Terrorism in Ireland in 1970's and 1990's


I. Terrorism: IRA in Ireland in 1970's and 1990's


War is an outcome of a disagreement between two or more people over an idea, situation or cause of action. The differences on minor issues are easily forgettable. However, significant differences result in war and deaths. Such has been the trend in many countries on a local, national and international scene. Many countries witnessed internal conflicts due to perceived injustices, which were at times delusional while others arise from genuine concern. Some of the wars that have been observed in the world within the last 50 years include Terrorism acts, political revolts, ethnic and religious cleansing, genocides and civil, ideological and international wars. The famous examples include the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, the September 11 attack on the world trade, the ISIS invasion in the Middle East and the Arab spring. Ireland is among the countries that had long struggles of power which culminated in civil war, revolution and terrorism, all within a century. The events that occurred in Ireland within the past 50 years resulted from historical injustices that were never addressed in the past. In every incidence that war, radicalism and terrorism in Ireland are mentioned, the name IRA resounds.

IRA is the acronym for the Irish Republican Army. This secessionist paramilitary organization had been illegally constituted and sought fight for the independence of Ireland from the United Kingdom to form the Republic of Ireland. This group, according to research, was one of the biggest paramilitary groups that existed in the Troubles (McKittrick & McVea, 2002), which was a name used to refer to the Ethno-nationalist conflicts that span in Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1998 (English, 2005). According to the United Kingdom and Irish governments, IRA is an unlawful organization that perpetrates terror. IRA came into existence in December 1969 after the split of the Republican movement. After The Troubles violence outbreak in 1969, IRA divided into two: The “Official” wing, which parliamentary tactics and the “Provincial”, popularly referred to as the Provos, which operated on guerrilla and terrorist attacks, which they thought as a necessary way to coerce the British out of Ireland. The Provos conducted bombings, ambushes, assassinations in the 1970s in what they referred to as the “Long War” (Arthur, 2015). These terror attacks were extended to the British mainland and the rest of the European continent in 1973.

IRA’s support from the locals began to wane after this conversion into a terrorist group, and the British government came up with a policy that allowed the police to arrest anyone deemed to participate in any terror activities. The organization, which was in support of the 13 Catholic faithful who had been killed in “The Troubles” gained sympathy from the Church, thus swelling its ranks. It split into detached cells in 1977 as a defensive mechanism to prevent infiltration. Out of financial support from the Irish Americans and other citizens in the Diaspora who shared the same vision, IRA purchased weapons to fill its arsenal from international armory dealers and foreign nations such as those in the Arabian world such as Libya. By 1990, the Provos had enough arsenals and funding to last the next decade. They also raised money through extorting Irish citizens and racketeering among other illegal activities. They also carried out community policing, punishing people who rebelled against their cause.

Ten republican prisoners died after a hunger strike in 1981, 7 of whom were IRA members and its political tactics increased in strength to rival the military wing. Sinn Fein, a politically affiliated wing gained more control than the military side, and its leaders began to push for an end to the armed struggles. These leaders were Gerry Adams, John Hume, and Martin McGuinness, who worked closely with the head of SDLP (Social Democratic and Labor Party). It is estimated that by 1994 IRA had killed at least 2000 people, including 600 Irish citizens.

The group resorted to radicalizing, recruiting Irish locals to into their army, who would then participate in guerrilla invasions against the British Army. There were random bombing episodes in Ireland and England in protests against the political and economic targets. The attacks took place in the late ‘90s after the army called for a ceasefire.

Thesis: In participating in terror activities, the IRA struggles brought more harm than good in their efforts for the cessation of Ireland.

II. Causes of the Genocide, Interstate or Interventionist War, Ethnic Conflict or Terrorist Act

A.Structured causes

Religious discrimination against the Catholics: Northern Ireland became a nation out of demographic compromise. The majority of the citizens were in favor of the Union with the United Kingdom, after the island’s division into two in the 1920s. Unionist leaders held the opinion that for them to continue ruling, the country’s leadership had to be firmly Protestant. After the formation of the nation, the Unionists changed the laws and policies, which ensured that the Catholics are considered as second-class minorities who were enemies of the state. First, the electoral boundaries and the voting system were changed.  In this country, the Protestants enjoyed more rights to housing, employment and freedom and acceptance in the community than the Catholic counterparts who were considered less deserving. Catholic representatives and Nationalists were prohibited from any political involvement or expression of matters of national concern. Several of their complaints fell into two categories. The first was direct subjugation by the state apparatus, which directly made them foreigners in their country. Second, they claimed that this repression made them vulnerable to discrimination in public service, housing, employment and education (Sulutvedt, 2002).

