Was the IRA justified in The Troubles or not?


I’m from the North of Ireland which was until recently a conflict area and where Irish Catholics were for along time oppressed and discriminated against. As many probably already know a group named the Provisional Irish Republican Army or IRA campaigned in the North to “liberate” it from British rule. This group used tactics such as bombing of streets, murder of civilians and hit and run tactics against the Army.

When you here things like murdering of civilians it would make you question the validity of their campaign. It is however …difficult seeing as this group was and still is seen by many (not by all) as the only group that could protect the Irish community and stand up for them. One could argue that the violence used wasn’t justified and instead there should have been negotiation between the Irish community and Northern Irish State.

This I believe however could not have been possible after 1972 when the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a Civil Rights March and killing 14 innocent people on 30th January of which would come to be known as Bloody Sunday. This action was a turning point in The Troubles, the British Army was no longer seen as a force that was there to protect the Irish community but rather to suppress them.

The IRA is an organisation that is seen by many as an organisation who acted to free the Irish form a oppressive State who favored British Protestants. Others see it as a terrorist group that murdered innocent people and was unnecessarily violent. This is the Irish community in the North that i’m talking about which is divided in their view of the IRA, the British Protestants without a doubt see them as terrorists.

I want to know if the Just War Doctrine while only applied to States can be used to justify Paramilitary Groups in an armed campaign when all other options have been exhausted and if the IRA was left with no choice but to mount an armed campaign so the British State would eventually come and negotiate which I believe was the result of The Troubles.

This is a question of morality and theology which I struggle with on, the legacy of our past wont let us move on as a single community and we are still in some areas bitterly divided. I would like an outside view on this and Catholic one as well.


This issue is very complex. There has been a long-standing tension between Irish Catholics and Protestants, which includes the Orange Order and Orangemen who hold a yearly march that goes through Catholic areas. Further, there are the Irish who consider themselves part of Britain and those who want an independent Ireland. In the late 1960s, The Troubles would lead to intervention by the British Army who, it was supposed, was called in to act as peacekeepers. It would appear that both sides stubbornly held to their own goals and it was hoped some equitable decision could be reached. The IRA also had internal splits as well. A summary:


The current situation, which includes the Catholic view:


I’m afraid that Nationalism is a driver, along with religious differences. In Europe, national identities are very important. Look at the attempt at independence for Scotland that was voted down in 2014. The numbers of “no” votes was 55.3%, which indicates to me that such issues will continue. Look at how the map of Europe changed after World War II. The Ukrainians demanded Ukrainian be taught in schools, not Russian, after the USSR fell, and their own currency. A half century or more does not diminish ethnic identity or homeland identity.

The IRA was an irregular force of nationalists, and they held a large weapons stockpile. It appears they were not justified but this is sometimes the case when frustration, combined with no substantive political action, leads to getting those in power to notice and take action or face continued acts of violence and death.



My own ancestors came from County Cork so my sympathies have always been with the Irish.

There is a good book that I found on Amazon called
Resistance to Tyranny: A Primer

Jan 25, 2014by Joseph Martino

Martino deals with this very issue early on in the book. The rest may not be that interesting, but it’s worth it for the parts that do apply.


The answer to your question is no. The deliberate murder of innocents is never justified.


This. :thumbsup:


I was told growing up that it was a “just war” kind of situation. The resistance was justified, heroic, tragic, etc., Bobby Sands. Over the years, as I have more objectively looked into the conflict from all sides, I have come to question that a little bit, and wonder if it is just Republican propaganda for terrorism, guerrilla warfare. (the flip side of the loyalists) To be honest, I am still torn - sometimes I decide one way, then the other. Maybe it is progress if you get to that ‘mixed’ view of it, rather than locked on one side or the other.


Since Ghandi beat the British with peaceful resistance, the answer for Northern Ireland would have to be no. My father was born in Galway, so I have had time to think on this somewhat. Its in the past, hopefully it will be remembered, but stay in the past.


First post after lurking and learning for a while.

A huge NO they were NOT justified.

I am a catholic born and living in Belfast. My father was murdered by the IRA in bomb blast. It left my mum a young widow with 3 young children.

We are all adults now some with our own families.

The IRA completely destroyed my family broke all our hearts. No island is worth a drop of innocent blood. Murder is wrong no matter how it’s dressed up.

Only recently with the grace of God and the sacraments am I able to forgive. If the terrorists were practicing the gift of their Catholic faith this would never have happened to my family and countless others here.

I don’t want to say anything or add anything more to this however I felt I must post.


Thanks for the input, I ask because The Troubles weigh heavily in my mind and find it frustrating that our society is still divided over the past. What happened was awful and both sides are both responsible for committing atrocities, yet people would say that there was no other way and it was because that violence was used that we were able to the point where we are now. Then again was it worth all the killing and hurt, I’ve come to believe that it wasn’t and that a peaceful alternative was reached sooner than it was instead.

Also alisara I’m sorry what happened to your family during The Troubles, I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers


Alisara, I am so sorry to hear your story. I pray for you and your family.

Your story is sobering. It helps to destroy the myth the IRA builds up in the nationalistic community. But there was also much suffering by Catholics at the hands of loyalist violence and unionist government and social discrimination and harassment. Was violence the answer to that? Probably not. But there were limited options for the Catholic community and the Irish nationalists for many years - and that is a fact.

In the end, I think Britain would have come around peacefully to restraining unionist excesses and aggression, leading the way to a fairer society in Northern Ireland. Both sides suffered and died. Partition was a mess from the start - a bloody one.

In terms of history I am firmly convinced that Ireland was peacefully and diplomatically headed straight toward home rule and independence in 1916, before the Easter Rising. I do not believe that the Rising was necessary; that is another myth.

Thank God Ireland and Northern Ireland have reached a point of such stability and peace. May it reign from here on.


May God be good to your poor dear Da. May God grant you and your family His peace.


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