Matthew Kovac is PhD student in History at the University of California, Berkeley. His current research focuses on the Irish republican movement, decolonization, and the Global Cold War.
Kovac is the recipient of the 2021 IIS Pre-Dissertation Research Grant.
Between 1969 and 1994, the Irish Republican Army exchanged arms, training, and fighters with anti-colonial movements from Spain to Japan to South Africa. This “global IRA” secured support from both sides of the Cold War divide, held international congresses, and established solidarity committees around the world to fundraise and spread propaganda. Historians have been wary of overstating these transnational links, given the media sensationalism of the 1970s-80s. But increased access to British state records and Irish solidarity activists’ own files in London and Amsterdam make these connections ripe for reassessment. How did these global networks overcome racial and religious differences to operate effectively? What roles did women play within and across these movements? How did Irish militants navigate their nation’s historic role as both colonizer and colonized in dealings with their African, Asian, and Latin American comrades? Given today’s debates around the role of “white allies” in Black liberation struggles, the IRA’s relationships with Third World militants provide one fascinating model of co-resistance within the broader global history of decolonization.