Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Switch led to birth of Provos

THE Official IRA's switch in policy on abstentionism and the terror campaign, were the issues behind the split which led to the birth of the Provisionals in January 1970.

THE Official IRA's switch in policy on abstentionism and the terror campaign, were the issues behind the split which led to the birth of the Provisionals in January 1970.



The idea that 'volunteers' should recognise the parliaments in Dublin, Stormont and Westminister, was too much for the more militant members, who split to create the Provisionals.



As the dust settled on the paramilitary divisions, the split was mirrored in Sinn Fein.



Exactly 31-years-on, policing and demilitarisation - two issues Sinn Fein is seen by hardliners as having failed to deliver on - are the straws which could break the back of the Good Friday Agreement.



But this time, the decision to time the split to coincide with the first day of Bobby Sands' hunger strike - March 1 - is being viewed as the final insult to Sinn Fein's leadership.



Parallels can also be drawn between the feelings expressed by IRA 'foot-soldiers' in south Armagh in recent weeks, and those voiced by IRA chiefs in the run-up to the 1981 hunger-strikes.



The IRA thought it had won the battle for political status in the run-up to Christmas 1980, after the 'blanket' campaign and the first hunger strike at the Maze prison.



But when it emerged that they had been duped into accepting something less than full political status, the backlash was severe.



Prisoner James 'Jaz' McCann from west Belfast wrote in Nor Meekly Serve My Time: "Had they, instead of shutting all doors, given us a face-saver, there would have been no hunger strike - although that is not to say it would have been the end of the matter.



"I think Bobby (Sands) went to great lengths to get that face-saver, and that possibly the NIO/prison administration perceived this as weakness on our behalf, and decided to put the boot in when - as they may have perceived it - we were down.



"If this was the case, they were to get a rude awakening."



Added McCann: "The diplomacy was over. The order came to the wing - smash the place!



" It was war!



"I felt good that night - smashing my cell to pieces. It wasn't just the satisfaction of breaking furniture, but the message that it would be sending to the Brits."



Writing in the same book, hunger-strike organiser Brendan "Bik" McFarlane, said: "There could be no failure - we would either win or die.



"In fact, we would have to die in order to win."

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