The Provisional Irish Republican Army was one of the main militant republican movements during the period of the Troubles. From the onset of this period, much attention has been paid to the Northern Irish conflict, both from academics as from the media. Less attention has been paid to the public support for the PIRA during the conflict, even though it was essential for its survival (Sluka, 1989, p. 65). The title of Sluka's work (1989) refers to the quote which is often contributed to Mao Tse-tung: the paramilitary group is the fish which need water (= support) to survive. The assumption on which this research started was that public support is essential for paramilitary groups. It's also believed that a better understanding of the support such a group enjoys can contribute to an improved conflict management.
This dissertation as a whole is an attempt to find out how paramilitary groups are supported by the public and by what factors this public support might be influenced. There are two main research questions that drive this research. The first question is rather descriptive: it's about how the public support for the PIRA can be described and seeks to know how it evolved and how it differentiated according to different sections within the community. The second question is formulated in a rather explanatory way, as it seeks to find out what factors might've influenced the public support for the PIRA. The case is defined in three ways: first of all, this study focuses on the Northern Ireland conflict and is limited to the Provisional Irish Republican Army due to pragmatic reasons (e.g. the amount of literature on it available). Secondly, it is limited to the public support coming from the community the PIRA is embedded in. Thirdly, this study's focus is limited from the start of the Troubles until the mid-70s.
This dissertation consists of five parts: the first part is the literature review, in which the reader is provided with a brief historical overview of the conflict and a theoretical framework that both function as the foundations of this research. The historical overview is an attempt to focus on a few key points in the history of the Northern Ireland conflict that are important for the research that follows, but this overview also includes an attempt to gain a better understanding of the conflict and its relationship with the Northern Irish society. The theoretical framework provides a collection of relevant theoretical concepts that will be used in this research. In the second part, the theoretical concepts are applied on the conflict. To the application of the theoretical framework data from expert interviews is added: this data is brought in interaction with the literature. The third part should increase the transparency of this research, as its goal is to provide the reader an insight in the research design. This includes an overview of the sampling process, the data collection and the chosen methods are evaluated. The fourth part includes a discussion of the theoretical framework presented in this research, the value of this research and suggestions will be made for potential follow-up research. These four parts will then result in the conclusion outlining the main results of this research.
1. Historical, political and societal background to the conflict
The Northern Ireland conflict can be approached from many perspectives. It is not the goal to provide an analysis of the whole history and society of Northern Ireland, as this would be irrelevant for this research, but rather to highlight a few aspects of the history, politics and the society. In the first part of this chapter, the origin of the conflict is briefly looked at. In the second part a closer look is given to the Northern Ireland conflict, which is an attempt to understand what happened during the early years of the Troubles. The three parts which follow are an elaboration on this, in which the political actions, the relationship between the IRA and the community, and the role of culture are being highlighted.
1.1. The origin of the conflict
The historical background of the conflict is important for several reasons. First of all, the complexity of the conflict demands an understanding of its roots if one wants to understand the public support. The situation that took place during the period of the Troubles is shaped by the historical Anglo-Irish relationship (Aretxage, 1993, p. 223). Secondly, it might be possible that that this has an influence on the public support: it seems plausible that people were constantly reminded of the historical roots in their daily life by "modern analogies" (Moxon-Browne, 1981, p. 52). This author argues this partially explains the public support for the IRA.
In the literature on the conflict between Great Britain and Ireland on the one hand, and the conflict between the Catholic community and the Protestant community on the other hand, often is referred to the same starting point. This starting point is known as the Norman invasion, which begun in 1169 and is characterized by Anglo-Norman and English settlers arriving in Ireland. More crucial for the Anglo-Irish relationships was the reign of Henry VIII during the 16th century, which led to a military campaign on Irish ground. Holloway (2005, p. 6) remarks that from that point on, because of the argument between Henry VIII and the Pope, suppression of the Catholic faith and military conquest went hand in hand.
In the beginning of the 17th century, the province of Ulster, which had been independent for a long time, was brought under control of Great Britain. Around 1609 the confiscation of Irish land started, which was given to colonists: this is also known as the Plantation. This process can be seen as the core of the clash between the two communities. Darby (1995, pp. 16-17) confirms this by arguing this has been decisive for the (at his time current) conflict in Northern Ireland. He sees the following two centuries as a consolidation of the differences between the two communities, who are hostile towards each other. Holloway (2005, p. 7) states both parties created a hostile image of each other, which was the source for mutual hatred, fear and distrust from that moment on, as they would both represent the other community as their enemy to the following generations.
There was a growing displeasure that Ireland was controlled by London, regardless of the fact it had its own Parliament (Holloway, 2005, p. 9). During the 18th century revolutionary climate, the Society of United Irishmen was formed by Irish Protestants and Catholics. This cooperation is quite remarkable, as the conflict is often portrayed as one between the two religious groups. Holloway (2005, p. 9) states they failed to find a common cause which led to internal sectarian conflict.
Regardless of the rebellion, bit by bit the anti-Catholic measures were revoked during the early 19th century, in which the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 plays an important role. The 19th century is also characterized by an increased call for Home Rule, or the authority to elect an own government. This demand for independence was seen by some as a threat, which is the origin of Ulster unionism (Holloway, 2005, p. 10). This political ideology stands for the belief that Ireland should keep being a part of the United Kingdom. Both movements had their own paramilitary groups: the Irish nationalists found the Irish Volunteers, while the loyalists found the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
When World War I broke out, members of both paramilitary groups were sent to the battleground. When back home, the unhappiness with the situation was still ongoing, and the fight for Home Rule continued. On the 24th of April 1916 an armed rising in Dublin's General Post Office took place, which is now known as the Easter Rising. These rebels, who declared an Irish Republic, were quickly defeated by the British army. Even though the armed rising did not succeed, the execution of the leaders created a wave of sympathy for the cause (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 14). This was followed by the transformation of the Irish Volunteers into the Irish Republic Army (IRA) and a War of Independence, which eventually led to the Government of Ireland Act (1920) that divided Ireland in a southern and a northern part.
