Anyway, to go back to the plot. At the top of this paper, we looked at some of the ways that the IRA funded its crime.
What else did they do?
The IRA still exists but it has shed its supposedly justifiable cloak of a pseudo-political organisation and is now simply an organised crime gang. And it continues to make money and to launder it in the same ways as before. And it continues to raise subscription funds although to a much less extent. Its street level support has dramatically reduced and, along with it, the violence. Northern Ireland remains filled with tensions, but those tensions are of a very much less violent kind.
The IRA model of funding terrorism consisted of the following:
– renting out marching bands and other paraphernalia for festivals and celebrations.
– extortion: the simple device of threatening the population in order to gain “subscriptions.” There was a great deal of “protection money” sought and paid.
– low level crime: burglary, snatch thefts, loan sharking, small time fraud including insurance fraud
– higher level crime such as large scale smuggling of dutiable items and other contraband. Smuggling was a particularly easy task in relation to high value, low bulk cargo such as drugs and cash because the IRA was able to rely on the support – willing or coerced – of fishing boats crews.
– barter: the IRA trained FARC, a Colombian paramilitary group, in urban warfare and in the development of a “political wing,” so that FARC could move from its original purpose of protecting the coca fields via control of large areas of rural Colombia to threatening the cities and institutions of the cities and ultimately into politics. Within the past three months, the Colombian government has come to the table with FARC to negotiate a cease-fire and a possible bringing into government some of FARC’s representatives. In return for this assistance, which included urban bombing techniques, the IRA received both arms and drugs, which it was able to regard as a cash crop.
The IRA model of terrorism is high maintenance. It involves a paramilitary organisation with a command structure. These people are engaged full time. They have pretend jobs and so need to be paid a salary. They were paid by companies who received an equivalent amount in extra orders that were never filled. But the amounts involved were unlikely to be recognised in the turnover of a factory with thousands of employees.
The Church contributed to the welfare of prisoners and their families as did the notorious Noraid charity which had the support of many city, state and national politicians in the USA.
Not only did the IRA have a cohesive command structure, it also had access to large pools of supporters near its primary targets, especially London. Those supporters were able to provide lodgings for transient workers, and the UK has a long history of employing transient Irish workers in everything from the hospitality industry to construction.
The IRA had the advantage that most of its operatives were legally nationals of the country that it targeted so their movements were generally unrestricted, unless their involvement with the IRA had in some way been identified.
The IRA had the advantage that its support was based in cultural and religious background so it was easy for its people to meet in secret yet in public so that suspicions were not aroused. Also it meant that obtaining information on the group and its operations people was difficult because infiltration of a group which knew each other, directly or by reason of introduction, was difficult.