IRA should admit responsibility for Claudy?

There are strange things happening at the moment regarding past regarding unsolved/unclaimed atrocities. The IRA, who effectively maintained a ‘legitimate targets only’ reputation amongst most nationalists for the duration of the troubles, last week admitted they had not only murdered a fourteen year old Derry schoolgirl but that they’d also killed a British soldier in supposed revenge back in 1973. Now one of the relatives of the Claudy bomb has asked that they also admit to that incident from just the year before.

  • tug_of_her_stool

    ‘The IRA, who effectively maintained a ‘legitimate targets only’ reputation amongst most nationalists for the duration of the troubles’

    I’ve often wondered about this. Did nationalists – and do they now with the passage of time and blurring of memories – really believe it was a ‘legitimate targets only’ conflict? Where of course the odd mistake was made, and if anyone died while a non-military target was bombed, at least the nice IRA had tried to save lives by giving warnings, no matter how useless?

    This stuff has been discussed again now that Sean Kelly is in the news. To some/many nationalists he appears to be a soldier who made a mistake, but the attitude is ‘hey, that’s war’. Some even call Kelly and Begley ‘brave volunteers’ for going on a daring raid into enemy territory where who knows what might have happened to the poor dears if the locals had caught them.

    If identified sectarian mass murderers get this treatment, and sympathy, how much easier must it be to ignore those who placed bombs in Claudy, the Abercorn. Specific names aren’t known. ‘The IRA’ can be condemned in a vague general way for such events but what people want to portray is just what you say – a ‘legitimate targets only war’ where the odd mistake was made.

    And of course if anyone is specifically identified as having carried out a particular atrocity, the whole ‘innocent Irishman being framed by the securocrats’ mantra is brought out.

    Imagine if Begley and Kelly hadn’t blown themelves up with their own bomb, but had escaped as planned and only 9 civilians had died. If they had been arrested days after the event the whole ‘they are innocent men’ circus would have wound into gear and many nationalists would have bought it. No matter what evidence was produced. Thank goodness Kelly was buried by rubble – if he hadn’t been many nationalists wouldn’t have believed that he was involved, since the IRA was the only ‘army’ ever that despite carrying out attacks never had any soldiers who took part in them. ‘The IRA’ always carried out attacks, not specific people. The individuals were always innocent and framed by the Brits. Right?

  • GavBelfast

    Good post, tug.

    I empathise completely and can find nothing to argue with or little to add to your analysis.

    The effective ceasefire since 1997 seems to have anaesthetised a lot of the horror of what was done, especially amongst young people who simply have no experience of how awful so much of it was, and this has had a cleansing impact on the IRA’s role in it all.

    Sad but true.

  • Heemo

    With the greatest of respect to all, why does it matter whether they take responsibility for it, we already know they did it and have a fair idea who ordered the operation and carried it out. Let’s move on and cease this ceaseless looking backwards, you won’t accept that any apology is genuine anyway so why complain all the time ?

    Get over it and move on, live a little for pity’s sake, the world has bigger problems than yours which were, and indeed are, let’s be honest here, both illusory and self-inflicted.

  • Waitnsee

    So Heemo, what’s your opinion on the Bloody Sunday inquiry?

  • Heemo

    Bloody Sunday is different because the British state is, in a sense, in the dock. As a UK citizen I hold my government accountable for what it does in a democracy, it would be irresponsible to think otherwise (for instance if they did shoot unarmed people then they could do likewise in GB – no thanks !). Terrorist murderers are another matter entirely, to introduce one to the other is distasteful thank you very much !

  • Robert Keogh

    I want the british government to admit and take full responsibility for the murders they committed and lied about in NI. I expect no less from the IRAs.

    If you don’t understand the importance/benefit of an giving an apology or taking responsibility, go talk to someone who has studied peace and conflict resolution.

    …you won’t accept that any apology is genuine…

    I’ve noticed that IRA apologies are rejected by politicians and diverse others, the victims and relatives of victims have been far more welcoming. The reaction others make to an apology has nothing to do with making it.

  • Waitnsee

    Heemo is a particularly inept republican sock-puppet and I claim my £10.


    Heemo is one of those people who likes to adopt a position of lecturing the Bogwogs on how world has bigger problems.
    And yet curiously enough he/she seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on a website devoted to something they claim is insignificant.

    Ho hum.

    Apologies are vitally important in advancing the process, not only for the families who it seems, draw some small measure of comfort from them, but also in allowing us to determine whether or not we have entered a new (and hopefully final) phase of the conflict.

  • Jo

    With regard to the *legitimate targets only* I carried out research into the early days of Troubles and was struck by how much emphasis was placed on the provision of warnings, irrespective of how limited accurate or ineffective these were. My recollection, because the detail of thee warnings was reported in the Irish News etc, is that there always was an impression generated that the was the fault of the Army or RUC that civilian casualties had occurred – the Provos after all had “done their best.”

