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Defying the IRA?$
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Brian Hughes

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781781382974

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781382974.001.0001

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date: 25 June 2018

Defying the IRA in Belfast

Defying the IRA in Belfast

(p.151) 5 Defying the IRA in Belfast
Defying the IRA?

Brian Hughes

Liverpool University Press

This chapter is a study of the interaction between Irish Republican Army (IRA) guerrillas in the city of Belfast between 1920 and 1922. In many ways, Belfast was unique in the context of revolutionary Ireland, but violence there also followed its own individual patterns and logic. Between July 1920 and July 1922, violence in Belfast was organised along distinctly sectarian lines and consisted of rioting, sniping, bombing, burning, reprisal killing, and forced expulsion. The IRA in Belfast never enjoyed widespread support among the Catholic population it claimed to defend. There was significant opposition to republicans within the Catholic community – usually associated with Hibernianism – but when the IRA could successfully prove itself an effective defence against Protestant and loyalist aggression support was frequently forthcoming. A peak of support following the July 1921 Truce was only short-lived as brutal reprisals in retaliation for limited IRA activity in the city saw the Catholic population eventually withdraw its support completely. Operating in majority Protestant areas was difficult and dangerous but the IRA did cause significant damage even given its small size. Even in the unique circumstances of revolutionary Belfast, it will be seen, pragmatism and personal interest could still motivate behaviour.

Keywords:   Irish Republican Army, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Belfast, Catholics, Protestants, sectarianism

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