Inside the INLA
Following the attempted assassination of an IRSP member in May, and the disappearance of a former member in Paris in June, there are fears that the organisation is poised to violently tear itself apart. By Vincent Browne
FORMER PROMINENT MEMber of the IRSP, now living in Paris, returned the keys of the apartment where Seamus Ruddy lived to the former tenant in the middle of July last. Asked by friends of Ruddy where he had got the keys he gave contradictory responses - that he had been given them by a Parisienne with whom they were both acquainted and that he had been given them by another well known IRSP figure, currently wanted in Ireland in connection with the shooting of a garda in Tallaght some years ago.
Seamus Ruddy is the former IRSP man now missing in Paris since June, when he mysteriously disappeared. Ruddy is believed now by his family to have been killed by members of the military wing of the IRSP - the INLA - in the course of an internal dispute within that movement. Nobody in the INLA has given any indication of the fate of Ruddy or denied that any action has been taken against him. The only clue about what has happened to Ruddy is the emergence of the keys which presumably he had on his person when he "disappeared".
The disappearance of Ruddy is just the latest manifestation of an internal viciousness that is convulsing the moveement, founded a decade ago by perrhaps the most determined and formidable militant republican of recent times, Seamus Costello. The disinteegration that now threatens the INLA arises primarily from an identity crisis and the loss of the other major charissmatic personality that has led it, Dominic McGlinchey,
The leftward drift of the Provisional Republican Movement in the last five to seven years has robbed the IRSPj INLA of its clear identity - when Costello started the movement in 1975, the IRSP was the only identifiably republican and socialist moveement in existence - the Provos were certainly republican but then deepiy conservative, while the other major force in that political nexus, then Sinn Fein the Workers' Party, was clearly socialist but quickly shedding its reepublicanism.
Since then the new leadership of the Provos, personified in Gerry Adams, has moved the. Provisional movement determinedly leftward, thereby threatening the raison d 'etre of the IRSP /INLA, especially as the Provos have always been able to deliver the "goods" military in a way that the INLA has never succeeded in doing, apart, possibly, from a brief period in 1978 and 1979.
The IRSP/INLA grew out of the official republican movement in the mid-seventies, The Sinn Fein/IRA of the sixties had been pushed ideoloogically leftward during that decade our reacted with traditional repubblican militarism when the Northern conflict burst open in the early sevennties. By then of course the movement had split between the Official and Provisional Sinn Feins/IRAs and in 1972 the Officials declared a cease fire, which initially was to be just a tactical response to the situation but swiftly became an issue of principle - at least theoretically, as ro bberies, shootings, racketeering and intimidaation continue to this day.
Seamus Costello, then operations officer within the Official IRA, stronggly opposed the line which the Officials were taking in the early seventies. He was shrewdly outmanoeuvred through a com bination of guile and strong arm tactics and eventually was exxpelled.
The basic issue then had become a fundamental ideological one - the interpretation of the Marxist stages of development theory. The controlling faction within the Officials had come to accept what was fundamentally a "Stalinist" line - that the various stages of development would have to be gone through mechanically - from feudalism to capitalism/bourgeois democracy to socialism to communism - there could be no telescoping of these stages.
In the Northern· Ireland context this meant that before there could be any progress towards a socialist repubblic, Northern Ireland would first have to become a "normal" bourgeois democracy - hence the spate of deemands not for the abolition of Storrmont but for the "democratisation" of the state, a Bill of Rights etc.
That line also led, almost inexorrably, towards all kinds of fatuous contradictions within the Official movement. Writing about this phenoomenon in May 1982 Magill stated:
"From being a republican, antiipartitionist organisation the party is now virtually unionist . . . From a position of being the foremost oppoonent of EEC membership during the referendum campaign of 1972, the party is now in favour of memberrship, having opposed foreign indusstrialisation a decade ago, the Workers' ;Party is now the foremost advocate of foreign investment ... From being open advocates of violence for both national and social objectives in 1972, the party is now rhetorically the shrillest opponent of violence in the country.
