Even though I had assumed I knew enough, almost everything I had...
The Premise: This small tome is a tale of two halves, comprised specifically of the IRA’s Green Book, and the Provisional IRA’s (PIRA) Green Book II. The first dates from the largely successful 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence, which resulted in the partition of Ireland and forced a political outcome acceptable to both the British and Irish states, while the second was written in the mid ’70s while PIRA was actively engaged in a terror campaign in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the British mainland. The two versions of the Green Book familiar to students of Irish COIN ops were published in 1956 and 1977, with the earlier one containing revisions of the 1919 document. Both offer historical insight to insurgent campaigns, in this case from the insurgents’ perspective.
Shortly before WWI, Britain and the Irish nationalist movement had negotiated devolution of political power to Dublin, a change put on hold by the events of 1914 that not only included the conflict in Europe, but also near insurrection by Unionists in the north, unwilling to be governed by a Catholic establishment. Nationalists, seeing an opportunity to seize power while Britain was occupied in France, staged an uprising during Easter week in 1916, which unsurprisingly wasn’t regarded with affection by the British government, seeing as it was actively supplied and encouraged by the German state. British excesses in putting down the rebellion laid the foundation for subsequent revolutionary activity by republican guerrillas.
The 411: This first section of the book is a manual on how to mount a guerrilla campaign of a century ago, employing tactics of the “Flying Column.” These entail the establishment of local units of up to 30 men, who can be raised at short notice, and quickly mount ambushes and bomb attacks, before melting back into their communities — a strategy no doubt familiar to anyone who’s served at the sharp end of the global war on terrorism. There are historical admonishments not to use “motor transport” and advice that, when attacking railways, “a half-hundredweight of fat, lard, or grease spread on an upward gradient will prevent the engine gripping the rails.”
While some specific tactics might seem hopelessly anachronistic today, the overall strategy of reliance on a supportive population while making dispersed deployments of opposing troops and government representatives untenable through harassing attacks worked well enough to force both sides to the negotiating table.
The book’s second half is a partial reprint of the Provisional IRA’s recruit’s manual, which gives more attention both to the ideological aspect of their campaign, as well as a lot of advice on resistance to capture and interrogation. As such, it offers a glimpse into the mid-’70s socialist revolutionary philosophy of European terrorist organizations, such as the Red Army Faction, Red Brigades, and Revolutionary Cells. While the previous version referred to its followers as guerrillas, here they’re “volunteers,” part of a wider socialist movement and committed to the “long war.”
While the reader won’t find any specifics regarding the deployment of the PIRA’s favored weapons, notably the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and proxy bomb (techniques, tactics, and procedures were deleted from publicly released copies), the chapter regarding post-capture conduct is solid advice. Up to a point. Note, however, that if security forces encountered an interview subject employing the Green Book’s advice to pick a spot on the wall and use visualization techniques to shut out the interviewer’s questions, that would be immediately taken as in indicator of PIRA training.
The Verdict: Should you buy it? As a “how-to” manual, it’s been overtaken by history. It is, however, a reminder of how a small group of motivated individuals with limited access to weaponry can impose their will on a much larger and well-equipped state. When PIRA’s political wing signed on to the Good Friday power sharing accords, it was on the condition that they disarmed. While no one in the intelligence community believes that all ordnance was accounted for, they surrendered about 1,000 rifles, a few machine guns, and 3 tons of explosives. Think about that the next time someone claims the Second Amendment is useless due to the state’s overwhelming numerical and technological advantages.
Book & Author
Irish Republican Army Manual of Guerrilla Warfare: Strategies For Offensive & Defensive Maneuvers
Irish Republican Army
Mikazuki Publishing House