seamus kerr

In 1983 Kerr won a seat on Omagh District Council--the first time in fifty years Sinn Fein had contested council elections in the North. Kerr is one of the new guard in Sinn Fein. His election--coming after the hunger strikes of '80 and '81--was considered a milestone and deepened public support for Sinn Fein.

q: Were you aware of civil rights?
kerr: As a very young person, during those years, I would have been conscious, as all Northern nationalists were, of the sense of injustice and the fact that the community to which I belonged [was] obviously discriminated against. We were dislocated within our own country.

q: What kind of discrimination were you aware of?
a: The historic and well-documented case of housing or issues of housing. General issues of injustice.

q: When you were growing up were you aware of the IRA?
a: Well, coming from the area which I did, in that part of mid Tyrone in which I lived, where there was obviously a level of IRA ... could not have been unaware of it.

q: And how did you regard the IRA when you were growing up, what sort of people were they?
a: I suppose like any young person there was a degree of mysticism, you know. It was a secretive organization and no one knew exactly who the members of the IRA were. But I would have understood from a very early age the thinking and the mentality that made people members of the IRA and what gave them the determination to carry on.

q: How did the community regard the IRA?
a: Well, I mean ... sections of the community would have been overt in their support. Some sections of the community would have been tacit in their support and some sections of the community might have opposed the existence. ...

q: Was Tyrone and IRA volunteers in Tyrone different from say, Belfast and Derry ... other areas in the north?
a: Historically, it's been the cockpit of Irish resistance to British rule for hundreds of years. I mean, right down through the centuries, Tyrone has featured prominently in all such manifestations of resistance. I suppose this campaign's not any different. Or the campaign that has existed for the last 26, 27 years. Tyrone has always had a pride in itself, it has always recognized and indeed those people from Tyrone have recognized that if they take on the mantle or the role then they do very much so, not just as Irishmen, but bearing the standard of Tyrone.

q: Why did you decide to get involved?
a: Oh I suppose, from a very early age, I would have had a very basic sense of patriotism. I would have recognized that the island of Ireland was one unit. I remember my first experience of that sensation. I remember a book of folklore, actually, called the Land I Love, published by Brian Nolan. I remember reading that book at a very early age, I wouldn't have been much older than four or five years of age. And I remember the sense of pride that the title of that book. So I suppose, it wasn't difficult to understand why later in life I would have chosen the political affiliation that I did.

q: Why did you choose that particular affiliation?
a: Well, what was the alternative?

q: The SDLP.
a: In the middle and late 1970s, the SDLP was not particularly effective in the national question. The only people who were still talking about the issues which had given rise and which had been talked about, the general issues, that were the source of much grievance ten years earlier, with the advent of the civil rights movement, the only people who were still talking the same language were the Republican movement.

q: But you could always have joined the SDLP?
a: At that particular time, that is the middle of late 1970s, the SDLP were particularly ineffective on the issue of the national question. The only people who were still talking the language and talking the issues that had given rise to the civil rights campaign at the first place, were the Republican movement.

q: How well equipped was the IRA at that period?
a: Well, I think the records suggest that during those years the IRA were made to improvise because of the absence of what could be regarded as standard or commercially available armaments. I think the record indicates that.

q: What did that improvisation entail?
a: Well, obviously there was quite a dependence on homemade explosives. There were homemade incendiary devices. And that kind of general improvisation, which allowed the IRA on the ground to make an impact and draw attention to the issues which they wish to draw attention to. And, as I said, it wasn't dependent upon what could be regarded as commercially available armaments.

q: Why was it difficult to obtain commercially available armaments at that time?
a: I can only speculate. But obviously it was an issue of resource over terms of financial and there had obviously to be international involvement and I think ... traditionally over the years, it's well known and documented that the IRA were dependent on friends in America and elsewhere. They were obviously logistically ... procuring the kind of thing that was required.

