Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Wednesday, 27 July 2005 13:00 UK

Reporting the last IRA 'stand down'

The last time the IRA stood down its "volunteers" was in 1962 when it called an end to its border campaign.

A statement released to the media on 26 February 1962 went as follows: "The leadership of the resistance movement has ordered the termination of the campaign of resistance to British occupation launched on December 12th, 1956.

Reporting the end of the IRA's border campaign

"Instructions issued to volunteers of the active service units and of local units in the occupied area have now been carried out.

"All arms and other material have been dumped and all full-time active service volunteers have been withdrawn."

So how was the ending of this IRA campaign reported?

Fyffe Robertson of the BBC's Tonight programme presented a special report in 1962 on the ending of the campaign, during which he heard from two IRA men.

Armagh raid

One of them was Joseph Christie, aged 33. He is described as a qualified barrister and accountant who joined the IRA at 20 while a university student in Dublin.

He was believed to have taken part in a raid on Armagh barracks during the border campaign and was wounded in another raid.

On camera: IRA man Joseph Christie
He was also believed to have been court-martialled by the IRA because he disagreed with its policy on violence.

In fact, at the time of the interview, he was thought to be leading what Robertson described as a splinter group he had formed.

Christie was perhaps the 1962 equivalent of a dissident republican.

Despite the nature of their politics the report clearly labels both men, who appear in civilian clothes, as IRA volunteers.

Guerrilla warfare

Details of their day jobs were given and viewers were told Christie worked for the Electricity Supply Board.

In response to a question about whether he believed the IRA had ended its campaign for good, Christie was emphatic that the IRA had not gone away for good.

"That is an absolutely ridiculous statement to make because the Irish people have never abandoned their nationality."

BBC reporter Fyffe Robertson
Asking the questions: The BBC's veteran reporter Fyffe Robertson
He went on to say that he still believed violence was justified and made it clear he would support any new violent campaign.

"I would like to see it run on the lines of violent, well-planned action in terms not merely of guerrilla warfare but aimed at disrupting civil government in the six counties," he says.

The second IRA man featured in the report was a former chief-of-staff, Tomas MacCurtain, whose links with the organisation ended around the end of the border campaign.

On the blanket

MacCurtain was imprisoned for killing a policeman in the 1940s, and was now working as a "commercial traveller for a washing powder firm".

In a protest which would be repeated during the later Troubles, he tells how he spent seven years of his jail sentence dressed only in a blanket for refusing to wear prison clothes.

He tells Fyffe Robertson that the only fault he would find with the 1956-62 campaign was that it failed and blamed this on the Irish government of the day.

Former IRA chief of staff Tomas MacCurtain
"The 26 county government, far from helping, did everything possible by imprisoning anybody they could catch, thus stultifying the efforts of the IRA," he says.

Like Christie, MacCurtain suggested that the IRA's war was not over for good. He also believed violence was the only way for it to succeed.

He cited other examples of "independence struggles" which had taken place since the end of World War II, including those in Cyprus and the Middle East.

"There is a Jewish home and a Jewish state in Israel after how many hundreds or thousands of years? Did they get it by talking?"

Of course the words of both men were to be proved correct in that the IRA would re-emerge in the 1970s as the armed Provisional movement for the bloodiest part of its war yet.



video and audio news
Fyffe Robertson interviews IRA man Joseph Christle


Fyffe Robertson and IRA man Tomas MacCurtain



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