chapter  6
22 Pages

‘A step too far’

One of the first lessons learned by students and scholars of political violence is that the Provisional Irish Republican Army is probably the one terrorist movement on which most has been written in the academic literature. Journal editors frequently bemoan the fact that the majority of submissions from terrorism researchers still focus on Northern Ireland. Despite this, it is not that difficult to appreciate why there is still so much to be said about Northern Ireland. Terrorism has long been a major problem for the region, and the Provisional IRA in particular has enjoyed significant longevity. The IRA has existed in one form or another since the early twentieth century, and its origins can be traced back further still depending on how willing one is to stretch the concept of Irish Republican militancy. Additionally, however, the IRA has undergone significant internal change since the early 1990s. With the advent of the Good Friday Agreement, the broader peace process, the IRA as a terrorist movement has come to an end. That end has brought with it a plethora of valuable opportunities for the research community. To echo a point made in Chapter 2, former IRA members are willing and able to speak about their experiences to academics and other researchers. Failing to grasp the opportunities afforded by this is equally a failure of the terrorism research community to recognise the valuable lessons to be gained from studying a ‘defunct’ movement such as the IRA for our understanding of other terrorist groups.