1.2. The Northern Ireland conflict
With the creation of Northern Ireland, Holloway (2005, p. 13) remarks many of the nationalists in Northern Ireland felt isolated and vulnerable, as there was a protestant majority. It must be noted that the feelings towards the partition were divided: some saw it as a betrayal to the cause (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, pp. 19-20). This rupture in the nationalist movement led to the Irish Civil War, which was won by the pro-treaty group. The end of this civil war in 1923 did not put a stop to the conflict, but the decades following nothing would equal the success of the 1916 Rising (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 32). These authors argue how the IRA was unable to mobilize popular support.
1.2.1. Civil rights
In their article on the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) in Northern Ireland, Ellison and Martin (2000, pp. 683-684) point out two features that prevent the development of a perceived legitimacy of the Northern Ireland state. They argue that when this movement occurred, first of all the existence of the state depended on discrimination against the Catholic-nationalist minority, and secondly they point out the use of coercion by the government. This leads to different kinds of deprivation, which will be dealt with in the following paragraphs. The literature on the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and the CRM forms an interesting base, as they played an important role during the period this research focuses on and their origin is significant as they highlight the deprivations. Related to these deprivations, the United States Institute of Peace (1999, p. 5) argues that inequalities among groups could be a motivation for political violence when these groups have strong identities and grievances.
Firstly, there are the political and legal deprivations: there was a great underrepresentation of Catholics in the judiciary and public bodies (Aretxaga, 1993, p. 222; Holloway, 2005, pp. 16-21). Terchek (1977, pp. 52-53) notes that not only they were excluded from local council elections (he speaks of about a quarter of those who are qualified to vote in the parliamentary elections), there was also judicial and police discrimination, as these institutions were generally staffed by Protestants, which led to a harsher treatment for the Catholics. Holloway (2005, pp. 17) illustrates this with the example of the Special Powers Act of 1922, which was mainly used against the nationalist population, and notes that in 1969 the police force consisted out of Protestants for 89%. These are just mere examples of how the legislation and the institutions maintained the inequalities that are at the root of these deprivations.
Secondly, there are the economic deprivations, with the most important being the housing and employment. While both Terchek (1977, p. 53) and Holloway (2005, pp. 16-21) agree on the inferior economic position of the Catholics in regards to these aspects, both Hewitt (1981, pp. 362-367) and Gudgin (1999, p. 100) argue that the housing and employment issues were exaggerated. Gudgin (1999, p. 101) adds that they were believed nonetheless. The fact that the general population believed in their existence is important, as it's the perception of deprivation that is important (infra).
The CRM was a mass movement that during the mid-60's, inspired by the civil rights era, was devoted to combatting the problems Northern Ireland faced due to it being a divided society. Purdie (1990, p. 121) argues the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was the most important organization in the movement, compared to various other ones. In their constitution NICRA stressed those rights one would label as basic human rights nowadays.
The impact of the CRM on the Northern Ireland conflict is significant, as it caused a shift which led to an increase in sectarian tensions (Purdie, 1990, p. 156). It should be noted that this was not the intention of the leadership of the movement, as Purdie (1990, p. 156) argues they condemned sectarian violence. This makes sense, as he adds that sectarian violence threatened the civil right to life. There was an implementation of several reforms in response to the issues raised by the CRM, but as Purdie (1990) notes, this was "too little and too late to quench the anger of Catholics" (p. 250). The failure to respond adequately to the demands of the discontent Catholic community aggravated the movement (Aretxage, 1993, p. 222). When on the 5th of October in 1968 a march is organized in Derry, it is met with violence by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) (= the police force in Northern Ireland during that time), which according to Purdie (1990, p. 157) worsened the situation by increasing the feelings of polarization among the Catholics. There was an important turning point in the movement after the events of 1969, where the escalating conflict led to the deployment of British troops in Northern Ireland. When in January 1972 13 protesters died on what is now known as 'Bloody Sunday', the civil rights movement stopped holding mass protests on the street. This was followed with the Provisional IRA becoming the "leaders of opposition on the streets as well as the promoters of urban guerrilla warfare" (Purdie, 1990, p. 247).
Much debated is the relationship of the IRA with the CRM: Bishop and Mallie (1987, pp. 52-59) note that unionist politicians saw it as a front for the IRA. They conclude, in consensus with the mainstream literature on this subject (Purdie, 1990, p. 251; Munck, 1992, p. 226; Ellison & Martin, 2000, p. 685) that this is untrue. According to Purdie (1990, p. 251) the CRM was seen as a possibility of getting closer to the goal of a united Ireland by the republicans. He argues that while the sectarian violence was condemned and NICRA was not controlled by the republicans, they did have influence in regards to encouraging public marches. It was on these marches that the IRA could show their presence, and assert their role of defenders against Protestant violence (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 59). It can be concluded that while the CRM was independent from the republican movement, it helped their cause as the events in the late 60's mobilized numbers of Catholics and renewed the attention for the 'nationalist cause' (Munck, 1992, p. 227). The way the state intervened only confirmed the image of repression (Ellison & Martin, 2000, pp. 691-692). However, as Munck (1992) states, "the civil rights movement can simply not be reduced to an IRA plot" (p. 226).
1.2.2. The Troubles
The literature does not seem to agree on the moment the Troubles began; Hepburn (2007, p. 393) refers to the deployment of British troops in 1969, while Holloway (2005, p. 17) points to NICRA's protest where a clash with the police took place. Regardless of this, it can be seen as period of heavy conflict characterized by an accumulation of different problems, including the deprivations mentioned previously (supra). The deprivations mentioned before were not the only strains experienced by the Catholic community during the period of the Troubles: the presence and actions of the British army, the actions of the RUC and internment could be seen as other factors which worsened the situation.
Firstly, the presence of the British army is ambiguous: in the very beginning, the army was welcomed by the members of the Catholic community, as they were seen as a protector against Protestant mobs, from which the RUC or B-Specials couldn't (or didn't desire to) safeguard them (McEvoy, 2001, p. 207). The relationship between the Catholic community and the British army quickly turned sour due to the methods used towards the former by the latter and due to key events (Holloway, 2005, p. 17; McEvoy, 2001, p. 207). One such method was the use of CS gas (or teargas). The use of CS gas was mainly problematic because of the indiscriminate effect it had. In some instances its primary aim was a small group, but due to this indiscriminate effect it only succeeded in mobilizing the community (Orbons, 2011, pp. 474-475). Orbons (2011, p. 477) argues the use of this CS was quite negative for the relationship between the army and the Catholic community.
