Cardinal Timothy Dolan has reminded people that Irish Catholic bishops strongly denounced Provisional republican terror during the Troubles.
The Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York says that the IRA “perversely identified itself as ‘Catholic’”.
It is important to be reminded of mainstream Catholic or Irish nationalist opposition to the Provisionals, now that Sinn Fein are rapidly, and successfully, re-writing history.
The party did not get fully established in electoral politics in Northern Ireland until the 1980s, when the terror campaign was still raging, and it rarely got more than a third of the vote.
And even many of those Sinn Fein voters were uncertain about IRA violence. Hardcore support for the IRA was smaller than the Sinn Fein vote.
In the Republic there was overwhelming opposition to the armalite, and Sinn Fein typically got a three per cent vote share.
In other words, the community on behalf of which the IRA purported to fight — Irish Catholics — rejected its violence.
This is not surprising for anyone who remembers the IRA’s brutality.
Cardinal Dolan’s mention of the barbarous Islamic State and the IRA in the same context will anger republicans but the Provisionals were unpopular because they were known to be capable of appalling horrors.
The roll-call of their atrocities includes nakedly sectarian attacks such as Kingsmills and Teebane. Even apparently indiscriminate attacks such as La Mon and Enniskillen, which the IRA said were mistaken, resulted in exclusively Protestant fatalities, suggesting that the IRA were careful about when they were careless.
La Mon, where dog lovers were burned alive, was described as an inhuman deed by Pope Paul and the SDLP’s Gerry Fitt called the bombers “depraved animals”.
As Cardinal Dolan says, paramilitaries such as the IRA distorted “everything the [Catholic] church stood for”.