I am a Catholic and a Republican. I am quite categorically opposed to the killings and bombings by the Provisional IRA. They lead only to bitter divisions and do nothing to unify Ireland.

I am a Republican because I believe that as long as Ireland is divided there will be violence. But I understand quite clearly that there is no way that one can unite Ireland against the wishes of the Protestant population, except by killing. An Ireland united by these methods would not be worth living in.

The majority of the Catholic population, about one-third of the total, has an ideological and emotional commitment to the ideal of a united Ireland, but it is certainly not going to murder and kill to achieve it.

Northern Ireland today faces two extremes--the IRA and the Rev. Ian Paisley and his militant Protestants. They feed off each other.

If the IRA stopped its murdering, Paisley would immediately be rejected by the overwhelming mass of Protestants.

The Provisional IRA claims to defend the Catholic population, but it never could and never will be in a position to do so. What the IRA does do is to put the whole Catholic population in danger.

The IRA is not in line of succession to the great Irish patriots but is the most disastrous thing that has ever happened to the Irish people. Its members never wear uniforms except when they are attending a funeral and are surrounded by women and children. To me this indicates cowardice, and as an Irishman I dislike Irishmen being cowards.

The hunger strike recently carried out in the Maze Prison near Belfast was most divisive. It will never be repeated. The hunger strikers were viciously exploited by the IRA.

When the pope visited Ireland in 1979, he condemned murder and asked the people to turn away from violence. The arrogant armchair generals of the Provisional IRA and their brutal emissaries ignored this honest man.

It has to be emphasised that politics cannot be discussed in the province while murder is taking place.

There is a glimmer of hope on the far horizon. It will not be Paisley and his so- called "Third Force" who will come to be seen as saviors of Northern Ireland.

First will be Father Mulvey of the border town of Strabane, who received a standing ovation from 1,500 of his parishioners when he condemned the IRA as murderers and called on them to cooperate with the security forces and demanded the extradition by the Irish government of those who murder people in Northern Ireland.

Then will come Bishop Edward Daly of Derry, who, in a pastoral letter, condemned the IRA and almost got to the point of excommunicating its members from the Catholic Church. Cardinal O'Fiaich has since condemned support for the IRA as a mortal sin.

These are very welcome developments. The Catholic population is now in no doubt as to what its church thinks. It will also do a lot to dispel the fears of the majority of Protestants.

The views expressed by Irish Catholics overseas have not helped in any way. I strongly resent people living thousands of miles away marching and demonstrating and demanding the unity of Ireland. Ireland can never be united by violence, but if it were to be it would only be at the cost of thousands and thousands of lives.

I have found that the IRA in Northern Ireland, a terrorist organization which does not have the support either of the Dublin government or the electorate of Northern Ireland, is the one organization that has the support of both Irish American Catholics and Russian Communists. In this it is unique.