Secondly, the actions of the RUC are very interesting in the context of the Troubles: first of all, the activities of the RUC were focused on controlling and supervising the nationalist minority (Smyth, 2002, p. 299). Ruane and Todd (1996, p. 127) argue that even at the start of the CRM many members of the RUC "were defenders of the Protestant community first, defenders of the Protestant state second, and normal policemen third". As it has been discussed before, the RUC was responsible for an increased polarization and alienation of the Catholic community (Purdie, 1990, p. 157; Orbons, 2011, p. 470). Secondly, the RUC used certain interrogation techniques for which they were later reprimanded by the European Court of Human Rights (Walsh, 1982, pp. 37-38). Newberry (2009, p. 104) that these techniques raised a wave of protest, not only because of the harshness, but also because of the fact they were taught to the RUC. She also argues this caused a change in the attitudes towards the security forces.
Thirdly, internment was the detention of suspected terrorists without a trial, legislation which had been used before under the Emergency Legislation, and was reintroduced in 1971 (Holloway, 2005, p. 17; McEvoy, 2001, p. 210). Both McEvoy (2001, p. 211) and Holloway (2005, p. 17) argue that when the British government reintroduced internment, it actually backlashed and generated support for the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) within the Catholic community, as those interned were generally Catholic, which had an alienating effect on the Catholic community in a whole. Lowry (1973, p. 559) argues that the internment policy increased the resistance against the government. Zenker (2010, p. 239) notes there was even a need for an armed campaign felt by some sections of the community because of internment.
Fourthly, the juryless Diplock courts were introduced in 1973 as a reaction to the incapability of the courts (Carlton, 1981, pp. 230-231). These were introduced because the Diplock commission feared that juries were suffering from a sectarian bias and there was the possibility jurors were intimidated (McEvoy, 2001, p. 223; Jacobs, 2010, p. 656). When someone was suspected of having committed an armed robbery or a terrorist act, he or she was brought before a Diplock courts (Rasnic, 1999, p. 246). Aside from the potential harms suffered by the individuals brought before the Diplock courts, Jacobs (2010, p. 662) argues that it negatively influences the perceived legitimacy of the criminal justice system in the eyes of the population in Northern Ireland.
By and large these factors which could have a negative effect on the situation can be divided in two categories: under the first category falls the actions of the army and the RUC, the second category contains the political decisions or repressive legislation.
A key event during the early years of the Troubles was Bloody Friday: on Friday the 21st of July in 1972 a burst of violence took place in Northern Ireland. The IRA planted 36 bombs, of which 22 bombs were detonated in Belfast in the time span of 75 minutes, killing nine people. Bishop and Mallie (1987, pp. 180-181) argue that this was meant to demonstrate the IRA's determination, as they did not want to give the impression they were going to compromise in the ongoing negotiations with the British government. This had several consequences.
First of all, it led to the implementation of Operation Motorman: this was a military operation in which the British army moved into the no-go areas of Derry and Belfast. Bishop and Mallie (1987, pp. 181-182) argue that this was quite a loss for the IRA, as they fled over the border and thus lost control over the area. These authors see the control over a certain area by the republicans as a boost for their public image, which obviously took a hit upon losing control.
Secondly, and more important for this research, Bloody Friday was a tremendous hit to the IRA's public image due to the use of excessive violence (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 193). The several Irish newspapers on the subject (McKenna, n.d.) strongly condemn the violence, a few comparing it to the atrocities in Nazi Germany during World War II. Many articles stated the rhetorical question, how someone could support such violence (or the men behind it), with one article calling it a degradation of the human race. The then first chief of staff of the Provisionals Mac Stiofáin claimed the warnings they had given were deliberately ignored (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 181).
This begs the following question: how could the IRA continue to exist and enjoy public support when their image has suffered such a hit within their community? While avoiding premature conclusions, it should be noted this was followed by an increase of sectarian assassinations by the Protestants, which gave the IRA the opportunity to continue to label themselves as the defenders of the Catholic population (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 186).
1.3. Political and militant actions in the Northern Ireland conflict
When trying to understand the public support for the (militant) republican movement, one must distinguish the different methods of achieving their goal, which is to have a united Ireland. In the Northern Ireland conflict, there are two types of organizations involved: political and militant organizations. Related to this, Hayes and McAllister (2005, p. 606) argue there are two traditions present in Northern Ireland, which resembles these two types of organizations. Firstly, the constitutional tradition wants to achieve political change through a democratic process (involvement in politics and organizing political activities). Secondly, the extra-constitutional tries to achieve this change by the use of force. These obviously have a different method of achieving their goals, but their long term goals may be similar. It's plausible that the actions of one organization may influence the support base of the other, as they share the same goals.
The IRA was the republican paramilitary group in the Northern Ireland conflict whose aim it was to achieve the unification of Ireland. As was discussed before, the group origins from the transformation of the Irish Volunteers. Jackson (2007, p. 283) refers to the January 1919 as the date the organization became known as the IRA. In 1969 there was an IRA split which resulted in the 'Provisional' and the 'Official' IRA. They both had a political wing, being the Provisional and the Official Sinn Féin. Due to the 'Official' IRA's ceasefire in 1972 the term IRA is used for the Provisional IRA. As these things are often not matters of black and white, it could be assumed that both Official and Provisional IRA influenced the support base for the militant republican movement during the early years of the Troubles.
