Did the U.S. Government turn a blind eye to financial support for the IRA?

In another thread (no link because of the recent events in the U.K. has understandably left folks there feeling in high color and lashing out – I don’t want to judge them on this or have their points muddy this question) unchallenged statements have been made and repeated that essentially:

**The “U.S. Government” knew that U.S. citizens were funding the IRA and did nothing about it.

Is this True? I know the basic story of NORAID. In my mind it involved undercover FBI, Custom Agents and Police working in conjunction with British Intelligence and the U.S. Justice Department going to legal war with the claimed “Charity”. Is there any more to the story? Is there any real meat to the idea that the U.S. Government didn’t do all it could to shut the terrorist funding down? I see Britain itself banned the NORAID leader in 1985 – but let him in later to speak – Did Britain do more about NORAID than the U.S.?
Are there other known funding/weapons running systems that the Dopers could be referring to that would make this general belief about the U.S. government true?

I know this is likely going to end up in tears in GD. I hesitated even writing this given the raw events of last week and this being the 4th of July yet – but my hope is we can discuss this at higher, GQ level, before we devolve into harsh words and condemnation.

I don’t have definitive answers for you, but this article is a starting point.

If I might use one bump as this is almost off the second page, I have never done that with my own thread, I posted this on a holiday and I hope maybe I can take advantage of that sweet, sweet weekend traffic.
Bluethree**’s wonderful help kind of reinforced my view of the NORAID story as well as some information on a Congressman who refused to distance himself from the Organization. I think that Bluethree’s info’s comparison to the 2007 radical British Muslim community is a fairly close analogy. One would hardly say though that the “British Government“, the “British people” or “Britain” did nothing about or turned a blind eye to Muslim funding of Islamicists terrorists today.

Is there any more to the IRA story? Is there any real meat to the idea in a SDGQ way that the “U.S. Government” didn’t do all it could to shut clear IRA terrorist funding down?

(NB there may well be - I am just not aware of it, fight my ignorance)

As important as the financial aid from US citizens to the IRA was the political support given by the US judiciary to IRA members seeking to avoid extradition back to the UK to face charges for terrorism.

Of course, now, we (the British) know that all we had to do was kidnap them using force and trickery from a friendly state and transport them chained to the aircraft floor to be tortured in a special camp set up in a third country. Oh, If only we had had the US’s example from the latest war on terror, extradition problems would have been made unimportant! :rolleyes:


One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter! :dubious:


In response to this, from the OP:

Is there a particular reason you found yourself completely incapable of respecting the OP’s wishes? Would it have been so difficult to refrain from trying to introduce Great Debate or even Pit type stuff into this thread when the OP was clearly looking for a GQ-style thread? The second part of your post has absolutely nothing to do with answering the OP’s question about whether or not the U.S. government turned a blind eye to financial support for the IRA.

How about refusing to extradite convicted terrorists who had escaped from prison?


I’m afraid there is not all that much to debate about this.

You can argue about how much successsive US adminsitrations tolerated or turned a blind eye, but there have been no extraditions of Irish terrorists from the US to the UK, despite some involving convicted murderers.

It’s also true that US judiciary have granted extraditions, only to have these overturned on some incredibly specious arguments about identity.

One thing that is noteworthy is that the US had had plenty of beef with Cuba, Libya and the like, and yet it’s US money that has funded the purchase and training of Irish terrorists in these countries, some Irish Terrorists had attended training camps in the ME region.

Given this, its amazing that the US has not taken very vigorous action to crush IRA fund raising in its own borders, I reckon $69k per month is pretty serious fundraising for a bunch of murderers.


Just one look at that list of IRA associates should have been enough for US counter terrorist action, no matter what the view on the situation in Ireland itself, and yet the US has not been proactive in running these individuals down, this is tantamount to tacit support, even without the gold seam.

Here is an account of IRA training in South America and it shows how some of the IRA fiances worked, this incident came well after a ceasefire had been declared and the IRA claimed it had turned into a peaceful organisation, the only benefit of this incident is that it seriously damaged IRA fundarising activity in the US.

That’s certainly an interesting case, interesting but not surprising.

What I was curious about was what Pjen said:

The claim that the IRA’s “political support” given to it by the U.S. judiciary to avoid extradition being “as important as the financial aid from US citizens” isn’t something that makes sense to me if you’re just going to cite one case. I honestly have never followed the whole IRA/Northern Ireland/“Troubles” stuff, I’m genuinely pretty ignorant about it. But if said judicial support was equivalent in importance to the financial support the IRA received it would have to be something occurring on a large scale, one case of some escaped convicts not being extradited couldn’t possibly stand on its own as evidence that U.S. judicial support for fugitive members of the IRA was of equal importance to the financial contributions some U.S. citizens made to the IRA.

