A Video Recording Of New IRA Volunteers On Patrol In North Belfast

The counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist laws of Ireland and the United Kingdom are notoriously pervasive, allowing the authorities in both countries to interpret their application in the widest possible manner. The UK’s controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, in particular, grants the British state extraordinary powers over the rights of its citizens or communities. Freedom of expression, as Americans might know it, comes a poor second place to the perceived needs of national security. That in part explains why the latest propaganda images from the would Republican Resistance in the UK-administered north-east of Ireland have emerged in such a circuitous manner: a video taken and played back on a mobile phone, recorded on a tablet and uploaded to Twitter and Facebook. No doubt the original video will emerge in time but for now it is the poor quality recording released on Monday evening that concerns us, and apparently much of the paranoid unionist and British press.

The thirty-two second clip shows three volunteers of the so-called New Irish Republican Army (NIRA) on “patrol” in the Ardoyne district of north Belfast, in the UK-occupied Six Counties. All three wear civilian clothing, in what has become de facto insurgent garb over the last few years: hooded jackets, tracksuit bottoms, runners, black balaclava or ski masks and white gloves (to thwart forensic examinations). One of the individuals is carrying an RPG-7 anti-armour rocket launcher while another carries a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle, probably an AK47/AKM variant. The third guerrilla is also armed with an assault rifle though the images are too blurry to readily identify it. A guess would be a Heckler & Koch G3, a favoured weapon among Irish insurgents though in very short supply. All of the arms almost certainly come from the former arsenals of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), which fought Britain to a military stalemate in the guerrilla conflict or so-called “Troubles” in the north-east of Ireland from 1966 to 2005.

While one can dismiss the claims of “patrolling”, the recording illustrates the growing presence of the NIRA in regions like north and west Belfast, north Armagh and east Tyrone, the city of Derry, as well as nationally in Dublin and parts of Donegal and Louth. However the images also illustrate the underground movement’s weaknesses, its lack of personnel and equipment, and its almost total reliance on requisitioned PIRA munitions for its military needs (not to mention a conspicuous lack of popular support or sympathy across the country). In such circumstances propaganda demonstrations like that featured above and disseminated on social media over the last twenty-four hours seem somewhat pointless.

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13 comments

  1. Staged for sure but certainly brazen. As much as i think militant force is futile and counter productive right now i am amazed and impressed non the less. Wouldn’t have thought they would still have rpgs about.

    1. Militant force got the Brits to the negotiation table in 1922 and 1998, great political speeches never achieved anything

      1. Militant force would never have succeeded without a cultural nationalist movement that had the support of all income groups – landed and dispossessed. There is no such group in the European Union protectorate called “Ireland”.

      2. Defeat in many instances and the loss of regional control – achieved on the backs and sacrifices of a well-trained (para)military force. Absolutely right. The bounding overwatch movement these guys are displaying is pitiful, almost clownish. Looks like there is no one left to really train proper tactics.

      3. Last time I checked NI still was an English speaking part of the UK. What did they achieve other than killing hundreds of civilians?

  2. Tell me if I’m crazy, but if propaganda snippets like this make the Brits nervous enough, couldn’t that help precipitate a hard border between the Republic and NI, thereby bringing NIRA and other groups back into relevance?

    1. Good point. The NIRA is largely based in the Six Counties, so a “hard border” would be the British “sealing in” a potential insurgency under their jurisdiction with little political or military benefit domestically or internationally. A Brexit border would almost certainly add to the insurgency not detract. A soft border has the opposite effect. Of course, most obviously, no border means no insurgency.

  3. They remind me somewhat of those Japanese soldiers who were still hiding out in the Philippine jungle in the seventies. Talk about living in the past.

    1. Except the north east of Ireland is still occupied and the wishes of the majority of Irish for a reunited independent nation are not being respected or granted. Nothing past about that.

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