John Lennon and the IRA

The FBI files on Lennon’s Irish political links

In February 2000, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released files that indicated that they had investigated links between Lennon and New York-based Irish Republican activists in the 1970s. These are part of a 300-page Lennon file which the FBI had resisted releasing since his murder in December 1980. Altogether, 80 pages were released after a court settlement with Professor Jon Wiener, a California-based Lennon biographer and author of Come Together: John Lennon in His Time (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1984). Wiener said that the files include “the first solid evidence” that the FBI had an interest in Lennon’s involvement in Irish issues, as prior to that he had not been aware of the FBI’s connecting Irish Republican activists to Lennon in New York. It goes without saying that both MI5 and MI6 would have also had an interest in Lennon and his political activities, and would have shared information with the FBI and the CIA in this regard. In fact, Wiener says a further 10 documents still held by the FBI were “almost definitely” compiled with the help of MI5. The FBI claims that these 10 files are “national security documents” which originated with “a foreign government” (i.e. Britain). Wiener thinks that this probably has something to do with surveillance of Lennon’s political activities in the UK as well as his arrest for possession of cannabis in 1968.

Lennon had got involved in Irish politics before Bloody Sunday in January 1972. He supported activists protesting against the policy of internment without trial, which was launched by the British army on 9th August 1971, and resulted in 342 people being arrested without charge in brutal dawn raids that netted very few IRA members, but for example led to the detainment of several members of the civil rights movement. The net was cast so wide and recklessly that within 48 hours 116 people had been released. However, 14 were “selected” by the British army and the R.U.C. to undergo a series of “experiments” in sensory deprivation and other forms of torture. It resulted in Britain being found guilty of using torture by the European Court of Human Rights for the second time – the only country in Europe which has this distinction (the other occasion was the torture of Greek Cypriot resistance fighters in the 1960’s). Internment and the massacre at Bloody Sunday were the main reasons for many in the Nationalist community taking the decision to join the IRA and fight back. Lennon appeared at an anti-internment rally in London in August 1971, where he was photographed holding a sign that read: ‘Victory for the IRA against British Imperialism !'” When asked how he reconciled his support for nonviolence with his sympathy for the IRA, Lennon stated:

If it’s a choice between the IRA and the British Army, I’m with the IRA. But if it’s a choice between violence and non-violence, I’m with non-violence. So it’s a very delicate line.”

The FBI files also include an informers account of a meeting on February 6th, 1972, at the Irish Institute on W. 48th Street, New York, just seven days after Bloody Sunday. According to the FBI informer, some of the proposals included procuring weapons for the IRA, whilst another called for the boycott of British goods. But one thing that caught the FBI’s attention was the willingness of Lennon to offer to perform at an “mass demonstration” organised by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The demo however, occurred sooner than expected – next day (February 7th, 1972) in a rally in Manhattan organized by the Transit Workers Union. Lennon joked at the rally how “the police were particularly cooperative as most of them were Irish”. He then said that “The purpose of the meeting was to show solidarity with the people who are going to march tomorrow in Northern Ireland” Referring to his Irish ancestry, Lennon told the crowd, “My name is Lennon and you can guess the rest.” He added that his native Liverpool was “80% Irish.” Then along with Ono he sang “The Luck of the Irish,” which was his second song written in reaction to Bloody Sunday:

At the time of the rally, Lennon was already in contact with the office of Irish Northern Aid, in New York, an organization which raiseD money for the families of IRA prisoners and supports Sinn Féin. Furthermore, he assigned all the royalties from The Luck of the Irish to Irish Northern Aid. Although it has been claimed by the former MI5 spy David Shayler (See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/649397.stm for full details)that Lennon secretly funded the IRA at the time, this was denied by Yoko Ono, who was said to be upset by newspaper reports that MI5 allegedly had “proof” that Lennon had given money to the IRA according to The Sunday Times (February 22nd 2000).

The probability is that Lennon did give money away which may have ended up indirectly in the hands of the IRA. Whether he wittingly knew this money would be used in the IRA campaign is a matter for debate. There is no denying that what was happening in Ireland at the time affected Lennon and he was driven to do something about it. The behaviour of the British military establishment was so bad that even a peace activist like Lennon waned on his ideals of non-violence to supporting some form of resistance.

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6 Responses to “John Lennon and the IRA”

  1. According To John » Blog Archive » John Lennon and the IRA Says:

    […] John Lennon and the IRA According to the FBI informer, some of the proposals included procuring weapons for the IRA, whilst another called for the boycott of British goods. But one thing that caught the FBI’s attention was the willingness of Lennon to offer to … […]

  2. Peter Says:

    Great article. If you’re interested in this period, you may also want to check out the following: http://www.lulu.com/content/2566195

  3. lonesomesparrow Says:

    Thanks for that.

  4. michaelgreenwell Says:

    nice

    there is also this documentary about his political activities in america.

    download the mp3 and its after abuot 10 mins of headlines.

    http://www.democracynow.org/shows/2005/12/8

  5. hip hop rnb music blog blogstodiefor Says:

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