IRA hunger striker’s new insight on Provos

'The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament' will be launched at this year's Feile.
'The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament' will be launched at this year's Feile.

A new book examining the Provisional IRA’s formation, development and prospects for the future will be launched at this year’s Feile in Derry.

‘The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament’, by former IRA man and 1980 hunger striker Tommy McKearney, will be launched at an event at Sandino’s, Water Street, on August 11 (7 p.m.)

The book, published by Pluto Press, challenges the “misconception” that the Provos were “only, or even wholly, about ending partition and uniting Ireland.”

McKearney, who served 16 years in prison, argues that, while these objectives were always the core and headline demands of the organisation, opposition to the old Northern Ireland state was a major dynamic for the IRA’s armed campaign.

As he explores the make-up and strategy of the IRA, the author is not uncritical, examining alternative options available to the movement at different periods, arguing that its inability to develop a clear socialist programme has limited its effectiveness and reach.

Although it examines the Provisional IRA in its historical context, the book is not a history of the movement nor does it attempt to disclose the organisation’s secrets or identify its personnel.

In his conclusion, McKearney advances the argument that “radical, democratic republicanism” has a place in modern Ireland but, for it to remain relevant, it must develop a fresh dynamic.

For this to happen, he writes, republicanism requires a renewed programme that would treat republican principles as “much more than simple anti-partitionism and in which armed struggle is never again fetished and given prominence over wider political, social and economic struggles.”

Acclaimed author Tim Pat Coogan says McKearney’s story is ”one of those must read books for anyone interested either in the struggle within Northern Ireland itself or in the overall relationship between England and Ireland.”

Tommy McKearney, who is from County Tyrone, was a senior member of the Provisional IRA from the early 1970s until his arrest in 1977. He says he was shocked into joining the IRA as a result of the introduction of internment and, over the next six years, “worked for the IRA as a full-time activist”, funding himself on the wanted list and ‘on the run’ by late 1972.

Later sentenced to life imprisonment, he spent 53 days on hunger strike in 1980.