Terrorists have exploited religion, the media and democratic processes in pursuit of their goals. This can be demonstrated by the tactics employed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and its political front Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. The British government and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) have been locked in a battle over Northern Ireland policy for many years. The presence of British troops and the rise of violence between Protestants and Catholics saw a split occur in the IRA in 1969 (Lutz 2004: 176). One side favored a peaceful approach to negotiating with the British the Official IRA, the other group chose a more violent confrontation seeking a separation of Northern Ireland from Britain the PIRA. Numerous terrorist activities performed by the PIRA will show how they helped raise their profile and globalize the conflict.
To obtain legitimacy in the public face, most terrorist causes require a political facility or front which can distance them from violent conflicts while trumpeting the common goals for a positive outcome in the conflict. A good example of this is the PIRA and Sinn Fein, whose ethnic, religious and geographical constituency found plenty of support (Richards 2001: 73) amongst the local Catholics. The PIRA were providing the military conflict with the British occupancy, while the Sinn Fein, was the political party immersing itself in the democratic process to bring about reunification with the Republic of Ireland. As Richards (2001: 74) notes Sinn Fein and the IRA have been umbilically linked ever since 1949, when an IRA Army council member Patrick McLogan was elected to lead the political party. Although both sides never publicly admitted to being linked, they were united in a common cause. Family religion, especially in a cultural sense was instrumental in separating the Irish from the British in Northern Ireland (Lutz 2004: 183). Recruitment for the PIRA and Sinn Fein came predominantly from the Catholic minorities which were the repressed religious denomination in the conflict.
It is through this religious divide that IRA members convinced Irish Catholics to help fight their cause. The religious boundary is exceptionally clear, when a child is born it is typically marked with religious affiliation within a few days (Coakley 2002: 6). Religion fulfills four basic social functions which define its role in politics, society and conflict: it provides a meaningful framework for understanding the world, it provides rules of standard and behaviour that link individual actions and goals to this meaningful framework, it organizes it’s adherents through these institutions, and it legitimates all related actors, action and institutions (Fox 1998: 44).
There were differing living conditions which the PIRA seized upon in emphasizing the differences in the two religious denominations neighbourhoods. The structured economic inequality and flagrant political discrimination on the basis of religion meant the Protestants enjoyed better living conditions (O’Donoghue 2004: 124). With Catholics witnessing the obvious inequalities in power and living conditions enjoyed by neighbouring Protestants, this clearly inferred a favouritism for Protestants by the British. Catholics then started to rebel and protest against this prevalent repression and the security forces counter terrorism policy specifically targeted Catholics with arrest rates considerably higher in that religion then other denominations (Sanchez-Cuenca 2007: 292).
Legitimacy is the way that power is institutionalized and given moral grounding and is often theorized as something held by those who do or do not govern society (Mitchell 2008: 3). The contested topic between the PIRA and the British is their legitimacy to be in Northern Ireland and to gain this power they have to find legitimacy and power by winning over the public. As opinionated by Sanchez- Cuenca (2007: 292) ‘Bloody Sunday’ helped legitimize the IRA’s...
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