"The change has represented nothing short of a political 10 botomy and has come about not through the process of open democratic debate within the party but through the establishment of an elite corps within the organisaation, the Industrial Section, which has operated outside the normal institutions of the party, been largely unnaccountable to the party's decision making bodies, and which has conduccted its deli berations in secret."
When Costello formed his new party, the IRSP, and his new paraamilitary organisation - initially the People's Liberation Army and later the Irish National Liberation Army ðthe Official movement attempted effecctively to wipe it out. One new member of the party, Hugh Ferguson, was killed in Belfast, allegedly for stealing Officials' weapons. There were reprisals and eventually four men lost their lives.
Costello's political and military strategy was very clearly defined. His ideological "marrying" of the socialist and republican traditions was very cooherently argued, while he was a proven military organiser and operator of very considerable personal courage and reesourcefulness.
They carried out a series of spectaacular ro b beries in 1 976 am assing a very considerable fund for arms. They were also very successful in recruiting from the Officials and in part from the Provos.
But central to Costello's strategy was a "broad front" approach whereby the IRSP/INLA would engage in mass activity with a broad range of organiisations and individuals on a limited set of objectives - Costello accepted that it was militarily impossible to defeat the British and that only a commbination of military struggle and mass popular agitation, through the thirtyytwo counties, would force the British to the negotiating table.
It was at his initiative that a broad front conference was organised in the West County Hotel, outside Dublin in early 1977. This conference was attennded by the Provos, the Communist Party, People's Democracy, the Irish Sovereignty Movement, Conradh na Gaeilge and a number of individuals, as well as the IRSP. The objective was to unite these various strands behind the demand for British withdrawal. The conference broke down however because of insistence by the Provos that any broad front would have to include support for the armed struggle in the North and the opposite demand by the Communist Party that the broad front would have to involve the Provos calling a cease fire - the Commmunist Party was fearful of losing Protestant members in the North by seeming to have any truck with the Provos.
Costello argued that neither demand should be made as a precondition ˜that the Provos should not demand support for the military struggle and that the Communist Party should not make the opposite demand - neither side would give way and the initiative collapsed.
Costello was assassinated by the ,I0fficial IRA - on orders from people who are still members of the Workers'Party Ard Comhairle - in Octo ber 1977, partly in reprisal for the assassination in Belfast of Billy McMillan, the Officials' kingpin in that city. The removal of Costello from the scene did not immediately have an adverse impact on the IRSP/INLA. There was a special conference in January 1978 where full agreement was hammered out on political and military objectives and strategy but dissention started to emerge in 1979.
That dissension centred primarily on the allocation of resources. The military people in Belfast particularly wanted to have all the proceeds of bank raids spent on arms, while others wanted to devote some of these reesources to other activities, including the running of the political organisaation.
There were of course other destabiilising factors, notably the assassinations of Ronnie Bunting and Miriam Daly in 1980 and the sprouting of the superrgrasses, which had a devastating effect on the movement, notably in Belfast. Bunting's assassination was a particuularly significant blow to the organisaation for he was central to the military campaign in Belfast. Miriam Daly was not actually a member when she was assassinated but she had been an immportant influence within the political movement until shortly before her death.
The H-Block movement of 1980 and 1981 imposed great strains on the movement as well. The organisation's input into that campaign was disprooportionate to its size vis-a-vis the Provos but, after all, that H-Block campaign was very much in line with the broad front strategy pursued, unsuccessfully, by Costello. The Provos were brought almost literally kicking and screaming into that broad front campaign and the demand that those who support the campaign also be required to suppport the military struggle was dropped.
Up to the end of 1981 all disputes within the organisation were resolved without resort to arms. However, in December 1981 Harry Flynn was shot in the neck in Talbot Street Dublin following a dispute over the allocation of arms. Flynn was one of the key figures in the movement and had been a unifying force until his imprisonment for four months in 1981 - that too was a destabilising factor.
There was a patch up meeting in March 1982 but by then the organisaation had been very seriously disrupted by the arrests, following the emerrgence of the supergrasses. But it was around then that Dominic McGlinchey emerged as the prime force within the movement. He had been one of the most daring Provo operators in the Tyrone area but had defected from them while in Long Kesh in the seventies. McGlinchey's primary attriibutes were formidable organisational abilities, plus enormous personal courrage. This latter factor gave him a chaarisma, especially among: the younger recruits and he became a great uniifying force within the organisation.