    More than once did I see the articulated belief that there had been a deliberate ignoring of the warning in order that the “otherwise well-meaning” Provos would get the blame.

    Omagh wasn’t the first time this sort of perception was raised, but long before that the credibility gap opened wide for many who simply had to believe, in the face of the evidence that the RUC/Army weren’t letting people be killed to get the Provos a bad name.

  • Heemo

    Does anyone believe that these apologies actually mean anything, that they are heartfelt or that they mean very much ?

    I don’t and stand by my earlier comments – you people are prisoners of history and are becoming more release-averse by the day – through your own CHOICE.

    Move on and join the modern world, part of which means that you cease relying complacently on GB taxes to prop up your economy, the time is fast approaching when the dependency culture must end.

    Seize the moment !

  • martin

    The Real IRA definately intended to kill and maim as many civilians as possible in Omagh-anyone who knows Omagh knows that this area of town is almost completely empty of people after 6pm-if the intention had been to destroy an Orangemans property–why not plant their bomb after 6pm instead of one of the buisiest hours on a market day.
    The Gardai also have to shoulder some of the blame had they listened to their informant in the RIRA the whole thing could have been prevented.

  • Young Fogey

    As a UK citizen I hold my government accountable for what it does in a democracy

    As an Irishman I hold an army that claimed to be fighting a war in my name accountable for what it does.

    you people are prisoners of history and are becoming more release-averse by the day

    ‘You people’ – how revealing.

  • martin

    on 3 July 1971, 4 civilians were killed in the Falls road 3 shot dead and 1 run over by some 2000 British soldiers searching for arms none of the dead was conected with IRA.

    On 7 July, Seamus Cusack an unemployed welder aged 28 was killed in Derry by a single shot from a British soldier while trying to rescue a child from the line of British army fire-Cusack did not belong to any political organisation.

    On the same day , Desmond Beattie was killed by BA.

    FR Hugh Mullan shot by Brits while giving last rights to dying man in falls road.

    Francis Mc Guinness aged 18 from Anderstown shot by brits

    Anne Thompson executed by Brits for rattling a dustbinlid to warn her community that the re-born Black and tans were invading.

    Aiden MC annespie executed by brits in Aughnacloy 0n 21 feb 1988.

    Peter Mc Bride aged 18, murdered by brits

    16 year old IRA man David devine who had hands in air to surrender after being ambushed in Strabane—his arms were riddled with bullets.

    The numerous innocent people killed by loyalists using wrong information supplied to Brian Nelson by his British army co-terrorists.

    and many many more.


  • Jo

    Your post is a classic example of what happens when someone like me doesnt get in first to try and stem whataboutery.

  • martin


    whataboutery-whatever .no one from the unionist community want to hear about the above people do they? or maybe they fall into the unionist legitimate target range—–They must have been in something the Army would never kill an innocent person would they????

  • Young Fogey

    Nah, Martin, it’s whataboutery.

  • martin

    Young Fogey,

    you still read it though and seen that it isnt all so one sided.

  • Jo

    Is “whatever” now considered an argument?

    Unionists, if I may assume to speak for those people, might start reading this thread on the understanding that it was about the IRA admitting one murder after 32 years and potentially admitting others…and yes, I do think there is an enquiry going on into when British soldiers shot dead people in Derry?

    I read something about that someplace…

  • martin


    should the Ira apologise for the British soldiers that were listed as killed in the north as well as those unlisted—training accidents,car accidents *ahem*.The British Army always cut their casualties—Dessie Grew killed 2 in Cappagh co Tyrone that were never listed –2 were killed at the Clonoe church ambush also in Tyrone,
    Alot of people working in Liverpool say that many many more coffins bearing the Union Jack were slipped through and never listed as casualties.

    I remember just after the first ceasefire a senior British officer publicly stating that they had suffered 1000 casualties–even counting wounded the official figures dont add up—-They were beaten.

  • JD

    As a republican I feel that the IRA should offer a apology to each and every non-combatant killed as a result of their actions during the conflict or since. Simply because it is the right thing to do.

    Other organisations and the state need to examine their own consciences and do likewise. In some ways it is easier for the IRA as in the eyes of unionists and many in the media, the IRA is such a bogey man that nothing is beyond their capabilities. It is much harder for the British state, who tries to strut the world stage portraying itself as an impartial peacemaker between two warring tribes, when it comes to acknowledging, never mind apologising, for the many victims their forces killed in its dirty war in Ireland.

  • martin


    Well said

  • jocky

    JD, the problem I have with your post is that the term “non combatant” is extremely woolly and subjective. For example Martin lists the case of David Devine that was killed while surrendering, is he a non combatant? although he was surrendering he was an IRA man and therefore (presumably) a combatant, so does your logic justify his killing?

