IRA unit disbanded as a political liability

According to Professor Henry Patterson speaking to an Irish Studies conference in Spain recently, Sinn Fein lent heavily on a local IRA unit to disband, because its activities put its attempts to broker a common nationalist front with the SDLP in jeopardy.

His address made reference to the IRA in Fermanagh carrying out a number of widely condemned killings including the Enniskillen bombing in 1987 and the shooting of Jillian Johnston, a 21-year-old Protestant girl sitting in a car with her fiancé. Professor Patterson said that the potential political costs to Sinn Fein of such activities led to the standing down of the local IRA unit.

“Unlike other struggles for national liberation in Africa and Latin America, it was the self designated ‘anti-imperialist’ force that killed far more victims of the Troubles than did the state forces,” Professor Patterson said.

He said that the Provisional IRA was responsible for 48 per cent of deaths while the RUC was responsible for 1.4 per cent and the UDR 0.2 per cent. Even if it was accepted that there was widespread collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries and 50 per cent of those killed by loyalists was added to the security forces’ figure, it would still amount to only 17 per cent of all deaths, he said.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty