IRA’s Allies Remember Their Dead, Offer No Hint of New Cease-Fire
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Irish Republican Army supporters rallied throughout Ireland on Sunday to remember their side’s dead from four generations, and offered no suggestions of another cease-fire.
British army surveillance helicopters hovered at a distance as marchers and black-bereted bands moved through Catholic west Belfast to the IRA plot in Milltown Cemetery, where scores of the outlawed group’s members are buried.
Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party, told an estimated 5,000 supporters in Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second-largest town, that the British and Irish governments should be held accountable for the collapse of the truce.
Adams specifically criticized Irish Prime Minister John Bruton for failing to confront what he called ``British duplicity and bad faith.″
The IRA, unwilling to begin disarming as Britain had demanded, in February ended its 17-month cease-fire with two deadly bombings in London. In response, the British and Irish governments set a June 10 date for the start of multiparty negotiations in Belfast, but agreed that Sinn Fein could take part only if the IRA resumes its truce.
Easter is the most revered date in the IRA calendar. The modern paramilitary group draws its origins from the abortive Easter 1916 nationalist uprising that left parts of central Dublin in ruins and more than 300 dead.
The rebellion’s commanders, initially ridiculed by angry Dubliners, became martyrs after they were executed by British army firing squads. Today their names adorn southern Irish streets, parks and buildings _ and their portraits feature prominently in IRA murals in Belfast and Londonderry.
Invoking that memory and the deaths of 300 IRA members since 1969, activists in the Sinn Fein-IRA movement marched, made hard-line speeches and laid wreaths at 25 locations, mostly in Northern Ireland.
IRA representatives masked in black balaclavas spoke at some rallies. They read out the group’s Easter statement, published Thursday, which asserted the IRA’s authority to destroy property and kill if the two governments did not launch peace talks ``without preconditions.″
The Easter statement did not indicate whether the IRA was prepared to meet Irish-British demands for another cease-fire.
Another rally was expected Monday in County Wexford, southeast Ireland, home of the most recent IRA member to die: 21-year-old Ed O’Brien, who accidentally blew himself up while smuggling a small bomb into central London aboard a double-decker bus Feb. 18.
The original IRA, formed in the wake of the Easter rising, fought a ruthless guerrilla war against British forces. That conflict produced a 1921 treaty splitting Ireland into two states: an independent Irish Free State and a new Northern Ireland state governed by its British Protestant majority.
The IRA remained a fringe movement until the late 1960s when Protestants violently opposed Catholic civil rights protests in Northern Ireland.
A modern ``Provisional″ IRA was founded initially to defend working-class Catholic districts, then from mid-1970 onwards to destabilize Northern Ireland and Britain with bomb attacks and assassinations.
Since the mid-1980s, its allied Sinn Fein party has received about 11 percent of votes in Northern Ireland, and much less in the Irish Republic.