Interesting is the connection between the militant wing (the IRA) and the political wing (Sinn Féin) during the whole conflict. In their article Page and Smith (2000, pp. 99-100) discuss how both organizations have been connected with each other, despite the denial by Sinn Féin. These authors argue how there's cross-memberships between the two organizations, and how Sinn Féin is likely in a subordinate position to the militant wing. Bishop and Mallie (1987, p. 263) argue that Sinn Féin wasn't exactly a powerful organization before the hunger strikes of 1981, which they illustrate with an interview with an IRA member who says that "in the early 1970s Sinn Féin was just a cover-up. The spokespeople were all IRA men acting in a Sinn Féin capacity" (p. 303). This is quite interesting, as the relationship between the two is inevitable important for understand both organizations' actions. If Sinn Féin, the political wing, was subservient to the IRA (Page & Smith, 2000, pp. 90-91) and the political wing could be seen as a cover-up for the militant wing during the early 1970s (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 303), it can be argued that the IRA was aware of the importance of public support and actively tried to influence this.
Page and Smith (2000, pp. 90-93) claim that it was due to the lack of a thorough political understanding that Sinn Féin did not play an important role during the first years of the Troubles. It's important to note that Sinn Féin was not the only political movement: McAllister (2004, p. 126) argues how it was the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) whose support was influenced the militant actions. It seems plausible that other republican political organizations have influenced the support for the IRA. By the early 80's there was a mixed use of violence and political action, which is referred to as 'the armalite and the ballot box'-strategy (Jackson, 2007, p. 284). Before this dualism, the focus on the political movement can be seen as an attempt to "postpone military action to a future stage or to restrict it to a defensive context" (Hannigan, 1985, p. 34).
1.4. The relationship between the PIRA and the Catholic community: PIRA's role as an alternative criminal justice system
If the relationship between the PIRA and the Catholic community were only to be seen in the light of the general conflict, the focus would be too narrow. The PIRA was more than a militant extremist group that executed political violent acts to achieve the unification of Ireland: they were a multifunctional entity embedded in a community.
The PIRA maintained an alternative criminal justice system since the start of the Troubles: they took up the role of a de facto police force by reserving the right to punish the criminals in their own communities (Hayes & McAllister, 2005, p. 602; Silke, 2007, p. 55). This form of paramilitary punishment takes different forms, of which not all are violent (Feenan, 2002, p. 154). Silke (2007, pp. 55-71), who describes this behavior as 'vigilantism', notes that the vigilante activity during the early 1970s was primarily the task of the PIRA's youth wing, the Na Fianna Éireann. On discussing the relationship between Sinn Féin and vigilantism, he illustrates his point that they were closely involved by discussing the impact the creation of the incident centers in 1974 had. These were centers, manned by Sinn Féin members, to which information about inappropriate behavior of the members of the security forces could be report. Regardless, these centers became, what Silke (2007, p. 71) calls 'Provo Police Stations'.
There are many different reasons which can be used to explain the policing role of the PIRA. Firstly, it gave the PIRA the opportunity to test new recruits in a way that didn't entail many risks (e.g. the infiltration of informers), as it indicates how committed the potential member to the Republican cause is (Silke, 2007, p. 61). Secondly, the relationship of the RUC with the Catholic community was fragile, as the RUC lacked legitimacy due to the perception of them as unwilling to operate in nationalist areas (Cavanaugh, 1997, p. 48; Feenan, 2002, p. 160). These authors argue the Catholic community was unwilling to contact the RUC when incidents occurred: the community was alienated from the official criminal justice system and there's a policing vacuum created by the political conflict. Thirdly, there was an actual demand of the community for the PIRA to take up such a role (Feenan, 2002, pp. 156-157; Silke, 2007, p. 77), which makes sense, as they were not willing to rely on the RUC. Fourthly, criminal behavior within the community entailed a certain risk for the success of the PIRA operations (Feenan, 2002, p. 163).
1.5. The conflict and the culture
Rowan (2004, pp. 29-30) remarks that because of the high number of people having suffered in the conflict and this conflict has been going on for a very long time, it can be argued that it has become a part of the Northern Irish culture. It seems plausible that a tradition of violence and sectarianism influences the public support, as it becomes regarded as something which is not abnormal. Tölölyan's (1987, pp. 218-219) analysis of Armenian political violence forms an interesting perspective on this topic. This author believes that its roots of historical grievances and resistance have an influence on the psyche of the Armenians. The argument that something similar has taken place in the Northern Irish society can be easily made, as it has a history of resistance and experiencing deprivations (supra). Steenkamp (2005, pp. 253-254) argues that the values and norms in societies that have experienced violence are affected by this experience. This experience would lead to a greater tolerance of violence and due to the past conflict a culture of violence exists. In the light of this, Gurr (1970, pp. 168-177) describes how widespread discontent, anomie and frequent political violence can cause the expectancy of violence and justification of said violence. He furthermore explains the possibility of past political violence influencing the outlook on future violence. This is definitely important, not only because it seeks to explain how people can be attracted to commit political violence, but it can be argued that such a tradition of violence influences the tolerance of it. To illustrate the acceptance of violence in the Northern Irish culture, Moxon-Browne (1981, p. 62) points to a 1972 survey measuring the attitude of secondary school children (secondary school starts at the age of 12 in Ireland) to violence. The results of the survey showed that among Irish adolescents the violence could be justified due to the circumstances present at those times.
2. Theoretical framework
This chapter attempts to provide a basic understanding of the theoretical concepts that will be used throughout this research. It contains four main sections. In the first section, the political violent aspect of the PIRA is given a closer look and some relevant theoretical insights are mentioned. The second section revolves around how public support is defined in this research. Thirdly, attention is paid to theories on the role of mass communication in a conflict setting. The last section involves a few important sociological insights and elaborates on the concepts of legitimacy, strain and culture.
