Wednesday, March 11, 2009

So my post about the violence in Northern Ireland has been referenced on an Irish political messageboard in this thread . No need to click on the link though, here's what it says:

This is what an American in Ireland has blogged about the attack:

Read Me Sometimes, Think of Me Often.

"So many of you may have heard that there was some violence up in Northern Ireland from the IRA -- troubles that were supposed to be over.

Irish and UK media are paying tribute to the men killed, but I find it interesting that there is practically no mention of the others injured in the accident. And I wonder if it isn't because two of them were Polish immigrants. I wonder, if they weren't UK nationals if they wouldn't be all over the news, being interviewed, the country following their health and progress, everyone pouring with sympathy at these victims. But instead, there's just this really eerie silence as the injured are mentioned in passing."

Interesting that she makes no distinction between the IRA and the Real IRA

Well, actually it *is* interesting! And you learn something new every day. Americans have a reputation for being ignorant. And in a lot of ways we do a great job of living up to that reputation. But I think that people in other countries forget that we have a hard enough time keeping track of the issues in our own country and continent, let alone the rest of the world. And to give you perspective on that, the size of the entire island of Ireland, north and south, is about as big as Indiana, one of America's smaller states, of which there are fifty. So that's about 32,599 square miles versus about 3,537,438 square miles, or nearly 110 times bigger. You may be shocked and outraged that an American living in Ireland for two and a half months doesn't know what the "real" IRA is, but the answer is simple: it didn't make my radar until you pointed it out! Hey - at least I'm not like a whole slew of Americans who think that Southern Ireland is part of the UK. Europeans get all miffed if you don't know who their Presidents are, saying, "Well, we know who your President is!" But our country is so large that it's easy! All they have to know is ONE dude! We have the President, then the Governors of all the States, then the Senators and the Cabinet, not to mention the Supreme Court Judges... I know -- excuses, excuses.

But what is actually, truly interesting is that, now that you mention it I did hear that distinction on the news, and I had no idea what it meant! But when I heard it I sort of shrugged it off because I didn't understand it. Well, now I have been compelled to do some research, and what I found is really bizarre (to me anyways). I apologize for sounding so ignorant, but at least I'm not going to pretend to know something I don't. Instead I'm going to share the process of discovery.

First off, there's more than one IRA. But even the BBC is still asking "Who are the real IRA?" But to find the answer, I consulted an older article from 2001 According to the article, "The group was born out of a split in the mainstream Provisional IRA in October 1997, when the IRA's so-called quartermaster-general resigned over Sinn Fein's direction in the peace process. Security forces estimate that the Real IRA's membership is between 100 and 200."

This New York Times Article shed a lot of light on the situation for me.

So, if the "Real IRA" split off from "the Continuity IRA," then who is the Continuity IRA? Well, apparently, they're the ones responsible for killing the officer in Banbridge two days after the Real IRA killed the two British soldiers.

However, the Continuity IRA was a split from "the Provisional IRA" in 1986. Then who is the Provisional IRA, you ask??? Well, if you want a history with timeline and the like from the BBC, there you go.

But, get this: The Provisional IRA split from "The Official IRA" in 1969. Who are the Official IRA, you want to know? Well, they and the Provisional IRA came from....the IRA. Then there's the Irish National Liberation Army, or the INLA, and they're armed too. That's a whole other can of worms. But this is the general idea, near as I can tell, of the different groups.

So what's scary is the pissing match that may be taking place. I don't understand it, but now begins the process of at least attempting to.

Man. That's all I got for now.


  1. You getting called out on a messageboard is pretty funny given your messageboard familiarity.

    I think it's great that you're sharing the process of how an American goes about figuring all of this intense political stuff that every Irish person probably sort of knows intuitively out.


  2. Also there are some amazing phrases in that thread, like "unfortunate cabbage" to describe a woman they don't like.

  3. Gee, thanks for clearing that up for a fellow ignorant American.

    Now I'M confused!! LOL!

  4. Charlene - so, it all began around 1166ish when the English arrived in Ireland and Henry II, King of England, proclaimed Dublin under his control. From then on, the Irish had to fight English colonialism. Over that time, it was sort of "re-conquered," like in the sixteenth century by Henry VIII, and then there have been various civil wars as well (I'm still wrapping my head around the Catholics vs. Protestants issue, but you just have to pretend that religion itself doesn't have much to do with it). Finally, after a long battle, in 1921, the country was split up, and Southern Ireland was its own deal while Northern Ireland remained part of the UK. So that's why if you mistakenly call Ireland "the UK" to an Irish person, you will nearly get a smack upside the head.

    But conflict still remained in Northern Ireland, for many, many reasons, which I'm still trying to understand. Many people want independence, and many people wish to stay part of the UK.

    And no matter which way you slice it, Irish history is an extremely violent one.

  5. Most Irish people have very little knowledge of the complexities of the divisions in Northern Ireland or of the various factions on each side. Remember that as well as the different versions of the IRA and oher republican groups you had atleast as many on the loyalist side, for example UVF, UDA, UFF, Red Hand Commando (to name but a few). Thankfully most of them are now irrelevant and soon the Irish people can get on with their lives.
    You, an American, are already more knowledgeable than most Irish people about Irish history!