'The Green Book: I' from 'The IRA' by Tim Pat Coogan (1993)
[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
The following chapter has been contributed by the author Tim Pat Coogan, with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers. The views expressed in this book do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
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This chapter is copyright Tim Pat Coogan (1993) and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the author and publisher. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the author and Harper Collins Publishers. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.
THE GREEN BOOK: I
As we have seen (on pages 578-81) the I.R.A. prepared a structural plan based on the cell system which became public when Seamus Twomey was captured in 1977. The report found on him isolated the I.R.A.'s central problem as follows.
The three-day and seven-day detention orders are breaking volunteers and it is the Republican Army's fault for not indoctrinating volunteers with the psychological strength to resist interrogation.What did not become public was the Green Book, an important blueprint drawn up to give recruits the ability both to withstand outside pressures and to constantly keep political goals in mind. While it dealt with all aspects of training and the movement's aims, it clearly regarded the most important thing for a volunteer as being not so much what he carried in his hands, or what shape his organisation took - though such considerations are crucial - but what he carried around in his head and heart.
One of the first documents drawn to every recruit's attention, equal on a plane of importance with the 1916 Proclamation, is the Democratic Programme of the First Dail which met after the Sinn Féin landslide victory in the 'khaki election' of 1918 with a mandate for the whole of Ireland. In the first lecture of the Green Book the recruit is told:
Commitment to the Republican Movement is the firm belief that its struggle both military and political is morally justified, that war is morally justified and that the Army is the direct representative of the 1918 Dail Eireann Parliament, and that as such they are the legal and lawful government of the Irish Republic, which has the moral right to pass laws for, and to claim jurisdiction over the territory, air space, mineral resources, means of production, distribution and exchange and all of its people regardless of creed or loyalty.In the same lecture he is warned:
The most important thing is security, that means you:Being an Irish Revolution, drink of course has to be taken careful note of.
Another important thing volunteers must realise and understand is the danger involved in drinking alcohol and the very real danger, of over-drinking. Quite a large body of information has been gathered in the past by enemy forces and their touts from volunteers who drank.The recruit learns from Day One that:
The Irish Republican Army, as the legal representatives of the Irish people, are morally justified in carrying out a campaign of resistance against foreign occupation forces and domestic collaborators. All volunteers are and must feel morally justified in carrying out the dictates of the legal government, they as the Army are the legal and lawful Army of the Irish Republic which has been forced underground by overwhelming forces.The recruit is told that 'the British Army is an occupying force', and the R.U.C., Gardai, U.D.R. and Free State Army are 'illegal' armies and illegal forces whose main tasks are treasonable and as such morally wrong, politically unacceptable and ethically inexcusable. The volunteer is, as we have seen, told under 'Standing Order No.8' that 'the Southern forces are not to be regarded as targets'. This as we saw was an acknowledgement of the fact that times had changed in the Republic and that any other attitude would be unacceptable to the public. The recruit is also made aware of the importance of another tenet forced on the I.R.A. by harsh experience: motivation. Mindful of the splits and informers which grew out of both internment and more particularly the I.R.A.'s own blanket style of recruiting, he is warned.
The Army as an organisation claims and expects your total allegiance without reservation. It enters into every aspect of your life. It invades the privacy of your home life, it fragments your family and friends, in other words claims your total allegiance.This motivation is not merely expected to carry the volunteer through vicissitudes such as capture, interrogation and prison; it is expected to sustain him to the Movement's ultimate political goal - a socialist Republic. It is dinned into him that military action is an extension of political action, therefore the military campaign of the I.R.A. is in effect a political campaign. The recruit is told bluntly: 'people with no political concepts have no place in the Army.' Furthermore, those concepts must be of a particular type: 'All potential volunteers must be socialist in outlook.' The recruit is given a very clear eyed vision of the facts.
Before any potential volunteer decides to join the Irish Republican Army he should understand fully and clearly the issues involved. He should not join the Army because of emotionalism, sensationalism, or adventurism. He should examine fully his own motives, knowing the dangers involved and knowing that he will find no romance within the Movement. Again he should examine his political motives bearing in mind that the Army are intent on creating a Socialist Republic.Nowhere are the facts spelt out more specifically than in the briefing given on how political goals are to be arrived at by military action.
Volunteers are expected to wage a military war of liberation against a numerically superior force. This involves the use of arms and explosives. Firstly the use of arms. When volunteers are trained in the use of arms they must fully understand that guns are dangerous, and their main purpose is to take human life, in other words to kill people, and volunteers are trained to kill people. It is not an easy thing to take up a gun and go out to kill some person without strong convictions or justification. The Army, its motivating force, is based upon strong convictions which bonds the Army into one force and before any potential volunteer decides to join the Army he must have these strong convictions. Convictions which are strong enough give him confidence to kill someone without hesitation and without regret. The same can be said about a bombing campaign. Again all people wishing to join the Army must fully realise that when life is being taken, that very well could mean their own. If you go out to shoot soldiers or police you must fully realise that they too can shoot you.He should indeed.
