TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN MEMBERS OF THE I.P.L.O

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Stockholm
Member
Posts: 25

This is a long one but well worth a read!

 

 

From ”In Dublin” Magazine, No 278, May 1987

 

 

REBEL WITH A CAUSE

 

 

 

The recent internal feud within the INLA has brought that organisation once again to the centre stage of Northern Ireland’s continuing tragedy. This is the story of how one man became involved in the republican struggle, through the Fianna, the IRA and subsequently the INLA. A member of the Army Council faction, the individual at the centre of this story was top of the rival faction’s death list up to the time of the recent, continuing truce.

 

 

 

 

Most of those involved in the leadership of the INLA are in their late twenties or early thirties. The lifestyle of those within the INLA, or any underground army, is such that they tend to be young. Many are killed, imprisoned or burn out long before they are forty.

 

This particular INLA volunteer was born in Lower Falls, West Belfast, on 20 September 1955. His father worked in a brewery and his mother was a part –time domestic. ‘My childhood was very happy and there was always plenty of crack. Whatever money we had was used to keep the house, as my father didn’t drink. There was no real deprivation in our house. We were well cared for and we were a small family. You could see in other families, where there would be seven or eight kids, that there was a greater degree of poverty. At that point I didn’t understand what was going on. I saw cops chasing a group down the street, and another group come out of a side street and took them by surprise. I never knew what the IRA was until 1966 when I saw the 50th anniversary parade on the Falls Road”.

 

 

 

He was usually in ‘the top ten’ in class and for a while thought he would like to be a Christian Brother. He went on to the Christian Brothers Secondary at Hardinge Street, on the other side of Belfast. The school had a good reputation and brought kids from many different areas together.Out of that class, one ended up a British Army officer, another an RUC Reservist, another a doctor. More joined the Republican movement. At least one was killed by Loyalists.

 

 

 

 

During 1968 and 1969, when the civil rights marches were going on, there was some talk about the IRA and who they were and if they were going to do anything. At one march in Castle Street I saw a United Irishman paper for the first time. From that time of the civil rights marches we discovered a mobile bookshop on the Falls Road which was there every Saturday night. The stall was illegal and the fact that the stuff was banned made it all the more interesting. There were more marches and riots throughout 1969. One day, he went to get the United Irishman and there were none left. He took home a copy of ‘Workshop Talks’ by James Connolly instead. It was the start of his interest in socialism.

 

 

 

 

By August 1969, the battle lines had been drawn clearly across Belfast and he travelled to school via a circuitous route. There was great tension at home and some of his relatives had been burnt out. “My parents talked a lot amongst themselves but I don’t think they ever appreciated how much we were listening. There was a big impact made by the burning down of houses and the stories of the cops standing laughing and actually leading the burners. When we got back to school that September, a couple of us decided to join the Fianna, the junior wing of the IRA. You had to be sixteen to get into the IRA and we were too young. We went around looking for people to get us in and we were sworn in at the end of December. We took the oath and we were put on probation for a period. Later on, when I took the INLA oath, it was a bit different because God didn’t get a mention.

 

 

 

After joining the Fianna, he was attached to a unit or slua – the Fergal O’Hanlon slua. He attended meetings and received training in field-craft. Earlier that year, he decided that he didn’t want to be a Christian Brother any more. The zeal he had for religion was being replaced by an intense interest in socialism, although he did not regard one as a substitute for the other. ‘Religion is a dogma, socialism is a guide to practise’. In the Fianna he went out on camp and learned to work with weapons and explosives. They were taught the safety procedures and how to use Thompson submachine guns, Weblys, 45s, .303s, .22s and Lugars.

We learned about the velocity of the guns, their range and the type of rounds they fired. There were question-and-answer sessions afterwards. We had explosives training using plasticine as a substitute. We learned how to make bombs, claymore mines, anti-handling devices and various types of circuits. We had out own Battalion and Command structure. Staff Officers had the option of being in the IRA and the Officer Training Class was designed to prepare people for responsibility within the IRA. At one point, the Fianna Slua I was in had more weapons then the army unit. We were very industrious and robbed a few ourselves.

