Thomas "Ta" Power

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Thomas "Ta" Power

Thomas Power was an Irish republican socialist, also known as Ta Power, who was a leading member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). According to the Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSM) biography page on Power, he was from Friendly Street[1] in the Markets area of south Belfast, where he ahd become an activist.[2] He had originally joined the Official IRA but transfered allefience to the INLA in 1975 while a prisoner in Long Kesh,[3] along with 20 other men.[2]

Power was arrested on the word of the supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick.[4]

Power spent the longest period on remand—nearly four and a half years—of any republican prisoner.[4] During this time he developed his political analysis of thh IRSP/INLA situation, which he believed needed "fresh blood".[5]

Power, the ex-INLA chief of staff Hugh Torney told the authors Henry McDonald and Jack Holland, wanted to build a consensus within the INLA against Gerard Steenson, although he was willing to accept back the rest of the IPLO.[3]

Power ahd been out of prison a month when,[6] aged 33, he was shot and killed on 20 January 1987 while drinking tea[7] Rosnaree Hotel on the Dublin Road, outside Drogheda[8] in County Louth, Ireland, along with INLA leader John "Jap" O'Reilly.[9] They were there to negotiate a truce with the IPLO. Also with them was Peter Stuart and Hugh Torney, who was injured. The Irish People's Liberation Organisation, which was largely composed of former INLA members, claimed responsibility.[10] It is possible that Steenson was one of the killers—who both wore false beards[9]— although Torney believes otherwise.[11] O'Reilly died at the scene, Power in the ambulance later.[9]

Power was a Marxist theorist and historian within the IRSM, who advocated dramatic changes in its strategy and structure. This is the current policy blueprint for the IRSM. These ideas can be read in the 'Ta Power Document'[12] and include the principles of 'collective leadership', 'politics in command' and other concepts Power believed would steer the IRSM away from a military-led strategy.[13] The document is highly critical of the then IRSP/INLA political philosophy.[5] He particularly criticised what he saw as a "macho culture" within his movement. He wrote:[5]

We get no analysis, we get no strategy outside the basic [military] confrontation—it eventually becomes an end in itself simply due to the fact that they don’t know any other strategy.[14]

These ideas were adopted by the INLA just before Power's death and were finally implemented within the movement as a whole under the direction of Gino Gallagher.[13] Power, says the writer Andrew Sanders, was a "revered" figure in the INLA.[15]

Jack Holland and Henry McDonald posited that "[S]ubordinating military struggle to carefully thought-out political strategy had been Ta Power's dream for a long time. In the 1980s Sinn Féin and the IRA made that a reality with their ballot box and armalite policy. The provos learnt well from the lessons and mistakes of the IRSP/INLA".[16]


  1. ^ McKittrick, David (2001). Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Mainstream.
  2. ^ a b Hanley, Brian; Millar, Scott (3 September 2009). The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 978-0-14-102845-3.
  3. ^ a b McDonald, Henry; Holland, Jack (2010). INLA: Deadly Divisions. Poolbeg. ISBN 978-1-84223-438-9.
  4. ^ a b Ross, F. Stuart (2011). Smashing H-block: The Rise and Fall of the Popular Campaign Against Criminalization, 1976-1982. Liverpool University Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-84631-743-9.
  5. ^ a b c Finn, Daniel (5 November 2019). One Man's Terrorist: A Political History of the IRA. Verso Books. ISBN 978-1-78663-691-1.
  6. ^ Ryder, Chris (1990). The RUC: A Force Under Fire. Mandarin. ISBN 978-0-7493-0285-6.
  7. ^ McDowell, Jim (2010). Godfathers: inside Northern Ireland's drugs racket. Gill & Macmillan.
  8. ^ Profile, Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  9. ^ a b c Wharton, Ken (19 October 2016). Another Bloody Chapter In An Endless Civil War. Volume 1: Northern Ireland and the Troubles, 1984-87. Helion and Company. ISBN 978-1-912174-27-0.
  10. ^ INLA – Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald, Torc Publishing (1994)[ISBN missing]
  11. ^ McDonald, Henry; Holland, Jack (29 June 2016). I.N.L.A - Deadly Divisions. Poolbeg Press Ltd.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b The Starry Plough, Jan/Feb 2006, "Gino Gallagher: Examining His Impact on the IRSP Ten Years On" by Gerry Ruddy, Belfast IRSP.
  14. ^ Finn 2019, p. 175.
  15. ^ Sanders, Andrew (20 December 2011). Inside the IRA. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-8812-8.
  16. ^ Holland, J.; McDonald, H. (1994). INLA: Deadly Divisions. Dublin: Poolbeg. p. 327. ISBN 978-1-89814-2058.