q: Why was the IRA re-organized at that period? Why was it deemed to be necessary do you think?
a: Well, like every other part of IRA strategy during those years I would have thought it was because of the fact that they were now fighting a different war, there was the settling down for the long war. I mean, in the early 1970s Republicans perhaps naively expected that a couple or three or five years would do. But after the breakdown of the cease-fire ... bilateral truce, in 1975, there was a realization, a cold realization, that whether we liked it or not, Republicans had two choices--either give up for the time being or settle down to the long war.

q: How did people on the ground react to the prospect of the long war, the prospect of carrying on fighting, killing and dying for another 10, 20, 30 years?
a: I suppose it reflects the political pedigree of the person on the ground. There are those, as I said earlier, who like or can tolerate the concept of the long war and there are those who can't. And there are those who would see it pragmatically and perhaps shortening the time context in which that would happen.

q: Why did the concept of the long war arise?
a: I would not have been party to the discussions because that's obviously something that was going on before I came in contact with the Republican movement. But it was based, obviously, on the realization that the goodwill that had existed during the bilateral truce of 1975, the British were not prepared to reciprocate.

q: What was the impact of the bilateral truce, the cease-fire in 1975? What was its legacy for the movement?
a: The legacy as I would have experienced it in later years would have been one of fundamental mistrust of the British and their word. There would have also been the realization of the practical and logistical difficulties that such a repeat of such a cessation would cause. It's well known that post the 1975 cessation, as a result of the bilateral truce, the British were much more out of their depth at doing or operating within nationalist areas. And that the kind of territorial control that Republicans had prior to that might have been forfeited as a result of that, was something that, well pretty indelibly marked in the minds of Republicans.

q: After the 1975 bilateral truce, the IRA declared that it would never declare such a truce or cease-fire again without the British declaring its intention to withdraw from Ireland. How significant was that statement?
a: Well, again, from a historical perspective, obviously, that was very important to the psyche of Republicanism, because that was a clear commitment by the leadership at that point in time that they would not be fooled again.

q: In what sense?
a: Obviously, the trust hadn't been reciprocated, the willingness to make peace hadn't been reciprocated. The British wanted to make war and that was a declaration where the leadership of the Republican movement, at that point in time, could also make war.

q: And the leadership said that it would never declare a cease-fire again unless there was a declaration of intent to withdraw by a British government.
a: Yes.

q: What was the significance of that only condition on which another cease-fire would be declared?
a: Obviously, that was what the leadership believed at that point in time. Would be the only circumstances in which they could declare any further cessation.

q: What was your involvement in the prison protests?
a: Like many other nationalists, and indeed all Republicans with the declaration of hunger strike to the death by the prisoners, a selected number of prisoners in late 1980, I became actively involved. I would have been involved in relatives action committee protests, from 1978 onwards. And other issues which sought to draw attention to the existence of the intolerable conditions of the prisons. And with the escalation of the prison protest in the form of hunger strike to the death, no more than a lot of other people I would have regarded it as an incumbent duty on me to throw myself into that protest. And it was support for that protest and into doing what I could do to accelerate the granting of the demands to the prisoners.

q: What was the impact of Roy Mason's strategy on Republicans?
a: At a political level, it consolidated the thinking of Republicanism, it catalyzed the realization that nothing short of a concerted and extended effort was going to achieve the objective. Indeed, in a sociological context, Roy Mason's attitude and the attitude of the British government as exemplified by him, probably created the conditions in the nationalist mindset whereby what went in, people understood why there was an armed struggle.

q: Roy Mason said that he was going to roll out the IRA like a tube of toothpaste. What was the impact of that kind of assertion on Republicans?
a: I suppose Republicans regarded all sorts of announcements, before then and since, as silly.

q: Did Roy Mason almost bring the IRA to the brink of defeat?
a: I don't think the record indicates that.

q: But certainly the IRA was finding it very difficult, given the number of its volunteers who were being arrested, interrogated and sent to jail?
a: Yes, but I mean the nature of any such struggle or any such campaign is that there will be periods during which things go against an organization. And that is precisely what ... happened during those years. But the measure of the strength and depth of the organization is its capacity to return from such adverse conditions and to come back stronger and better than before.