 

 

In 1969 there was the IRS/Sinn Fein split, from which emerged the Provisional and Official wings. The Fergal O’Hanlon slua remained neutral for some time and its members continued to act as scouts for the Army around the area. In 1970, he went for Officer Training Class and went on to specialise in Intelligence work. He has largely remained in that department ever since. ‘We made detailed observations of the movements of the Brits, the time they were spotted, the numbers involved, the routes by which they travelled, their favourite resting place, their favourite road checkpoint, and so on. The Fianna mounted its own operations which involved setting of mines and throwing blast bombs at soldiers. There were no fatalities. The Falls was a warren of streets at the time and it was possible to disappear after an attack. My family didn’t find out what I was up to until Bloody Sunday in 1972, but by then it was too late.

 

 

 

In 1970, the IRA was enthusiastic and confident. Houses were open to those operating and the locals passed on information. It was believed by many that the British could be driven out within eighteen months. ‘In July 1970 the Brits raided a house in Balkan Street and found a number of weapons belonging to the Official IRA. A couple of units opened fire on the raiding party and it ended up in an open gun-battle which lasted two days. The whole area was curfewed for forty eight hours. I was involved with a group who opened fire in Raglan Street. I was using a Webly .45 and gave covering fire. I was involved in armed action over the years but it’s not my primary skill. One of the commonest forms of attack by the Fianna was blast bombs – small pieces of explosives in bean cans with nails or metal shavings packed around. I joined the Official IRA on 31 July, just before internment’.

 

 

 

 

Around this time he was also a member of the Republican Club and was education officer. He attended school less and less and was forced to go on the run. In August 1971 he became the youngest chairman of a Cumann in the history of the Official Republican movement. After internment training camps were set up Donegal and Louth which he attended. The camps lasted about a week and involved manoeuvres, weapons training and firing, and as always with the Officials, political lectures. ‘My unit in the Falls received an M14, four M1s, a Garand rifle, a .22, a Thompson SMG and a couple of shorts. Gerry Steenson had been in the Fianna with me and I was instrumental in getting him into our IRA unit. We were engaged in a series of operations and in September 1972, one of our members, Patricia McKay, was killed. But in May 1972, the Official IRA had called a ceasefire against the wishes of the rank and file. Twenty three out of the twenty four units in Belfast voted to over-run the ceasefire. The Officer in Command in Belfast, Billy McMillan, refused to convey that vote to the CHQ because it was not unanimous.’

 

 

 

The Official IRA ceasefire had been called by the leadership following the killing of a British soldier, Ranger Best, a local man, in Derry. He had been home on leave and there was great hostility locally to the Officials for having carried out the killing. The ceasefire allowed for defence and retaliation, and many Officials applied a loose and liberal interpretation to this clause. Among them were the individual in this story and Gerry Steenson, who was killed in the INLA feud earlier this year. ‘Between May 1972 and when we left in December 1974, Gerry Steenson, myself and others faced thirteen court martial’s for breaking the ceasefire. On one occasion, in order to circumvent the ceasefire, Gerry Steenson and another volunteer walked up to the street where the British were searching a house. A gun was waved at the Brits. The Brits opened fire and Gerry and the other engaged them in a gun battle on the basis that they were moving weapons and had been fired upon’. Steenson was Operations Officer for the unit. In July 1972, a complaint was lodged against him following a gun battle with loyalists. He considered joining the Provos at that point.

 

 

 

 

