'I ran away?' The I.R.A. and 1969: the evolution of a myth

Brian Hanley

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Abstract / Description of output

Between 13 and 15 August 1969 communal violence in Belfast saw seven people killed and over 400 treated for injuries. Nearly 2,000 families were forced from their homes. British troops were deployed on the streets to prevent further violence, events usually seen as the starting point of the modern Irish Troubles. In 1972 the Sunday Times Insight Team's Ulster set the tone for commentary on the role of the I.R.A. during this period. It claimed that the organisation had been ‘largely an irrelevance’ in Belfast during August 1969 and as a result ‘I.R.A. – I Ran Away was scrawled derisively over the walls of the Catholic Ghettos’. Conor Cruise O'Brien soon asserted in States of Ireland that when violence erupted ‘the I.R.A. had very few weapons and very few people trained and ready to use them. Their prestige in the Ghettos went sharply down. People wrote on walls I.R.A. I Ran Away.’ Echoing these statements twentythree years later Tim Pat Coogan in his book The Troubles stated that ‘the I.R.A. posed very little threat to anyone during those days. So little that the disgusted inhabitants of the area, used to regarding the I.R.A. in the traditional role of “the defenders” wrote up the letters I.R.A. on gable walls as Irish Ran Away.' Similar assertions are found in a wide variety of the literature, both popular and academic, dealing with the outbreak of the Troubles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-687
JournalIrish Historical Studies
Issue number152
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


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