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Ronnie Bunting (1947/1948 - 15 October 1980) was an Irish republican and socialist activist in Ireland. He became a member of the Official IRA in the early 1970s and was a founder member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1974. He became leader of the INLA in 1978 and was assassinated in 1980.
Bunting came from a Protestant family in east Belfast. His father, Ronald Bunting, had been a major in the British Army and Ronnie grew up in various military barracks around the world. Unlike his son, his father became a supporter and associate of Ian Paisley and ran for election under the Protestant Unionist Party banner. Having completed his education and graduating from Queen's University Belfast, Ronnie Bunting briefly became a history teacher in Belfast, but later become involved in the Civil Rights movement and then with republican organisations.Unlike most Protestants in Northern Ireland, Bunting became a militant Irish republican. His father, by contrast, was a committed loyalist, who organised armed stewards for demonstrations called by Ian Paisley, most famously at Burntollet, when his followers attacked a civil rights march of the People's Democracy on 4 January 1969.
Membership of the Official IRA
Bunting joined the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) in around 1970 as he was attracted to their left-wing and secular interpretation of Irish republicanism and believed in the necessity of armed revolution to overthrow the British occupation of the North of Ireland. The other wing of the IRA - the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) - was seen to be more Catholic and nationalist in its outlook. At this time, the communal conflict known as the Troubles was beginning and the Official IRA were involved in shootings and bombings. Bunting was interned in November 1971 and held in Long Kesh until the following April (see also Operation Demetrius). He was the first non-Catholic to be interned.
Membership of the INLA
In 1974, Bunting followed Seamus Costello and other militants, who disagreed with the OIRA's ceasefire of 1972 into a new grouping, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). Immediately, a violent feud broke out between the OIRA and the INLA that simmered until 1977. Costello was killed in 1977 by an OIRA gunman in Dublin. Bunting was hit in the neck by a rifle bullet while driving in Belfast. It is not clear whether the bullet was fired by the British Army, loyalists or rival republicans. In any case, Bunting and his family hid in Wales until 1978, when he returned to Belfast. For the remaining two years of his life, Bunting was the military leader of the INLA. The grouping regularly attacked the British Army and RUC in Belfast. Bunting called in claims of responsibility to the media by the code name "Captain Green". The INLA claimed responsibility for the assassination of Airey Neave.
On 15 October 1980, several gunmen entered Bunting's home in the Downfine Gardens area of Andersonstown, shooting Bunting, his wife Suzanne and another INLA man, Noel Lyttle. Suzanne Bunting survived, but her husband and Lyttle were killed. The attack was claimed by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) but the INLA claimed the SAS were involved.
Upon his death, Bunting's body was kept in a funeral parlour on the Newtownards opposite the headquarters of the UDA.On the day of the funeral as the coffin was being removed UDA members jeered from their building.The IRSP had wanted a republican funeral for Bunting but his father refused and had Bunting buried in the family plot of a Church of Ireland cemetery near Donaghadee.
- Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles by David McKittrick, et al. Mainstream Publishing (May 10, 2001); ISBN 184018504X, ISBN 978-1840185041, pp 840-41
- Henry McDonald & Jackie Holland INLA Deadly Divisions, Torc (1994); ISBN 189814205X, ISBN 978-1898142058