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The IRA, 1968-2000 by Bell J. Bowyer;

The IRA, 1968-2000 by Bell J. Bowyer;

Author:Bell, J. Bowyer;
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 1166381
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Group


CHAPTER EIGHT

Maintenance

Those in 1969 who took up the long march toward the Republic knew more than most that much was needed: far more than within their control, far more than had been available to the IRA during the previous generation. The Provisional IRA at least had ample exposure to the problems of the armed struggle; the daily obstacles had become part of Republican life so what came next would be no surprise: one of the few virtues of experience. Mostly rebels are content to begin, fire the first shot: the need for the next bullet would be discovered later. The IRA, on the other hand, felt they first needed bullets to be able to fire at all. To begin, the IRA needed gear if there was to be a defence of the Northern nationalists.

After August 1969, those who would form the core of Provisional IRA began to seek arms. A great many in Ireland mistakenly assumed that they needed more arms when in fact there was almost nothing and most of that in the hands of Dublin GHQ. Arms were the key. No one doubted that they could acquire the volunteers if they had the guns. They were assured of the commitment and organization, the leadership and the example; but there was no possibility of an armed struggle unless there were arms.

The lack of gear was, of course, the fault of all the IRA but the responsibility was that of GHQ. A few, like Mick Ryan, appointed quartermaster when matters were already hopeless, saw to the collection of bits and pieces after August 1969; but many of his official colleagues remained focused on political options. The Official IRA never solved the problem of arms. The Provisionals felt a greater sense of urgency: arms were the way into the future, the means to effective events.

Old Republicans had already begun looking beyond GHQ for arms, for arms money. In this they were not alone for some of the more nationalist Dublin politicians, those who could feel history moving, felt that the IRA might be exploited, manipulated to defend the Northern nationalists that the government could not protect and do so at the cost of renouncing their radical ideas. The tender offers to the IRA were, of course, accepted, something for nothing, money that required only a nod since once given the orthodox had no recourse to law and no desire to be exposed.

Between the Belfast pogroms of August 1969 and the end of the year provisional arrangements to take the IRA into a campaign, discard the political people at GHQ, and to find arms were being made by the traditionalists. Contacts with the legitimate politicians were merely an aspect of the confusion and turmoil of the period. In time those who detested the Provisionals would see in these arrangements a Fianna Fáil plot to summon up a secret army out of the ruins of the Republican movement — a call that if not made could not have been answered. Actually the Officials



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