Jim Cusack: IRA engaged in 'ethnic cleansing' of Protestants along Border
New book reveals policy was a tool to stop unionists agreeing on a political solution with SDLP.
Published 24/03/2013 | 05:00
The "ethnic cleansing" of Protestants living in Border areas over 20 years of the Troubles was a "tool" to stop unionists coming to a political accommodation with the moderate nationalist party, the SDLP, a new book on the IRA's Border campaign asserts.
It also points at Gerry Adams as the chief strategist of the Provisional IRA's "long war", including the sectarian campaign against Protestants in rural Border areas as strategy to force Britain into doing a deal with Sinn Fein.
Professor Henry Patterson, of the University of Ulster, author of Ireland's Violent Border, which was published last week, also cites the failure of successive Irish governments to add sufficient weight to crushing the IRA.
At the book's launch in Belfast last week the former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, described the IRA's campaign in some border areas as "ethnic cleansing".
Prof Patterson said: "I wanted to write about the Border, the problems of North-South security co-operation and the terrible price which Border Protestant communities paid for it because it's a crucial but largely ignored story.
"It's very common in literature on Northern Ireland and the Troubles to see it largely in terms of a dominant Protestant majority and a Catholic minority, but in the Border areas it was the Protestants who were in the minority and who suffered for it. It has been ignored in large part because it does not fit into the 'oppressive Protestants/oppressed Catholics' dichotomy.
"It is also one where a brutal sectarian dimension of the Provisionals is undeniable: the relentless bombing of Protestant businesses, the burning of farms, the shooting up of farmhouses to force the occupants out and the relentless campaign to kill Protestants in and out of uniform.
"The Provos said and still say that they were killed for the uniform they wore and not for their religion but a good number of Protestants were killed who had left the UDR and others were killed who had never been in the security forces."
He cited two examples from the book. "On May 19, 1980, Jack McClenaghan, a 63-year-old Protestant, was shot dead while he was delivering bread in Garrison, Co Fermanagh. He had retired from the UDR four years before and was regarded by local Protestants and Catholics alike as a 'peace-loving and inoffensive man'.
Douglas Deering was the last Protestant shopkeeper in Rosslea, in south-east Fermanagh. He was not and never had been a member of the security forces. Married with three children he attended a Gospel hall in Clones. He was shot dead in his shop on May 12, 1978. His shop had been bombed four times by the time of his murder.
"In 1992, a British Army officer who had served in NI summed up the effects of Provisional ethnic cleansing in a lecture at the Army's staff college: 'In Fermanagh and south Tyrone there were 203 murders carried out between 1971 and 1989 of which 178 were carried out by republicans. Of these only 14 have resulted in successful convictions. Certainly this can be called a success for the IRA policy of a long war, particularly in view of the high proportion of sons involved in the statistics (heirs to farms and businesses) . . . it seems to point to an area in which lack of direction from the top means that what amounts to ethnic cleansing over a longer period does not only constitute a failure but can go largely unnoticed'."
Prof Patterson added: "The British were convinced that the IRA's ability to exploit the Border and use the Republic as a safe haven was the key to the Provos' ability to wage the long war but with the exception of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition of 1973-77 the Irish default position was that most of the violence in NI had its origins there and the Republic's contribution to the the violence was minimal. The British sent regular security analyses of the Provos' exploitation of the Border and Irish territory to Dublin and pleaded for more co-operation but, particularly when Fianna Fail was in power, it got a cool reception.
"Both Lynch and Haughey made it clear that the price of improved co-operation from Dublin would be high – a major constitutional initiative by London in tandem with Dublin and over the heads of unionists. The result was outlined by a former RUC Special Branch officer referring to the Provos' infrastructure in the Republic in 1980s: 'My conclusion: while successive Irish governments proclaimed their abhorrence of Provisional violence, their refusal, with the partial exception of the Fine-Gael coalition of 1973-77, to take the issue of Provisional exploitation of their territory seriously, objectively facilitated the organisations' ability to carry on its long war into the 1990s.'"