Compare Irish Republican Army And The Liberation Tigers Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The purpose of this paper is to outline the counterterrorism measures adopted by the British government towards the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and by the Sri Lankan government towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and to compare the strategies adopted by each country to counter the terrorism they have faced, beginning with highlighting the main reasons fuelled and ignited terrorism in Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.

Northern Ireland

The conflict in Northern Ireland was a reflection of the struggle between different national, culture and religious identities, the Protestant majority (unionists) and the Catholic minority (nationalists), [1] it was ascribed to the "brutality and harsh discrimination" suffering of the native Irish Catholics from the British rule. [2] 

The IRA adopted violence to their ambition to achieve their political goals "obtain religious freedom", sovereignty, civil rights and equal opportunities for all Irish people in the Northern Ireland. [3] The formation of the Provisional IRA 1970 introduces "romantic nationalism", [4] and their adoption of violence was regarded by the British government as a criminal act or even as a terrorist act [5] resulted in a great loss of lives (over 3,200 people died since 1969), [6] and a great impact on the economy in both Northern Ireland and in the UK. [7] 

Countering IRA Terrorism

Due to the highly fragmented local police structure, the British government and its departments reviewed, reorganised and changed its police structure in a number of occasions in order to face and combat the IRA terrorist threat and to overcome the gap of, communication, chains of command and the lack of national counterterrorism agency to enhance flexibility, increase the level of cooperation and to support the civil authorities under what was known as MACP (military aid to civil power). [8] 

During the period (1970-2005) the British government adopted a range of policies, both coercive and conciliatory, to counter the IRA and the emergence of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in 1968, including the "army counterinsurgency policy" which was codified from six principles gained from previous lessons the British government learned during its colonial rule. The principles are;

Political primacy and political aim.

Coordination of government machinery.

Obtaining intelligence and information.

Separating the insurgent from his support.

Neutralizing the insurgent.

Long-term post insurgency planning.

The Metropolitan Police Bomb Squad, a number of special units designed to combat and cooperate against terrorism, was set and then reorganised into Anti-Terrorism Branch in 1976, then in the 1990s the police system was reorganised into Operational Command Unit (OCU) and in 1992 the British government vested MI5, The British Security Services with the lead role in intelligence operations against the IRA. [9] 

British police department uses HUMINT, [10] man-to-man surveillance, planting and concealing bugs, phone tapping and use of other electronic gadgetry called E4A, E4C and E4D, which was ultimately controlled by the MI5, was specialised in photographic surveillance to record events in known IRA hunts to disrupt its operations, hunt its operatives and maintain surveillance of an identified arms dump. [11] 

The British developed cooperation between Police, Intelligence, Special Support Units whose members trained by British Special Air Service (SAS), [12] and established a specially trained surveillance and operational unit in 1980 as a mean of pushing the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to the forefront to curtailing the operations of the British army special units. [13] 

The successful coordination between the various agencies, MI5, the Special Branch and the Anti - Terrorism Branch was evident in the trial and successful conviction in the Old Bailey of an IRA unit planning to bomb six electricity substations in the south of England, [14] and considered as a winning strategy to counter IRA terrorist threat. [15] 

In August 9, 1971 the British government presented the internment policy of the Stormont government "internment without trial" in Northern Ireland, the policy produced catastrophic consequences, it convinced Catholics that it was discriminatory and repressive and provided a powerful recruitment space for the IRA among Catholics and militant violence escalated in the aftermath of presenting the policy. [16] 

The British government faced criticism over human rights abuse, for example, the European Commission on Human Rights found the British interrogation constitutes inhuman treatment and the European Court of Human rights found that the British have unlawfully breached a legal right to life. [17] The British police also were accused of collateral damage due to the excessive force against the nationalist because their use of plastic baton rounds which has led to the killing of eight innocent children. [18] 

Sri Lanka

The Tamil struggle started when the Sri Lankan United Front government enacting the first republican constitution in 1972 which unambiguously depicted Sri Lanka as Sinhala-Buddhist dominated State. [19] 

In 1987 direct Indian intervention via Indo-Lanka Accord which was the culmination of a "Track II" policy, the Indian covertly assisted LTTE, [20] trained and armed Tamil militants. Shortly after, the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) carried out several large-scale operations against the LTTE fighters whom at this time received aid secretly from the Sri Lankan government [21] till the end of the fight in 1989 and the withdrawal of the IPKF [22] which was completed by 1990. [23] 

