NORAID IRA- America’s Plastic Paddy’s (first published 2015)

The idea for this post originates from a story told to me by two friends who visited America last year. As both are from the Republic of Ireland, going to an ‘Irish’ pub appeared to be a good idea, but once inside, nether were prepared for the greeting they received from Irish-Americans living in Boston.

They recalled their experience, “When we went into this pub in Boston, as soon as we opened our mouths we were greeted by fake Irish accents. At first we thought they were being sarcastic before realizing they truly believed they were ‘Irish’.  After they established we were both Catholics from the Irish Republic they began praising the IRA, calling them freedom fighters and cursing the Brits. Their view of Ireland and the troubles were firmly placed in the distant past, the 1920s and earlier; they clearly knew nothing about Ireland, Britain or the Troubles in Northern Ireland… “

 “After attempting to impress us with their knowledge of the potato famine, British landowners, the Easter Uprising and British persecution of the Irish we quickly finished our drinks and left.” This and subsequent experiences during their trip to Boston and New York left them in no doubt that Irish-American’s don’t exist, “they are plastic Paddy’s with no knowledge of Ireland or the recent troubles…”

 On several occasions I have heard the expression “Plastic Paddy”: friends who have been born in England, whose parents are from Ireland have jokingly referred to themselves as Plastic Paddy’s. However, the same expression used to describe the Irish-Americans my friends encountered in Boston and New York was intended to be an insult, and a term used to distinguish them from the ‘real’ Irish.

 “These plastic Paddy’s” they said, “had no idea Irish men and women serve in the British forces, or that Irish men and women have served in Northern Ireland… They were also unaware that for generations the Irish community has been fully integrated into English society, especially in London… Their view of Ireland and England is more like the Palestine- Israel conflict… I just can’t comprehend the stupidity of these people…”

According to Liam Kennedy, director of the Clinton Institute University College Dublin, Britain still attracts the largest percentage of emigrants from the Irish Republic with around 90,000 people moving across the water since 2008. He also estimates that six million people in Britain have at least one Irish grandparent (around 10 percent of the population)

Kennedy also explains that over the half-century (1951 – 2001) the Irish were the largest foreign born group in England, mostly because of the hundreds who moved there in the 1950s and the lack of visa restrictions.

During a visit to Boston the Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, Diarmund Martin, publicly said, “Irish-American sentimentalism is incomprehensible, but it’s also dangerous…  It hasn’t just been about singing ‘Danny Boy’: in Ulster its meant death and destruction. “

The Archbishop then went on to say, “I have no feeling for Irish-American’s… I don’t understand it…American sentimentality for a country they don’t know, it’s not my dish” (Catholic Herald 19 April 2011)

The following extract from the Catholic Herald illustrates some of the common feelings towards Irish-American’s.

Dr William Oddie, a leading English catholic writer and former editor of the Catholic Herald, recalled his trip to Boston. “The Cardinal introduced me to his secretary, then said, mischievously, Dr Oddie is an Englishman. Mrs so and so is Irish, he explained, as she glowered at me, she doesn’t like the English. Why not, I asked, puzzled: well because of the way you persecuted Irish Catholics, she said. Yes, I said, but they cruelly persecuted English Catholics, too, probably worse; I’m an English Catholic”. This was not a part of Catholic history of which she had been previously aware. She just knew that the Irish are supposed to hate the English.”

“Nor had she ever been to Ireland, about which she clearly knew nothing at all. I was an undergraduate in Dublin, long before the vast improvement in Anglo-Irish relations that has taken place in recent years. In all my time there, including an extra postgraduate year, despite my evident Englishness I never once encountered anything but friendliness and courtesy.”

From Irish Americans, I have through the years encountered a certain amount of discourtesy. “I’m Irish”, was the explanation, the first time I came across this phenomenon. “Really” I replied, genuinely puzzled, I wasn’t being a smartass; “you sound American to me: what part of Ireland do you come from?” He, too, had never been to Ireland. Neither had his father or his grandfather. But they all called themselves simply “Irish”, tout court.”

