Guest Post here from Sammy.
The nomenclature of the Irish insurgency groups is clearly in need of overhaul given the relative nature of the terms ‘old’ and ‘new’ when referring to the ‘IRA’ as highlighted in the post below by FJH – and I think we can perhaps look to technology to provide us with a more useful and workable alternative.
We could, in the interests of clarity, ignoring the United Irishmen and the Fenians et al, just start with the Easter Rising and simply use the term IRA (Irish Republican Army) in the generic sense to cover all Republican insurgency groups from that point forward. That would then give us the IRB as the first version of the IRA or version 1.0 and perhaps the anti-treaty IRA as version 1.1.
The hitherto‘old’ IRA would now be referred to as the Version 1s.
Given their relative lack of activity and their limited impact, it is perhaps not necessary to allocate a separate Version number to the IRA involved in the ‘border campaign’ in the 1950s and they might be fairly categorised as BETA Version 2, with the full Version 2 relating to the insurgency that emerged in the late 1960s. That would make the Provisional IRA Version 2.1 and the Official IRA Version 2.2. I think it makes good sense to include the sundry other insurgency groups in the same numbering system – so we could have the INLA as 2.3, the IPLO as 2.4 etc, with the flexibility in the system to accommodate the likes of the South Armagh Peoples Resistance Front(or whatever they were called) who may or may not turn out to have actually existed.
So the hitherto ‘New’ IRA would now be referred to as the Version 2s.
So what about the currently active batch of IRAs, the Dissers, are they the new Version 3s?
Well Unionists would probably argue that the Version 1s and Version 2s and the prospective Version 3s should all just be lumped together as they would see them as all being all cut from the same papal cloth, so I think we should therefore listen very carefully to any submissions from Unionists – in an outreachy sort of way – and then ignore them. So although arguably there is considerable overlap in terms of timespan and volunteers with the Version 2s we should make the Dissers – Real IRA, Continuity IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann, Republicans against Drugs et al (formerly known as the‘New new IRA’) the Version 3s – but given the propensity of the groups to merge and splinter themselves – perhaps best not to allocate them exact(3.1, 3.2) Version numbers.
Arguably, if there had been proper versioning in place we might have actually seen improvement in later Versions – rather than the reverse, as we have seen up until now – and we might have had some proper and realistic assessments of what had gone before.
In FJHs post below he recounts that an old New IRA man (a Version 2.1) states that “He wasnt going to apologise to anyone for anything. ……….if people apologise, then it belittles those comrades who died for his and their beliefs.”
… and that is fair enough.
For many, however, myself included, what is required from him and his colleagues is not an apology but an explanation about the nature of the campaign they were involved in e.g. repeatedly putting large bombs in civilian areas and shooting ex-members of the security forces, or shooting serving members in front of their families.This is important as we move ‘forward’ in Irish history, not just because we have a right as Irish people to know what was done in our name but also because if we had a bit more discussion of the validity of some of the tactics of the Version1s (e.g. shooting Prods) then we would not have so many questions to ask now from the Version 2.1s – and arguably the Version 3s might not actually, currently at least, be with us.