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The Irish Republican Army

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is an armed militant group that has used violence throughout the 20th century (and even into the 21st) to achieve political unification of Ireland. The IRA’s specific goal has been to expel Britain and British rule from the four counties that comprise the province of Ulster (or Northern Ireland) and to institute a unified Irish nation joined with the 28 counties of the Republic of Ireland in the south.

[It should be noted that this goal of the IRA is not shared by the Republic of Ireland, which officially regards the IRA as outlaws and terrorists.]

From 1972-2002 the IRA carried out an intense armed campaign against the British which included attacks on British troops in Northern Ireland, attacks on local police in Belfast (Ulster’s capital city) as well as bombings of government, military and civilian sites in Britain itself. Over the 30 years of this campaign, the IRA bombed the London police headquarters (Scotland Yard), Harrod’s Department Store, and (unsuccessfully) the British Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street.

On 27 August 1979, the IRA bombed the private yacht of Lord Mountbatten, former royal Viceroy of India and first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. Mountbatten had retired from public service and was on vacation in Ireland. The blast killed Mountbatten, his twin grandsons, and a sailor on his yacht. The IRA took full public credit for killing Lord Mountbatten.

Utilizing Walzer’s analysis of political violence* examine the IRA’s actions in the Mountbatten bombing .  Exactly why do you think Lord Mountbatten was targeted and what does this indicate about the IRA’s use of violence to pursue its political objectives? Finally, using Walzer’s ideas, what judgment can you make about the legitimacy of the attack on Mountbatten?

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