He was hampered considerably however by being on the "run" from 1982 onwards and when he was evenntually captured outside Ennis on March 17 1984, his loss to the organisation was enormous. Since then the organiisation has virtually fallen apart.
The attempted assassination of Gerry Roche near Shannon in May underlined the extent to which the organisation is teetering on the verge of disintegration. While accusations of criminality have abounded in relation to Roche and his fellow dissident, Harry Flynn, the basic underlying reason for the division is a political one.
Fundamentally, the present leaderrship of the movement - and the personnel of this leadership have undergone several changes in the last year or so - in an attempt to delineate the IRSP /INLA more clearly from the Provos have taken a more' rigidly Marxist/Leninist line than that ever previously adopted by the organisaation. Those who refuse to follow this line are characterised as criminals.
But the adoption of this rigid line has meant, in effect, the abandonment of the broad front strategy, as initially conceived by Costello. The dispute with Roche appears to have come to a head over the publication of a newsspaper, edited by Roche, in the north Munster area. Roche won agreement by a very narrow majority, on the Ard Comhairle of the lRSP to publish the newspaper. He wanted to call the paper "The Broad Front" but, signiificantly, this was not permitted but he went ahead anyway, calling the paper "Freedom Struggle". In the editorial in the first and only issue, Flynn made reference to the tradition of Connolly, Mellowes and Costello no mention was made of Marx, Engels or Lenin. This was viewed as a reflecction of his disagreement with the new Marxist/Leninist line.
The indications now are that the organisation will tear itself apart in a burst of ferocious terror, which could well spill over to outsiders with horriific consequences.
In May Vincent Browne interviewed four members of the army council of the INLA - one of these indicated he was chief of staff of the organisaation. All four refused to give their names for publication.
Asked about the attempted assassiination of Gerry Roche, they said:
We will not be panicked into a situation by the media or whatever because of a few isolated incidents which involve criminal elements who were formerly associated with this movement.
Ongoing investigations have taken place over the last twelve months or so regarding the misappropriation of funds substantial funds - and the skimming off of weapons and we have come to the conclusion that the person involved along with several others were at the centre of a conspiracy to underrmine the present leadership of the movement.
Asked to cite recent INLA operaations, they listed the following:
* An attack on a bar in Holywood but due to bad weather there were no casualties. There was a disco in the bar, and the bomb was left outside. Soldiers usually loitered around outtside after but because of the bad weather they didn't. The bomb went off and nobody was hurt. This was in December.
"In January the INLA attacked the law courts in Belfast. The target was a judge. The judge who used the car had let it go to the prosecutor and the bomb was lobbed at him as he got into it. It failed to explode.
"There was an attempted assassinaation of Ian Paisley. Volunteers went to his church on a Friday morning. Intelliigence showed that he was to give a sermon that morning but he was out late the night before, and somebody else stood in for him. The volunteers were spotted and the operation was aborted.
"There have been several shootings in Belfast against the police, one or two have been injured.
* We killed a UDR man in Derry in March.
* An attack on Gregory Campbell, the DUP Assembly man in Derry in December, the night after the Holyywood pub.
*We bombed trains in the North.
* We bombed Dunnes Stores in the South six weeks ago.
* Only last week, we shot a policeeman in Derry.
* We placed a bomb outside Windsor Park during the Northern Ireland verrsus England soccer match.
* The INLA shot and seriously wounded a policeman in Downpatrick.
When asked about the threat to kill sports people who come to Norrthern Ireland, they said:
The threat to kill sportsmen playing in the North comes after much discusssion in the movement. We felt that the resumption of'sports fixtures in Norrthern Ireland was a crucial cog in the normalisation process. The onus is on sportsmen to take a decision to come or not to come.
We do repeat the threat; sportsmen who take a decision to come to Norrthern Ireland are doing so at their own risk. We will strike when and where it is strategically possible at sportsmen, and yes, at sports events.