q: How is it able to do that when it's being hit so hard?
a: It's the nature of the psychology of Irish Republicanism. When everything's going fine it is less dependent on a lesser number of people. I think history indicates that when the British put the boot into any aspect of our political representation, whether it be Republicanism or broader nationalism or whatever, ranks close. People will become involved.

q: What impact did the hunger strike have on Tyrone?
a: My recollections of the first hunger strike are those of people from ... parts of the spectrum of nationalism united in an understanding of the prison protest. And the reasons which they ... no one in nationalist Tyrone believed that any of the political prisoners were anything other than political prisoners. A vain attempt by any British government to criminalize people who were known and respected in their own communities even by people who may not have agreed with them politically, that broad spectrum understanding and affinity with those prisoners, had a very indicting influence on the Tyrone nationalists or Irish nationalism within Tyrone, during the first hunger strike. And that was reflected not just in the attendance at protests in support of the prisoners. But also in the category in the quality and the, shall we say, broad spectrum of people who became involved organizationally in the broad based H blocks, Armagh campaign of that year.

q: What was the impact of the death of Martin Herson ?
a: It had a galvanizing effect on an awful lot of people. The Herson family were well known and well respected in Tyrone, ... and Martin Herson was a young man who'd given his life in a highly publicized prison protest. And the influence that brought to bear on the mind set of an awful lot of people, who might otherwise have been a little more ... was incredible

q: There's a photograph of six young men around Martin Herson's memorial. What is the significance of the photograph?
a: I presume the photograph you refer to is one where five of those young men have since died. Those young men, each and every one of them were typical of the community from which they came. They shared the sense of injustice. They decided and resolved to do something about it. They were decent, honest, respectable members of their own community. They were known and loved by their own community. And in their way they showed their love for their community and their country, and they paid the ultimate price.

q: Did you know them?
a: Some of them I would have known personally.

q: Five of the six young men on the photograph were shot dead by the SAS. One of them was Martin Mc--. Did you know Martin Mc--?
a: Yes I knew Martin.

q: What sort of person was he?
a: Martin ... was a Sinn Fein councilor. Martin M. was a young man, full of life. Very vivacious. He was a very skilled worker. He was extremely dedicated to his political ideas.

q: He was also an active member of the IRA which is why he was shot dead.
a: As it transpired.

q: Did you know he was also a member of the IRA? As well as being a Sinn Fein councilor?
a: Obviously I knew, like everyone else, after he was killed and the IRA accepted that he was one of their members.

q: Did you work in Bobby Sands's campaign?
a: I did.

q: And how did you see that at the time? What was its significance?
a: Well I suppose like the popularization of the prison protest and the strategy which through the relatives action committees and the H block Armagh committees, which was to bring the entire issue to the forefront of the minds of decision makers, not just at home but abroad. To seek to draw international attention to the prison protest which was the microcosm of a greater, much greater political conflict that existed here. With which the British in 1976 had sought to diminish. And in that context, like all other Republicans, I would have recognized that the election offered us the opportunity to bring the kind of international attention to the plight of the leading hunger striker.

q: Did you support Bobby Sands's candidature?
a: I did. I was confident, actually, based on the statistically analysis of the constituency, that if we could create the right electoral conditions that we could in fact win the election.

q: How did you feel when Bobby Sands won?
a: To say that I was elated would be an understatement. The joy and the sense of achievement that we all shared in the aftermath, in the immediate aftermath of the election, was very soon chastened by the realization that the election wasn't going to make any difference, that once more the British government had chosen to ignore the democratic process when the result didn't suit them.

q: What did the hunger strike do to the direction of the Republican movement?
a: It would be wrong to say that it changed it. I suppose on a practical, indeed, at a local level, it demonstrated to us all our own ability, the ability of the grass roots membership of the organization to be an effective political force. In the electoral context ... that's what the Bobby Sands election did. The hunger strike campaign generally proved our ability to influence the people in the community in which we lived.

