Part Of A Wider IRA Campaign In Britain

Host Mary Wilson (MW) interviews Anthony McIntyre (AM) via telephone about the IRA's thinking behind and its members' reaction to the Birmingham pub bombings. Thanks to TPQ transcriber for a quick turnaround on this and two other transcripts on the same subject.

RTÉ Radio One
1 June 2016 
(begins time stamp ~ 1:23:32)

MW:  The Birmingham bombings were part of a wider IRA campaign in Britain.  I'm going to discuss the thinking behind that campaign now with Anthony McIntyre who was a member of the IRA at that time. And Anthony, when you go back to that time, and I suppose events like the bombings in The Mulberry Bush and The Tavern in the Town they'd now be called spectaculars but what was the thinking in inflicting that sort of devastation on Birmingham with the potential loss of so many innocent lives?

AM:  Well I don't think it was described or would even be described today as 'a spectacular' because a spectacular was the type of operation that the IRA launched at the Heathrow Airport back in the '90's and also the attack on Downing Street when John Major was in a cabinet meeting. But the type of activity then … the IRA I don't think were seeking a spectacular – they did give warnings. But I mean typical of the IRA – massive, massive amount of incompetence, disorganisation - and it was part of a wider strategy. IRA strategy had moved away, to some extent, from concentrating on bombs in Ireland and there was a belief within the IRA that a hundred bombs in Belfast were equaled by one bomb in London. And at the time of the Birmingham bombing the IRA Chief of Staff would have been Seamus Twomey, who had escaped the year earlier from Mountjoy Prison in a helicopter, and he had previously been the leader of the Belfast IRA. And the Belfast IRA had been central to the shift in strategy in 1973 to take the bombing campaign to England when we had the bombing of the Old Bailey in London.

MW:  I think you were in prison at the time of the Birmingham bombings. What was the organisation's reaction at the time? What was the reaction among you and your fellow prisoners?

AM:  Well I remember talking to a prisoner officer the next morning about it and just having a conversation with him, an English guy, and just saying that I had thought it was terrible. We didn't really understand it. The IRA hadn't claimed it. But earlier there had been IRA attacks in Birmingham or IRA activity, because an IRA Volunteer had been killed: a man by the name of McDaid, had been killed and … so people knew or strongly suspected, that it was the IRA. And even though it was on a par with what the British had carried out against the civilian population on Bloody Sunday there didn't seem to be within the prison any eagerness for that type of activity. You will always get the person who will say: 'To hell with them' but just didn’t see any, I didn't sense any eagerness or certainly not the type of eagerness that we would have experienced in prison … five years later when the British paratroopers were blown up at Narrow Water. That sort of IRA operation was welcomed whereas the Birmingham pub bombings was not and it was viewed very much as a disaster. And certainly in later years, when we came to look back on these things, we had viewed it very much as a disaster. It didn't do the IRA any good but the IRA at that time were putting out peace feelers to the British and they were trying to establish a stronger hand because the IRA had been effectively run down in Belfast and Derry mostly since June, 1973, and there had been a shift to rural areas in terms of IRA operational activity which wasn't regarded as 'bangs for bucks' and so they compensated by moving the war to England. And when the war was moved to England there was always the loss of control to some degree but it all fitted into that type of strategy – the IRA trying to increase its bargaining position for upcoming talks or what they felt were feelers coming from the British state. And while it suited the IRA to show it had a strong hand in England it certainly didn't suit it to be killing the type of people that it was killing. The IRA - disaster as it was - didn't set out to kill the people. Whereas earlier that same year they had set out to kill the people on the M62 coach bombing because there was a large number of British soldiers on it. And Judith Ward was wrongly convicted. So, IRA strategy very much at that time was to apply pressure to the British to withdraw and also to increase its hand, to strengthen its hand in any upcoming negotiations.

MW:  You're a writer, you're an historian, you've been involved with the Boston College archive. Is there anything in that archive that will, in due course, shed light on events in Birmingham? 