    It seems that by differentiating between combatants and non-combatants that a hierachy of victims is introduced.

    The alternative is to apologise for all victims, but that isn’t going to happen.

    Should a truth commission look at the definition of who were combatants or non combatants?

    Its all a big mess and cant help feel that there is very little to be gained for either community by citing individual cases when so many died and so many will never have justice. To arbitrarily cite one case is to devalue others, and leaves the impression people are only doing it for political gain.

  • GavBelfast

    Martin, if we can get you down from the pedestal or pyrrhic victory rostrum, does it never strike you that we all actually lost?



    Yes it does–now im back to struggling with others claiming their place at the pedestal/pyrrhic victory rostrum.

    By the way when I talk about British casualties im not gloating,I realise they had families as well- it is another crime of the British ruling classes that many of these young fellows who could not get employment in their own country, were sent over here to occupy part of a country where they didnt belong and which many of them knew nothing about—against the wishes of the majority of their own fellow British citizens–to act as cannon fother in one of Britains last remaining colonys– to save the British establishments face.

  • JD

    A combatant, in my view, is a participant in the conflict. Therefore David Devine, as an IRA volunteer on active service, was a combatant. The issue over whether or not his killing was justified depends on whether your enemy adopts rules of engagement or respects the Geneva Convention.
    It is well documented that British and American troops during the Normandy campaign in World War II and other conflicts did not take prisoners in many cases, in fact in the Pacific American troops revelled in the fact that they hade never
    taken a prisoner alive. I suspect that in present day Iraq there are many instances of the killing of surrendering combatants.

    Non combatants, usually civilians, are people who play no role in the conflict and when they are killed by any side during that conflict then the organisation involved should make every effort to provide the family with the full an accurate facts surrounding the incident and make an unreserved and genuine apology to the family of the person involved.

    Finally I agree totally with statement that we have all lost as a result of this conflict unfortunately that is the nature of it. We must do all in our power to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

  • dealga

    I’m impressed by the implication that the British Army didn’t respect the rules of war and the Geneva Convention.

    Good thing the IRA, in their distinctive uniforms and openly displayed arms did.

  • JD

    You will undoubtedly be even more impressed when I say that I was not just implying I was stating a fact that the British army and many other armies have not followed their own rules of engagement and not respected the Geneva Conventions in this and many other conflicts.

    The IRA has also not followed the protocols of the Geneva Convention during this conflict. However, technically as a non-governmental armed group, they are not covered by it. Instead, again in technical terms, they are governed by the rules of humanitarian law and subject to its sanctions.

    On this issue of uniforms, this is a nonsense. Any armed group fighting a guerilla style campaign against a far superior enemy would be extremely foolish if they adopted a clearly identified uniform. All armed groups in this conflict, including the British army and RUC have adopted this tactic in the past and present.

  • dealga

    “However, technically as a non-governmental armed group, they are not covered by it” – no, they are not protected by it, and I quote:

    “In order for the distinction between combatants and civilians to be clear, combatants must wear uniforms and carry their weapons openly during military operations and during preparation for them.

    “The exceptions are medical and religious personnel, who are considered non-combatants even though they may wear uniforms. Medical personnel may also carry small arms to use in self-defense if illegally attacked.

    “Combatants who deliberately violate the rules about maintaining a clear separation between combatant and noncombatant groups — and thus endanger the civilian population — are no longer protected by the Geneva Convention”

    Therefore the only rules the British Army broke (and I’m not defending them, just pointing out the double standards when addressing the actions of the IRA on one side and the British on the other) were their own

  • JD

    I am reluctant to pursue this technical argument too far as it takes us away from the original point of the thread about the issue of apologies and the fact that it is right that this the least that non combatant victims families deserve on all sides.

    However the Geneva Convention was designed to protect (you are correct on that point) prisoners of war and non combatants during conflict between soveriegn states, not when the conflict involved non governmental armed groups within states, particularly when the state does not deem the conflict to be a war. In this case Humanitarian Law takes primacy and opposing sides are supposed to be governed by it.

    I have never attempted to say that the IRA was not guilty of breaches of any of these technicalities, as where the British therefore I am not clear what double standards you pointing to.

  • dealga

    And for good measure, under the Geneva Conventions, IRA volunteers taking the lives of what they termed “legitimate targets” are still guilty of murder on the grounds that they do not distinguish themselves from civilians in combat…

    “The Geneva Conventions and supplementary protocols make a distinction between combatants and civilians. The two groups must be treated differently by the warring sides and, therefore, combatants must be clearly distinguishable from civilians. Although this obligation benefits civilians by making it easier for the warring sides to avoid targeting non-combatants, soldiers also benefit because they become immune from prosecution for acts of war.

