Real IRA taps into Irish folklore with assault on banks
Within the Irish psyche there is a deep, historic fear of eviction from their home or land. In the country’s literature, history books and songs there is a collective memory of bailiffs driving dirt-poor families out of their cottages and from their little parcels of earth during times of famine and want. The 19th century land war struggles recall battles between cruel, often absentee landlords and a dispossessed poor that presages the independence conflict of the following century. The Real IRA is now trying to tap into that folklore.
The 21st century equivalents of the hated landlords and their bailiff lackeys are the banks. They are blamed, along with greedy property developers, for bankrupting the Irish economy, and harassing struggling families with punitive banking charges and even eviction threats.
Dissident republicans are trying to exploit hostility towards banks and their employees. They are doing so with anti-capitalist rhetoric of the kind more associated with the European extreme left in the 1970s when the Red Army Faction in West Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy and Action Directe in France were targeting bankers and industrialists, as well as US and Nato military bases.
Until the past 12 months, the main targets of the Real IRA’s terror campaign have been police officers in Northern Ireland and Catholic recruits to the PSNI, in particular. But since their warning to the Guardian in September 2010 that they were shifting their attention to bankers, they have bombed at least three banks. Two of these were branches of Santander, the other was the Ulster Bank, which is a subsidiary of RBS.