 Oddie continues,” It can be entirely harmless, of course (though the real Irish do sometimes regard the phenomenon with puzzlement) and it does help the tourist trade. I remember one St. Patrick’s Day when I was in the entrance hall of a Dublin hotel, watching in astonishment as a group of Irish Americans, all dressed in bright emerald-green suits, stood drinking pints of bright green beer and smoking huge bright green cigars. I expressed my amazement to the Hall porter, who simply replied, “Ah, sure, they’re enjoying themselves, and it does no harm”

In the same article Oddie also says, “Irish-American sentimentalism has been responsible for very much worse things than emerald-green suits: it brought death and destruction as well. Only Libya supplied more financial aid and more weapons and logistical support to the IRA than Irish Americans did. The IRA were responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 630 civilians. But it was OK to collect money on the streets of Boston and New York for the funding of all this death and destruction as long as you knew the words and music to “Have you ever been across the sea to Ireland?” (Answer, in most cases, no) and “Danny Boy”.

Referring to Archbishop Martin’s statement, “Irish-Americanism… it’s not my dish”. Oddie says, “Your Grace, many others feel the same, including (quite literally) thousands of widows and orphans in the six counties and throughout the rest of the UK, too.” He also says, “that small, peaceable, fuddled group of green beer drinkers, he begins to wonder, had none of them, perhaps walking down Fifth Avenue, ever reached into their wallets for a ten dollar bill, as someone approached them, smiling, with a bright green collecting box?” (The Catholic Herald 19 April 2012)

As the above article from the Catholic Herald briefly points out, Plastic Paddy’s, to use the phrase of my ‘real’ Irish friends, have been responsible for death and destruction on BOTH sides of the Irish border, major cities in England and British military bases in Germany. Consequently, along with Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, they have supported an organisation involved in acts of terrorism, including the targeting of innocent civilians, for a cause and country they know nothing about!

It’s doubtful that NORAID and their Plastic Paddy’s are aware the British Army was originally sent to Northern Ireland to protect the Catholic community who were regularly being attacked and their houses burned by the predominantly protestant community. Few may be aware that throughout the 30 year campaign, which was driven by NORAID money, the army and police were also confronting a large number of sectarian death squads, popularly referred to as Loyalist Paramilitaries {terrorists,} who were murdering Catholics simply because of their religion. This will be covered in greater detail in my post which examines Operation Banner. 

 According to NORAID and their misguided supporters, their money was for the IRA freedom fighters who were fighting the British Army, attacking the oppressive British government and for the eventual unification of the Ireland of Ireland – to this day they don’t appear to understand that their money has been responsible for the death and maiming of more civilians than the casualties caused by the British Army, Police and Loyalist death squads combined, and NORAID has fueled this death and destruction for 30 years.   Equally, they don’t appear to be aware the majority of Northern Ireland wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.  This is rather strange as the majority of American’s embrace and understand the importance of democracy.

The following is a brief example of the IRA’s deliberate attacks against civilians over a period of 30 years and also illustrates, by implication, NORAIDS support for the murder of civilians. It should be noted that because NORAID escalated and sustained the Troubles, which in turn resulted in the formation of over five Loyalist terrorist organisations bent on revenge, the death of civilians at the hands of Loyalists are also included. However, there are also the unknown number of civilian men and women who were abducted, murdered and buried by the IRA (called the Disappeared) and Catholics abducted and murdered by Loyalists, which are difficult to accurately quantify. Also, as NORMAID regard the deaths of soldiers, police officers, prison officers, civilians involved in government contracts and alleged informers as legitimate targets, these have not been included. Neither have those who have been beaten to death or shot for various alleged crimes after being found guilty by IRA kangaroo courts who ruled the catholic areas of Northern Ireland through fear and intimidation.

Bloody Friday 21 July 1972

Remains of an IRA bomb victim- as with most of their victims an innocent civilian

Often, the IRA would gave a number of bomb warnings before there devices exploded in densely populated civilian areas. This allowed them to claim the fatalities and injuries were due to the inaction of the police and the army. In reality most of these warnings were deliberately vague and on the rare occasion of receiving accurate information there was often the ‘come on’ (come on and get it) or secondary device designed to kill and maim the first responders and civilians attempting to help the casualties.  Blaming the security forces for the death of civilians was a common IRA statement after their many bomb attacks. 

Not surprisingly, this was also the case on Friday 21 July 1972 when the authorities were informed that bombs had been planted and primed in Belfast’s city center.  The city center was crowded with shoppers and the precise location of the bombs, as usual, were vague. As the police and a small complement of soldiers were evacuating shoppers twenty-six bombs exploded in the space of eighty minutes.

