Myth Of The 20th Century – Episode 21: The IRA And The Struggle For Irish Independence

Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

— Brought to you by —

Adam Smith, Hank Oslo, Nick Mason, Hans Lander, and Alex Nicholson


In 1998, the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement was reached between the multiple parties representing factions in Northern Ireland and the Irish and British governments. It granted the principle of self-determination to the residents, recognition of both national identities, and power sharing arrangements between the British and Irish governments. Since the agreement, the so called “Troubles” of low level guerrilla war between IRA and the British military ended, bringing to a close a conflict that had started in 1966.

Today Nick Mason and Hank Oslo give an overview of the IRA’s long standing campaign against the Ulster Loyalist forces, with support from Hans Lander, Alex Nicholson, and Adam Smith.


1530s- Tudor conquest of Ireland
1845-1852- Irish Potato famine
1912- the British government struck a deal with the Irish Party in the British Parliament, allowing for Home Rule
1916- Easter Rising- the British had granted limited Irish autonomy due to WWI, so the IRA launched an invasion, capturing Dublin and proclaiming Ireland independent
1936- On the 18th of June, the IRA was declared illegal in the Irish Free State.
1939- The IRA initiated a bombing campaign in Britain. An explosion in Coventry killed five people.
1943- Sir Basil Brooke became PM of Northern Ireland. He would remain in that position for twenty years.
1945- WWII ends, Winston Churchill criticized Ireland for its neutrality
1969- Battle of Bogside
1970s- British jailing, interment of over 10,000 insurgents
1972- about 100 killed, mostly by sniper attacks, 500 wounded, 1300 bombings in Northern Ireland against British security forces
1981- Libyan dictator Muammar Qadaffi begins active assistance of the IRA
1981- Bobby Sands starves himself to death after hunger strike
1984- Brighton Hotel bombing, narrowly failing to murder British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
1984- Whitey Bulger caught gun smuggling from the United States to Northern Ireland
1991- Downing street mortar attack
1993- IRA commits Bishopsgate bombing in the City of London, causing estimated damage of 1 billion pound sterling
1998- Good Friday / Belfast Agreement reached


– The IRA: A History, Coogan (1994)
– Tom Collins, Jordan (1996)
– Bloody Sunday, Greengrass (2002)
– Hunger, McQueen (2008)
– The Green Book

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  1. Aidan MacLear June 2, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Ireland’s always posed an interesting set of problems for England and I wouldn’t be nearly as sympathetic towards them- even as an Irishman.

    Back when Strongbow conquered Ireland, the nobles he brought with him as Ireland’s new aristocracy essentially ‘went native’ and lost most of the cultural features associated with the Normans. Even without the English as an enemy, Ireland was wracked by tribal conflict and civil war for centuries. The standard of living there, in the 1500’s, was the lowest in all of Europe, partially due to the constant war of clan against clan, and despite the adoption of Catholicism, Irish cultural and political life probably resembled Celtic or Druidic times. Despite Dublin’s being one of the largest cities in Europe, it was more or less a cultural backwater for the entire second millennium AD. (different story when Ireland was the center of monastic Catholicism)

    Henry VIII, while he was making enemies across Europe, decided to settle the Irish question and shore up the weakness of a two-pronged assault should France or Spain invade. However, the governors he sent to the Emerald Isle each became embroiled in the clannish warfare of the Irish and ended up rebelling against Henry’s authority. The conclusion was reached by the King that Ireland must be subjugated with massive force or be left alone. The armies he sent to quell rebellions ensured peace while they remained quartered there, but Henry could not financially afford an indefinite military occupation, especially with Rome on the warpath. The Celtic Irish, unlike the Anglo-Saxons, would not accept a Norman civilizational model of peace, order, and aristocratic gentility. It’s probably genetic. Even I have a hell of a temper and love to fight.

    Cromwell was an uncompromising man, perhaps even more so than Henry, and he destroyed the equally uncompromising Irish with fire. It was insanely brutal and inhuman, as any good Puritan was. The plantation of Ulster and the extractive colonial model I blame on the ascendency of the English bourgeois following the Enclosures. Henry would never have done it. There was a paternal connection between the aristocrat, his serfs, and the land that ‘noblesse oblige’ doesn’t even begin to attain to, and it was more or less destroyed by the permission of England’s mercantile class into the aristocracy following Henry’s death.

