on collective farms and ranches. The head of Sinn Fein in the 1970s, Ruairi O’Bradaigh, explained that the new system would be “a Democratic Socialist Republic… Marxist in analysis… similar to Communism.”12

The Provos have consistently been dominated by such leaders as Brian Keenan, an outspoken Marxist and supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The current leader of Sinn Fein and the IRA, Gerry Adams, is also a Marxist who idolizes Robert Mugabe, the brutal Communist dictator of Zimbabwe. Adams personally supports the terrorist African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and the PLO; in a 1985 speech, he referred to “Israel’s policy of genocide against the Palestinian people” and declared that an IRA-controlled Irish government would ally itself with the PLO.13

By 1971 the Soviets were pouring vast amounts of aid into the Provisional IRA, which soon grew to replace the Official IRA as the vanguard of the revolution. Under KGB control, Czechoslovakia began sending guns, ammunition, and explosives by the ton. Rocket launchers were also included. KGB front organizations such as the International Union of Students, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, and the World Peace Council launched a global propaganda campaign on behalf of the Provos. Communist terrorist groups from around the world, including the Basque ETA of Spain, the Baader-Meinhof gang of West Germany, the Red Brigades of Italy, and many others, developed close ties with the IRA. The IRA, in turn, publicly declared solidarity with the Sandinistas of Nicaragua, the FMLN guerrillas of El Salvador, the ANC, and especially the PLO.

The PLO took on the responsibility of training the IRA terrorists. Yasser Arafat’s Fatah and George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) brought IRA members to training camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and South Yemen, where Cubans and East Germans provided instruction. The PLO welcomed IRA representatives to its top organizing meetings. Habash officially allied himself with the IRA, and soon the PLO was also funneling vast quantities of weapons to the Provos.

Muammar Qaddafi, the Soviet-sponsored dictator of Libya, joined in with both weapons and money. Through Libya, the Soviets sent additional tons of bombs and guns to the IRA; the IRA’s journal, An Phoblacht, publicly thanked Qaddafi and praised his dictatorship. IRA terrorists were trained under Cubans in Libyan training camps, and by the late 1970s Libya was sending the IRA at least $5 million per year in cash.14

Through these various intermediaries, the Soviets put tens of thousands of guns, millions of rounds of ammunition, and tons of TNT and plastic explosives into IRA hands. The IRA revolution has been built on Soviet, not Irish, support.

… takes aim at Ireland…

Too many outsiders have swallowed the propaganda that the IRA is fighting for the liberation of Irish Catholics. In reality, the Soviet-supplied guns and explosives have been turned against the Irish themselves.

As with all Communist revolutions, the IRA must create an appearance of popular support. In this, the IRA has faced an uphill struggle; the Catholic Church historically opposed IRA violence, and the Irish people — Catholic and Protestant alike — tended to ignore the revolution. “The Catholic community, like the whole community here in the North, is sick and tired of the Provisional IRA,” said the frustrated Bishop of Londonberry in 1978.15

The IRA moved to solve this problem — through intimidation and terror. In 1970, any Irish caught fraternizing with British soldiers faced implicit threats:

Housewives who persisted in giving out cups of tea found their homes daubed with slogans. Young girls foolish enough to socialise with off-duty squaddies had their heads roughly razored… and were tied to lamp-posts with badly-lettered placards announcing their crime around their necks.16

After a few warnings, the IRA turned ugly. The organization assumed police powers unto itself, but crimes against Irish people went lightly punished at best. However, suspected informants among Irish Catholic civilians were “convicted” in absentia, chased down, and shot in the back of the head. For added emphasis, “the bodies of executed informers are deliberately left in public places as a warning to others.”17

As the IRA extended its control over Northern Ireland, it began waging open war against the population. Shops and cooperatives were destroyed by nonstop firebombings; next came private homes. In one town attacked by the IRA, “twelve families [lost] most or all of their belongings,” one Catholic bishop angrily reported. “Fifty-eight people were left homeless, including a family of ten, and the refugees ranged from a ninety-six-year-old man to a six-month-old child.… Perpetrators of these bombings are guilty of cowardly and totally immoral actions against defenseless, harmless people.”18

Soon even failure to join the IRA became a “crime,” punishable by a permanent crippling known as “kneecapping”: “Victims were taken to one of Belfast’s many stretches of wasteland, forced to lie down, then shot through the back of the legs with a small calibre pistol. The punishment squad then called an ambulance.” The victims were often women or children. Sometimes shooting was replaced by beating the knees or elbows with sticks and iron bars. Then came the Black and Decker drills, which did the job more slowly. Then IRA teams began using concrete blocks, dropped onto a victim’s oustretched arm to break the elbow.19

By 1986, over one thousand Irish Catholics had already been kneecapped, enough to require the building of a special hospital for these victims. This is in addition to over 3,000 people killed and another 12,000 wounded or handicapped by the IRA’s war of national liberation.20

After 25 years of war, the Provisional IRA has thoroughly intimidated the population of Northern Ireland, and is now prepared to move into the final stage of its revolution.

… to surround Europe.

Contrary to the popular picture of the IRA as a liberation movement for Irish Catholics, the IRA itself has long promised war against the Catholic government of the Republic of Ireland. This is also despite the fact that the independent Dublin government allows the IRA nearly total freedom to operate in its country, using the South as a base of operations against Northern Ireland.