One of many civilian targets bombed

Due to the City Center being a major shopping area which was always crowded and the large list of targets, it can clearly be seen this was an indiscriminate attack against civilians.


  • Smithfield Bus Station: A car bomb exploded in an enclosed yard.
  • Brookvale Hotel: bomb estimated to be 50lbs.
  • York Road Railway Station: 30lb bomb
  • Star Taxi Depot on the Crumlin Road
  • Oxford Street Bus Depot
  • Railway Station in Great Victoria Street: Van bomb 50lbs
  • Railway Station in Botanic Avenue: 50lbs
  • Ulster Bank Limestone Road: 50lbs
  • Liverpool Ferry Terminal: 50lbs
  • Queen Elizabeth Road Bridge: 160lbs
  • Gas Depot Office, Omeau Avenue: 50lb
  • Germoyle Street: parcel bomb
  • Agnes Street: car bomb 30lbs
  • M2 Motorway Bridge, Bellevue: 30lbs
  • Creighton’s filling station, Upper Lisburn Road: Petrol pumps ablaze
  • Electricity substation, Salisbury Road: Car bomb
  • Railway Bridge, Finaghy Road North: Lorry bomb
  • Railway footbridge, Windsor park: 30lb
  • Eastwood garage Donegal Street: car 150lbs
  • Stewartstown Road
  • Cavehill Road: car 50lbs
  • Railway line near Lisburn Road
  • Grosvenor Road: 50lbs.
  • Queen Elizabeth Building: Car 160lbs

According to Brenan Hughes, commander of the Belfast Brigade, “I was the operational commander of the ‘Bloody Friday’ operation. I remember when the bombs started to go off, I was in Leeson Street, and I thought, ‘There’s too much here’. I sort of knew that there were going to be casualties, either [because] the Brits could not handle so many bombs or they would allow some to go off because it suited them to have casualties. I feel a bit guilty about it because, as I say, there was no intention to kill anyone that day. I have a fair deal of regret that ‘Bloody Friday’ took place … a great deal of regret … If I could do it over again I wouldn’t do it.”

“No intention to kill anyone….” Bombing a crowded city center full of civilians!

The fact that only 9 people died is down to the bravery and professionalism of a handful of overstretched police officers and soldiers. As well as dealing with the impending threat, pictures of the aftermath also show the gruesome task of police officers, soldiers, firefighters and ambulance crews placing limbs and pieces of flesh into plastic bags and putting blankets over larger pieces of human remains.

Warrington Bombing

Warrington is another example of the many bombings which the IRA claimed they had no intention to kill anyone.  Apart from the IRA placing explosive devices inside cast iron litter bins outside shops: clearly indicating the intention was to kill and main civilians; the fact that this attack took place one day before Mother’s Day, clearly suggests the victims would likely be fathers with young children buying presents for their mother’s, and this, sadly, turned out to be the case.

As two litter bins exploded outside shops in Market Street Tim Parry, aged 12 and 3-year-old Johnathan Ball were killed instantly and 50 were injured, some losing limbs. According to an eyewitness 3-year-old Johnathan Ball took the full blast from one of the bombs and was cut in half.  This incident resulted in scores of protest throughout Britain and the Irish Republic.

Although accurate figures of IRA bombings have proved difficult to obtain, it is know that at the height of the Troubles in 1972, there were no fewer than 1,300 bomb attacks in Northern Ireland during that year alone.  Apart from the current lack of figures to accompany this post, for a fuller picture we must also include the fatalities and injuries through regular gun attacks. We also need to know the number of sectarian and random murders.

For many of us who served in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles, which some also refer to as the ‘Forgotten War’,  the subject is often described in a clinical ‘matter of fact’ and no-personal manner  and even media accounts of this period were seldom able to reflect the human tragedy financed by the Plastic Paddy’s of NORAID. This changed after the Omagh Bombing. So much is known about the Omagh victims, the Troubles have now become personalized and many can now understand the full tragedy of Northern Ireland and the long-term trauma of those families who have lost love ones to indiscriminate bombings and shootings. These civilians were the acceptable collateral damage of the IRA, Gaddafi and the Plastic Paddy’s of NORAID.

 Omagh, County Tyrone

On a good day it only takes around 1 1/2; hours to drive to Omagh from the Irish Republic, making it popular for shopping expeditions for those living south of the border.