AM:  You can't expect me to comment whether there's anything in the archive or not. I mean, if you ask me if there's anything about the attack on Pearl Harbor in the archive, you would hardly expect me to say that there was or there wasn't because any reference to the archive at all sends the British state and the British state's prosecutor in the North of Ireland off in pursuit of it and trying to pursue people for activity carried out by non-state actors when they will not hand over the papers and the documentation that they have which indicates their own involvement, the British state's own involvement …

MW: Alright.

AM: … in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.

MW:  Alright. Anthony, thank you very much for joining us. That's Anthony McIntyre there.

 (ends time stamp ~ 1:29:23)

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

21 comments to ''Part Of A Wider IRA Campaign In Britain"

  1. No Kevin.

    It was almost on the hour and they were moving to the News.

  2. It was disastrous 'Ops' like this that left me floundering when trying to defend the struggle. In hindsight I wonder were the infiltrators orchestrating these fuck ups to discredit us?

  3. Why are the Birmingham bombings never refered to in the context of the Dublin - Monaghan bombings by the British Army and UVF Glenane gang? I thought the Birmingham bombings were no warning attacks. The assertion of the IRA seeking peace in '73 and Belfast and Derry being run down is interesting. Asi is McGuinness' claim to have been out of the IRA in '74. Mybe you lads on the blanket and the Hunger-Strikes delayed the end game without realising it.

  4. Kevonz1

    It is that attitude that would make me scream from the rooftops to the youth of today to stay the hell away from republicans and republicanism. The 'strategy' is to don a white hat get up on a white horse and take all the crap the state and its agents can throw at you and also NEVER retaliate when your family relatives and friends are murdered just to upset you. Two words, KEEP IT!

  5. The bombings in Birmingham and Guildford made it almost impossible to build a solidarity movement worthy of the name in England as AM said it was disastrous, why anyone thought you could advance the republican cause by placing a bomb in a Birmingham pub which was mainly frequented by working class people is beyond me.

  6. OR,

    and you say this "placing a bomb in a Birmingham pub which was mainly frequented by working class people is beyond me." and yet you advocate for the working class to vote to stay in Europe...Thought you were a Marxist of sorts, you sound like a Communist at best..

  7. Larry,

    They don't give a sh*t about bombs in other countries and never have.

    They all voted for that twunt Blair and he sent hundreds of thousands to their graves, but hey, he had a toothy smile and was LGBTI friendly, all while being adept at the 3 word slogans poliliars use to convince the great unwashed they know better, so that's alright then.

  8. Steve Ricardos

    All the amputees - every town and village now has at least one - have given the Great British war mongering 'pubic' plenty of food for thought I think. Not to mention the Deepcut Barracks report into live in the army. USA/UK public are kept on an eternal jingoistic war footing. Strange really when you consider their horror and revulsion at taking losses. Probably why they only wreck places now and move along to the next.

  9. Frankie

    Might raise the tone of debate if you deal with what I wrote. by the way I do not see being called a communist as an insult its just a reactionary hangover from cold war.


    As far as Brit governments go you're right, but it's worth remembering over a million people marched, etc, against the Iraq war so one shouldn't see the English people as a homogeneous unthinking/uncaring block of humanity. Would I blame all Americans for voting in George W Bush, I think not.

    If you scratched below the surface during the 1970s there was a fair amount of understanding as to why the lid blew off the north but when Birmingham and the like happened people were not prepared in any numbers to put themselves above the parapet. (This group including many Irish people whether first, second or third generation). What the IRA should have taken into account in the 1970s London had gone through the Blitz only 30 years before and in truth compared with that it was small beer.

    What those bombs did was give the then Tory government an opportunity to introduce gift rapped, draconian anti terror legislation some of which is still in place today.