q: Did that take people by surprise?
a: I'm sure there are those who subscribed to the propagandist view of Republicanism. The stereotypical image that was promoted by British and by Britain and its agents, which was that Republicans were godfathers and, whoever wasn't godfathers were gangsters. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

q: What was the military impact of the hunger strike on the movement?
a: Many people were inspired by the sacrifice of the prisoners, and I would say, in a very short space of time, made their feelings known in terms of manifesting their desire to become part of the struggle, via the movement.

q: Shortly after the hunger strike at the Sinn Fein annual conference in October '81, the strategy of the armalite and the ballot box was declared by Danny Morrison. What was that strategy?
a: I think in fairness what he did say was that who would object if we were to achieve our goals, via a dual process. The Republican struggle was never nonpolitical, it was never exclusively military. It may have taken on a new shape or a new form, in the years subsequent to the hunger strike. But it was always political. Tactically it may have decided to engage the electoral process via the actual organization, but you must bear in mind that in the 1950s, prisoner candidates were running the board of constituencies in County Tyrone. So the electoral aspect of the political development that took place in the 1980s, was something that had been redefined rather than something that was totally new.

q: What was the point in the killing of Lord Mountbatten?
a: In answer to that question, I think its important, one that it be totally understood that no Republican takes pleasure out of the death or a suffering of an individual.

q: That's what all Republicans say, but very few people believe it.
a: Well, let me reiterate it for what it's worth. Obviously, the sheer military achievement of being successful to the extent that the IRA were in ... point was obviously a major morale boost to those who were actively engaged in armed struggle. And I mean it would be wrong to suggest that it was otherwise. But I suppose it was a high point in the campaign, in the post Mason era, it effectively signaled, despite the setbacks of earlier years, it signaled the fact that the IRA had in fact consolidated. That they had, albeit under pressure, reorganized to an extent that they would be able to carry off such prestigious operations.

q: It also indicated a growing degree of technical sophistication on the part of the IRA did it not?
a: Obviously the techniques or technologies that were used in both incidents had been used perhaps before, but maybe not to the same effect. ...

q: Is there a constant war between the IRA side and the British side in that each side has to remain technologically one step ahead of the other?
a: Wouldn't that be the essence of survival. I mean if the British develop some technological item, and obviously it was to be used against the IRA, then the IRA have to counter it and vice versa.

q: How increased has the sophistication become over the years?
a: Well, I mean, it's a matter of fact that the IRA have developed what are termed homemade armor piercing grenades. That obviously would have been unthinkable in the ...

q: And the mortars?
a: Again, my understanding is that there are armor piercing mortars as well.

q: What part have mortars played in the IRA's campaign?
a: Like every other piece of equipment or technology, they have the selective use of it. It enhances their ability to change tactic, to avoid detection, to change the emphasis, to change the focus of or to operate it in conjunction with other technological achievements which they have.

q: It also forces the British on their side to reinforce their bases, reinforce their barracks.
a: Of course, its part of the process and indeed I'm sure, as was amply demonstrated on many occasions during 1980s when the IRA were targeting police stations and military bases. It proved logistically difficult for the British A to protect their base, and if their base suffered a direct hit, then they were into the whole business of reinstatement. And of course there were the other bases that hadn't been hit, but where the British anticipated that they might have a problem and again they had to be fortified. And logistically it was a major and very expensive operation for the security services, to fortify all of these bases so that they could maintain a semblance of territorial control.

q: The other tactic the IRA used was to kill contractors who worked in rebuilding those bases.
a: Yes, that's right.

q: That's killing innocent people who are not involved in the military campaign or not soldiers, they simply happen to be builders or plasterers or brickies and the IRA shoots them dead. How's that justified?
a: It's not for me to justify it. I think we must understand that when those things happened and I'm not justifying them, in any sense, it was part of a strategy where the IRA were obviously engaged in attacking bases and they wanted to force British troops rather than civilian contractors to have to engage in the process of reconstruction or fortification. And effectively probably what was happening at the time was that civilians who assumed that role and function were, in fact, frustrating the attempts of the IRA to bring the British army directly into the front line.