Although it cannot be said Omagh, like other areas of Northern Ireland, had not been effected by the Troubles, unlike many other parts of Northern Ireland which are divided by sectarianism, Omagh was known as a place where Catholics and Protestants lived side by side in relative piece. 

Saturday 15 August 1998 was the final day of Omagh’s annual carnival week. The streets were packed with shoppers taking advantage of the summer sales and buying uniforms ahead of the new school year. At 3.10pm a massive 500lbs bomb in a vehicle parked in the middle of Omagh’s main street exploded- instantly turning the car, brickwork and roadside furniture into shrapnel.

The death toll of 29 included nine children and three generations of one family. Over 200 people were injured, some left without limbs, and others were blinded or disfigured. Local priest Father Thomas Canning said: “I really don’t know how the town of Omagh is ever going to come to terms with this awful catastrophe.”

The 29 people killed in Omagh and those injured represent every cross section of Northern Ireland society.

A lucky escape- a Spanish tourist with his son standing by the car bomb several minutes before it exploded. 

Avril Monaghan, 30, County Tyrone. Heavily pregnant with twin girls, her daughter and mother were also killed whilst shopping at the SD Kells cloths shop which bore the brunt of the explosion.

Mura Monaghan, 18 months old, County Tyrone. She was one of Avril Monaghan’s four children. Her body was found under her mother’s. She was also known as ‘Massie’ by her family.

 Mary Grimes, 66, County Tyrone, was Avril Monaghan’s mother who was celebrating her birthday with her with her daughter and granddaughter.

 Brenda Devine, County Tyrone, 20 months old. She had been born three months prematurely. Her mother, Tracy, was the last victim to return home from hospital. Tracy Devine was in a comma for six weeks and on waking was told her daughter had been killed.

Lorraine Wilson, 15, Omagh. Had hoped to become a flight attendant. She had been evacuated from Oxfam, where she worked as a volunteer, after inaccurate warnings as to the location of the bomb.

 Samantha McFarland, 17, Omagh. She was a friend of Lorraine and fellow volunteer at Oxfam.

Gareth Conway, 18, Omagh. He was a student who lived with his family and hoped to be accepted for an engineering course at the University of Ulster and was awaiting his exam results.

Julie Hughes, 21, Omagh. The 21-year-old accountancy student was home from Dundee University prior to finishing her final year. She had a summer job at Image Xpress, a photographic shop.

Brenda Logue, 17, Carrickmore. She was a sixth-year pupil at St Theresa’s high school who played Gaelic football for the school team. Her GCSE exam results arrived a few days after her death.

Elizabeth Rush, 57, Omagh, was serving customers in her Markey Street shop, ‘Pine Emporium’, opposite the centre of the explosion when she was killed.

Racio Abad-Amos, 23, Madrid, a teacher supervising a group of Spanish and Irish schoolchildren on a day trip to Omagh. The party was on an exchange holiday based in Donegal.

Fernando Blasco Baselga, 12, Madrid. One of the exchange party. His 15-year-old sister, Donna Marie, was on the trip and needed extensive plastic surgery for facial injuries.

Sean McLaughlin, 12, County Donegal, was part of the same group. An avid footballer who supported Manchester United and was also an altar boy.

 Oran Doherty, 8, County Donegal, also on the exchange programme and Sean’s neighbour. He was buried in his beloved Celtic Football Club jersey.

James Barker12, County Donegal, another member of the exchange group and friends of Sean and Oran. He lives for more than three hours as doctors vainly pumped 18 pints of blood into him.

Philomena Skelton, 49, County Tyrone. She was on a shopping trip with her husband and three daughters who survived the explosion.

Esher Gibson, 36, Beragh, Sunday school teacher who had got engaged three months earlier.

Geraldine Breslin, 43, Omagh. She was one of three sales assistants working for Waterson’s Drapers who dies. Breslin, married with a 15-year-old son, was walking down the street on a tea break when the bomb exploded.

Ann McCombe, 48, Omagh. Mother-of-two, also working for Waterson’s. She was with Breslin on her tea break.

Veda Short, 56, Omagh. A mother-of-four who also worked t Waterson’s. She was also on tea break when she died. Earlier that day she had witnessed the birth or her grandchild.

Aiden Gallagher, 21, Omagh. He lived with his parents and had gone to the town to buy jeans and boots.