    Do I really need to remind you British governments down the ages have only very rarely cared about the wellbeing of their citizens, or subjects as they believe us to be. The working class have almost always been regarded as nothing more than cart horses for capital or cannon fodder.

    It is worth comparing the English peoples different reaction to the bombings like Birmingham in the 1970 and those that took place in London in the early 1990. in the 70s ordinary folk looked on in horror but its worth saying there was no panic or fear.

    In the 90s the response was different not least because the bombs were specifically targeted, it was more like bloody hell, these guys are serious people, it's time we showed them respect. Shortly after the Baltic Exchange bombing I was working near by and it was not hard to see why attitudes changed.

  10. Organised Rage

    I 'get' where you are coming from there. An English lad I met teaching in Thailand viewed the Brighton Bomb as a 'missed opportunity' (his words). So, there certainly seems to be a rational differentiation among ordinary English people regarding attacks not directed specifically at 'them'. A possible connection or radicalisation/politicisation having been the Miners Strike prior to that time and the subsequent community destruction that is still evident across what was industrial England. The Baltic Exchange and similar attacks in the square mile were also detatched from the ordinary British people. The square mile is largely associated with financial criminality, insider dealing, glorified gambling, dark criminal money and a disgisting bonus culture. It also accounts for an estimated 40% of UK GDP which the Tory Party elevated to priority status whilst deliberately decimating the manufacturing base and industrial Britain. Hardly any wonder then McGuinness will be in line for a Knighthood in the coming years. The boy done good and brought home the bacon/IRA. That has left the square mile safe to take the economic lead in the UK. A few 'rag-heads' blowing themselves up on the tube and buses is right up the authorities street.

  11. Organised Rage,

    "As far as Brit governments go you're right, but it's worth remembering over a million people marched, etc, against the Iraq war so one shouldn't see the English people as a homogeneous unthinking/uncaring block of humanity. Would I blame all Americans for voting in George W Bush, I think not."

    Sorry, I should have been clearer as I meant the Government not the people en mass.

    Still reckon Blair is a twunt though.


    The english lad may have had a point but what if the hypothetical successor to the deceased Thatcher had been the enraged Norman Tebbit?

    He would have cut a swathe through Ireland worse than Cromwell.

    Violence doesn't work in the long run.

  12. Steve, you're not wrong about Blair if you listen to his ramblings about the Iraq mess today, "it's all the fault of Iran," he is sounding like a deranged psychopath.


    Spot on.

  13. Steve Ricardos

    I think you misunderstood my point. It was that working class English people were capable of not giving a hoot about Tories being blown up or the square mile. As for violence not working that's a double edged sword. Roy Mason thought the Brits were squeezing the IRA like a tube of toothpaste and whilst torture and murder gangs certainly had an impact it was the political path with long term agents like McGuinness and Adams that would ultimately defeat the IRA. Bloody Sunday definitely proves your point also on violence being counter productive I would suggest.

  14. Larry,


    I was just hypothesizing what would have happened if Thatcher had gone to meet Old Nick and the potentially 'worse' Tebbit took over.

    Do you still think Adams&MMG are 'agents' or 'assets'?

  15. AM

    Heard the bastards are still giving you shit about the BC tapes, stuff them, No Surrender!

  16. Steve,

    the same people who claim they have neither the finance nor resources to investigate state killings or torture.

  17. Steve Ricardos

    Beyond any doubt to my mind at this stage that they were for a very long time and continue to be British assets. As I have said elsewhere, if they had been enemies of the state rather than cute hoor careerists in waiting like vultures on the clothes line, then they would have been getting the same treatment as Duffy and others all during the troubles. They were never put through that mangle. Adams was released from jail to go to London. A mark of his importance. But I would now question his importance to whom? Nor was their lack of persecution I'd suggest because they were too clever. Had Collie Duffy for example surrounded himslef with as many snitches as Adams and McGuinness did down the decades I suggest his name would have been just another one on a wall plaque somewhere long-long ago. When your enemy is singing your praises from the rooftops you are not much of a threat. More an asset. Just look what we know now about the filthy goings on. Scap and his handlers letting dozens go south to their deaths. All in the name of 'saving lives'. How comical is that!? Yes Steve, assets surely. I don't buy into the Lai Tek type myth where those two are concerned nor do I blindly follow like their friends with benefits in SF and the electrorate. Bottom line is I wouldn't trust those two fuckers with my dog while I took a holiday.