“We do not want a confederation of the South with the North,” emphasized Sinn Fein leader O’Bradaigh. “Nor do we want an independent Ulster. We want a general dismantling of the existing Establishments in the Irish Republic and Ulster both.”

An Phoblacht was even more blunt. “Both the Quisling regime in the Free State and the colonial regime in the Northern war zone have failed to produce a lasting solution. The war will continue until these structures are demolished.” In another interview, Provo leaders revealed their aim of total Communist revolution: “We must educate the workers to destabilize capitalism in the whole of Ireland through armed atruggle.”21

Trotskyite spokesman Michael Farell, affiliated with the IRA movement, explained the revolution’s real purpose:

Victory in the north means not just defeat of the Loyalists and the unity of Ireland, but also the collapse of the government in the south and an anti-imperialist revolution in that country. And a revolution in Ireland could have incalculable consequences in disturbing the United Kingdom and, considering the crisis of Western capitalism, in all Europe.22

Although the IRA has not yet launched a full-scale revolution in the Irish Republic, it has at times conducted bank robberies and kidnappings in the territory of southern Ireland.23 Furthermore, the IRA already has an extensive network in the South ready to explode on a moment’s notice. In 1986, Sinn Fein decided to participate in the parliament of the Irish Republic, signalling preparations to begin the takeover of that country. IRA leader Gerry Adams, moreover, suggested that violence would be an indispensable tool.24

The current IRA “truce” represents no change in the organization’s 25-year goal — the establishment of a Soviet-aligned Communist state in all Ireland. Indeed, the imminent negotiations between the IRA and the British government will prove to be merely the calm before the storm, for the IRA will unleash a new wave of terrorism once London makes concessions. Such tactics will heighten the pressure on London while paving the way for anarchy and the seizure of power in southern Ireland. And if Ireland falls to the IRA, becoming a “People’s Republic,” the Soviets will have established an important military base next to England; it could prove a valuable strategic asset to the Red Army as it occupies Western Europe.

Rather than surrendering Ireland at the negotiating table, Britain could counteract the IRA at its source. According to one IRA member, “The worst-kept secret in Belfast is that our salaries come from the British government. Republican [IRA] volunteers are mostly young men living on the dole.” Britain spends over $5 billion per year more on Northern Ireland than is received in taxes from that country.25 Cutting back this socialism could deprive the IRA of its payroll. If the United States would also cut off the tens of billions of dollars in aid, and the enormous flow of heavy industry and high technology, sent each year to the “former” Soviet Union, the IRA would soon find itself without finances or guns.

President Clinton, on the other hand, is publicly applauding the surrender to the IRA, even as he steps up aid to the PLO and Russia.


1. Reuters, “IRA blast injures 27,” S.F. Chronicle, 12-2-92, p. A10.

2. “Bomb injures 17 in Northern Ireland,” S.F. Chronicle, 7-6-93, p. A8.

3. Schmidt, W.E., “Bomb tied to IRA, the 8th in 6 days, injures 5 Londoners,” N.Y. Times, 10-13-92, pp. A5-6; “8 people wounded by two bomb blasts in Northern London,” N.Y. Times, 12-11-92, pp. A3, A9; N.Y. Times, “Anti-terrorist roadblocks set up in Central London,” S.F. Chronicle, 7-6-93, p. A8.

4. Darnton, J., N.Y. Times, “Major finally recognizes IRA truce,” S.F. Chronicle, 10-22-94, pp. A1, A15.

5. Bishop, P. & Mallie, E., The Provisional IRA, Corgi Books, London, 1992, pp. 231-232; Sterling, C., The Terror Network, Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York, 1981, pp. 164-165.

6. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., p. 15.

7. Lenin, V.I., “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder, International Publishers, New York, 1940, pp. 72,.79-80.

8. Sterling, Op cit., pp. 155-156.

9. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., pp. 302-303.

10. Sterling, Op cit., p. 156.

11. Ibid., p. 157; Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., pp. 78-81, 335.

12. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., p. 329; Sterling, Op cit., p. 168.

13. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., pp. 304-305, 318; Holland, Op cit., pp. 56-57.

14. Sterling, Op cit., chapter 9 passim; Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., pp. 305-308; Holland, J., The American Connection, Penguin Books, New York, 1987, pp. 55-57.

15. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., pp. 149-150, 171-172; Sterling, Op cit., p. 170.

16. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., p. 172.

17. Ibid., pp. 178-179, 400-404.

18. Ibid., p. 179; Sterling, Op cit., p. 170.

19. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., pp. 400-401; Sterling, Op cit., p. 171.

20. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., p. 400; Sterling, Op cit., p 151; N.Y. Times, “Sinn Fein leader played a skillful hand,” S.F. Chronicle, 9-2-94, p. A20.

21. Sterling, Op cit., pp. 151, 168, 169.

22. Ibid., p. 157.

23. Ibid., p. 152; Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., p. 243; Holland, Op cit., p. 61.

24. Bishop & Mallie, Op cit., p. 449.

25. Viviano, F., “In Northern Ireland, peace could hurt,” S.F. Chronicle, 10-26-94, pp. A1, A15.