Furthermore I’d add that I object to the very claim that it was a political action. In the case in question the men were not extradited because the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wanted a review done to make sure they were treated fairly in their original case in the U.K. That is a standard part of extradition proceedings in the United States, the way our system is set up we have an obligation not to extradite people back to another country if there’s reason to suspect that original conviction in said country was improperly obtained.

Furthermore, this kind of thing has been “done to” the United States on many occasions when countries refuse to extradite persons who have fled our jurisdiction until after the foreign court hears some evidence concerning the original conviction.

It’s not a political matter, it’s a judicial/legal matter. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has no political obligations to the U.K., it has an obligation to do justice in the cases that fall before it, geopolitical implications are not and should not be a part of that decision. Likewise I don’t think it is a political decision when foreign courts refuse to extradite people to the United States immediately but instead go through the process of reviewing the original conviction, I view that as something done at the prerogative of the judicial officials in question, not as a political act. Members of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are lifetime appointments, they aren’t regular members of the political wing of America’s government.

Admittedly, from what I gather most of the time extradition proceedings are pretty straightforward, but it isn’t unique to IRA members that a court decides to review the person’s original conviction as part of an extradition process.

Furthermore, the article you linked to never says how the issue was ultimately resolved. Do you know how the Circuit Court ended up ruling in regard to their original conviction? Were they eventually extradited or not? The article is from 1998 so I’m sure the matter has been resolved one way or another.

As Martin Hyde notes, the actions of the Federal Judiciary cannot be used to provide evidence that the “government” (usually used in the context of the Executive carrying out the will of the Legislative) “turned a blind eye.” The Judiciary in the U.S. really is independent of the other branches. (This does not mean that they never read the newspapers or that they will vote in diametric opposition to the “will” of the government with any regularity, but they are not tied to the executive in matters of policy.)

It is true that a lot of Irish-descended U.S. citizens provided an unholy amount of financial support for the IRA. It is also probably true that the U.S. government did not display any eagerness to curtail those activities. (The “Irish” vote being nearly as strong in several states as the “Cuban” vote in Florida or the “Jewish” vote in other places made it a political hot potato.) Attempting to make that point based on court decisions, however, do not answer the question of the OP.

One thing to recall regarding the situation in Northern Ireland is that an awful lot of ethnic Irish in the U.S. are still upset about the partition. The events of Bloody Sunday and the multi-decade cover-up by the British government combined with the clear evidence that various Ulster police groups actively supported the crimes of the paramilitaries opposing the IRA tended to reinforce (rightly or wrongly) that the IRA were waging a legitimate campaign for independence, even if carrying it out in nasty ways. Even after the peace accords, if you attend an Irish festival in the U.S., today, you can encounter people trying to agitate for “Brits Out!” With that sort of attitude among a lot of voters, it would have been difficult for the Federal government to openly wage a campaign against such private donations prior to the Belfast Accords.
(Another nasty aspect of the situation is that the total deaths over 30 years were fewer than the combined murders in the top U.S. cities for any one year. The year that Ireland suffered the largest number of deaths, the city of Detroit had nearly twice that number. It is sad, but possible, that the level of violence simply never got through to people–including legislators–in the U.S.)

I have never supported those fundraising activities and I wonder how long they prolonged the conflict, but support for the IRA was never a Federal policy–only staying out of the feud.

The N.Y.C. government might, on the other hand, be faulted by some for more actively giving if not aid then comfort:

Heh, at the rate the Saville Inquiry into the events is going it could be further multi-decades. 8 years, £400 million and counting…

Sorry, I had not noticed that you had become a mod. :dubious:

He is not a Mod. I am.

While I agree that it would have been a bit more appropriate for him to either Report the post or be substantially more circumspect in his request that you not turn this into a debate, nevertheless the question (which has a factual answer) was posted in General Questions and would be better served by not injecting political commentary into the discussion.

If you would like to object to the junior modding of Martin Hyde, feel free to do so–in The BBQ Pit, not here.

Thank you.

But you started this out with the harsh words – “terrorist funding” – in your OP.

Many (most?) Americans consider the IRA soldiers not terrorists, but brave freedom fighters, rather like the resistance in Nazi-occupied Europe. (Pjen noted that previously).

