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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
q: What did the hunger strike do to the direction of the Republican
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
q: What was the military impact of the hunger strike on the
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
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
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
a: Well there were occasions when the IRA actively did bring down
q: A couple of occasions.
q: What was the IRA's broad military strategy in the wake of the
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?
q: What was the significance of the arms and shipments from
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
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
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
q: You became Sinn Fein's first councilor. What did that mean to
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
a: Perhaps its unfair to say that it marked a takeover. It certainly marked
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
q: The British weren't ready.
q: Unprepared. Ill defended.
a: Well ...
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
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.