Alan Radford, 16, Omagh. He was shopping with his mother who was also injured. Alan was due to start training as a chief the following  month and his GCSE results arrived three days after his death.

 Fred White, 60, Omagh. He was in a shop next to SD Kells with his son when the bomb killed both of them.

 Brian White, 26, Omagh. Fred White’s son. He had returned from university in England and was due to start a job with the council two days later. He was buried alongside his father.

Jolene Marlow, 17, Omagh. She was a student who hoped to study physiotherapy at the University of Ulster and was waiting for her exam results. She was in Omagh with her sister and grandmother.

Deborah Cartwright, 20, Omagh. Her A-level results, which arrived on the day of her funeral, confirmed she had won her place on a textile design course at Manchester University.

Olive Hawkes, 60, Omagh. She was to celebrate her Ruby (40 years) wedding anniversary a few days after the bomb. She was killed while on a shopping outing.

Brian McCory, 54, Omagh. He left a wife, daughter and two sons, He was talking with a friend near the car bomb.

Sean McGrath, 61, Omagh, died three weeks after the blast. He had been fatally injured in the same street in which he had been born.

Several eyewitnesses recall the aftermath of the massive explosion, “When the dust began to clear the dead and injured were seen lying all around, surrounded by the twisted wreckage of buildings and cars. The staff at Waterson’s had literally been wiped out”.

And, “Water spraying from burst water mains carried blood over the debris, occasionally exposing limbs and other human parts torn from bodies by the force of the blast. The police had to force back desperate relatives who attempted to rush to the scene to search for missing loved ones.”

Omagh is just one of many terrorist attacks where the IRA has killed 621 civilians.

After the Boston Marathon bombing I wonders whether the Plastic Paddy’s of NORAID now understand and regret the contribution they made to the 30 years of death and destruction in Northern Ireland.  Perhaps not!

Estimated figures of IRA bomb attacks against civilian targets and retaliatory bomb attacks by loyalist terror groups. Attacks against security forces and attacks where there was no loss of life are not included.


UVF (loyalists) McGurk’s bar 4 December, 15 killed, 17 injured


Official IRA Aldershot, 6 killed

IRA Abercorn Restaurant, 2 killed, 130 injured

PIRA, 24 bombs in towns and cities across Northern Ireland (figures not currently available)

PIRA, Bloody Friday, Belfast City Centre, 26 bombs, 9 killed and 130 injured

Unknown, Claudy car bomb, 9 killed

Loyalists, Dublin car bomb, 2 killed, 127 injured


UVF (loyalist) bomb in pub, 6 killed, 18 injured

UVF (loyalist) Dublin and Monaghan bombings (four bombs, 3 in Dublin, 1 on Monaghan) 33 killed including a pregnant women

IRA, Birmingham pub bomb, 21 killed


IRA, North Street Arcade, 2 killed

UVF (loyalists) Belfast and Claremont, 5 killed


PIRA, Le Man Restaurant Belfast (incendiary bomb) 12 killed, 30 injured.

PIRA, 50 bombs in towns across Northern Ireland, 37 injured


PIRA train bomb, Dunmurry, 3 killed, 5 injured


PIRA, Belfast, Derry, Ballymena, Bessbrook, 2 killed, 12 injured

INLA, Drop in the well pub, 6 killed

PIRA, Harrods London, 3 killed, 90 injured


PIRA, Remembrance Day bombing, Enniskillen, 11 killed, 3 injured

PIRA, St Albans city centre, 2 killed (thought to be own goal)


PIRA, Teebane bombing, 8 killed, 8 injured

PIRA, Baltic exchange, 3 killed, 91 injured

PIRA, Forensic Labs, Belfast, 20 injured


PIRA Warrington, 2 killed, 56 injured

PIRA, Bishopsgate, 1 killed, 30 injured

PIRA, Shankhill Road Fish shop Belfast, 8 killed


PIRA, London Docklands, 2 killed

PIRA, Manchester, 200 injured

According to figures from CAIN (Conflict Archive) ‘Deaths from the Conflict in Northern Ireland’, which does not included sectarian murders or the disappeared.

Civilians:  1,879

Security Forces 1,117

Republican terrorists 399

Loyalist terrorists 162

Security Forces (Irish Republic) 11

Total: 3568.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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