'Analysis' is a word which a recruit soon becomes aware of; it figures prominently in all I.R.A. teaching. For, having warned the would-be guerrilla of what he is up against and told him what he is striving for, it is then of course essential to explain how both the 'for' and against' arose.
The nationhood of all Ireland has been an accepted fact for more than 1,500 years and has been recognised internationally as a fact. Professor Edmund Curtis, writing of Ireland in 800 AD says that 'she was the first nation North of the Alps to produce a whole body of literature in her own speech', and he is told how the Danes were driven out or assimilated by a people 'whose civilisation was a shining light throughout Europe', prior to the Norman invasion of 1169 with which there 'commenced more than 8 centuries of RELENTLESS AND UNREMITTING WARFARE that has lasted down to this very day'.It can be imagined how potent this teaching was (and is) to an unemployed young man in Andersonstown, Ballymurphy or the Bogside with British soldiers patrolling the streets. But as the hunger strikers lay dying, moved by their ordeal and by his own circumstances, such a young man would even more readily accept the fact that:
The position of the Irish Republican Army since its foundation in 1916 has been one of sustained resistance and implacable hostility to the forces of imperialism, always keeping in the forefront of the most advanced revolutionary thinking and the latest guerrilla warfare techniques in the world.He would accept the legitimacy of linking 'the 1916 Rising, the Black-and-Tan War, the War against the Free State and the new Six-County State, the Bombing Campaign in England 1939-40, the Resistance Campaign 1956-62 and finally the present most heroic campaign of all dedicated to final victory...' He would also be moved and recognise grace notes struck in his own day by the description of those dates, albeit with hyperbole as:
The milestones, the battle honours won, the blood-stained trail of sacrifice, imprisonment, hunger strikes, executions, yet with telling blows delivered to the enemy, often in the heart of British imperialism itself, commanding the open admiration of freedom-loving peoples around the world.And finally, with hammer-blows of moralistic continuity, any remaining doubts he might have of himself setting out to follow those 'milestones' would be broken down with the following:
NOTE: The moral position of the Irish Republican Army, its right to engage in warfare, is based on: (a) the right to resist foreign aggression; (b) the right to revolt against tyranny and oppression and (c) the direct lineal succession with the Provisional Government of 1916, the first Dail of 1919 and the second Dail of 1921.Regarding point (c), the first Dail declared itself the successor to the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation when it met in January 1919. Later, in March 1921, it declared that if enemy action reduced its ranks to a minimum, the remaining Deputies should hand over executive powers of government to the Army of the Republic, which would constitute itself as a Provisional Government. In 1922, when the majority of the Dail approved the Treaty of Surrender, and were thus guilty of treachery, the I.R.A. withdrew its allegiance from the Dail. Later that year it recognised the minority of the 1921 Deputies as the 'final custodians to the Republic'.
In 1938 the seven surviving faithful Republican Deputies delegated executive powers to the Army Council of the I.R.A. per the 1921 resolution [see page 159]. In 1969 the sole surviving Deputy, Joseph Clarke [sic1], reaffirmed publicly that the then Provisional Army Council and its successors were the inheritors of the first and second Dail as a Provisional Government.From that point on the recruit would accept the I.R.A. premise that it was fighting 'a long war of liberation' on the three grounds outlined above. It is then explained that the type of society the recruit sees around him is a product of economic and cultural imperialism manifested in the 'living conditions, life style and political power of the minority in comparison with those of the majority'.
Economic imperialism is evident on every main road and city street of Ireland: in Banking, Insurance, Merchant Marine, the Motor Industry, Mining, Fisheries, Industry in General, I.C.I., Courtaulds, Pye, Phillips, Grundig, Shell-BP, Wimpey etc.; and cultural imperialism, epitomised in the Conor Cruise O'Briens of this Island, has been reinforced since the Treaty sell-out by successive Free State Governments via mass media, R.T.E., and the press and through education.He is taught that a Republican must fight these and all other forms of imperialism and Neo-Colonialism so as to overthrow the unjust systems prevailing in both Free State and Six Counties.