Countering LTTE Terrorism

During the years of the conflict the Sri Lankan governments adopted several policies to counter the LTTE terrorism including the use of large-scale military operations. These policies gave the army and the police forces, specially the Special Task Force formed in 1983, [24] unlimited authority to use force including torture, incommunicado detention, and killing during high-intensity "internal security" operations to "wipe out terrorism" and to suppress the insurrection. Strategies such as the anti-Tamil program-cum-riots 1981-1983 and the "cordon and search" shows collective and indiscriminate "Punishment" and violence against the LTTE and the Tamil civilians. [25] 

Despite the fact that the Sri Lankan governments have declared an ongoing all-out-war on the LTTE with the use of "brutal and arbitrary" force, they have also attempted to design both preventive and operational methods to deter LTTE. The Sri Lankan government in 1979 established the Preventive of Terrorism Act PTA which gives the army and the police to search and seize and hold prisoners incommunicado for up to 18 months without trial. [26] 

The Sri Lankan governments created high security zones and adopted the military ID card system. The ID card which has a photograph and basic details of the person including his ethnicity were provided to all people who have returned to their homes in addition to the national ID card to keep record of every person entering into and /or leaving Jaffna and to prevent rebel infiltration into the cities and villages. The government used Military check points cross all the main roads in the capital and use sinister tactics, such as deploying "hooded" informants which result in spreading terror among civilian population.

In 2006 the Sri Lankan government introduced the Prevention and Prohibition of Terrorism and Specified Terrorist activities regulation which includes acts of "political or governmental changes" and immunity to members of the police, armed forces or anyone else acting in good faith in terms of regulations. [27] 

The Sri Lankan intelligence gathering and analysing information system failed to detect and alarm the Sri Lankan government of the LTTE while it was operating secretly and its insurrection process was under way. The intelligences agencies led politicians to self-fulfilling prophecy and continuously downplayed the strength of the LTTE. The Sri Lankan intelligence act has led the Sri Lankan government to undertake military actions from the very beginning of the conflict, [28] and gave the LTTE the opportunity to assassinate number of officials by ignoring intelligence information, such as the murder of a member of the Sri Lankan Directorate of Military Intelligence who himself has told the Military intelligence that he has been followed, and that the prime suspect who was the head of LTTE intelligence in Batticaola had left the city to Colombo on the same day of the murder. [29] 


The British counterterrorism core strategy is to develop the police and intelligence structures to overcome arising communications and command problems and to develop its intelligence tactics to rely on human and electronic intelligence and limits its intelligence operations to a national agency which is the MI5.

The British government worked on pushing police and intelligence instead of the army to the forefront, with a considerable support to the local authorities and adopted juridical system considering the Terrorist acts as crimes and treat terrorists as criminals.

The Sri Lankan government core strategy to counterterrorism was based on large-scale military and high intensity security operations which was supported by adopting Preventive and Prohibitive acts and regulations including military check points, high security zones, identity system and sinister tactics and did not pay much attention to the structure and the developments of its fragile police and weak intelligence systems, and it did not take in its consideration the need to a national counterterrorism agency and left that role to the Sri Lankan army.

The British eventually succeeded in dismantling the IRA cells and leaving the IRA with no option but to end the conflict by adopting a political negation, [30] such success could be regarded as a sign of the British intelligence success. On the Sri Lankan side the Sri Lankan army eventually defeated the LTTE in 2009 after many years, however the defeat could not be considered a success to the Sri Lankan military strategy for two reasons, firstly because the length of the period of the conflict and the number of lives lost and the significant negative impact on the Sri Lankan economy and developments, secondly because of the lack of the financial and military support of the LTTE on the last years of the conflict which LTTE used to enjoy during the early stages.


The two case studies have highlighted the need to adopt the following strategies to combat terrorism;

Improving the police and intelligence training, structure and systems, and equipping them with the latest intelligence technology.

The needs for a professional national counterterrorism agency to run counterterrorism operations and to provide the government with the right advice.

The need of Human Intelligence and electronic intelligence is vital, and any small piece of information must be considered and processed to capture high value targets or to penetrate and crack terrorists' cells at its early stages.

Creating National ID cards system.

Creating high security zones to protect high value areas, buildings and assets.

Juridical System considers Terrorism as Crime to prevent terrorists from enjoying the democratic systems adopted by the country.

Avoid large scale military operation to avoid public criticism and sympathises with the terrorists.

This page intentionally left blank