    “For example, a civilian who shoots a soldier may be liable for murder while a soldier who shoots an enemy soldier and is captured may not be punished.”

    Specifically Article 37 of Protocol 1 prohibits perfidy and “the feigning of non-combatant status”.

    The conventions allow for “Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinguish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that, in such situations, he carries his arms openly:

    (a) during each military engagement, and (b) during such time as he is visible to the adversary while he is engaged in a military deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate” (Article 43)

  • JD


    You have obviously swallowed a copy of the Geneva Conventions, however you have not yet dealt with my point that they apply to combat between soveriegn states/countries, rather than a situation were a conflict arises within a state.

  • Belfastwhite

    Jo it’s a pity you didn’t get in a lot sooner ie after tug of her stool’s post to stop the whataboutery then. If a topic comes up that suggests that the IRA apologise for an atrocity then it’s only right that other posters point out that other combatants in the war should accept responsibility and express remorse as well. I agree with Jockey and JD on this one is everyone or no-one.

  • Betty Boo

    Has there ever been an additional update to the Geneva Conventions or anything else concerning the issue of combatants and non – combatants since war and in particular war – like action have change since. This very fashionable term of terrorism doesn’t seem to be covered by it although the act is one of war.
    I think the book is called “The Oxford Guide to Philosophy” but the book is at home and I’m not and I only have a couple of scribbled notes but if you find on page 900 “violence, political” you have the right book.
    It makes interesting reading when it comes to state terrorism and the status of combatants and non – combatants;”… since ‘unjust law is not law’, while it is intended as part of a war against those to whom the state recognizes no obligation of care. The distinction between political violence and the ostensibly legitimate use of force may itself be called into question if the actions of some, or all, states are thought of as aimed at terrorizing their subjects into submission.”

  • martin


    Whats the very first thing you think of when you see a man/woman wearing a balaclava and combat jacket-I hazard to guess if not an IRA man then definitely a member of a northern Ireland paramilitary organisation–Would that not count as a distinctive uniform ?

  • martin


    whatever means this—I dont care whether you regard it as whataboutery—thats essentially what all political debate is about–As far as Im concerned there was great suffering and loss in both communities—Im not going to let Unionists have a diatribe about the suffering of one community while blanking out that of the other community and completely refusing to acknolege it in any way.

  • JD

    Betty Boo,

    The original Geneva Conventions were produced in 1949. However 2 additional protocols were added in 1977, to cover civil wars and new advancements in technology such as in landmines.
    In my opinion Protocol 1 is applicable to the recent conflict in Ireland as it deals with conflict with an occupying force, obviously the British may have a different view of this.

    Under Protocol 1 the David Devine incident is a clear breach. ie.

    “Art. 40. Quarter

    It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors, to threaten an adversary therewith or to conduct hostilities on this basis.

    Art. 41. Safeguard of an enemy hors de combat

    1. A person who is recognized or who, in the circumstances should be recognized to be hors de combat shall not be made the object of attack.

    2. A person is hors de combat if: (a) he is in the power of an adverse Party; (b) he clearly expresses an intention to surrender; or (c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself;

    provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.”

    However it is clear that how a conflict is defined is key to how its protagonists view the laws under which they are governed and as with all wars in many cases the rules become secondary when the conflict rages.

  • jocky

    Dont think there is too much to be gained by going into the technicalties.

    The point with apologies is that either it’s all or nothing, anything else just prolongs the process, an acts as a barrier to progress, IMO.

    Think it’s the same with tribunals, why for some cases and not others?

    In both instances the “all” solution is not feasible, so we are left with nothing.

  • Betty Boo


    Thanks for your reply.
    It might seem as drifting even further away from the original thread but maybe covering the basics of war and war – like actions and treaties designed to recommend on rules of war, which I agree, is unruleable and hasn’t obeyed any laws, ought to be covered first, before judging or condemning one side for its actions.
    At the beginning, if not the cause, of the “Troubles” all bets must have been off as citizens were killed by the law enforcement of their own government. It could therefore lead to the conclusion that if those personifying current law and order, break it, it is not to be expected from those opposing it.

  • Jo

    Interesting insight here:

    “whataboutery—thats essentially what all political debate is about–“

    Oh well, thats all right then.
    I thought it was about trying to reason and think constructively about issues rather than gain-saying the other persons point of view and score “points” against people that you don’t know and will never meet. How foolish of me.

  • martin

    If only people would practice what they preach

  • martin

    Reason and think constructively about issues!!!–JO I also noticed you didnt offer any opinion about the rest of my comment which you quoted from-is this more of the head in the sand osteritch mentality or just plain double-standards.Are some victims more important than others because of their politics–or is it they weren’t ours so we’ll stick our heads in the sand refuse to even discuss or acknowlege them.