A glossary of Terms Related to the Conflict

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A Glossary of Terms Related to the Conflict



Abercorn Restaurant
On 4 March 1972 a bomb exploded in the Abercorn Restaurant in central Belfast killing two people and injuring over 130; many of the injured lost limbs. The nature of the bombing and the extent of the injuries suffered meant that the attack left a lasting impression on the public in Northern Ireland. No paramilitary organisation claimed responsibility but it is widely accepted that the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) was responsible for the bombing.

Abstention Policy / Abstentionist Policy
A traditional policy of Sinn Féin (SF) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) of abstaining from taking up any seats won at Dáil Éireann or Westminster elections.
See: Abstentionism

"Acceptable Level of Violence"
In December 1971 Reginald Maudling, then British Home Secretary, declared that the situation in Northern Ireland at that time amounted to "an acceptable level of violence". Later Unionist politicians in particular claimed that this term effectively became the security policy of successive British governments who were prepared to countenance paramilitary activity so long as it remained within what it judged to be manageable proportions.

'Active Service Unit' (ASU) (of the IRA)
As part of a major overhaul of its structure in the late 1970s the Irish Republican Army (IRA) chose to reorganise its members into smaller units in order to counteract measures being taken against it by the security forces within Northern Ireland. These small groups became known as 'Active Service Units' (ASU) and often consisted of five to eight members. Within a short period of time the system was adopted by all other paramilitary organisations in the North of Ireland including those on the Loyalist side.

Alliance Party
synonyms: Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI)
A mainly middle-class political party which aims to attract support from both the main communities in Northern Ireland. David Ford has been the leader of the party since October 2001.
See: Abstract of Organisations entry.

An Phoblacht
synonyms: Republican News
The name of a weekly newspaper of the Republican movement. 'An Phoblacht' is an Irish term meaning 'the Republic'.

Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH)
A Catholic and Nationalist organisation based in Ireland which has traditionally worked in support of the Catholic faith and also supported Irish Nationalism.
See: Abstract of Organisations entry.


A large working-class Catholic area in west Belfast. Many people in the area support the Republican movement.

Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA)
An agreement, signed on 15 November 1985, between the British and Irish governments. The agreement reasserted the principal of consent for any change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. However, it gave the Irish government, for the first time, a consultative role in the administration of Northern Ireland through the Intergovernmental Conference.
See: Key Event entry.

Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABD)
One of the 'Loyal Orders' organisations; the others being the 'Orange Order' and the 'Royal Black Institution'.
See: Abstract of Organisations entry.

Árd Comhairle (of Sinn Féin)
The Irish term (meaning supreme council) for the national executive or ruling central body of Sinn Féin.

Ard Fheis (of Sinn Féin)
Annual conference of Sinn Féin (SF).

A working-class Catholic area of North Belfast largely surrounded by Protestant districts.
See: Reports

'Armalite and Ballot Box'
The term first arose in 1981 and was used to describe the commitment of the Republican movement to actively engage in the electoral process within Northern Ireland whilst at the same time maintaining its on-going armed campaign at what it saw as the continuing British presence in Ireland.

Army Council (of the Irish Republican Army; IRA)
The commanding body of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

'Armed Struggle'
Synonyms: 'Armed Campaign'
Armed Struggle was the name given by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to its campaign of violence against what it saw as the British presence in Ireland.

'Arms Trial'
In the wake of the growing civil unrest in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s the authorities in Dublin came under increasing pressure from the Catholic community to intervene in order to protect them. Whilst reluctant to commit the Irish Army a fund was established to assist Catholic families who had been forced out of their homes. It was later alleged that this fund was used to import arms destined for the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). As a result a number of individuals, including two members of the Irish government, were charged in connection with this and when the case came to court it became known as the 'Arms Trial'. Although all were later acquitted the whole episode still provokes a great deal of controversy and has become linked to allegations that parts of the Irish political establishment were responsible for the establishment of the PIRA.

Army Convention (of the IRA)
The term given to the gathering of members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to debate important changes in its policy. As a large number of members are entitled to attend, and as there is a risk of arrest at such gatherings, it is widely believed that the Army Convention has only met on three occasions (1969, 1986 and 1996) since 'the Troubles' began in Northern Ireland.

Army Council (of the IRA)
Consisting of seven members the Army Council is the supreme executive body of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). In the absence of the Army Convention it is responsible for day-to-day policy and its meetings are chaired by the Chief of Staff of the PIRA.

Army Executive (of the IRA)
The Army Executive consists of twelve members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) elected by the Army Convention and which in turn elects the movements Army Council. An Army Convention is required to change the membership of the Executive. In addition the Executive advises the Council on the future policy and strategy of the IRA.

Articles 2 and 3 (of the Irish Constitution)
This term refers to articles in the 1937 Bunreacht Na hÉireann (Constitution of Ireland). The original Articles 2 and 3 (in effect until 2 December 1999) laid claim to the whole of the island of Ireland but recognised the border in so far as the laws of the Irish parliament would only apply to the Republic of Ireland.

Article 2: The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and territorial seas.

Article 3: Pending the reintegration of the national territory, and without prejudice to the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory, the laws enacted by that Parliament shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws of Saorstát Eireann and the like extra-territorial effect.

As part of the Good Friday Agreement, Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland were changed at 9.20am on 2 December 1999. The new Articles are now:

Article 2

It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.
Article 3
1. It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.
2. Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.

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