IRA: THE BOMBS AND THE BULLETS - A History of Deadly Ingenuity

A.R. Oppenheimer
Specialist in CBRNE, Consulting Editor, NBC International


IRA: The Bombs and the Bullets is the first book to focus on how the IRA became the world’s most adept and experienced insurgency group through their bombing expertise – and how – after many decades it all came to an end. It describes and analyses the strategic, tactical, and operational details of the IRA’s military campaign; its doctrine, modus operandi, targeting, acquisition and deployment of weapons and explosives, those who built and/or deployed them, those who died and suffered as a result of them, and those who had to dismantle them.

From the Foreword by Professor Richard English, Queen’s University Belfast:

“Oppenheimer’s book contains an admirable eye to the long-rootedness of Irish republican campaigns and ingenuity, and his book is packed with fascinating detail and is based on extensive research. It is a very valuable, and readable, study."

“What Andy Oppenheimer does so originally in IRA: The Bombs and the Bullets is to focus less on what the IRA aimed to do, or what their political effect might have been, than on the more technical details of the organization’s campaigns of violence. He aims to ‘complement the many books already published on the organization’s history, motivation and strategy’ (12) and so we have here a story of bombs, detonators, timing devices, arms dumps, mortars, Semtex, booby traps, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as the state’s counter-measures to try to deal with the threat posed by such an arsenal.

“We also learn something about the people who acquired or made, who stored and used and developed IRA weapons. The organization emerges from this tale as innovative, ingenious and brutal. And, as a weapons consultant, Andy Oppenheimer possesses the expertise which allows him to speak with authority on the technical details of the IRA’s campaigns. He rightly wants us to remember the violent intensity of what the IRA did. He points out that the Provisional IRA carried out 1,300 bombings in 1972 alone."

“Oppenheimer, in passing, highlights also the telling fact of how little the eventual reality of post-conflict Northern Ireland turned out to resemble IRA demands. In February 1991 (after their mortar attack on Downing Street) the Provos declared that ‘while nationalist people in the Six Counties are forced to live under British rule, the British Cabinet will be forced to live in bunkers’ (227). Within a decade, IRA Army Council members were frequently talking peace with British politicians in Downing Street, while their political party came to administer reformed British rule in the North of Ireland."

The book tackles the following:

The Armed Struggle – evolving strategies of the Irish republican movement
The Republican belief in violence and doctrines of war – the earliest example of low-intensity warfare up until the Easter Uprising of April 1916 – the first real rebellion - the IRA in the North – the Civil War and beyond - attacking mainland Britain: the 1930s - the Border Campaign 1956-62: the calm before the storm - fission of the IRA and the formation of the Provos - the PIRA onslaught: from defensive to offensive – ‘1 bomb in London = 10 bombs in Belfast’ - the ‘Long War’ and change in targeting - concessions and agreements - ‘The Conflict is Over’ - 21st-century endgame - understanding the IRA

Dynamiters to City Destroyers – tracing the history of the military campaign, from the ‘Fenian Dynamiters’, who used dynamite only weeks after it was invented, to the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ and bombs on the mainland
The Fenian Dynamiters - bombing between the Wars: the 1920s and 1930s - in remission: from the Border Campaign to the Provos - rioting weapons in Ulster – incendiaries - two bombs a day - ‘Bloody Friday’ - death on wheels: advent of the car bomb - blowing up Britain - small bombs, big terror - a sustained campaign - restructuring and smart bombs

Spectaculars – the ‘City Destroyers’ and the IRA’s biggest attacks
Hitting the forces: Warrenpoint and Newry - high-profile assassination: Earl Mountbatten - striking at the heart of government: Brighton and Downing Street - City destroyers - Baltic Exchange – Bishopsgate: a 1-kiloton bomb - Canary Wharf: the IRA’s ‘Hiroshima’ - Manchester – a true City Destroyer

Amassing the Arsenal – how, where from, and when the IRA acquired, procured and smuggled guns and explosives
The extent of the arsenal - storing the inventory - Early days: Erin’s Hope - Roger Casement and the Uprising - arming the Provos - the US connection - shiploads from Gaddafi - weapons from Europe - major arms raids and seizures - stealing the inventory: the Real IRA

Explosives: From Gunpowder to Magic Marble – the widest range of explosives ever used by an insurrectionist group
Gunpowder and pipe bombs - ‘Infernal machines’: Fenian Dynamite - ‘It ticks away the geliger-nite’…. - the ‘Sinn Féin conjuror’s outfit’ - the explosive Troubles begin - from ‘Paxo’ to ANFO and ANNIE (ammonium nitrate mixes) - the IRA’s Magic Marble: Semtex

Bomb technologies: deadly ingenuity – how the IRA constructed their IEDs
Early timers: the first campaigns - Timing and Power Units (TPUs) - detonators: the ‘key to all bombs’ - command wire detonation - remote control detonation remote vs. command-wire - time-delay detonation: VCRs - anti-handling devices: ‘booby traps’: the mercury tilt switch - disguised devices - high-tech advancement: radar detectors - breakaway IRA methods

Mortars - a home-made missile system; an entire weapon series, from Mark 1 to Mark 17
Heathrow: launch of the Mark-6 - The Mark 10 hits Number 10 - The Mark-15 barrackbuster - Grenades: hand-held destruction - rocket-propelled grenades - IPGs and PRIGs: coffee and biscuits

IRA bomb makers: the Engineers – how the Engineering Department became the elite of the IRA
The Engineering Department - the 1930s campaign - building up expertise - South Armagh: the IRA’s Los Alamos - Marian Price - (Not so) Stupid Paddy - Patrick Magee (the Brighton Bomber) - Patrick Gerard Flood - Shane Paul O’Doherty (the 1970s letterbomber) - Danny McNamee -Richard Clark Johnson - Eamon Maquire - Gabriel Cleary - Tommy McMahon - Deadly proliferation

The Countermeasures Arms Race and the ‘Long Walk’ - the response and containment of IEDs
Intelligence and surveillance - the use of informers - seizing the weapons – bugging them and tampering with them – disarming the bombs – cat and mouse – playing catch-up – when bombs went off – EOD (explosives ordnance disposal) lives lost - forensic evidence - dealing with specific threats: car bombs, booby traps, command wire and radio-controlled devices – sweeping for bombs - using specialised equipment: Wheelbarrow and Hobo - response to attacks

Decommissioning: ‘not a bullet, not an ounce’ – dismantling the IRA arsenal
Revealing the arsenal to the world - re-arming to the end - beginning of the endgame - The agony of compromise - “complete cessation" - ceasefire Mark II - The Good Friday Agreement - “Not a bullet, not an ounce" - ‘beyond use’ – the road to disarmament - assessing the weapons - the impact of 9/11 - the second act: 2002 then deadlock - the third act: bringing down the curtain - problems of disclosure - the FARC controversy - the final Act – "a very brave and bold leap" - decommissioning: the fall-out - beyond use?

Conclusion
“Like a nuclear deterrent in inter-state relations, the IRA’s arsenal was a powerful bargaining tool in the talks, especially when the arms were not used."

Tables include Bombs and Explosives – how they work and what they do
High and low explosives – detonators – timers – batteries - the effects - elements of an explosion
Attack Timeline 1867-1998

 

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IRA: THE BOMBS AND THE BULLETS - A History of Deadly Ingenuity


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