q: What was the point of that particular IRA strategy?
a: ... it was part of the whole process of attrition, it was part of the whole process of demonstrating their own territorial ability. And I mean the pattern of attacks geographically reflects an organization that had incredible ability to operate over wide area...

q: What about denying the air, the IRA was never able to do that, was it?
a: Well there were occasions when the IRA actively did bring down choppers.

q: A couple of occasions.
a: Yes.

q: What was the IRA's broad military strategy in the wake of the hunger strike?
a: I suppose my understanding of it would have been that the broad Republican family demanded a response to the deaths in the hunger strike. Longer headed strategists recognized that not just as a reaction to the hunger strikes, but that in the face of the British government, that had demonstrated an intransigence to the extent which they did during the hunger strike, that there was going to have to be something very effectively done with the armed struggle. It was recognized that quote the acceptable level of violence was not going to achieve anything. And I suppose, in that context, that's what gave rise to the concerted initiative of the movement in the early 1980s and in the post hunger strike year.

q: But the first thing the movement had to do was to get the weaponry, wasn't it?
a: Obviously.

q: What was the significance of the arms and shipments from Libya?
a: The significance of the importation of arms, even the amount of small arms that obviously came in at that time, would have had a very significant positive bearing on the mindset of people actively involved in the campaign. Their leadership had delivered. They were now in a position to confront a British army patrol with weapons of equal capability as the British army patrol would carry. They could go into the field or as well as equipped as their potential enemy. And whilst it never had been a totally deterring factor, psychologically it was obviously very, very, very beneficial to those actively engaged in the campaign.

q: But the weapons that came in from Libya were of an entirely different order weren't they, the kind of weapons the IRA had never dreamt of getting its hands on before.
a: ... it obviously was a dream, it obviously was a dream come true in that sense.

q: And all this is going on in tandem with the beginnings of the peace process. Is it not a contradiction between the two?
a: I wouldn't have thought that it would have been viewed in that context. Never in the years in which I was involved in Republican politics will we have considered anything other than a final resolution of the conflict. I mean that was always the objective to resolve the conflict and to make peace. Not just with the British, but with the people who had been used by the British, our Unionist and loyalist neighbors, that was always an objective. It was an objective for the simple reason that we had to understand and I suppose that's the political maturity that exists, there's a recognition that those who decided to take sides with the British, are as much victims of British presence as those who decided to take issue with the British.

q: But those people, the Protestant Unionist people of Northern Ireland, never saw it like that. They see the IRA as being the perpetrators of genocide.
a: Well, could you blame them for thinking that when their so-called political leadership in their blinkered vision and in their own self seeking interests choose to interpret it as that, rather than address the real cause of the problem.

q: You became Sinn Fein's first councilor. What did that mean to you?
a: Personally? Hell of a lot of work. 1983, March, by-election on the district council, the advent of electoral intervention north of the border, bearing in mind that the party had councilors south of the border. The decision to field candidates in council contests in the next election wasn't due until '85. I came from an area with a strong Republican tradition, the councilor who had resigned actually had done so in protest at the stance of the SDLP on the hunger strike and other issues of national importance. The void was created. And through the efforts of a very strong and vibrant organization and, indeed, well planned and cohesive effort. We secured, I think, it was 55% of the votes, in that by-election.

q: Was it regarded as a political breakthrough for the movement?
a: Well, obviously, it was a milestone. I mean, it was the first electoral contest at local government level and that we were extremely successful. It was highly profiled and very few people in political circles on these islands were unaware of what happened.

q: And then you became the chairman or the mayor of the council, what was significant at that?
a: It was again the first time that the party had held such a position. [In] 1985 in the ... council area, we were successful in having six councilors elected. We became the largest body or the largest political party on the council. And the election of myself as chairman reflected that voting strength. And it was obviously politically important in terms of morale, within the movement, in terms of our political base. It demonstrated that not [only] could we get electoral gains and could we make electoral gains, but it demonstrated that when elected we could in fact be effective.

