Ireland’s Struggle For Independence

As a dual citizenship Irishman who doesn’t drink, I don’t care if you sling back a few on Paddy’s Day, but raise a glass and remember the resilience of our people, and the many who died, to bring liberty to Ireland.

By Patrick Jude

The green white and orange flag we’ll soon be seeing from end to end in every St. Paddy’s Day parade would have gotten you arrested in Northern Ireland up until 1987. Any person could be detained, without reason, for up to 48 hours. There wasn’t a single law relating to free speech, making protest another arrestable offense. Most Americans don’t know any of that, and I don’t blame them. A cushy relationship with the British has always prevailed in American media, and that relationship was at its strongest during what came to be known as “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. In America’s limited view, the IRA has always been terrorists when they were truly just a group of citizens taking back their liberty.

Belfast man on patrol for the IRA during “The Troubles” era in 1987.

Most Americans believe the conflicts in Northern Ireland, which is still largely segregated, were about Catholics and Protestants. It wasn’t. It just happened to be the way the demographics broke down. Most Catholics (Republicans) were in favor of a single unified Ireland, while most Protestants (Loyalists) were in favor of having the British government own Northern Ireland. With Protestants holding all government seats, and handpicking a police force entirely made up of those same Loyalists, obviously the Catholics were at a disadvantage – politically and lawfully. It also didn’t help that Catholics were unable to vote until their “one man one vote movement”, another basic human right the IRA had to fight for.

In the early stages of “The Troubles”, the British police force began enacting mass incarceration and wrongful arrests. The rights of the Catholics in Ireland became so stripped that they were in effect pushed back, and had to begin demanding equal treatment while incarcerated.

Leaflet supporting the hunger strikers of H-Block.

This began the Blanket Protests and the H-Block Hunger Strike, in which ten young men, with an average age of 25, died of starvation in their prison cells after Margaret Thatcher refused their demands. The ending of prison labor, the right to interact with other prisoners, the right to a prison library and the right to one visit and one letter a week was too much in the eyes Thatcher who instead, when asked in a press conference about the humanitarian crises occurring, entertained the notion of bringing back hanging for the young freedom fighters.

“I’ve got one thing to say to you… you can’t trust the Irish. They’re all liars. Liars, and that’s what you have to remember” – Margaret Thatcher when pressed about the inequity of the people in Northern Ireland.

Irish civilian comes face to face with British soldiers.

Thatcher’s answer to the discontent of Northern Irish Catholic communities, largely impoverished as they were, was to cut school funding while ramping up policing; bear in mind again the Special Powers Act, which allowed any person to be detained without reason for up to 48 hours. Bombings of Catholic funerals became the norm for the British army, barricades and barbed wires were installed throughout the land, and armed soldiers became fixtures on every street corner. Still they wonder why the people rose up.

Trio of British soldiers roaming the streets of Ireland.

The IRA became known as a terrorist organization solely because of their effectiveness. For all intents and purposes, it became England’s Vietnam War – a very small nation with an even smaller guerilla army was able to go toe to toe with a massive country with unlimited arsenals. I won’t lie, the IRA far surpassed the British Army and other Loyalists in killings, but there’s one stark difference. The vast majority of the IRA’s murder count was made up of British soldiers. The vast majority of the British army’s killings were against Non-IRA civilians. They weren’t killing their army; they were killing people in the streets.

Writer, Patrick Jude alongside an IRA mural on Falls Road in Belfast.

After years of fighting, the Irish people of the North had many of their demands met. British troops were forced to leave Northern Ireland, every person now gets a vote, they’ve gained due process and police now require evidence for detainment, the children got milk back in their schools, the police force became integrated with Catholic officers, Irish flags are allowed to fly high as the sky, and freedom of speech became a right.

As a dual citizenship Irishman who doesn’t drink, I don’t care if you sling back a few on Paddy’s Day, but raise a glass and remember the resilience of our people, and the many who died, to bring liberty to Ireland.


Born and raised in Orlando, and Socialist to the core, Patrick Jude graduated from The University Of Central Florida in 2015. He currently holds a B.A. in English Literature, as well as an A.A. in Jazz Performance from Valencia College. Jude is heavily tattooed, abstains from alcohol and is an avid Packers fan

Currently Listening to The Wolfe Tones