The Reorganisation Of The IRA In The Early 1970s

Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army in surplus US Army combat uniforms, one armed with an American-supplied M16 assault rifle, Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s
Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army in surplus US Army combat uniforms, one armed with an American-supplied M16 assault rifle, Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

Irish journalist and author Ed Moloney, now resident in New York, has an interesting article over on his Broken Elbow blog examining possible evidence of the reorganisation of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army into a “cellular” command and control structure primarily based upon Active Service Units (ASUs) at a date much earlier than previously thought.

“Way back in January 2013, myself and James Kinchin-White researched and wrote a lengthy article, based on British Army publications and a website, about the death of James Bryson, a famous IRA activist from Ballymurphy who was shot dead in a disputed incident in August 1973 along with Patrick Mulvenna, brother-in-law of Gerry Adams.

Local legend had it that the pair were killed by the Official IRA but this account makes it clear that the killers were undercover soldiers from the Royal Green Jackets regiment hidden in the roof space of a house overlooking the Bullring in Ballymurphy.

Bryson and Mulvenna were, before their deaths, slated to be key members in a new IRA cell in Ballymurphy set up by then Belfast commander, Ivor Bell, to replace the heavily compromised and infiltrated company structure. Bell had succeeded Gerry Adams as Belfast Brigade leader after Adams’ arrest along with Brendan Hughes the previous month.

The importance of the incident lies not just in the deaths of two of the IRA’s most valuable activists but in the challenge it presents to the official narrative behind the creation of the IRA cell structure. The conventional view is that cells were introduced largely in response to the setbacks suffered by the IRA as a result of Castlereagh-style interrogations which followed changes in British security policy which, so the internal critics had it, were facilitated by the misguided ceasefire of 1975-1976.

But this account challenges that version and shows that considerable infiltration of the Belfast Brigade by British intelligence forced an experiment with cells on the organisation in the city long before the 1975 ceasefire was thought of.”

Read it here.

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