2.1. Defining the concepts related to political violence
The literature on terrorism is diverse, but there seems to be one mutual aspect articles and books on this subject have: they all start with a debate on how hard it is to define terrorism and/or to use the label 'terrorist'. The literature on the PIRA is not excluded from this phenomenon, and is plagued by the 'terrorist vs. freedom fighter' debate. It makes sense there's no consensus on the use of the label, as Schmid (2004, p. 393) points to its use as a way to de-legitimize and/or criminalize the conduct of a political opponent. Taking into account Weinberg, Pedahzur and Hirsch-Hoefler (2004, p. 782) their academic consensus definition of terrorism, which sees terrorism as "a politically motivated tactic involving the threat or use of force or violence in which the pursuit of publicity plays a significant role" (p. 782), it could be applied to the PIRA. However, in this research the PIRA is not being referred to as a terrorist organization: firstly, there's no desire to de-legitimize PIRA's conduct (or legitimize it, for that matter). Secondly, it seems that the PIRA should not be simply reduced to a terrorist organization in this research, as this would deny their multi-functionality (e.g. PIRA serving as an alternative criminal justice system). Thirdly, terrorism can be seen as only a method or tactic (Saucier, Akers, Shen-Miller, KneÅ¾eviÄ‡, & Stankov, 2009, p. 256). O'Brien (1983, pp. 93-94) argues that political violence within a democratic society, such as according to him the PIRA commits, should always be identified as terrorism. Crenshaw (1983, pp. 1-2) notes that O'Brien uses a normative definition, whereby he claims that the concept 'terrorism' should always be used when unjustified political violence is committed against a democratic regime. As the labeling of a group has to do with legitimation, it was chosen not to delegitimize the interests of the PIRA, just as it was a conscious choice not to delegitimize the interests of the British regime. If Crenshaw's (1983, pp. 3-4) argument, of terrorism combatting injustice being more justifiable, is applied, one should ask himself or herself if the actions by the PIRA as a reaction to the grievances experienced by the community is not justifiable (Crenshaw, 1983, p. 31)? It seems one shoots himself or herself in the foot using the label terrorism when trying to combat it, as the reduction of such a group to a 'terrorist organization' seems to entail a denial of certain dimensions of the conflict. Regardless of this decision, it is important to focus on the literature around terrorism as a better understanding of terrorism may generate a better understanding of the public support for the PIRA.
When looking at the literature on terrorism, one quickly becomes aware of the different sub concepts that are available for labeling groups who commit such acts, as they can refer to different structural elements or can refer to the modus operandi. Hoffman (2006, pp. 35-37) makes the distinction between terrorism on the one hand, and guerrilla warfare and insurgence on the other hand. He states that guerrilla warfare refers to the use of military methods by a numerically large group, which has control over a certain territory. Insurgents are similar to the guerillas, but the insurgent also makes use of informational and psychological warfare. This last concept seems to be the best applicable on the PIRA: it controlled the territories of the so-called no-go areas Derry and Belfast prior to operation Motorman (supra), there's a strong relationship between Sinn Féin and PIRA, ... Hoffman (2006, p. 35) recognizes a considerable overlap between all these concepts however, and with this in mind, it should be noted there's no right answer to the question what label to use. In multiple articles (Coulter & Mullin, 2012, p. 100; Feenan, 2002, p. 152) the PIRA is referred to as a 'paramilitary group': this concept refers also to an organization which has a military-like structure, but cannot be seen as the official institution in charge of defending the country. Initially, the term 'paramilitary group' was chosen, because it seems to have a less negative connotation.
When the PIRA's militant conduct is being emphasized, it's necessary to use the right sub concept, as understanding their ideology and motivation seems necessary for understanding the public support for the organization. The PIRA is seen as a nationalist or separatist movement (Crenshaw, 2011, p. 40). This is important, as the modus operandi differs fundamentally from other groups: Hoffman (2006, pp. 230-243) argues that while nationalist/separatist groups like the PIRA frequently have been just as destructive (or more destructive), they direct their action mainly towards a specifically defined set of targets, unlike terrorists who are motivated by a religious ideology. He discusses how these groups, while rarely actually realizing their goals of self-determination or nationhood, have better chance of survival as these have typically lasted the longest and have been the most successful in the history of modern terrorism. A few factors can be distinguished in his explanation these groups' endurance: firstly, they're able to draw support from the fellow members of their nationalist group. Secondly, due to their endurance, they're able to appeal to the community's collective revolutionary tradition or predisposition to rebellion (which ensures them both new recruits and supporters). His last hypothesis is that their endurance can be explained by their goals: groups as the IRA have concrete and comprehensible goals, which can be very persuasive.
2.2. Public support
In the literature on political violence there are a lot of explanations on why someone would join such an organization (e.g. Eidelson & Eidelson, 2003; Victoroff, 2005). The main question behind this research, however, is how such organizations are supported by the community in which they are embedded. A relevant theory in regards to the public support for paramilitary groups is the so-called 'hearts and minds'-theory. Leites and Wolf (1970, p. 6) argue that in this theory popular support is actually seen as an activator of rebellion. These authors disagree with the notion that popular support is necessary to get the rebellion started and suggest an alternative system for understanding public support. What's interesting about their alternative system is that they argue that the behavior of the population depends on an interaction between supply and demand factors, whereas according to them the 'hearts and minds'-theory only focuses on the demand factors (Leites & Wolf, 1970, p. 28). In this context, demand means that the environment causes rebellion to surface and grow, whereas supply means that the costs of the rebellion have an influence on its survival. Leites and Wolf (1970, p. 28) note that their alternative system is based on an underlying assumption: humans behave in a rational manner and will make rational choices. This seems to underestimate somewhat the instrumentality of emotions: Petersen (2002, p. 23) argues with his model that emotions are of importance in explaining actions.
Davis, Larson, Haldeman, Oguz and Rana (2012, p. 12) distinguish two kinds of support such organizations can receive from external sources. Public support consists of two types of support according to them; active support and passive support. In this study, the scope is focused on both active as passive support. While it was initially limited to the support from people who were not a member of the PIRA, this has proven to be too hard to make an actual distinction in. Assuming there is support for such organizations within the community they operate in, why is that so when people within the community have to endure the reactions to the organization's actions? Support is not something static however, there's a great variation at both the level of the community and the individual: Petersen (2001, p. 8) argues that rebellion is a process in which different individuals take on different roles. Petersen (2001, p. 296) developed a mechanism-based approach where certain causal patterns explain three roles of the individual who is supportive of rebellion: firstly, one can oppose the regime in an unorganized and unarmed way. Secondly, one can support or participate in an armed movement. Thirdly, one can help in allowing the organization to survive. This would lead to the conclusion that when one speaks about public support, the concept of public support needs to be thought of as a continuum on which the individual can move. What makes this interesting are the changes in the role an individual takes: what influences these shifts? Building further on the work of Davis et al. (2012, p. 13), public support is composed out of the following elements: manpower, funding, materiel, intelligence, providing sanctuary and tolerance of activities. These last three elements (intelligence, sanctuary and tolerance of activities) are also the ones used to define passive support. Both active and passive support are taken into account, as there's likely a thin line between the two in the operationalization.