On the political front, the rule that all IRA men must be members of their local Cumann was being used to oust many of the leaders. People who where thrown out of their Cumann automatically ceased to be in the IRA. Ronnie Bunting was kicked out in Belfast this way. Bunting, along with Seamus Costello, was arguing for an end to the ceasefire and a return to the politics that recognised the centrality of the nationalist question. After the 1972 Ard Fheis, a number of people started canvassing for the Ard Fheis the following year. Those canvassing included this particular individual, Costello, Bunting, Hugh Ferguson, Gerry Steenson and others. ‘The first time I went on the run was in 1972 when the Brits wanted me in connection with shootings, a bank robbery and a kidnapping. The second time was in 1973 after we carried out an ambush at the corner of Panton Street and Cyprus Street. Just before that, I was elected secretary of the County Antrim Executive at the age of eighteen. I was elected by seventy per cent but McMillan ordered me to resign, saying that the seat was reserved for members on the Brigade Staff. I wrote a note saying I was giving up the seat on orders. From that point on, the movement had to live with the fact that its secretary was actively opposing its position from the inside. ‘We decided to canvass for an end to the ceasefire at the 1973 Ard Fheis. Disciplinary proceedings were taken against Costello only, even though other people on the other side had also been canvassing. Costello furnished a list of his witnesses before the hearing and people on that list found themselves under suspension for minor disciplinary breaches and were therefore unable to give evidence’.

 

 

 

This man’s family had no previous involvement with the Republican movement and had been upset and anxious when they found out he was involved. He had met Costello in 1972 and had talked to people who had gone on operations with him. On 13 August 1974 he met with Costello and Bunting in the Fairways Hotel and the three draw up plans for a breakdown of the six counties, area by area, to ascertain who would go with them in the event of a split. He had been involved in the Intelligence Department and had drawn up detailed plans in May 1974 for defence of nationalist areas during the Loyalist strike against the Sunningdale Agreement of that month. Those plans came in useful in pin pointing strengths in the event of a split.

Four days before the Irish Republican Socialist Party was formed, 4 December 1974, Vincent Fagan and Kevin Rafferty were shot in Belfast. The Irish National Liberation Army had already been formed, but it had been decided to call it the People’s Liberation Army as Costello didn’t want the name INLA to be sullied by a bloody and bitter feud with the Officials. This particular individual and Steenson had been court martialed eleven and thirteen times respectively in two years before the split. Half of the Belfast Staff went with them. More than half were interested in the military struggle and less then one-fifth were clear on the political issues involved.

 

 

 

‘The IRSP heralded a revolutionary potential which had not been seen in Ireland since the time of Connolly. It stemmed from the fact that it had a clear analysis on the importance of uniting the class question firmly inside the national question. The bloody feud with the Officials left five dead and forty wounded, and a similar number in jail. Twelve years later, the fact that the IRSP failed to deliver on its potential can be described as being due to internal flaws built in at its inception. I took over as Brigade Intelligence Officer in Belfast in the PLA. Ronnie Bunting and others were involved. What emerged after the feud was qualitively different from the organisation formed six month earlier’. He co-ordinated people watching the Officials during the feud. Watching their cars, identifying there safe-houses and the whereabouts of their key personnel. There were three attempts on his life.

 

 

 

 

‘I had been engaged to be married before the feud started and I got married in September. The feud placed stresses on the community and forced people to take sides. In all my experience, I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed the feud. Everyone who’s been active has thought about the possibility of being killed and if you sit down and analyse it, you’re paralysed. We’ve all seen our parents and grandparents grow old before their time and there’s a point at which people say “I won’t have this life, we’ll have to change it.” When people carry out attacks on members of the security forces, it becomes a uniform rather than anything else’.

June 27, 2010 at 2:42 AM Flag Quote & Reply

TOEB
Member
Posts: 16

VERY GOOD AND INTERESTING READING8)

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June 29, 2010 at 6:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Stockholm
Member
Posts: 25

I just got the word that this article have been posted on several "republican forums" and have been deleted within the minute...

I just think that is a shame! Twenty odd years have gone! I posted these text (and will continouy to post...) because they are historical texts, for some of us even important ones.

I dont have a clue why some people thinks Jimmys texts needs to be censored...

They should be of historical importance to the irsm today as they say something how the movement started and how it developed...

July 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM Flag Quote & Reply

irish32
Member
Posts: 67

Do you think Jimmy's posts are being censored on other forums because of the things he said rather than because it is written by him?  Maybe they are concerned that republicans would change their minds about the current political situation...or Jimmy has been proven to be right in the things that he had said during those years ago.  You're right, his articles are of historical importance.  He was a brilliant writer with a brilliant mind. 