  18. Thanks Larry,

    Did Adams and MMG go on a massive 'cease-fire' drive behind closed doors and if so, was there others particularly on the Army side who were receptive to it?

    What I mean by that, was there an appetite for peace more than one for war even among the rank and file foot soldiers?


    F*ck them, they are full of sh*t. Hope they get nothing!

  19. Steve,
    have you not read the Moloney book? Its a must. It details these aspects in great detail, down to Army Council votes for/against the Adams peace plan.Essentially they captured the AC, but the executive (McKevitt and McGrane etc) were opposing them. You will see at various stages, IRA 'own goals' aided Adams & MMG peace push at key junctures, and when they were running into difficulty, rarer successes (Lisburn Barracks) helped them keep the army on message. They created the perception the peace process was a word game, designed to flush the British true intentions out and was going to lead nowhere, then they could renew the struggle on a firmer moral basis, and changing the bits of the IRA constitution they precluded some of their actions. Then upon signing the Mitchell principles, they just overtly ignored the constitution.

  20. Steve Ricardos

    It is difficult to know as someone (thank Christ) who was never connected to the Belfast mafia or SF misleadership. But it looks increasingly obvious that the massive importation of Lybian gear was of zero relevance in their thinking, more an inconvenience, like the IRA iself. Adams and McGuinness seem to have identified the Provo movement and the Hunger-Strikes in particular as their potential vehicle to some kind of political stardom and with the British media help and British government eventually scripting their speeches during the end game it was ultimately co-ordinated into that Cul de Sac. The good ship IRA was duly sailed into a Harland and Wolff dry dock beside the Titanic centre. Bobby Storey and the 'heads' in Belfast obviously follow Adams totally unthinkingly. He made a rite fool of himself during Adams arrest and questioning a while back and was made look an even bigger idiot by his beloved Gerry upon his release. It was hard to watch. I do wonder does big Bobby look in the mirror each morning and think he's still an RTP... ruff tuff Provie. Then walk out into the street with a geriatric swagger. Jesus wept. In fairness, I think the SF misleadership got the timing correct in that people had already had a belly full. But it was orchestrated to get to that stage. The IRA was required to be seen as a hinderance to a United Ireland rather than a provider of it. That was achieved. But that never stopped the IRA before, public opinion was never a requirement for action. Plus the IRA was deliberately permitted to crumble infested with touts as the Fenton case highlighted. It was rotten and a dangerous outfit to be anywhere near by the end full of rats trying to hang each other daily, a dummy run for the dissos. I'd say there's a high probability that any ex-provo in the dissos is merely continuing their espionage career. However the political careerist carry on and the race to croppy boy stardom by SF with the knees worn out of their trousers begging for photo ops is galling to my mind. AND it aint anywhere near over yet. But big Arlene is man enough to dish out plenty more humble pie. It has started to become enjoyable to watch. They deserve no less. That is where it is now, ENTERTAINMENT Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy of the Mr Bean variety... SF. As for republicanism The SF misleadership are not just after destroying the Provos they are engaged in a deliberate strategy of destroying any future recurrence of Irish republicanism. The book the GFA - The Death of Irish Republicanism was very true. Every day those two dangerous clowns are left in place is an advertisement to similar self servers that it will be permitted and acceptable to do what they are doing in the future. THAT will kill republicanism forever. No-one with a second brain cell would touch it with a shitty stick. A wee bit like the upcoming Euros, just sit back and ENJOY!


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