2.3. Mass communication and social ties
The reporting by the media during the conflict is important, as it has different functions. Firstly, the media can be used as a tool for propaganda by both the government and terrorist groups (Tan, 1988, pp. 3-5). This author argues how newspapers aren't necessarily supportive of political violence, but regardless can be an asset for groups who commit such acts. Secondly, communication during the conflict can also influence the acceptance of the use of political violence. Gurr (1970, pp. 223-229) notes that the representations of political violence during communication can influence the acceptance of political violence positively. The media plays an important role here, as it can contribute to a situation where people are continuously reminded of the conflict. Thirdly, it can lead to a reinforcement of beliefs. Vincent (1997, p. 517) argues how two Belfast newspapers reflect the biases that live in the communities of their readers, and thus might lead to the reinforcement of existing stereotypes.
The mass communication in the Northern Ireland society in regards to the conflict should not only be understood as newspapers and other forms of media; there has been a lot symbolism present in the Northern Ireland society. An example of this would be the mural wall paintings, representing the different sides in the conflict. Rolston (2012, p. 450) and Sluka (1996, p. 382) see these as methods for mobilizing local support and acknowledge the prevalent stereotypes. The role of these has been debated much in the literature, and because republican murals have only emerged since the hunger strikes of 1981 (McAtackney, 2011, p. 87; Sluka, 1996, pp. 383-384) an elaboration on their significance does not seem needed for now.
It would be wrong to assume that only the media can affect the public support, as persuasive communications can take place via a variety of channels (Davis, et al., 2012, p. xxxii). These authors mention personal networks as a potential influence. These personal networks are understood in a broad manner, and are interpreted as 'social ties': this includes kinship, but also the way people identify with group members. These social ties might affect the public support, as the literature on social identity argues that the components of social identity are learned through various interpersonal interactions (Schwartz, Dunkel & Waterman, 2008, p. 542). On discussing the environmental sources of terrorist belief systems, Crenshaw (2011, p. 94) confirms there's an important influence of social learning. She argues narratives can play a role here, as they connect the past with the future. These are especially important in communities striving for autonomy or independence. Shared narratives may lead to an evaluation of own and other's actions (Sant Cassia, 1999, p. 22), which means that they may influence how the conflict is interpreted.
Concluding, one can distinguish two kinds of communication that are influential for the public support: mass communication (e.g. the media) and social ties.
2.4. Sociological theories: legitimacy, strain and culture
Both the legitimacy perspective and the strain theory are used as the foundations for the theoretical framework. The importance of culture (and macro-level variables) is also mentioned when discussing the strain theory. Initially, it seemed to be a good idea to also add the social movement theory, as this would certainly be valuable for understanding the conflict, but this would broaden the perspective too much.
2.4.1. Legitimacy perspective
Traditionally, legitimacy has been a very important concept in the literature on dealing with terrorist organizations, as the decision to use (or refrain from the usage of) the label terrorism is seen as the (de-)legitimizing of an organization's conduct (Schmid, 2004, p. 393). Toros (2009, pp. 407-408) argues that legitimacy is often being perceived as an obstacle in dealing with such organizations by both terrorism scholars and politicians, as governments don't want to give them recognition (and allow them to potentially gain support). Suchman (1995) has synthesized the literature on the legitimacy, and adopts the following broad definition of legitimacy: "Legitimacy is a generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions" (p. 574). The concept of legitimacy can be approached from many angles, especially in the context of terrorist organizations. The emphasis here lies on the impact that the legitimacy has on the support for an organization.
When discussing legitimacy in the context of political violence, it is important to go back to the sociological roots of this concept. Weber (in Kalberg, 2007, pp. 191-192) described the belief in legitimacy as an important factor that influences the basis of solidarity in a system. This means that the acceptance of the domination of or the obedience to a certain system, will normally only be guaranteed when the organization or system is perceived as legitimate. He adds that these systems explicitly claim legitimacy, and thus try to establish and develop the belief in it. A thorough analysis of Weber's concept of legitimacy is made by Bensman (1979, pp. 42-43): he distinguishes five meanings of legitimacy present in Weber's work. Legitimacy can take the form of a claim to power, a justification of a regime, a promise of a regime, a self-justification and a belief in the claims, promises and justifications. He adds that while the first three meanings refer to how legitimacy is communicated to outsiders, self-justification is about how it's referred to the self and the belief in legitimacy about how it's perceived in the population the organization communicates to. All these meanings seem to be interconnected with each other, but in this research there'll be an emphasis on legitimacy as a belief. Bensman (1979, p. 37) also raises an important aspect in regards to doing research on legitimacy: it's empirically impossible to separate the different layers in the community whose causes for believing in the legitimacy (or illegitimacy) of an organization may differ, as there are the 'real believers', the ones whose support is a result of the gratification of their instrumental needs, â€¦ He claims this is especially true in coercive environments.
It is important, to not only look at the perceived legitimacy of the political violent organization, but also take the perceived legitimacy of the government responses to the violence of the organization into account (LaFree & Dugan, 2009, pp. 8-10). In the past, researchers have argued that the perceived legitimacy of the law and the legal institutions correlates positively with the obedience to the law and these institutions (cfr. theory of procedural justice) (Jaspaert, Matkoski, & Vervaeke, 2010, p. 12; Tyler, 2000, p. 120). Applying Weber's premise on political violence, in combination with the conclusions of the research on procedural justice, one can distinguish two perspectives on the influence of the perceived illegitimacy of a regime: (a) the absence of legitimacy as a protective factor or (b) an incentive to disobey the law. From this last perspective the perceived illegitimacy of a regime might influence the perceived legitimacy of, and thus the public support for, a political violent organization.
