Southern support for Provos prolonged Troubles

Posted By: April 06, 2019


John Manley.Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, April 6, 2019

A Broad Church: The Provisional IRA in the Republic of Ireland 1969-1980 by Gearoid O Faolean

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, April 6, 2019


The widespread level of sympathy and support for the Provisional IRA in the Republic was instrumental to the longevity of the Troubles, a new book argues.

Gearóid Ó Faoleán’s A Broad Church examines how individuals in the political establishment, the security forces, and even the GAA were backing the armed campaign north of the border.

However, while the author acknowledges that there were individuals at every level in the south who “at the very least had toleration (for the IRA)” he insists there was “no equivalence in terms of collusion” comparable to that between the security forces and loyalists north of the border.

The book documents how no southern political party was

without members who aided the Provisional IRA in the early years of its campaign.

Using interviews with former IRA members, it includes previously unpublished accounts of training camps in the Republic and highlights how the southern judiciary and juries were often sympathetic to those engaged in the so-called armed struggle.

Mr. Ó Faoleán told The Irish News republicans in Monaghan, Louth and Mayo were being acquitted despite “blatant IRA activity”.

“In one particular case highlighted, a farmer was prosecuted after several rifles and dozens of rounds of ammunition were discovered on his land – all the hallmarks

of an IRA training camp – yet he was acquitted outright,” he said.

“Meanwhile, juries were queueing up to shake the hands of people

acquitted of IRA-related


The author notes how in 1972 the Fianna Fáil government introduced jury-less trials, known as the special criminal court.

“This wasn’t to protect jurors from attacks by the IRA, in fact, it was the complete opposite because they could not trust citizens of the

Republic to convict these individuals,” Mr. Ó Faoleán said.

The book also challenges the commonly-held perception that Irish-America bankrolled the republican movement and instead argues that most funds were secured at home.

“This whole notion that Noraid and sympathizers in the US were financing things is not true, as the reality is that most of the finances and the explosives for the Provisionals came from the Republic of Ireland,” the author said.

“Money from the USA represented only 10-20 percent of the IRA’s annual budget, while they carried out dozens of bank robberies every year – in 1977 there were 260 armed robberies in 10 months, the majority committed by the IRA – that’s more than one every other day.”

The book recalls how in December 1974 the Provisional IRA carried out what was then the largest bank heist in the history of the state at Shannon, Co Clare, while other robberies included the theft of the entire takings from the Munster senior hurling final at Thurles in 1977.

Similarly, the book argues that gelignite stolen from quarries, farms and construction sites in the Republic was the “engine” behind the Provisional’s bombing campaign in the north and England.

In the first six months of 1973 alone, approximately 48,000lbs of explosives were detonated in the north. Following a clampdown on gelignite availability in the mid-1970s, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were largely being constructed from boiled-down fertilizer. So much so, that IRA members in Belfast began developing a rash from the near constant handling of freshly smuggled homemade explosives.

The author concedes that during the 1969-1980 period covered by the book, the Dublin government, while “outright opposed to the IRA”, had to “walk a very fine line” due to high levels of public sympathy, if not complete support.

“I cite the example of when hunger striker Michael Gaughan died in England in 1974 and how when his cortège went from Dublin to Mayo tens of thousands turned out along the route – and that was after Bloody Friday and other major civilian attacks in the north,” he said.

“The people that came out weren’t necessarily supportive of violence but there was ambivalence in many Irish citizens.”

However, Mr Ó Faoleán rejects the idea that there was institutional collusion involving the IRA in the


“My concern is that this evidence will be used by unionists in the north as if to say: ‘Aha – we did bad things but you did too’,” he said.

“But really there is no parity of esteem in terms of collusion – when you look at the government response, every chapter in the book details the repression that was brought in – not just censorship but forced confessions extracted through serious physical and psychological abuse.”

n A Broad Church – The Provisional IRA in the Republic of Ireland, 1969–1980 by Gearóid Ó Faoleán’s is published by Merrion Press price £16.99