The IRA is morphing into the ‘Rafia’

This L.A. Times OpEd by Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA member who spent 18 years in prison, details how the IRA has lost its way and has become a criminal enterprise and no longer fights for a unified Ireland. His website, The Blanket, A Journal of Protest and Dissent is at

A young man not even out of my teens, I entered the ranks of this steely republican fighting machine. Within days I was pitting both my wits and my seriously inadequate sniping skills against the might of the British empire. I came through. Many others did not. Among those who died were the 10 hunger strikers in 1981.

I knew some of those hunger strikers from prison, where I spent 18 years for killing a loyalist paramilitary.

Upon my release in 1992, I made my way back into the organization to which I had given my most productive years. But it had changed. The totalitarian grip of its foremost leader, Gerry Adams, smothered any serious internal discussion. Adams surrounded himself with head-nodding lackeys rather than critical thinkers. Suffocated by mindless sycophants and hounded by thought police, I broke with the IRA completely in 1998.

The political timing for my departure was right. The IRA leadership had embraced defeat in its acceptance of the Good Friday agreement. That “solution,” with its built-in guarantee of continued British rule, enshrined everything I had spent a lifetime opposing. I could accept defeat. It happens all the time in wars. I was not, however, prepared to celebrate it.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. Under the leadership of Adams, the IRA has lost its way and is now bereft of legitimate purpose. Without any strategic framework for securing the withdrawal of the British state from Ireland, the IRA is now little more than a fundraiser and enforcer for its political wing, Sinn Fein.

With the IRA no longer involved in a war to expel the British, a checklist of its activities suggests it is more like a national crime syndicate than a national liberation army: extortion, robberies, mutilations, intimidation and the occasional murder of members of its own community.

Despite the murder of McCartney, the vast bulk of IRA volunteers are not motivated by criminal intent. But they are victims of a leadership that has stained republicanism by using the tradition, legitimacy, heritage and ethos of yesteryear for a radically different project that enhances the power and prosperity of republican leaders but does nothing to further the republican objective of a united Ireland.