One should not stop at making the distinction between the two kinds of perceived legitimacy (of the government's actions and the political violent organization) that might play a role in influencing the support for the organization, but one must also make a distinction in the potential outcomes. Similarly to LaFree and Dugan (2009, p. 10), who conclude that from a legitimacy perspective the government responses could arouse participation, support or people turning a blind eye towards the activities, in this research the distinction is made between active support (operational and financial support) and passive support (tolerance towards the organization's actions). Suchman (1995) illustrates the importance of this distinction with the following quote "To avoid questioning, an organization need only make sense. To mobilize affirmative commitments, however, it must also have value" (p. 575).
2.4.2. Strain theory and influence of culture
When discussing the strain theory, it's essential to at least mention the concept of anomie as it was introduced by Merton (1938, p. 674). This concept was not entirely new, as Durkheim (1897) used it before him, but Merton (1938) gave a different meaning to this concept. Whereas Durkheim (1897, pp. 104-106) saw it as a state of normlessness in which a society can find itself, in which a limited amount of delinquency is not necessarily bad, Merton (1938, pp. 674-676) described it as a state of discontent caused by the inability to achieve certain goals. He argues that when a society emphasizes the importance of goals, yet doesn't offer equal access to the means to achieve these goals, a state of anomie ensues. He describes five ways to deal with this state of anomie: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. It can be argued that the public support for ethno-political paramilitary groups such as the IRA can be explained through several motivations: both innovation (achieving the culture's goals through other means than the institutionalized ones) and rebellion (rejecting both the culture's goals as the institutionalized means) can be seen as a ground for support. There might've been people who simply supported the IRA because they wanted to end the (perceived?) discrimination, as there might've been people who supported the IRA because they rejected the culture's goals as well as the institutionalized means. It is however not the goal to explain the public support through Merton's theory on anomie, as it received the justified criticism it doesn't explain the mechanisms of how anomie influences the individual's behavior well enough (Op de Beeck, 2012, p. 51).
A few very important contributions to the literature on strain were made by Agnew (1985, 1992). His general strain theory (GST) (1992, p. 48) is a social-psychological theory where the focus lies on the individual and his or her immediate environment. Agnew (1992, p. 72) adds that the macro level is sometimes explored too, but the structural role of society in explaining delinquency is being reduced in his GST, while it was of importance in the classic anomie theories (Op de Beeck, 2012, pp. 60-61). According to the GST, delinquency is influenced by the presence of certain strains, and tries to explain it as a result of the negative emotional states caused by the individual's negative relationships (Agnew, 1992, p. 48-49). These emotional states, triggered by negative relationships (= relationships in which the individual is treated unfavorably), create a pressure for corrective action that may lead to delinquency. Agnew (2010, pp. 136-137) elaborates on this and adds that these strains appear when individuals endure a negative treatment by others, lose something valued and/or find themselves in a position where they are unable to achieve their goals. Agnew (1992, p. 59) notes that these sources of strain may overlap in practice and that these can lead to a range of negative emotions. He argues anger is the most critical emotion when it comes to explaining delinquency, as it 'creates a desire for retaliation/revenge, energizes the individual for action, and lowers inhibitions, in part because individuals believe that others will feel their aggression is justified' (p. 60). When strain is repetitive or chronic, it creates a predisposition for delinquency.
Agnew (2010, p. 136) offers the general strain theory as a partial explanation for terrorism. Terrorism would be the result of collective strains: these are strains among the members of an identifiable group. He identifies a few mechanisms through which these collective strains can have an impact on the likelihood of terrorism.
First of all, just as in his work on the GST (1992), Agnew (2010, p. 140) sticks to the mechanism where delinquency is influenced by different negative emotional states, as these create a certain pressure for corrective action. He illustrates this point by saying that revenge is a leading motive for terrorist acts. Secondly, he adds that collective strains also have a negative impact on the ability to use legal coping strategies, as it's not likely these coping strategies will be effective due to the little allurement for the source of strain to respond to the requests of those who endure the collective strains. Those who endure the collective strains are often not involved in the political system, and there's a significant discrepancy of power which affects the effectiveness of the coping options negatively. Thirdly, there's also a negative impact of these collective strains on the social control, as the emotional ties of those enduring the strains and the source of these strains are weakened. He adds that the likelihood of the former sanctioning the terrorist is reduced, as the strains contribute positively to the tolerance, sympathy and support for terrorism. Fourthly, collective strains influence beliefs favorable to terrorism positively: terrorism is excused, justified, or even seen as required, and neutralization techniques are used by those in the strained collectivity. Fifthly, he points to the tendency of these collective ties to amplify the collective identity of those enduring the strains, which may lead to the perception of terrorism as a collective solution to the strains experienced by the strained group. His last mechanism is the function of the terrorist organization as comfort against the endured strains.
These collective strains are however not determining and thus do not guarantee terrorism. It can also be argued that the focus should be on the subjective perception of the strains by the collectivity, rather than objective strains, an assumption that is reinforced by Agnew (2010, p. 138). He gives a few characteristics of strains that are prone to contribute to terrorism: firstly, there's a high degree of harm suffered because of the strains, and the strains are widespread and know a long duration. There's also the expectation the strains will continue in the future. Secondly, they are seen as unjust acts, by which social norms are voluntarily and intentionally violated. These strains must be seen as undeserved. Thirdly, the foundation of these strains lies in the weak relationship the collectivity has with 'others' who are more powerful, and commonly belong to a different group in some social dimension.
In line with the foundations laid by Agnew (1992, 2010, pp. 136-139), Gurr and Moore (1997, p. 1081) describe these collective strains as grievances, which are defined by them as "widely shared dissatisfaction among group members about their cultural, political and/or economic standing vis à vis dominant groups" (p. 1081). Gurr and Moore's (1997, p. 1081) definition seems to be a valuable addition to this debate, as it elaborates on the ontology of these collective strains, by making a distinction between the potential explanatory factors for the dissatisfaction. However, as Agnew (2010, p. 138) notes, it is the perception of strain which is important, so specific situations will only be considered as an indicator for these collective strains, and not as a causal factor. It is worth noting that making statements about hard casual relations is not the ambition of this research.
