From 1969 until 1998, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) conducted an insurgency against British rule in Northern Ireland that often involved bloody attacks on civilians. Kyle Orton, in an examination of this conflict, connects it to the broader history of terrorism:
It was in the language of self-defense that, in November 1969, the IRA phrased its request for weapons to the Soviets, relayed through the secretary-general of the Irish Communist party, Michael O’Riordan. The Soviets agreed, and the first weapons shipment was delivered in 1972, once the KGB chief Yuri Andropov was sure the IRA could keep its Moscow connection secret. The IRA [had] split into the Official IRA (OIRA) and the Provisional IRA (PIRA) in December 1969.
The PIRA would become part of the interlaced network of international terrorist groups that received Soviet support during the last 30 years of the wold war. This was a synergistic ecosystem. . . . The KGB’s role in global terrorism was, with the exception of the KGB’s role in controlling the “fraternal” Communist parties around the world, its most closely guarded secret. While both facts were obvious to anybody who wanted to see even at the time, the Soviets engaged in elaborate efforts to hide their hand and most Western media and academic coverage dismissed such suggestions as “conspiracy theories” or “McCarthyism.”
With the terrorist groups, the Soviets used a two-factor method to distance themselves: a lot of the operations were delegated to the captive nations [of Eastern and Central Europe], particularly the East Germans, and the Stasi and others then used secondary intermediaries, notably the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and states like Hafez al-Assad’s Syria and (notoriously in the case of the PIRA) Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s Libya. It is no accident, as the comrades used to say, that it was in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union had collapsed, that groups like the PIRA and the PLO found themselves in positions where they even had to pretend to engage in “peace processes.”