B.Motivational Grievances

Poor economic conditions: The United Kingdom’s policies that applied in Northern Ireland were different from those implemented in the rest of the countries, regions and members of the Commonwealth. It was considered the deviant nation in the Western hemisphere, due to the amount of violence that had hit the country for a long time, which was regarded as a typical behavior of the third world nations that were either on political transition or undemocratic and poor. Lack of support and collaboration with the other European States meant that Northern Ireland was a loner, and its citizens had to suffer economically as a result. In comparison to the other nations within the United Kingdom, it was the country with the lowest economic standing, and its citizens were poorer than the citizens of the other countries. However, despite this low level of wealth, Ireland was not considered poor by international standards. The IRA saw this economic isolation as a reason for the country to ditch the United Kingdom in the favor of the formation of an independent nation.  In fact, all along, it and been classified in the high economy zones in the world.

The partition of the Island into two nations: As stated above, the country was partitioned into two separate countries, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the early years of the 20th Century. It is the same period that saw the emergence of IRA, which was formed in 1921.The old Republican Army of the 1920s had been formed with the aim of fighting for the independence of Ireland from British domination. The rebels had imagined of a Republic of Ireland as being a whole free state without boundaries. However, that is not what happened. The Island was divided into two, with the Catholic Irish forming the Republic of Ireland while the Protestant formed Northern Ireland. This division brought about by the Anglo-Irish treaty effectively ended the war. Northern Island was a province in Britain, renamed as Ulster. Some of the members of the early IRA opposed the treaty. They formed the new organization in 1969 after the outbreak of The Troubles. The agenda of cessation came about as they thought that they deserved to create a nation that would take care of its entire population without prejudice. In this regard, the splitting of the island contributed to the outbreak of war on the Island, and the failure to achieve its targets along with waning popularity encouraged its transformation into a terrorist group that that sought international attention. This tactic has been used by other terrorist organizations that seek autonomy or leadership of their countries, all over the world

C.Trigger Events

Socio-economic isolation and relative deprivation: Many sources attribute the Trouble’s outbreak to economic deprivation. According to the various statistics, the Catholic Irish citizens led poorer lives compared to their Protestant counterparts. This notion led to the explanation by the poor that they were in such economic conditions simply because they were Catholic. By the books, being Catholics amounted to no crime. This kind of discrimination led to social and economic isolation, thus leading to lower living standards for some people within the society. This isolation culminated to violence against the Catholics in 1969 which resulted in retaliatory attacks, and thus the re-emergence of the IRA. In this regard, the Irish Republican Army sought to mete out justice for the Catholic, who were rightfully Irish citizens and thus deserved equal treatment as the Protestants. This explanation of the cause of the re-emergence of IRA is attributed to the socio-economic deprivation since violence was mostly seen in Catholic-dominated areas. Such cases have occurred in other countries around the world. If the differences between the conflicting groups are large enough, they lead to violence, which may then transform into civil war or terrorist activities. As such, I find that there is a link between the violence and the wide economic gap between the two distinct groups of citizens.

Political stagnation: Northern Island had stayed under the Unionist rule for a long time, since the early 20th Century. This Unionist regime was partisan their governance. They favored Protestants both in governance and participation. Since most of the Protestants were in government, they forced the formation of laws that infringed on the rights of the Catholics, infringing on their freedoms as human beings who belong to the country. This partisan approach to governance rendered the Catholics a useless population since they could neither participate in nation building nor enjoy its fruits. The case was very similar to the ‘Jewish problem’ in Germany that Hitler and his operatives had sought to put an end to with their proposed “Final Solution”. The same result, violence, and anarchy had occurred in Germany and other states that agreed to Hitler’s proposal, and it was okay to kill the Jews. The same was the case in Northern Ireland. It had become almost okay to discriminate and socio-economically deprive the Catholics, thus making them a weaker religious group in all senses; economically, socially and demographically. The government’s failure to act in protection of the Irish citizens meant that they endorsed violence against them. This notion, which made the Catholic feel like second-class citizens brought to a state of hopelessness to the extent that they went to war since they had nothing to lose. A partisan form of governance is a cause of anarchy and subsequent civil strife.

D.Accelerator causes

Lack of efficient conflict resolution methods: The war that began in 1969 was prompted by complaints by minority groups that had genuine concerns, which they sought addressing. The war prolonged into the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s because of lack of effective conflict resolution methods. The IRA split into different groups that sought to achieve similar goals using different means. The wing that had been affiliated to political resolve began talks with the government in 1972, which broke down due to lack of clear intentions and mistrust between the two parties. The government, which was composed of Protestant Unionists wanted total control yet the IRA operatives wanted to be allowed participation in governance and nation-building. The Protestant-affiliated government wanted to maintain status quo while the IRA sought a change that would have resulted in equal treatment for all citizens on economic, legal and social grounds. Such a situation is brought to an end through mediation processes that often require an external arbiter. The rise of loyalist groups made the situation even worse than it had been before, meaning that no one was actually in control. This kind of confusion led to the continued wars that lasted three more decades. 

