The right wing papers are going for Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to “condemn” the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Speaking during a BBC interview, Corbyn said he “condemned all those that do bombing, all those on both sides”. “There were Loyalist bombs as well, I condemn all the bombing by both the Loyalists and the IRA,” he said.
Some left wingers have responded by pointing to former Provisional IRA member Maria Gatland, now a Tory councillor in Croydon, south London. That Gatland was in the IRA is not the Tories’ real hypocrisy—or their real crime in Ireland.
The left should take no lectures on Northern Ireland from the Tories. Their record is one of suppressing democracy, stoking sectarianism—and the imprisonment, murder and torture of ordinary people.
Sectarianism is not something that’s hard-wired into Northern Ireland, but was built into that society after Britain was forced to quit the rest of Ireland in 1922.
The Unionists, allies of the Tory party in Ireland, declared that it would be a “Protestant land for Protestant people”.
They ran it as a one-party state, where sectarianism was used to terrorise Catholics and also weaken Protestant workers’ ability to fight.
The “Troubles” erupted in Derry in 1969. While the majority of the population is Catholic, the wards were gerrymandered to maintain Unionist control. But when people began organising to demand their civil rights, cops beat them off the streets.
As rioting spread through Catholic areas, the British Army was sent in to allegedly keep the peace between Catholics and Protestants. In reality, it was part of a brutal and repressive occupation that sided with the Loyalist regime.
The Military Reaction Force (MRF) was a special intelligence unit of the British Army, operating between 1971 and 1973 in Northern Ireland.
Former soldiers have described it as a “legalised death squad” that killed “unarmed civilians in Belfast”.
Military intelligence not only recruited, trained and armed Loyalist death squads—it directed terrorist operations.
A former Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) member, known as “John Black”, said the policy was designed to “scare the shit” out of the Catholics.
The British state’s repression of the Civil Rights movement fuelled the rise of the IRA. After the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, where the Parachute Regiment murdered 14 Civil Rights marchers, the IRA’s ranks swelled.
The Tories scuppered potential peace talks in 1972—and continued their brutal policies under Margaret Thatcher.
This was all to maintain the Loyalists’ sectarian set up and keep workers divided.