IRA War Crimes – Enlisting Children

Since its foundation in 1970, the Provisional IRA’s ‘Army Council’ has authorised War Crimes (in the case of an armed conflict not of an international character, serious violations of article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949) of five main kinds.

I am going to start by examining one of them – the IRA’s enlistment and exploitation of children and usage of them to participate actively in the IRA’s self-declared hostilities.

Most particularly in the Belfast Brigade of the IRA, a decision was taken early on to enlist children into IRA activities as child soldiers, and most especially (but not exclusively) in ‘D’ company activities in the Ballymurphy area.

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Gerry Adams & Darkie Hughes in a Long-forgotten Long Kesh embrace

Legendary IRA Belfast Brigade commander Brendan ‘Darkie’ Hughes – pictured in an embrace with Gerry Adams in Long Kesh – offered the following admission to Gill & Horgan:

“There was a major influx of youngsters coming in . . . you had the Fianna at this time, young kids, from twelve to sixteen, [but] they had to be over fifteen to be trained in weapons, both Fianna and the Cumann na gCailini [girl’s version]. They were potential recruits [to the adult IRA]; they did scouting work, for instance . . . on their way to school.”

Hughes was referring to the IRA’s historical organisations for child soldiers, namely Fianna na hEireann for boys and Cumann na gCailini for girls, which were both resurrected in 1970/71 for activities in support of the mainstream IRA.

IRA volunteer and former Fianna na hEireann member himself, Robert McClenaghan, told Gill & Horgan:

“We were the junior so we would have been out in front looking to see if there was any British army, looking to see if there was any RUC. The older volunteers in the IRA—they would have come out and done the shooting or whatever it was they were involved in. They would have given the weapons to us and then we would have took the weapons away and put them into a safe place.”

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Robert McClenaghan – truth seeker

Predictably, notions of keeping these children apart from dangerous IRA activities withered on the vine and child casualties quickly occurred in Belfast.

On 12.08.73, twelve-year-old Cathy McGartland was ‘killed in action’ and is memorialised as a Cumann na gCailini combatant. Gerry Adams unveiled a memorial in Ballymurphy which includes her name under the heading ‘Volunteers’. Her brother, Martin McGartland, was later unveiled as a British agent within the IRA [‘Fifty Dead Men Walking’].

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12 year old Cathy McGartland – IRA Child Soldier War Crime

On 23.03.72, thirteen-year-old Fianna na hEireann Sean O’Riordan was ‘killed in action’ when participating in an attack on a British Army foot patrol in Cawnpore Street on the Falls.

On 19.02.72, fourteen-year-old David McAuley accidentally shot himself in the head with a weapon he was handling. He was O.C. of the local Fianna na hEireann ‘slua’ [group] in Ardoyne.

On 18.05.73, fourteen-year-old Eileen Mackin was ‘killed in action’ and is recorded on a Cumann na mBan mural on the Ballymurphy Road.  While she was reported as shot when an IRA sniper opened fire on a British Army vehicle, it was also said that she was shot during an arms training session when an Armalite rifle discharged. She has been both recorded and erased from various conflicting Rolls of Honour over the years.

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14 Year Old Eileen Mackin – IRA Child Soldier War Crime

On 13.05.72, fifteen-year-old Michael Magee was killed by the accidental discharge of a weapon on the Whiterock Road following the bombing of Kelly’s Bar.

On 23.03.75, fifteen-year-old Robert Allsopp was killed by the accidental discharge of a gun at home in the New Lodge. A thirteen-year-old girl was said to have left the scene with the weapon.

On 29.08.75, fifteen-year-old James Templeton was shot dead on the Ormeau Road.

This list excludes the many sixteen-year-old Fianna and IRA youth deaths.

One of the few republicans and later prominent Sinn Fein personalities to have admitted to a war crime in Northern Ireland is well-known Derry republican and Irish language activist, former chairperson of Northern Sinn Fein, former Mayor of the city and former member of the Policing Board, Gerry O’Hara/Gearoid O’hEara.  During the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, a strange competition took place between O’Hara and informer Paddy Ward to be recognised as the Officer Commanding of Fianna na hEireann in the city.

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Fianna Commander, Gerry O’Hara, & IRA Commander, Martin McGuinness, in civvies (Armani)

Paddy Ward, who was sixteen years old on Bloody Sunday, was giving evidence damaging to Martin McGuinness, claiming McGuinness had given him nail bomb detonators and orders to use nail bombs around the Guildhall in the city centre after the Bloody Sunday march. The Derry Brigade of the IRA strove to discredit everything Ward said in order to protect McGuinness, who was represented at the enquiry by Barra McGrory.

This resulted in the extraordinarily public and competing claims by both Paddy Ward and Gerry O’Hara to have been Officer Commanding of Fianna na hEireann in Derry on Bloody Sunday, each with different stories of what really happened.

In his haste to discredit Ward and to deodorize McGuinness’ Bloody Sunday narrative, O’Hara forgot that he was the only republican admitting to a war crime in having commanded a militant grouping which was grooming children/youths to both support the IRA and to join it later.

On Saturday, November 14th 2009, O’Hara delivered the keynote address at an Ógra Shinn Fein dinner dance in the Holiday Inn, Belfast, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Na Fianna Éireann. There is a video of the address on YouTube in which O’Hara admits to having outed himself at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and declares that while many people may have imagined Fianna members to have been scouting, ‘most people’s experience of it was that people ended up almost on the front line’.

