Former IRA man rubbishes claims of ‘legitimate’ terror campaign

Republicans are suspected of murdering Denis Donaldson
Republicans are suspected of murdering Denis Donaldson
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A former IRA bomber has given a scathing assessment of the ongoing drive by republicans to have the Troubles-era terror campaign deemed a “legitimate war”.

Londonderry native Shane Paul O’Doherty – who was jailed in the 1970s for his IRA activities – now repudiates violence and says the Provos’ use of torture and murder makes such recognition impossible.

Shane Paul O'Doherty, the former IRA bomber who now repudiates violence

Shane Paul O'Doherty, the former IRA bomber who now repudiates violence

Writing on his blog this week, Mr O’Doherty examines the IRA’s claim that those jailed for terrorist offences should be retrospectively deemed “prisoners of war”.

“To qualify [for POW status] under the Third Geneva Convention, a combatant must be part of a chain of command, wear a ‘fixed distinctive marking, visible from a distance’, bear arms openly, and have conducted military operations according to the laws and customs of war,” he said.

“Since the IRA did not wear any fixed distinctive markings visible from a distance, did not bear arms openly and did not conduct military operations according to the laws and customs of war, its captured combatants could never qualify as prisoners of war.

“Since the IRA did not grant POW status to any of the enemy combatants it captured but instead tortured and summarily murdered them, and since it also tortured and summarily murdered civilians it abducted ... its combatants could never be internationally recognised as qualifying for POW status and not least according to the principle of reciprocity.”

While in prison Mr O’Doherty rediscovered his Catholic faith, renounced the IRA, and wrote letters of apology to the people he had targeted.

On release from serving 15 years in prison, in 1993 he published his memoir, The Volunteer: A Former IRA Man’s True Story.

On the introduction to his website,, Mr O’Doherty explains the blog’s purpose: “That those who committed mass murder and vast human rights violations should don the costumes of civil rights heroes and seek honours resulting from merely ending their unwarranted violence is perturbing and worthy of analytical commentary.”

In his latest blog posting, the author and public speaker also questions whether it is possible to argue that the IRA “might have established its own localised human rights rules that rendered the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law inapplicable in Britain and Ireland”.

However, he said: “If the IRA never made appeal to such International Humanitarian Laws or courts, it might be argued that it was recognising a different set of localised rules, but this is undermined immediately by the fact that prominent captured Irish republicans did indeed make appeal to the very institutions and international laws whose protections they denied to the combatants and non-combatants they captured or abducted and subsequently tortured and murdered.”

Mr O’Doherty added: “It is only within the brainwashed cult and grand lies of the IRA that captured IRA combatants were imagined to be POWs. Everywhere else, IRA prisoners were recognised as terrorists – pure and simple.”

Speaking to the News Letter on Wednesday, Mr O’Doherty said: “The moral hazard of allowing a peace process to go forward without any repentance, or admission of guilt of terrorism by those involved, has huge moral consequences for society. Great wrongs are just being covered up and whitewashed out of history.”

Mr O’Doherty said that if the Northern Ireland conflict was a war in any sense of the word, then “people guilty of war crimes have been financially and politically rewarded through the Good Friday Agreement”.