The injustice of being as an individual politically impotent, the injustice of unemployment, poverty, poor housing, inadequate social security, the injustice of the exploitation of our labour, our intelligence and our natural resources, the injustice of the bloody-minded destruction of our culture, our language, music, art, drama, customs, the inherent injustice of the state repression which is necessary to maintain the present system as a whole.So long as partition lasts a unified national concentration on correcting these injustices is not possible. 'We must therefore first of all break the British connection.' The I.R.A. promises a democratic and socialist state:
A Government system which will give every individual the opportunity to partake in the decisions which affect him or her: by decentralising political power to the smallest social unit practicable where we would all have the opportunity to wield political power both individually and collectively in the interests of ourselves and the nation as a whole. Socially and Economically we will enact a policy aimed at eradicating the Social Imperialism of today, by returning the ownership of the wealth of Ireland to the people of Ireland through a system of co-operativism, worker ownership, and control of industry, Agriculture and the Fisheries.In order to achieve the long-term goal of the Democratic Socialist State every member of the Movement is urged to concentrate on short-term objectives which might be accomplished en route to the long-term goal.
A new recruit's immediate obstacle is the removal of his (her) ignorance about how to handle weapons, military tactics, security, interrogations etc. An O.C.'s might be how to put a unit on a military footing; an I.O.'s how to create an effective intelligence network; a Cumann Chairman's how best to mount a campaign on a given issue, e.g. H Blocks etc., and for all members of the movement regardless of which branch we be-long to, to enhance our commitment to and participation in the struggle through gaining as comprehensive an understanding as possible of our present society and the proposed Republican alternative through self and group education.The approach of the Green Book is a cunningly thought out mixture of philosophy and guide to action. Each lesson or lecture is in part repetitious, in part a thinking forward to the next stage, a constant preoccupation with the problem of how to win friends and influence people while at the same time killing others and setting off explosions. The basic formula chosen to deal with this lethal paradox is 'get your defensive before your offensive'. This is explained to the recruit thus:
Before we go on the offensive politically or militarily we take the greatest defensive precautions possible to ensure success, e.g. we do not advocate a United Ireland without being able to justify our right to such a state as opposed to partition; we do not employ revolutionary violence as our means without being able to illustrate that we have no recourse to any other means. Or in more everyday simple terms: we do not claim that we are going to escalate the war if we cannot do just that; we do no mount an operation without first having ensured that we have taken the necessary defensive precautions of accurate intelligence, security, that weapons are in proper working order with proper ammunition and that the volunteers involved know how to handle interrogations in the event of their capture etc, and of course that the operation itself enhances rather then alienates our supporters.The book does not hesitate to point out the I.R.A.'s own mistakes in order to highlight this point. It warns about how the enemy can exploit for publicity reasons bomb situations, there having been some horrific cases of bombs going off before buildings could be cleared:
Even the given situations of adequate bomb warnings are exploited which is again our mistake in not having sufficiently considered our defensive before going on the offensive: the so-called Bloody Friday [see page 480] being the prime example. Either we did not stop to consider that the enemy would 'Dirty Joe' us on the warnings or we overestimated the Brits' ability to handle so many operations. But regardless of which is the case we made the mistake and the enemy exploited it.But the recruit is also taught how to exploit the enemy's mistakes.
We exploit these mistakes by propagating the facts. So it was with their murderous mistakes of the Falls Road curfew, Bloody Sunday and internment, which were exploited to our advantage support-wise as was the murder of John Boyle in Dunloy.The grim flexibility of the I.R.A., which can 'legitimise' a target at the drop of an ideological hat, is contained in the directive on tactics.
Tactics are dictated by the existing conditions. Here again the logic is quite simple. Without support Volunteers, Dumps, Weapons, Finance, etc., we cannot mount an operation, much less a campaign. In September 1969 the existing conditions dictated that Brits were not to be shot, but after the Falls curfew all Brits were to the people acceptable targets. The existing conditions had been changed.In that concluding phase, the 'etc.' can be the most important - and deadly - word. The 'existing conditions' can indicate a chilling range of 'etceteras'. For instance, the businessman Jeffrey Agate was shot because at the time the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Roy Mason was touring the U.S. trying to attract investment to the Province. Sir Norman Stronge and his son were shot and their home burned because sectarian assassinations were claiming the lives of Catholics. The death of Sir Norman, a former Speaker of the parliament of Stormont and one of the Province's leading Orangemen, made the sectarian assassins give up their campaign-at least temporarily. Edgar Graham, the Unionist Assemblyman, was shot because it was discovered that he had been aiding the prisons administration with advice which was felt to be outside a politician's normal term of reference. The Carrolls, a husband and wife who had been 'turned' by the R.U.C., were executed both as informers and to respond to the tactic of 'turning'. Whole categories of people can be declared 'legitimate targets' for a period. During the H Block crisis, for instance, over a score of warders were shot; throughout 1985 and 1986 contractors who either did building work on R.U.C. barracks or even performed catering duties were targets.
