Study Document

Terrorist Group IRA Essay

Pages:8 (2476 words)




Document Type:Essay


Intersection of Faith Nationalism and Environment in Ireland


While terrorist groups are rarely defended by non-members, there is often the sense among objective observers that not all members of a religion that may be said to have “spawned” terrorism are terrorists or sympathetic to terrorism themselves. For instance, not every Muslim supports ISIS or al-Qaeda, and not every Irish Catholic supports the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Most Muslims and Catholics view their religions as religions of peace. On the other hand, critics of religion tend to hold the opinion that all religions lead to extremism when taken seriously and that people from these groups who become “extremists” and take to terrorism are really simply adhering body, mind and soul to the ideology of their religion. But how true is this criticism? Is it possible that in every Muslim or Catholic there exists a potential jihadist or a potential Crusader? Most research into terrorism looks at Middle East terrorism and the Muslim religion and the way nationality and the environment intersect to produce extremists, radicals or terrorists. This study will look at Western terrorism and the IRA as an opportunity to investigate the research question in a way that is more relatable to Westerners. The primary research question is this: How did the intersection of religion, nationalism and environment produce Westernized terrorists within the IRA? The secondary question is this: How could this information be used to help developed a counter-terrorism strategy?

The IRA formed as a result of a long-standing feud between Protestant England and Catholic Ireland—a feud that went all the way back to the apostasy of King Henry VIII in the 16th century. The first landmark killing came with the death of Thomas FitzGerald who declared in public that he would not serve the apostate king in 1534, after the King declared that all subjects accept the Act of Succession. A rebellion against Henry’s daughter Elizabeth followed at the end of the 16th century and launched the Nine Years’ War in Ulster. In 1641, the Irish Rebellion occurred, which was succeeded by the Confederate Wars and the Rebellions and Battles of 1798. While the 19th century saw a union between the Protestant kingdom and the Catholic country, the Irish Republic was formed the following century with the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence in 1921. The Troubles began in 1969 in Northern Ireland and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (commonly known as the IRA) formed to oppose through a strategy of violence the oppression of Catholics and Catholic interests in the North (Bamford, 2005).

The purpose of this study is to understand the intersection of ideology, nationalism and environment with regard to why the IRA formed and what the group sought to do, operating in an underground terroristic fashion as it did. By reviewing the literature available on the IRA and by conducting interviews using Zoom with different generations of Irish Catholics, this study will produce data that will be used to fill the gap in present literature regarding the IRA and why it came about whether it still holds any interest or support from Irish Catholics today.

By understanding what motivates and what motivated the IRA and how it came out of a culture of conflict, it is hypothesized that an appropriate counter-terrorism strategy can be developed and implemented to prevent similar such occurrences from happening in other parts of the Western world where cultural rifts, rising nationalism, and a sense of disenfranchisement may be seeding ground for new terror organizations to crop up.

Literature Review

This literature review used sources that focused specifically on the cultural and historical characteristics of the IRA and what the counter-insurgency efforts of the British were. The purpose of this literature review was to identify the main themes relating to this subject and to situate them without the context of ideology, nationalism and environment. Books, scholarly articles, and primary sources were accessed using Google Scholar and keyword searches related to IRA, counter-terrorism, and the intersection of the identified themes.


The provisional IRA was formed in response to the problems in Northern Ireland and the fact that peaceful protests by Catholics were not working in terms of getting any recognition from the Protestant government. In the US, non-violent protests had worked for the African American community and won them the Civil Rights Act. In Northern Ireland, it won nothing. The IRA also did not want to see a political settlement or truce that would mask the underlying issues (Tuck, 2007). The IRA wanted a victory in socio-political terms—a victory for Catholic Ireland in ideological terms. The co-founder of the IRA, Sean…

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…subjects experience. The data collected is usually analyzed in a subjective manner.

While it is true that both qualitative and quantitative studies can have hypotheses, the reality is that quantitative studies tend to have testable hypotheses while qualitative studies tend to formulate an hypothesis during the iterative process of obtaining and analyzing data. In other words, a quantitative study will pose hypotheses at the outset and then set about testing them to see whether they can be accepted or rejected. A qualitative study on the other hand will pose central questions at the outset and then arrive at a possible hypothesis to explain the data collected at the end of the study. It is common for qualitative research to serve as the foundation for later quantitative research, which will essentially test the proposed hypotheses at the end of qualitative research.

The strengths of the qualitative method are that it allows for a deep down understanding of a phenomenon so that a hypothesis can be developed and then tested using a quantitative method. The weaknesses of the qualitative method are that it is mainly subjective and usually only allows one to look at a small sample.

Nonetheless, the best way to explore the intersectionality of religion, nationalism and environment in the formation of a Western terror organization is to explore the roots of the issue and examine it through the eyes of the individuals involved and through the eyes of individuals today who may have their own understanding of what went on. Perspective reveals a great deal about how these groups are formed. The interviews conducted will be transcribed and content analysis used to identify the themes that best explain the intersectionality.

Data will be collected by using social media to identify people in Ireland who want to be interviewed for this study and an unstructured interview approach will be used to conduct the interviews. The interviews will be recorded using video recording software on the computer and this will allow for the responses to be transcribed and examined in detail. By exploring the responses in this manner a fuller understanding of what causes groups of this particular nature to come together and how such formation could be prevented in the future may begin to be seen. Since the idea is to explore and then arrive at a hypothesis,…

Sample Source(s) Used


Bamford, B. (2005). The Role and Effectiveness of Intelligence in Northern Ireland. Intelligence and National Security, 20(4), 581-607.

Bell, J. B. (2008). The Secret Army: The IRA. London: Transaction Publishers.

IRA Green Book. (1977). Accessed 14 Dec 2015 from

Maloney, E. (2010). Voices from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland. NY: Faber, Faber.

O’Brien, B. (1999). The Long War: The IRA and Sinn Fein. NY: Syracuse University Press.

Rooney, N. (2007). Violent nationalism in catholic communities: The Provisional IRA and ETA. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 7(3), 64-77.

Shanahan, Timothy. (2008). The Provisional IRA and the Morality of Terrorism. UK: Edinburgh University Press.

Taylor, P. (2001). Brits. UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

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