    In modern times, however, there really are two nations in Ireland, the northern Anglos being subtly but distinctly a separate people from the southern Celts, and the IRA was ultimately a foolish organization. The Northern Irish had been on the land a long time; their blood was in the earth, their bones under the grass, and they had made their own improvements and set up their own Anglo civilization that preferred English rule. As for the modern cucking, I have no explanation but abundance. I doubt the violence has been bred out of us- look at the Bostonian Irish’s resistance to integration! As soon as times get tough, I don’t doubt that the shillelaghs will drip once again.

    1. Aidan MacLear June 2, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      As for our general racial characteristics, we’re not much dumber than the Nords, but we’re also less ambitious and more easily satisfied by the creature comforts. We don’t favor the timeless and the transcendent as much either, and our spirituality is much more here-and-now, less ivory spires and more rocks and trees. There’s less of the Scotch individualism, the ‘me and the moor and the wild sky’ and much more homeyness and comfort. It’s not a surprise that we’ve mixed so much with the Italians in America, but we also have less of the gaudy status markers, less cosmopolitan and more humble and personal.
      I do have to admit that we’ve got the best women in the world. Don’t let the secret out! Some of them are feisty on the outside, but they tend to be sweet, loyal, and monogamous, something that modernity’s failed to really tear to bits. An Irish girl’s support for her man is second to none- it’s a good woman who’ll also fuck you after you lose a fight.
      We’re also susceptible to wild passions and melancholy, and comparison to certain third-world populations isn’t entirely off base. It’s unlikely we’d ever be great among the European nations, but we don’t really mind.

    2. I’m not sure if Anglo is the best way to describe the Northern Irish, but I suppose that depends on one’s definition of Anglo.

      Either way, I tend to agree with you about there being two nations in Ireland. The obsession with a united Ireland seems like something Irish nationalists should leave aside in favor of Re-partition. I highly doubt they want to engage in ethnic cleansing and I can’t see them getting very far with trying to kill loyalist identity.

  2. This is all wrong. There’s so much wrong in this episode that I can’t list it all. Then there’s the grand summation of the episode that favours the narrative of the Irish nationalists. A lot of stories of Irish persecution simply aren’t true just flat out lies. Many events or stories of Irish persecution never even happened or are highly exaggerated. And there are stories that are cherry picked out of history that pushes the narrative that the Irish are especially persecuted yet at the same time those kinds of things were happening to everyone else.

    Fact is is the English were extremely benevolent conquerors and rulers compared to most other people. The fact that the Irish still exist after centuries English rule is testament to this. If the English treated the Irish like most other conquerors treat the conquered the Irish wouldn’t be around to whine. The whole of the British Isles would be English. The whole notion that 20th century Britain was persecuting the Irish is on the face of it completely absurd.

    The Ulster Scot narrative is never presented to this conflict. You talked about the Ulster Special Constabulary being shut down because they were a brutal death squad. You just gloss over that like it’s not even significant. Think about it for a minute. Why would the USC be shut down whilst the IRA is operating with impunity? The Ulster Scots were merely defending their families and disarmed whilst the Irish were caught up in a fervor of revolutionary communism. Knowing what you should know about revolutionaries it’s not difficult to discern who are the aggressors here.

    1. Aidan MacLear June 3, 2017 at 2:04 am

      It’s true. Why couldn’t the British defeat the IRA convincingly? Because their hands were tied by an “international community” that would step in if they took the necessary measures, effectively giving the IRA free reign to operate.

      Any force that engages in guerrilla warfare is essentially and de facto using the civilian populace behind which it operates as human shields and thus loses any moral high ground it might have had.

    2. The IRA weren’t for the most part commies, although they were obviously revolutionaries of a sort, and we did in fact discuss the paradox of pursuing a revolution in the context of basic material prosperity.

      Assigning moral weight to either side in a fundamentally tribal conflict is a losing game as an outsider; the IRA is simply more interesting to study as an actor because they fought a major power to a stalemate in a domestic conflict. This is extremely uncommon.

      1. Professor Harrington June 12, 2017 at 4:57 pm

        One of the things that has been forgotten is that ALL of the ’68er terrorist groups (PLO, IRA, Bader-Meinhoff, Red Brigades) got help from the Soviet Union or one of their satellites.

    3. “A lot of stories of Irish persecution simply aren’t true just flat out lies. Many events or stories of Irish persecution never even happened or are highly exaggerated. And there are stories that are cherry picked out of history that pushes the narrative that the Irish are especially persecuted yet at the same time those kinds of things were happening to everyone else.”