q: What was your position on the issue of abstentionism that dominated the 1986 ...
a: I was personally opposed to changing the policy of abstentionism. Not for any ideological reason, whilst there was ideological validity in it, that wasn't what was most important to me. I was conscious of the consequences of dissecting the movement towards such an issue. Which in my opinion, even when the policy changed was going to be of questionable benefit. Tactically, I believe that it wasn't an imperative at that point in time. For the movement to have to compete on the same basis as other political parties. Obviously, more people saw it differently than I. And that was reflected in the vote of the ardeche.

q: How did you feel when Rory ... and David O'Connell and the old southern leadership of the movement walked out?
a: No more than anyone else I was extremely disappointed. We were watching a repeat of a very sad history, splits and dissection. It was quite an emotional experience, actually, because there were people who had inspired me personally, who had been central and, in fact, it's only but fair that it's said that many of the gains of the movement after 1986 were as a direct result of the efforts of some of the people who found them, who ironically found themselves on the other side after the 1986 ... And as one who was conscious of that and aware of that, it was obviously a very disappointing juncture.

q: Didn't that moment when the old leadership walked out mark the final takeover of the movement by Gerry Adams and those people around him from the north?
a: Perhaps its unfair to say that it marked a takeover. It certainly marked the decline.

q: The takeover had been sometime coming ... it was a gradual process. The moment when the takeover was complete.
a: I think it's wrong to call it a takeover, I think it was the elevation or the increase, the increasing influence of a particular political philosophy as annunciated by people who happened in the main to come from the north.

q: And these were the people who were fighting the war as it was called.
a: Well, not exclusively. I mean, the Republican movement was an all-Ireland organization, in fact, it had tentacles in many parts of the world. But I mean it was by no means ... confined to the north.

q: Can you remember how you felt when you heard about Loch ...
a: I can't. Lochgall was something that was obviously very emotional to all true Republicans. To Republicans everywhere. It represented us. The record indicates probably one of the greatest successes that the British forces had against Irish Republicans in the context of this campaign. It was brutal, it was savage, and there were no prisoners taken.

q: But the operation that those men who were killed were taking part in, was also brutal and savage. That was the nature of the operation wasn't it?
a: That's the nature of war. When you have two armed parties to a conflict. And when the purpose for which the arms that they are carrying is to kill, then obviously there will be winners and there will be losers.

q: Did you know the people who died at Lochgall?
a: I would have known some of them.

q: But why are eight experienced IRA men, at least four of them highly experienced IRA leaders, attacking a tiny police station in the middle of nowhere, virtually nobody inside? It's a suicidal mission isn't it, doesn't make sense.
a: Well I think if you reflect on the pattern of events prior to that, there were a number of other such attacks.

q: But that would make it even more risky, ... the same kind of attack on two occasions before.
a: Well, obviously, but the fact that the British decided to defend it, in the manner and measure in which they did it, meant that it was obviously important to the British as well. So if it was important to the British, then perhaps it's easy to understand why somebody decided it was important to Republicans.

q: The British decided to do whatever they did at Lochgall because they wanted to remove from the scene a unit of highly active IRA men.
a: Yes. And they did so without recourse to the statute books, the rules of engagement or anything else ... in fact its quite downright untruthful of them to suggest otherwise.

q: What impact did Lochgall have in Tyrone given that the people who died there came from Tyrone?
a: Well ... Lochgall, probably in a more concentrated way than the hunger strike, was deeply incisive in terms of the psyche of the Republican family, in particular, and the wider nationalist community, in general. I mean, to see the photographs of the smiling faces of eight young men, and the face of an innocent civilian also murdered by the British on that night. And no one from within the community could pretend that they were other than part of that community.