So far as the I.R.A. were concerned, these people were helping to 'service the war-machine' of their enemies. And the Green Book itself says:
We do not exclude taking an action which does not completely fill the criteria of this analysis on how to conduct the struggle. Many instances have arisen and will arise again when we have had to step outside these general terms of reference to our immediate detriment propaganda-wise and support-wise. However even in such an eventuality, if we rationalise our action, get our defensive before our offensive, try to ensure that we have an alternative, relatively unaffected area of support from which to operate if the support in the area in which the detrimental but unavoidable action takes place, we are adhering as best as possible under the circumstances to a proper conduct of the war.The young recruit is left under no illusion as to the power and extent of the enemies ranged against the I.R.A. both from outside and within.
THE ENEMY: CATEGORISE-CURE: The enemy, generally speaking, are all those opposed to our short-term or long-term objectives. But having said that, we must realise that all our enemies are not the same and therefore there is no common cure for their enmity. The conclusion then is that we must categorise and then suggest cures for each category.If Dr O'Brien did in fact 'booze' to the extent the I.R.A. pun attempts to suggest, he would not have created the body of writing which makes him the object of their propaganda. But as has been said before it is an Irish Revolution, and no opportunity for humour, however slight, can be lost sight of even when summing up something as important as the Movement's strategy (as opposed to tactics).
GUERRILLA STRATEGY: Many figures of speech have been used to describe Guerrilla Warfare, one of the most apt being 'The War of the Flea' which conjured up the image of a flea harrying a creature of by comparison elephantine size into fleeing (forgive the pun). Thus it is with a Guerrilla Army such as the I.R.A. which employs hit and run tactics against the Brits while at the same time striking at the soft economic underbelly of the enemy, not with the hope of physically driving them into the sea but nevertheless expecting to effect their withdrawal by an effective campaign of continuing harrassment contained in a fivefold guerrilla strategy.
The greatest threat posed to the I.R.A. is that of penetration either by enemy agents and informers or by the supergrass system. To guard against this threat, volunteers learn tactics such as anti-interrogation techniques, which the Green Book concentrates on in particular - an indication of how importantly this is viewed by the I.R.A., and which we will examine shortly. But even more important than the counter-interrogation techniques is the creation of a good self-image on the part of the volunteer, by dinning into him the justice of his cause and his personal superiority to the 'Brit' enemy, who has 'not only the sympathy of, but a degree of control over the elements which largely formulate people's opinions - TV, Radio, the large circulation press'.
While one of our chief considerations in deciding tactics is the concern for our friends, relatives, neighbours, our people is the midst of whom we operate, the enemy is simply dealing with an impersonal, inferior foreigner, a 'Paddy'. 'Musck-Savage' or 'Bog-Wog', and with the great added advantage of all the resources and back up of a conventional army, para-military police, etc., e.g. M.R.F., S.A.S., plain clothes units, covert surveillance teams etc.It is pointed out to the volunteer that 'the Brit, apart from the adventurist elements, has no motivation for being here'.
A member of the I.R.A. is such by his own choice, his convictions being the only factor which compels him to volunteer, his objectives the political freedom and social and economic justice for his people. Apart from the few minutes in the career of the average Brit that he comes under attack, the Brit has freedom or personal initiative. He is told when to sleep, where to sleep, when to get up, where to spend his free time etc.The threat of capture looms over all I.R.A. activity, even more omnipresent than death. It is a situation from which the I.R.A. can draw either defeat as in earlier confrontations in the Curragh for instance, or victory in death as in the H Block struggle. But capture and interrogation are circumstances for which all volunteers have to be prepared en route to the Movement's long-term objective of a Democratic Socialist Republic, before the actual prison, or rather interrogation programming commences. Immediately before the subject of interrogation is dealt with all that a volunteer has learned to date is summarised in chart form as shown on the following page.
The summary continues:
By now it is clear that our task is not only to kill as many enemy personnel as possible but of equal importance to create support which will carry us not only through a war of liberation which could last another decade but which will support us past the 'Brits Out' stage to the ultimate aim of a Democratic Socialist Republic.
The immediate protective barriers are of course, our own security, the other branches of the movement, our billets etc. But we must build up other barriers by championing the various causes in our support areas through involvement in the various enemy structures which have been brought down as a result of the war: Policing, Transport, Bin-Collection, Advice Centres, etc.,It will be seen from the foregoing that despite all the political and military training and advice, the recruit must be warned that jail is something he will almost inevitably experience. Interrogations are frequently simulated in training to increase the volunteers' awareness of what confronts them.
CAIN Note 1: Richard English in his book 'Armed Struggle: A History of the IRA' (2003) gives the name of the surviving Deputy as Tom Maguire (page 113).
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