The IRA Green Book: guerrilla strategy (1977)

The IRA Green Book was a training and induction manual issued to all new recruits. It explained the IRA’s purpose, mission and methods, stressing the need for secrecy and commitment. This extract from the 1977 edition explains the IRA’s strategy of guerrilla warfare:

“Many figures of speech have been used to describe guerrilla warfare, one of the most apt being ‘The War of the Flea’, which conjures up the image of a flea harrying a creature of elephantine size into fleeing (forgive the pun). Thus it is with a guerrilla army such as the IRA, which employs hit and run tactics against the Brits, while at the same time striking at the soft economic underbelly of the enemy – not with the hope of physically driving them into the sea but nevertheless expecting to effect their withdrawal by an effective campaign of continuing harassment, contained in a fivefold guerrilla strategy:

1. A War of attrition against enemy personnel which is aimed at causing as many casualties and deaths as possible, so as to create a demand from their people at home for their withdrawal.

2. A bombing campaign aimed at making the enemy’s financial interest in our country unprofitable, while at the same time curbing long term financial investment in our country.

3. To make the Six Counties… ungovernable except by colonial military rule.

4. To sustain the war and gain support for its end using national and international propaganda and publicity campaigns.

5. By defending the war of liberation by punishing criminals, collaborators and informers.

While one of OUR chief considerations in deciding tactics is the concern for our friends, relatives, neighbours, our people in the midst of whom we operate, the enemy is simply dealing with an impersonal, inferior foreigner – a ‘Paddy’, ‘Musck-Savage’ or ‘Bog-Wog’ – and with the great added advantage of all the resources and back up of a conventional army [and] paramilitary police… At this juncture the most obvious differences between the [British soldier] and the IRA volunteer, apart from the fact that the Brit is an uninvited armed foreigner who has no moral or historical justification for being here in the first place, are those of support, motivation and freedom of personal initiative… His billets, dumps, weapons, wages, etc., are all as stated earlier provided for by involuntary taxation. His people who pay the taxes have never indicated, nor indeed have they been asked to indicate by any democratic means, their assent to his being here at their expense. The IRA volunteer receives all his support voluntarily from his people.

A member of the IRA is such by his own choice, his convictions being the only factor which compels him to volunteer, his objectives [are] political freedom and social and economic justice for his people. Apart from the few minutes in the career of the average Brit that he comes under attack, the Brit has no freedom or personal initiative. He is told when to sleep, where to sleep, when to get up, where to spend his free time. The IRA volunteer, except when carrying out a specific army task, acts most of the time on his own initiative and must therefore shoulder that responsibility…

By now it is clear that our task is not only to kill as many enemy personnel as possible but, of equal importance, to create support which will carry us though not just a war of liberation [but] past the ‘Brits Out’ stage to the ultimate aim of a democratic-socialist republic.”