Agnew (1992, p. 48) emphasizes the variables at social-psychological level, as he focusses on the individual and his or her immediate social environment, but does not completely exclude the variables which are situated at the macro-level. He argues that the larger social environment may affect the probability of delinquent behavior in a variety of ways, e.g. by making it difficult to cope with the strains in a legal way. Agnew (2010, p. 134) does take the macro-level into account, as he briefly mentions the weak link between terrorism and deprivation at the macro-level, but he certainly does not emphasize it. As the structural role of society might be of importance, attention should be paid to the possibility of institutional anomie as an influential factor. Messner & Rosenfeld (2001, p. 76-77) argue the culture and social structure of a society may play an important role in influencing the probability of delinquency. While their analysis is limited to the American culture on one hand and the influence of material success goals on the other hand, this serves as a nice illustration of the importance of culture and social structure.
More applicable to this research are the findings of Mullins and Young (2012, pp. 46-47): their results indicate a relationship between the culture and acts of terror. These authors argue that cultures in which violence is seen as legitimate (because e.g. they have recently experienced a war), are more likely to experience terrorism, as there is a 'legitimation-habituation' effect. They also find a relationship between the probability of political violence occurring and sociopolitical factors, being the presence of a stable economy and a strong, centralized government. They assume that this leads resistant political actors to use political violent methods because they're facing a strong government.
3. Public support for the Provisional IRA
This chapter contains two main sections. In the first section the reader is provided with an overview of the extent to which the PIRA enjoyed public support. This mainly attempts to answer the first research question, which broadly speaking means that it tries to describe the support. An answer is provided to the question how it evolved over time and how it differentiated according to the different sections within the community. The second section has a more explanatory nature: it deals with the different factors that may potentially explain the public support for the PIRA. This deals with the second research question, which means that it tries to explain the public support for the PIRA.
3.1. The level of public support for the PIRA
It seems to be almost inevitable that an organization that has been able to survive for such a long time enjoys a minimum support from the community it is embedded in. Sluka (1989, p. 65) argues in his work, which is an ethnography that focuses on the public support for the IRA and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1981, that the IRA and INLA are in a battle for legitimacy (and support from the community) with both the Catholic hierarchy and the governmental actors. This does not necessarily mean that the PIRA felt bound by the opinion of the Catholic community: historically this was not the case (Bishop & Mallie, 1987, p. 20).
In discussing the extent to which the PIRA enjoyed public support during the early years of the Troubles, there seems to be a consensus among most respondents that it did enjoy a significant amount of support. A few of them support this claim by arguing that the fact they were able to survive as long as they did, even when confronted with a very powerful opponent, was only possible due to the level of public support they enjoyed. This is similar to Sluka's (1989, p. 65) argument, who claims that for movements like the PIRA public support is vital, as otherwise it would not survive due to the hostility towards them. One respondent does argue that right at the start of their formation in 1969, their support base was still small due to the on-going feud between them and the Official IRA. Another respondent argues that while not many people would've actively supported the PIRA, there would've certainly been a significant level of passive support among the members of their community. Some respondents argue this level of passive support is mainly due to the lack of legitimacy the Northern Irish and/or British state enjoy, which will be discussed later when attempting to explain the public support.
In dealing with public support for the PIRA one would have to stress the dynamic nature of support: this means that, depending on other factors, the public support may know highs and lows (Moxon-Browne, 1981, p. 50; Sluka, 1989, p. 66). Seven out of ten respondents also discussed the nature of the support; they all agree on public support not being a static factor, but rather as something fluid, something which fluctuates. Hayes and McAllister (2005, p. 606) mention the importance of particular circumstances on the support. Moxon-Browne (1981, p. 50) mentions the influence of the way British rule is perceived on the support for the PIRA: at times British rule is perceived as more unjust, the IRA can expect a greater amount of public support. Similar to Moxon-Browne's (1981, p. 50) hypothesis, O'Brien (1983, p. 101) argues there's a positive relationship between the rage caused by PIRA's hostile activities and the need felt by the Catholic ghettos for the PIRA as its defender against a possible attack. On discussing the ups and downs of the public support, Anthony McIntyre notes that "between 1973-1981, while there was support, it was neither significant nor substantial. It looked more as if the IRA were in revolt and not the nationalist / working-class community". The main reason given for the fluid nature of the public support is the role of certain incidents; it's argued it's very event-driven. These key events are seen as influential for both the ups and downs in the public support.
Just like the public support is generally not seen as something static by the respondents, it's not seen to be evenly spread according to the different sections of the Catholic community either. Nine out of ten respondents were asked how they would differentiate according to the different sections of the community and a few types of differentiation can be drawn out of their answers. Firstly, all of them agreed to some extent that the support mainly stemmed from the working class sections of the community, which is in consensus with Sluka's (1989, p. 64) work on public support. Some argue that this is because the class dynamic is connected to the experience of the conflict: Catholics from the working class sections were much more likely to encounter the army and directly experience the violence. People in the working class are also much more affected by the economic strains experienced by the Catholic community, which will be discussed later on. One respondent argues that another explanation for the difference according to class could be explained by the lesser investment in society made by the working class, or rather, less possibilities to invest given by society. This class dynamic is not seen as determining, as some argued that there would've been middle class people supporting the IRA, but that there's a significant difference in the number of people. A second way of differentiating would be the way it's spread on geographical terms (Sluka, 1989, p. 63). In a sense this is related to the differentiation according to class; some respondents argue that the people from the middle class community often not resided within the geographical areas that endured the conflict the most. Stephen Ryan captures the sentiment around differentiation in the following quote: "If you were a Catholic living in County Down, no violence around you, good relations between Protestants and Catholics, you didn't have the police kicking in your doors, all those things, you were less likely to support the IRA". A third way of differentiating would be according to political ideas: a few respondents argue that while the people who might not have actively supported the armed campaign, but rather the constitutional nationalism, would also have been unwilling to report incidents to the state.
While it was initially not included in the topic list as a separate topic, during the interviews some respondents made remarks concerning the agency of the members of the community. The opinions on this topic are a bit divided: there's a respondent who argues that the agency of the individual is very important, as the individual choices should not be overlooked. Others say that the culture and group dynami