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Gerry O’Hara unaware of the Geneva Conventions re Child Soldiers in Conflicts

O’Hara went on to say that when he Googled Fianna na hEireann, Wikipedia described its latest incarnation as Ogra Sinn Fein [Youth Sinn Fein], but that in the struggle that was developing in the 1970s, ‘the Fianna were involved in an armed struggle situation and played a key role in preparing activists for leadership, for activity, for activism on the streets’.

O’Hara went on to repeat the false and empty mantra that they ‘remember the names of those young men who gave their lives at such an early age’. Not a single name was mentioned of either a young boy or girl during his keynote address.

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Ardoyne Memorial to more Child Soldiers of the IRA

O’Hara and the IRA’s Army Council members do not recognise that the Geneva conventions exist to try to prevent the very child exploitation to which he has publicly admitted. Child soldiers did not ‘give’ their  lives – their lives were taken from them when they were immature and vulnerable by the exploitation of the IRA organisation and by self-proclaimed adult leaders of Fianna na hEireann like Gerry O’Hara.

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Sinn Fein – Cherishing all the Child Soldiers of the Nation

This is a violent form of grooming and child abuse, not alone resulting in the deaths of children as outlined above, but also in burdening the consciences of very young people with acts of violence while many paramilitary leaders cynically kept themselves and their own family members far from any participation in the ‘armed struggle’.

O’Hara went on to express the hope that the young people in the room were going to finish the project to ‘roll back 800 years of colonial exploitation of this country’.

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Sinn Fein/IRA – Cherishing all the children of the nation equally

They would be wiser to roll back the thirty years of paramilitary brainwashing of an entire community by the death cult of SFIRA.

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Former ETA Leaders Face Crimes Against Humanity Charges

Whoops! Didn’t the IRA and ETA constantly refer to the kinship and similarities of their armed struggles?

 

4 thoughts on “IRA War Crimes – Enlisting Children

  1. David McKittrick et al’s Lost Lives (2001 ed.) describes a number of the Troubles’ victims as killed by 16 year olds and in one case, a 14 year old (the following is not a complete list, just what I’ve come across after looking up particular entries):
    Protestant bus driver Sydney Agnew (40, married, 3 children), killed January 18 1972. ‘The inquiry was told that two 16-year-olds appeared at his door … and asked his six-year-old son whether his father was a bus driver. … Sydney Agnew came to the door, and when one of the youths produced a revolver he pushed his son and ten-year-old daughter into the living room. He was then shot several times, one bullet striking his 82-year-old mother-in-law in the foot.’ (LL, p.142, #237) LL states that ‘it is believed republicans were behind the attack’ while Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths accords responsibility to ‘Irish Republican Army (IRA)’
    KOSBie William Boardley (30, married, 2 children), KIA by PIRA, February 1, 1973. ‘In 1979 a man … who had been 16 at the time of the shooting, was sentenced to life imprisonment. The court heard that the man had hijacked a car used in the attack and had accompanied the gunman. … The defendant received other sentences for bombing attacks which were said to have caused damage in excess of £700,000.’ (LL, p.323, #746)
    Kathleen Feeney, 14, Catholic schoolgirl, killed by PIRA gunmen firing at British soldiers on November 14, 1973 (denied by PIRA who went on to two soldiers ‘in retaliation’ for her death (Heinz Pisarek and Joseph Brookes) before, finally, 32 years later, admitting their responsibility). ‘An 18-year-old youth was charged with her murder. Aged 16 at the time of the shooting, he was acquitted of her murder and of attempting to murder soldiers, and of IRA membership. He was, however, jailed for seven years after admitting having an Armalite rifle and ammunition. … the defendant had told police he fired only once.’ (LL, p.401, #961)
    Scots Guardsman Alan Daughtery (23, married, 2 children), KIA by PIRA, December 31, 1973. ‘An unnamed woman told the inquest that three young men took over her home at 1.30 p.m. … An hour and a half later she heard a shot and the men ran downstairs and out into the back yard. … A 16-year-old youth was later sentenced to be detained for five years for intimidation. A murder charge against him was dropped.’ (LL, p.411, #988)
    Constable Thomas McClinton (28, married, 1 child), killed by PIRA gunmen, March 2, 1974. ‘Six years later two men were charged and found guilty of murder. One of them, who was 14 at the time of the murder, served 14 years following his conviction.’ (LL, p.425, #1023)
    Maurice Knowles, 17 (Protestant, a student), killed by four gunmen whilst out duck-hunting on December 30, 1974; ‘Two days later, two 16-year-old Catholics were charged with the murder and were later found guilty.’ (LL, p.508, #1291) Neither LL nor Sutton allocate responsibility but see Belfast Telegraph article on one of the convicted gunmen. (11 months after her son’s death, Molly Knowles shot herself; and she was neither the first nor the last to commit suicide in their grief over the loss of a loved one.)
    James Liggett, 66, a security guard killed by INLA gunmen, December 19, 1976. ‘A Portadown youth, who was 16 at the time of the killing, was later jailed for manslaughter and for the manslaughter of Robert Walter Whiten, a magistrate killed six months later.’ (LL, p.695, #1866)
    Margaret Hearst, 24, p/t UDR and single mother with a 3-year-old child, murdered in her mobile home in the garden of her parents’ house by PIRA gunmen on October 8, 1977. ‘On May 16, 1979, a Middletown teenager was sentenced to be detained indefinitely because he was only 16 at the time of the murder. He admitted he had fired the fatal shots.’ (LL, p.737, #1970)

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