IRA’s actions causing more harm than good

The IRA never ceases to amaze me.

As a point of clarification, I’m not referring to “Individual Retirement Accounts,” although they amaze me too. (The only things I understand about money are that I like it, and I want more.)

I’m talking about the Irish Republican Army, who it seems is getting much more press lately for its blunders than its “successes.”

The radical IRA, outlawed by the British government, decided this summer to step up its “efforts” to drive the British out of Northern Ireland and to reunite the predominantly Protestant country with the Irish Republic, its southern neighbor, which is mainly Catholic. These efforts, of course, have all been violent—car bombings, sniper attacks, etc. The general terrorist type of thing.

The traditional attack targets of the IRA have been British police in Northern Ireland, the reason being that these groups are direct enforcers of and representatives of English rule. The IRA has succeeded this summer in killing 27 British soldiers in attacks that spread as far as continental Europe.

However, the IRA’s aim has been a little off this past year. Since November 1987, the IRA has unintentionally included 20 civilians in its casualty list. The latest screwup came Aug. 30, when a bomb placed in a Belfast apartment by the IRA, meant for British soldiers, exploded killing two civilians and injuring one.

One of the dead was an elderly man who had set off the boobytrap by climbing in the apartment window because he was worried about the man who lived there. Apparently the apartment’s owner had not been seen for several days, and this worried his neighbors.

I have paid special attention to the happenings in Northern Ireland because of my own nationality. I am half Irish and the product of a traditional Irish Catholic upbringing. My father ensured that all family members were dressed from head to foot in green on March 17. And only Jesus, Mary and Joseph were honored in my home more than Irish-American “heroes” such as John and Bobby Kennedy.

My special interest in the IRA actions is enhanced further by the fact that my ancestors lived in the very region that has been in the news. In fact, my great uncle Marty was hanged in Londonderry decades ago for the attempted murder of one of those “orange Irishmen” the IRA opposes today.

I sympathize with the problems in Northern Ireland today. Ireland has always seemed a sad country, overrun by countless invaders such as the Vikings (not from Minnesota—the ones who really wore horns) for centuries before the English started their own offensive.

In the basest sense, I agree with the ultimate goal of the IRA: a reunification of Northern and Southern Ireland. I don’t agree with the English annexation of its neighbor, and especially its oppressive tactics of feudalism and penal laws with which the move was augmented. But these actions are in the past. A past which the members of the IRA refuse to forget.

The brutality of the IRA is only part of this story. The British have retaliated and killed plenty of Northern Irish Catholics, the latest example being the ambush murder of three IRA members one day before the Belfast apartment blast. But the English police attacks have largely been reactive measures and probably would end if the IRA was to discontinue its violence.

The IRA’s terrorism, if continued, will only turn British minds more against pleas for reunification with the Irish Republic. This is especially true when the number of “innocents” killed by the IRA lately is taken into consideration. English rule in Northern Ireland is too firmly established, and the number of British loyalists in the country is too high for any kind of change in the forseeable future, even if attempted through peaceful means.

The violent killings are an endless cycle repeated too often throughout Irish history. The IRA should put the painful past behind it and face the facts of the present if it desires any survival in the future for its country.