US sailors tried to join the IRA

Dr. Edward Burke.
Dr. Edward Burke.

A new book has claimed some servicemen based at the U.S. Naval Communication Station in Derry in the 1970s tried to join the IRA but were told by the late Martin McGuinness it wasn’t such a good idea.

The claim is contained in Dr. Edward Burke’s, ‘An Army of Tribes: British Army Cohesion, Deviancy and Murder in Northern Ireland’, which has as its primary focus the experiences of British Army personnel in the North during ‘Operation Banner’.

Though mainly concerned with British squaddies the new work by the University of Nottingham academic has also managed to cast light on the phenomenon of latent Irish republicanism among some of the US sailors at Clooney.

Dr. Burke spoke to one US serviceman who was married to a girl from the Bogside and who went with a comrade to meet the IRA after Bloody Sunday

“Through republican intermediaries, a meeting was arranged,” said Dr. Burke.

“They went to a house in the Bogside and there to meet them, he claimed, was Martin McGuinness, among other senior Derry republicans.

“They sat down, they had a meeting,” he added.

Mr. McGuinness, who was Adjutant of the IRA’s Derry Brigade when the meeting is supposed to have taken place cautioned against enlistment.

“Martin McGuinness thanked them for their support, but he said in terms of their active participation in the struggle, it was better for them to keep out of it. And that was it.

“Like a lot of Americans are, he was sympathetic to Irish republicanism.

“He decided he wanted to hit back against the perceived injustice to him and his wife’s family.”

‘An Army of Tribes: British Army Cohesion, Deviancy and Murder’ is published by Liverpool University Press. Paperback is £19.95.