The opening of the IRA’s arms dumps has been the surprise package of National Heritage Week to date in county Louth.
There was initial panic on the opening day when a group of men in balaclavas blindfolded families who had signed up to the ‘secret heritage’ event before prodding them into car boots with Kalashnikovs and menacing Northern accents. Once the terrified families arrived at their location in the woods somewhere west of Dunleer (they think), it became clear that they had not in fact been kidnapped by terrorists but had merely been subject to routine IRA security procedures. Ordered at gunpoint to relax, the families relaxed, even the ones with Protestant surnames.
The IRA has always been concerned about its place in the cultural heritage of Ireland and it was decided at June’s Army Council meeting that the time was right to give a little back to the public and show how the organisation works. IRA media officer Volunteer O’Hogan explained.
“If people understand us that bit better well that can only be a good thing. We’re a bit like Google or Microsoft I suppose. We’d near monopolised the terror market on the island so the EU ordered us to be split up into disparate groups. But Volunteer Seamus, our head of communications, is a bit dyslexic at times. He’s always confusing disparate with dissident. But we are where we are.”
While notionally part of the same terrorist umbrella, the splinter groups PIRA, RIRA, IRA and CIRA have had their differences in the past.
“Bringing together the various splinter groups was indeed a challenge,” explained IRA Heritage Volunteer O’Neill. “Deciding on the venue for the Christmas party is a struggle in itself so when my department was handed the Heritage Day Splinter Group Liaison Brief I said to myself ‘This’ll be more of a headache than live semtex training day’. I honestly thought about doing up a CV and touching base with the UVF. They tried to head hunt me before and I’ve only gained experience since then.
“But to my surprise, once the word heritage was used they all bent over backwards to help. I was literally bombarded with emails full of ideas for workshops and tips on how to make the day family friendly. They’re a credit to their organisation and themselves.”
Since branching out from the terrorism and freedom fighting game, the IRA has diversified its portfolio to include currency redistribution and petroleum logistics and as a result has been able to attract a wider range of graduates. A major employer in Dundalk, the company offers an excellent financial package as well as the VHI Health Plus Platinum package and term time.
Talks, Tours & Workshops
On arrival, phones are confiscated for the duration of the stay and without exception visitors are searched and subjected to rigorous interrogation in a cold and derelict farm outhouse. Once Volunteers are satisfied that visitors are not MI5 or Special Branch, entrance to the arms dump is granted.
It has to be said that the IRA have done a marvellous job in turning the arms dump into a family friendly environment. The large balaclavaed bouncy castle is a big hit with the under 10s as is the assault course which has been made child proof for the week. Kids can also sign up for specialized workshops including Humpty Dumpty Was a Supergrass and Goldilocks Got Kneecapped – Nursery Rhymes and Songs, Checking for Car Bombs, The Dos and Don’ts of Letter Bombing and Seven Practical Uses for Fertiliser.
There was one incident on Sunday which required medical attention when Volunteer McBride at the carnival shooting gallery put live ammunition in the guns by mistake after sensing a Protestant. Thankfully the wounded party was only a West Brit teen staying with his cousins for the summer. Volunteers who left him outside A&E expect him to recover.
Teenagers are also catered for with workshops entitled The Best Cocktail is a Molotov Cocktail, Protestant Accent Syntax, Reprisals and a graffiti workshop. One teenager, who was afraid to be named complained that no matter what you tried to spray on the wall, it always came out as either BRITS OUT or a mural of Bobby Sands. One smart fifteen year old was given a can of coke, a balaclava and a handgun after explaining why spraying ‘We know where you live’ on someone’s house was too obvious a threat.
Adults are invited to take part in a supervised simulated operation. Split into cells, they are driven (again blindfolded) to a beach near Anagassan and given two hours to transport thirty kilos of TNT explosive, eight light, general purpose machine guns and tripods; a rocket launcher, a large quantity of ammunition, a dozen detonators that have been fully assembled, a couple of timer power units, specialized letter bomb envelopes, a large amount of bomb components, a pipe bomb and a sawn-off, double barrelled shotgun for Post Office robberies.
“So far things are going much better than we expected. It’s great to see so many people interested in our cultural heritage. We hope to continue our partnership with National Heritage Week in the years to come.
“Of course we have had enquiries on how to join. All I can say is that we’re like Google in our advertising – only those who understand they are reading an advertisement are going to apply. We like it like that. Tiocfaidh ár lá.” – Volunteer O’Hogan.
National Heritage Week continues until Saturday.