      Would you be able to provide some examples?

    4. Josephine Coffin June 19, 2017 at 5:41 am

      I can’t believe I just listened to an over hour long podcast on Northern Ireland with barely any mention of the other half of the Northern Irish community that lives there or their traditions (other than how they came to be there). You’d think that this was mainly just an English vs. Papist scrape on the north end of an island, otherwise occupied by Catholics, with the other half of the community having barely any interest in the outcome and just leaving it to the English to fight.

      The fucking RA didn’t rule the roost, despite the way they tried to portray things in an dishonest 60 Minutes episode I remember seeing back in the 80s (showing them with checkpoints and stopping cars). The Loyalists had their own paramilitary organizations and not one is mentioned in this podcast; Ulster Volunteer Force, Red Hand Commando, Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Freedom Fighters, political organizations like UUP, PUP, DUP, the Ulster Political Research Group and their own personalities like the late Gusty Spence, a former leader of the UVF, the late Billy Wright of the LVF and famous from the Drumcree standoff and firebrands like the late Rev. Ian Paisley. They carried out successful operations too like the assassination of Máire Drumm, VP of Sinn Fein and former commander of a women’s paramilitary organization (in the earlier part of the 20th Century) in a joint operation of the UVF/UDA; they shot her in her hospital bed whilst disguised as doctors. There was Michael Stone’s, a UFF volunteer’s, failed attempt to kill McGuinness and Adams at Milltown Cemetery during a funeral for some provos who’d been killed by the SAS. He missed but it made for some lively TV back in 1988. Especially watching him being chased through the headstones by some pretty pissed fenians. The Loyalist volunteers fought for and died protecting their communities and their traditions and they too wound up in The Maze just like the provos. No mention either of The Ulster Worker’s Council Strike, come to think of it.

      There were some Youtube interviews I watched a long time ago on The Troubles and they were interviewing people from both sides. I wish now that I could remember exactly who said it and exactly how it was said but the implication was clear (and I’m pretty sure it was a former PIRA or INLA volunteer making this statement and not some Loyalist volunteer bragging and that’s why it left such an impression on me): what ultimately brought the RA to the bargaining table, which finally lead to the Good Friday Agreement, was the relentless tit for tat violence of the Loyalist paramilitaries. They weren’t going to give up and, at least one group, I think it was Red Hand Commando would not make, unlike the RA and their inevitable pretense and disclaimer of, “We regret the deaths of. . .” after everyone of their actions, apologizes or excuses for killing or targeting civilians. This was, after all, partisan warfare by definition. No one was wearing a uniform unless for publicity or marching. The UDR should have hung them on the spot but then that’s what the para’s job became.

  3. Many in the English upper classes preferred the Irish poor to the English poor. The Irish were universally literate, devout, mannerly, intelligent, etc. Certainly they had their problems, but they were much preferable to the illiterate, violent, lazy, stupid, etc. English lower classes. Chesterton and Churchill, among others, noted this. A good deal of the English persecution of the Irish arose from jealousy and contempt that the English lower classes had for their superior Irish neighbors. When the British Empire came to dominate the world, many of these moronic English hooligans now had uniforms and could do as they pleased to the Irish and others.

  4. Wasn’t there also Soviet Bloc aid for the IRA? I may have assumed that based on the conversation I had with a pro-Soviet IRA guy many years ago who told us stories about IRA men going to Lebanon for training by the Palestinians. German RAF also (famously) went there and it’s now known they had close GDR connections.

    A conversation with some Greeks about Gen. Grivas’ mostly successful guerrilla campaign (independence, but two Brit bases remaining) against the Brits in Cyprus would be interesting . Grivas built a movement out of nothing (no prior history of resistance, good economic situation, no serious grievances against the UK) other than the mere fact of Greek ethnicity. Of course they then soon lost 40% of the island to the Turkish invasion.

  5. Very interesting discussion. I am of Irish descent but born in London. My sympathies were with the struggle, but I obviously wanted to see the peace. We are all Europeans, and I think we can work well together.

  6. Your review of the “Bloody Sunday” massacre would have been a good opportunity to discuss Moldbug’s frequently quoted apothegm of the Duke of Wellington “for the mob, grapeshot.” By assuming the government can never fire on mobs, you are simply following the American tradition of Samuel Adams. Not very Reactionary.

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