I mean there's something in the rural mindset that makes one reflect or empathize with those who suffered. Because most of us have brothers or husbands or uncles or whatever who are probably the same age or in the same age bracket as those who died. And there was a deep sense of grief. Total and absolute sympathy for their families. And in time that would have given way to the kind of resolute determination that manifested itself as in the wake of the hunger strike. Part of which or as a result of which, probably some of those individuals who died at Lochgall became involved in the movement in the first place.

q: Wasn't Lochgall also a measure of the extent to which a British intelligence services had penetrated the Republican movement, the extent to which those involved and their associates were under close surveillance electronic or otherwise, an indication that the British had got the measure of the movement in that area?
a: I'm not in a position to comment authoritatively.

q: But the first question any Republican would ask is, "How did the British know?"
a: Yes, of course, everyone asked that question. And the media speculated. And it would be very irresponsible of me to speculate.

q: But it was an indication of how much the IRA had been penetrated.
a: It may or may not have been. But what it did, what it was an indication of, was that the British were prepared to go to any extent to take out of action the men that they murdered on that particular night.

q: But in all those incidents involving the SAS from Lochgall onwards, the IRA men who were killed, were killed on what they would call active service. They were armed, they were out to do whatever operation they were out to do. They weren't innocent people killed, walking down the roadside were they, I mean, they were military engagements, one military side engaging the other and the SAS won and took out senior IRA people in the area.
a: That's the price of war isn't it.

q: And what was the damage that the SAS did to the structure of the IRA in Tyrone?
a: Well, I suppose, the efficiency, if one wants to call it that, or the ability of the IRA to come back despite those setbacks. I mean, bear in mind that there were many people who went to prison during those years as well, who were captured. But the ability of the IRA not just in Tyrone, but elsewhere, to recover from such setbacks, is probably a measure and it probably implicitly enhances their efficiency.

q: Was there a point at which the IRA decided that it could not win the war?
a: I'm not aware of that. It has never been my understanding. There may have been schools of thought that believed that something needed to be done to accelerate in the conclusion of the conflict. Political action increased military activity, all kinds of diverse thinking, but obviously that process was always ongoing. There are always people with different opinions. But I'm sure if any Republican thought that they could never win the war, they wouldn't be involved.

q: Why did the IRA decide to reopen its campaign in Europe in 1988?
a: I wouldn't be party or privy to such information but I can speculate that obviously the armaments were in position, the IRA were better equipped than they had been for some time. And they for the first time perhaps since 1976 and bearing in mind that in the main, British troops and British born personnel had been pulled back to some extent from the front line and in terms of internationalizing and in terms of demonstrating that the war was won between Ireland and the forces of Britain, as opposed to two sets of people within the island of Ireland, obviously the value of targeting regular British soldiers wherever they were beyond doubt in the context of any strategy to increase the profile of the campaign.

q: But British soldiers in Europe and their bases were far more vulnerable than their counterparts in northern Ireland were they not, that was one of the attractions of taking the campaign to Europe.
a: Perhaps.

q: The British weren't ready.
a: Perhaps.

q: Unprepared. Ill defended.
a: Well ...

q: Vulnerable.
a: None of them would have been unarmed, none of them would have been unguarded. And I think it would be wrong to diminish in a comparative way the efforts of those Republican personnel who were involved in such operations.

q: What was your view of the IRA's decision to call the cessation in August '94?
a: Personally, I was probably surprised at the unqualified nature of the cessation. As one who was aware of the various commitments that had been made over the years, in terms of when and in what context there would be a cessation, I readily recognized that not all of the conditions that have been referred to over the years were in place.

q: Because the IRA had said it would never declare a cease-fire again, unless the British declared their intention to withdraw, that was not the case. ...
a: Obviously not the case. But in fairness and in the interests of truth, it was said very early after the cessation that there would be no secret deals and that all discussion and debate would be in the open and that the purpose of the cessation was to allow the creation of the conditions in which the conflict could be resolved. And Britain had acceded to the demands that British presence would be on the table like everything else.

q: Were you in favor of the cessation?
a: As all Republicans are, I'm in favor of the creation of the conditions in which this conflict can be finally resolved. I don't want to see one more person losing their life or liberty in the cause of Irish freedom if that can be averted. If through dialogue, this conflict can be resolved then let's get on with it.


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