Extremist Jargon

Knowing Northern Ireland means knowing the Jargon

June, 1999, Northern Ireland

To understand this deeply troubled land it helps to understand something of the language they use. Take the sign above. CIRA stands for 'Continuity Irish Republican Army,' which means this group has factioned off from the IRA and refuses to engage in the current peace negotiations. They're going to continue the fight until they've unified with the Republic of Ireland (which is a completely separate nation from the United Kingdom). Not a bullet means not giving back any of their arms, and not an ounce means not giving back any of their explosives. (There are also Loyalist splinter groups just as radical and violent.)


All over Belfast the murals attest to peoples political sympathies. These murals and graffiti are taken with the highest seriousness here.

At the risk of over-simplifying the armed conflict, there are basically two extreme militarist camps feeding the troubles: those who want to be part of the UK (of Protestant origin) and those that want to be part of the Republic of Ireland (of Catholic origin). However, the vast majority of people here are moderate. This sometimes 'silent majority' returned a resounding 74% "yes" vote in the Belfast Agreement referendum, which technically removed the old Dublin rule versus London rule issue. This means that the people of Northern Ireland alone now control their future, and if there is to be a United Ireland in the future, and a break from British rule, it must be decided by another such referendum.

GunmanGeneralizations are both hard and easy to make. Being a Catholic doesn't necessarily mean one is a 'republican' who wants unity with the Republic of Ireland. And being a Protestant doesn't equate to being a 'loyalist' who will take up arms to remain in the United Kingdom as a British citizen. However, in the modern situation, those that are republicans are typically Catholic and those that are loyalists are typically Protestants.

What follows is a rough treatment of the militarist extremes in the conflict. This DOES NOT cover the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. But these are the groups which add fuel to "The Troubles."


Ulster Volunteer Force
Off the Ormeau Road, Belfast
Easter Mural
Whiterock Road, West Belfast


Religion: Protestant

Objective: To remain part of the United Kingdom

Extreme Political Party/Primary Leader: UDP (Ulster Democratic Party)/Gary McMichel, PUP (Progressive Unionist Party)/David Ervine.

Paramilitary Groups (associated with the Loyalist political parties above): UFF (Ulster Freedom Fighters), UDA (Ulster Defense Association), UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force), LVF (Loyalist Volunteer Force).


Religion: Catholic

Objective: To unify with the Irish Republic

Extreme Political Party/Primary Leader: Sinn Fein/Gerry Adams

Paramilitary Groups aligned with this cause: IRA (Irish Republican Army), and the INLA (Irish Nationalist Liberation Army)

There are now splinter groups of the IRA that are no longer in alliance with the IRA, i.e. CIRA (Continuity IRA).

No Surrender
Near the roundabout to Bank Road, Larne

British Holocost
"British Genocide by Starvation, Ireland's Holocaust 1845-1849", Whiterock Road, West Belfast

King Billy
King Billy at the Boyne River in 1690.
Sandy Row, Belfast.

Time for Peace
Peace Dove carrying off a British soldier.
Whiterock Road, West Belfast.

Ulster Freedom Fighters
Paramilitary Group.
Off the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

Disband the RUC
Disband the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary -- police).
Whiterock Road, West Belfast.

Tiger's Bay
Painted curbing is common in extreme communities.
Colors match those of the Union Jack flag of Britain.
Tiger's Bay, Belfast.

This Republican estate supports the Catholics on Garvaghy Road,
which is in Drumcree.

Lenadoon, West Belfast.

The "Troubles" really took root after 1971 at "Bloody Sunday" in Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland, although the housing issue that gave rise to the riots had been bubbling up in Derry since the late 60's. As riots erupted, British troops were sent in to try and keep order. Initially they were received well all across the board, in time though the nationalist areas lost confidence in the British Army. In the last few years, the British military presence has been dramatically reduced as a result of the current peace talks.

DrumcreeOver the last few years, tensions have been rising to a fever pitch around the 12th of July. This celebrates the Battle of Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William (of Orange, Holland) defeated the British Catholic King James. Bonfires and marching by the Orange Order are traditional means of marking the day. For generations these celebrations have been peaceful and positive expressions of people's culture but, like many aspects of life, language & culture in Northern Ireland, recently they have become politicized.

In recent years some of these marches and bonfires have become sectarian symbols and violence has ensued. Thousands (from both sides) leave Northern Ireland to avoid the tension and atmosphere.

Drumcree has become a crucible for the tensions. It's where Catholics have refused to let the Orangemen march through their community. Many have told us this is such a sore spot they fear it may spark civil war.

Bonfire Stockpile for July 12th   


Preparations for massive bonfires were already evident all over Belfast when we were there a month before the 12th.

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