July 26, 2010 at 1:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Stockholm
Member
Posts: 25

I havent a clue why the article has been taken down. I dont know those forums or the people behind them.

 

But the history of Republican Socialism (all tendencies) is not an easy one...

People and groups have clashed over politics, and also over army matters.

Some who where "official scum" during the feud in 74, become "heros" when they were killed in the IPLO/INLA feud... Other who were "heroes" when they fought the IPLO became "scum" during the Gino feud... Others who used to be "IPLO scum" became "heroes" when the rat was killed... People whom were "heroes" in fighting the IPLO turned out to be british agents... People who sided with Brown/Steenson and was killed by the INLA are now on the INLA RoH... etc, etc...

 

I think people should study the history, first and formost so it doesnt repeat itself! Many of the things Jimmy and/or the IPLO wrote or said are outdated, some are relevante today. A few pecies are still absolutley stunning!

 

"iplofallen" wrote somewhere;

"some people think the clock started ticking with the deaths of Ta Power and Jonh O'Reilly regards the fued. They would like to portray that this was the first act of aggression"

I think he is spot on there! Things were complicated... And now it is easier to just turn a blind eye and focus on the tunnel vision... Scum are scum and heroes are heroes, never think or question that! I also suspects for several reasons that those on the internet who are toughest against Brown/Steenson/IPLO texts (and perhaps takes them down) are quite young, they werent around when the lads was alive. So what are they afraid of???

 

July 27, 2010 at 2:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

socialist95
Member
Posts: 59

quite true stockholm...we who were around see former comrades in the RSM as former comrades not former enemies..but the youth are only going to get a very blinkered view...but thanks to this and other websites the truth is out there and we are happy to engage in debate and to show that the lads who died on all sides should be remembered..as republican socialists and commited activitsts...have to say your postings only benifit this site and the historical content is now there for all to see ...great stuff..

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July 28, 2010 at 4:16 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Shane Dundalk
Member
Posts: 17

i enjoyed reading the posts above anybody who comes on to the iplofallen channel and dont know much about the birth of the inla/iplo should read above posts and it could shed some light on some peoples opinions 

July 29, 2010 at 12:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

iplofallen
Site Owner
Posts: 110

Stockholm at July 27, 2010 at 2:05 PM

I havent a clue why the article has been taken down. I dont know those forums or the people behind them.

 

But the history of Republican Socialism (all tendencies) is not an easy one...

People and groups have clashed over politics, and also over army matters.

Some who where "official scum" during the feud in 74, become "heros" when they were killed in the IPLO/INLA feud... Other who were "heroes" when they fought the IPLO became "scum" during the Gino feud... Others who used to be "IPLO scum" became "heroes" when the rat was killed... People whom were "heroes" in fighting the IPLO turned out to be british agents... People who sided with Brown/Steenson and was killed by the INLA are now on the INLA RoH... etc, etc...

 

I think people should study the history, first and formost so it doesnt repeat itself! Many of the things Jimmy and/or the IPLO wrote or said are outdated, some are relevante today. A few pecies are still absolutley stunning!

 

"iplofallen" wrote somewhere;

"some people think the clock started ticking with the deaths of Ta Power and Jonh O'Reilly regards the fued. They would like to portray that this was the first act of aggression"

I think he is spot on there! Things were complicated... And now it is easier to just turn a blind eye and focus on the tunnel vision... Scum are scum and heroes are heroes, never think or question that! I also suspects for several reasons that those on the internet who are toughest against Brown/Steenson/IPLO texts (and perhaps takes them down) are quite young, they werent around when the lads was alive. So what are they afraid of???

 

Stockholm, great post. Republican Socialists have, throughout Irish history, never forfilled their full potential due to internal divisions that have too often manifested themselves in violence. Will this ever change in the future? It looks like from media reports that the CIRA is in internal turmoil, this scenario should not be surprising to any of us, but hopefully voilence can be averted as contributors to this site can confirm that this is the road to nowhere.

Thanks again for your postings, great to hear some of Jimmys ramblings..! I think of him often, a great friend and comrade......

July 30, 2010 at 6:01 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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