E.Group Training dynamics

Conflicting interests among different revolutionary groups in Ireland: As explained in the introduction of this paper, the reason people go to war arises from a conflict of interests. In 1972, after the splitting of IRA into the political and paramilitary wings, there emerged another group known as the Ulster Defense Association (UDA). The IRA paramilitary branch wanted the unification of Ireland. On the other hand, UDA resisted this proposal, and together with its sister organization, the Ulster Violence Force (UVF), they resorted to the use of violence in their resistance. This IRA had resorted to force all the people of British descent back to Britain through violence and terror. These two groups wanted to dominate Northern Ireland, and for each, this only meant the total erosion of the other dominant group. The differences between the two groups caused the ‘long war’ of the 1970s, which took the form of a civil war. As the ‘long war’ progressed, IRA still continued to invade other countries reigning terror activities such as the bombing of vehicles and public places to force the British government and other forces out of options but to succumb to their requests. The Funding from international Irish descendants such as the American-Irish people contributed to the funding of recruitment, training and terrorist activities, which worsened the war.

Selfish ambitions: The Unionist regime had selfish ambitions to keep power to the Protestants and repress Catholic’s contribution to leadership. “The Troubles” showed people that they could unite in causing a revolution. In most cases, revolutions often resulted in new leaders. This example was valid in Mexico, which had led to an overhaul of leadership after the neo-colonialists had deprived citizens their right to good governance, access to freedom rights and protection by the government. The Zapatista revolution in Mexico, which happened in the early 20th Century, had resulted in a better form of government and ouster of bad leaders (John Holloway, 1998).Some of the revolutionists in Ireland might have wanted to take leadership after the subsequent cessation from Britain.  Therefore, they found the strength to continue revolting and conducting illegal and terror activities with the aim of forcing the British government to agree to cessation. These selfish motives by some of the leaders of IRA, UDF, and UVA, prolonged the war thus causing deaths and torture of innocent civilians.

III. Strategies for How Terrorism, Genocide or War Might be prevented in the Future

A just society is a peaceful society. Taking from examples in other countries, the nations in Scandinavia have existed without much violence for a long time. The levels of an economy are among the highest in the world, and the cases of conflicts, crime, anarchy and violence are unimaginable. The governments of countries with high stability promote an open society that is liberal in terms of thought, ideas integration, and conflict resolution. More importantly, equal treatment of all citizens is a high priority for such countries. In light of avoiding violence in the future, Northern Ireland should investigate and implement models that have worked in other states. The government should also review the possible causes of conflict in the past and implement mechanisms that prevent the war.

Primary Prevention

Religious profiling comes first in the causes of ‘The Troubles’ and other wars and terrorist activities. In this regard, the government and community organizations should work together with religious leaders to show people that they belong to one country despite their religious differences. The phrase ‘cutting the tree by its roots’ rightly puts the onus on the religious leaders to cause the exodus from religious discrimination to peace and equal treatment.

Secondary Prevention

The economy is a big factor in instability of countries. Hungry citizens who feel economically deprived become angry at the government and the society, which results in violence. Focusing on economically empowering everyone will keep them satisfied and less vulnerable to radicalization. Economic equalization should be the quest for the governance of Northern Ireland. Since economic deprivation often leads to social isolation, its absence will mean the strengthening of the Irish nation without any social divisions.

Tertiary Prevention

 Conflicting interests among and the lack of apparent conflict resolution methods is only adequately dealt with by the law. The legislative arm of the government should focus on making laws that seal all the loopholes of selfish interests from citizens or leaders that may cause anarchy of any sort. Anti-terror laws put in place by the government should be strengthened to discourage any potential dissidents. Clauses that outlaw any instances of radicalization and self-aggrandizement of any individuals at the expense of the nation should be enforced

IV. Conclusion

Clearly, the re-emergence of IRA triggered violence that caused many deaths in not only Northern Ireland but also other countries in Europe. The organization’s activities promoted anarchy and selfish interests of people who thought that they deserved to rule more than others. Even though I would condemn religious profiling at any time, I recognize that there are better ways of conflict resolution. Therefore, it is vivid from the argument above that IRA brought more harm than good in their struggles for cessation of Ireland, because of the ways in which they approached the issue.  


Arthur, P. (2015, October 21). Irish Republican Army (IRA).

English, R. (2005). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. Oxford University Press.

John Holloway, E. P. (1998). Zapatista!: Reinventing Revolution in Mexico. Pluto Press.

McKittrick, D., & McVea, D. (2002). Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland. New Amsterdam Books,.

Sulutvedt, I. S. (2002). The troubles in Northern Ireland : a civil war in the United Kingdom against all odds?

Ultimate discount!

Check the discount here

Order now
Chat Now