Really, if you start out the thread with a loaded question, implying that everyone agrees they are terrorists, the thread isn’t going to stay in GQ mode very long.

So now attacking civilians in order to inspire terror isn’t considered terrorist activity any more?

Thats not what a lot of people around here claim, would you support the idea that insurgents in Iraq aren’t properly considered terrorists as they are simply attempting to eliminate an invader from their territory? I’d say UK soldiers in NI had far more legitimacy than that y’know as the majority of the Northern Irish population supported them being there.

The earlier comment about there only being a few cases for extradition being brought before the US judiciary, so the argument goes on to imply such a small number of cases is not all that significant is highly misleading, but probably not fully understood by that poster.

The situation was that a number of murderers escaped from ‘The Maze’ prison.

These had committed their crimes, had been detected and convicted in a proper judicial setting.

When they broke out of prison, they committed another serious criminal act, and as such it was seen by UK that these would amount ot test cases for extradition.

Extradition of Irish terrorists from the US has always been difficult, impossible in
reality and when previous attempts were made to do this, the UK saw which way things were going and decided not to persue such cases further in order not to set legal precedents in the US.

Previous cases were a mix of lesser crimes, of terrorists that had not yet been tried but were wanted for further investigation, or the crimes committed fell into a grey area where there might be a claim that the crime was politically motivated, such offences might have fallen at extradition in US courts.

One powerful group that was protecting Irish terrorist interests were the Kennedys - you may not like it, but its true.

The cases of Maze prison breakouts were, as far as the UK was concerned, about as clear cut as it was possible, convicted with due legal process of the most serious crimes and then escaping from legal custody, it must have seemed to the UK that these would be ideal cases to bring before the US courts.

At first the UK would seem to have faith in US justice restored, since extradition was granted against two of these individuals, however the appeals led to the extradition requests being refused, one of these was on some incredibly threadbare excuse over identity, something like a birthdate being a week out or he right date but the wrong day of the week named, such as Thursday instead of Friday.

On this basis, the UK realised that the US was never going to grant extradition of Irish terorrists, no matter how serious their crimes, and the US would continue to find ways of supporting Irish terrorism, either by not cracking down on the money trail of Irish terrorists, or by not looking too closely at the weapons that were exported from the US to Ireland.

Had the US acted in good faith by extraditing these conviceted murderers, there is little doubt that many more would have followed, so you should not get into the view that since so few cases were brought before the US juduciary, that this is of small significance, in fact it confirmed the US as a place of sanctuary for Irish murderers.

Once these extradition cases failed, those Irish terrorists did not sit on their hands, predictably they did the tour around the clubs and bars, citing themselves as freedom fighters, and using this to assist in fundraising efforts, and while they did this, the US did absolutely nothing at all to intervene, they didn’t track the money not even for taxation purposes.

This may or may not be UL, because I didn’t see it myself, but a friend claims that he saw on TV Ted Kennedy, on a visit to Northern Ireland in the 1980s/90s, being presented to some British troops there.

“Why don’t you get out of my country?” asked Kennedy of one of them.

“Why don’t you get out of mine?” replied the soldier.

I’m still a bit confused about “the US” roll in this.

One trio of appellate judges overturned the extradition. Was that decision appealed to the entire 9th District Court? Did the full 9th refuse to hear the second appeal? Did they support it? If the 9th refused to hear it or supported it, was that decision appealed to the Supreme Court? Did the SCOTUS then refuse to hear that appeal or did they support it?

If the case was dropped on the first overturn, it hardly becomes a case of “the US” doing anything. Individual appellate judges are not the voice of the nation, (particularly not the 9th, where there are a lot of folks in the U.S. who consider them looney). Even three-judge panels are not the voice of the U.S.

If the case was taken all the way to SCOTUS where it was quashed, then (setting aside my earlier comments regarding the independence of the judiciary), I can see a claim that “the US” took a particular course. If the matter was dropped on first appeal, then I think it is a serious overstatement to claim anything resembling official policy.

So the judicial branch is independent.

But why didn’t the executive branch freeze assets like we saw in the post 9/11 world? Why did it take the petitioning of the American government by Ulster MP’s before Irish funding was cracked down on by Bush, even after 9/11? Why, prior to 9/11, were terrorist organisations allowed to continue operating within American borders without being outlawed?

NORAID is now a banned organisation in America. Yet it took an attack on American soil for this to happen.

Sorry, the last line should read: “NORAID still isn’t a banned organisation in America, yet other terrorist organisations are (32CSM, for one). Why?”