Tuesday, January 10, 2006


One man's terrorist...

A freedom fighter Yesterday's post on the IRA proved interesting and seemed to get alot of you thinking about Irish history and politics, but I found that the issue of terrorism which was raised by some of you who left comments, was an interesting tangent of the discussion and worthy in itself of a post.

The man pictured to your left is Michael Collins, the famous Irish revolutionary and former Director of Intelligence of the IRA.

Was this man a terrorist?

Some are of the opinion that Collins and indeed Collins' Irish Republican Army were terrorists and no different to later groups, some of which are still around to this day and who go by the same name.

I disagree with this view wholeheartedly.

In my opinion Michael Collins and the IRA of the time were not terrorists, rather they were freedom fighters.

I think an important step in determining what 'terrorism' is acknowledging that it is far from easy to define it. A study by the US Army in 1988 found over 100 definitions for the word 'terrorism'.

The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics definition of 'terrorism' reads:

"Term with no agreement amongst government or academic analysts, but almost invariably used in a pejorative sense, most frequently to describe life-threatening actions perpetrated by politically motivated self-appointed sub-state groups. But if such actions are carried out on behalf of a widely approved cause, say the Maquis seeking to destabilize the Government of Vichy France then the term 'terrorism' is avoided and something more friendly is substituted. In short, one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter."

Of course from an Irish standpoint and for the purposes of this post, the telling sentence there reads, "if such actions are carried out on behalf of a widely approved cause" and as we all know, the IRA's actions were carried out on behalf of a widely approved cause.

In the British General Election held in December 1918, Sinn Féin won 73 out of the 105 Irish seats. Sinn Féin candidates were pledged not to participate in the Westminster parliament but to convene an Irish Parliament in Dublin. On January 21st, 1919, Dáil Eireann was established and in September of the same year, the British military proclaimed the Dáil "illegal". In the local elections of 1920, Sinn Féin obtained 80% of the seats, winning a majority in 28 of the 32 counties. And as the BBC's site states, "The civilian population was at first shocked by the IRA's actions but rapidly came to support them out of patriotic sentiment and because of the repressive nature of the British government’s response."

That to me indicates that the IRA were certainly NOT a terrorist outfit but rather a group working to rid their country of an occupier that most of the country didn't want there!

Some have criticised the methods employed by Collins and the IRA but for a country of Ireland's size, guerilla tactics were the only way to beat a numerically superior enemy.

In my opinion, if a group are acting against the wishes of the majority of their countrymen then they are engaging in terrorist activity. However the 'Old' IRA were acting on the wishes of the majority of their countrymen and the British were the ones who were occupying territory against the Irish nation's inhabitants.

Michael Collins a terrorist? No. A freedom fighter.


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