(Throughout the discussion on the threat to sportspeople there was connsiderable equivocation and avoidance of the question and it was only after being pushed very strongly that the comment was made that they would strike when and where at sportsmen, and yes, at sports events.)
We loathe taking anyone's life who is not directly involved in the conflict but we will not allow the British government or the Northern Ireland office to use these people in such a fashion [ie, to prop up the normaliisation process).
We will assassinate them if they break the ban. There is no point in making a threat if we don't take any action but we will be loathe to do it.
Did you plan to assassinate any member of the England team?
The bomb was meant as a very clear warning of our future intenntions.
Did you threaten the recent athhletics meeting in the North?
Certainly. It was a run-down affair.
The INLA will choose when and where to take action.
Asked about operations in the South in the light of the bomb in Dunnes Stores, they said:
We will review operations in the South on an individual basis. Thereefore the bomb in Dunnes Stores cannot be viewed as a change of strategy.
That bombing in itself was designed to show our solidarity with the strikers and our opinions on apartheid.
Asked if the movement was not now effectively decimated, they said:
The absence of high level activity has been in part because of the organiisational re-structuring in the moveement. This was a deliberate choice made by the people in command position. It has been a laborious but necessary process. The fruits of the reeorganisation in the last twelve months will be very graphically demonstrated in the not too distant future by major operations in the heightening of the level of our military campaign in the North.
Asked if they had additional equippment, they replied:
Asked if it was a different calibre, higher sophistication than previous equipment, they said:
We have some very sophisticated weaponry at our disposal at the present time. It will be on display very soon (in action.
What are the number of volunteers now?
The number has remained very steady. Obviously there have been some volunteers captured but these have been replaced.
How many activists are there? Tabooland.
Did the attempted assassination of Ian Paisley represent a change of policy?
No. The attempted assassination of Ian Paisley represented no change of policy. We see Paisley and indeed all shades of Loyalism as manifested in politicians as being another weapon in the armoury of Britain and as such, we would contend that they are as legitiimate targets as the British soldiers. The INLA did attempt to kill Paisley in June 1981 when shots were fired at his car.
Asked about Sinn Fein and their electoral successes, they replied:
We would welcome any type of success if it speeds the day when Briitish Imperialism left the North and South of Ireland forever, therefore if Sinn Fein's success at the polls helps this, we welcome it.
Asked about IRA/INLA cooperaation, or if the INLA would eventually be incorporated into the IRA, they said:
We have no reason to incorporate with anybody. Recruits are coming forward all the time. There are some very distinct policy differences between us and Sinn Fein [the IRA. We see ourrselves as being Republican/Socialists while we see Sinn Fein as being more a populist party.
Asked if they didn t now view Sinn Fein as socialist, they replied:
Borderline Socialist. With the addvent of the younger leadership within Sinn Fein that would be the case.
Asked about amalgamation, they replied.
No, definitely no. However, there may be a time - hopefully soon Ðthat a broad front may be necessary. That hasn't been discussed yet. When the issue arises, it will be discussed very fully within the movement but we will not be swallowed up.
Asked about the Darkley killings, and if there was a conclusion to the internal inquiry into it, they said:
There has been a conclusion reached and internal discipline has been taken.
Asked what that internal discipline was, they replied:
We are not at liberty to say.
When it was pointed out that MeeGlinchey promised that the action taken against those responsible would be publicised, they said:
It wasn't (publicised) and we have no intention of publicising internal issues.
Is this so because nothing of any consequence has been done?
No comment. You can take it that action was taken within the movement and it was really only our weapons that were involved, not our manpower.
Asked about the mandate they sought for their actions, the person who is chief of staff said:
We see our mandate as being vested in the second Dail Eireann and as such we believe that we are the legitimate heirs to that government.
This was later amended by others who said that the mandate derived from repression in the North, British troops in the street etc.
Asked again about the split in the INLA, they said:
There is no split within the INLA.
What has been splashed all over the papers and so forth has nothing whattsoever to do with internalfactionalism. ItS a local difficulty with a couple of criminals involved.
But the INLA is determined to root out any criminal elements who are associated, or who have been associated with our organisation, and we will be ruthless in doing so. •