The INLA was founded on 8 December 1974 in the Spa Hotel in Lucan, Dublin by former members of the Official IRA. The group's political wing, the IRSP was founded on the same day. The IRSP's foundation was made public but the INLA's was kept a secret until the group could operate effectively. The group was formed due to dissatisfaction with the Official IRA ceasefire in 1972 and the supposed refusal to implement the democratic will of the members. Shortly after it was founded, the INLA came under attack from their former comrades in the OIRA, who wanted to destroy the new grouping before it could get off the ground.
On 20 February 1975,
Hugh Ferguson, an INLA member and an Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) branch chairperson, was the first person to be killed in the feud. One of the first military operations of the INLA was the shooting of OIRA leader Sean Garland in Dublin on 1 March. Although shot six times, he survived. After several more shootings a truce was arranged, but fighting started again. The most prominent victim of the restarted feud was Billy McMillen, the commander of the OIRA in Belfast, shot by INLA member Gerard Steenson. His murder was unauthorised and was condemned by Costello. This was followed by several more assassinations on both sides, the most prominent victim being Seamus Costello, who was shot dead on the North Strand Road in Dublin on 5 October 1977. Costello's death was a severe blow to the INLA, as he was their most able political and military leader.
It has also recentlyRepublican Socialist Movement that one of their members killed in 1975,
Brendan McNamee (who was involved in the killing of Billy McMillen), was actually killed by Provisional Irish Republican Army members. The Officials had denied involvement at the time of the killing and had instead blamed it on the Provisionals, who also denied involvement.
been claimed by some in the
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the INLA developed into a modest organisation in Northern Ireland, operating primarily from the Divis Flats in west Belfast, which, as a result, became colloquially known as "the planet of the Irps" (a reference to the IRSP and the film Planet of the Apes). They also had a large presence in Derry and the surrounding area, and all three of the INLA prisoners who died in the 1981 Irish hunger strike were from County Londonderry. During this period, the INLA competed with the Provisional IRA for members, with both groups in conflict with the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The first action to bring the INLA to international notice was its assassination on 30 March 1979 of Airey Neave, the British Conservative Party's spokesman on Northern Ireland and one of Margaret Thatcher's closest political supporters.
The INLA lost another of its founding leadership in 1980, when Ronnie Bunting, a Protestant nationalist, was assassinated at his home.
Noel Little, another Protestant member of the INLA, was killed in the same incident. Another leading INLA member, Miriam Daly, was killed by loyalist assassins in the same year. Although no group claimed responsibility, the INLA claimed that the Special Air Service (SAS) was involved in the killings of Bunting and Little.
Offensive INLA actions at this time included the 1982 bombing of the Mount Gabriel radar station in County Cork, which the INLA believed was providing assistance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in violation of Irish neutrality, although this was disputed by the Irish government. Their most bloody attack came on 6 December 1982 – the Ballykelly disco bombing of the Droppin' Well Bar in Ballykelly, County Londonderry, which catered to British military personnel, in which 11 soldiers on leave and 6 civilians were killed.
Members of the INLA participated in the 1980 and 1981 hunger strikes for the recognition of the political status of paramilitary prisoners. Three INLA members died during the latter hunger strike – Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Devine, along with seven Provisional IRA members.
On 20 November 1983, three members of the congregation in the Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church, Darkley, (near Keady, County Armagh) were shot dead during a Sunday service. The attack was claimed by the Catholic Reaction Force, a cover name for a small group of people, including one member of the INLA. The weapon used came from an INLA arms dump, but Tim Pat Coogan claims in his book The IRA that the weapon had been given to the INLA member to assassinate a known loyalist and the attack on the church was not sanctioned. The INLA's then-chief of staff, Dominic McGlinchey, came out of hiding to condemn the attack. In 1987 the INLA came under attack from the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO), a group made up of expelled or disaffected members of the INLA. This feud resulted in the death of 16 INLA and IPLO members. The feud mainly took place in cities, most notably in Belfast, Derry, and Dublin, but also took place in many other areas of Ireland. The feud ended in 1992 with the INLA surviving just barely, with the Provisional IRA stepping in and wiping out the main Belfast leadership of the IPLO because they were openly involved in drug dealing, while letting the rest of the organization dissolve outside of Belfast.
On 14 April 1992, the INLA carried out its first killing in England after the death of Airey Neave, when they shot dead a recruiting army sergeant in Derby while he was leaving a British Army recruiting office. In June 2010, Declan Duffy was charged with the killing, although he was released on March 2013, under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
INLA gunmen opened fire on British soldiers in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast on 7 July 1997, when the Drumcree conflict triggered six days of fierce riots and widespread violence in several nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.
In the mid-1980s, the INLA was greatly weakened by splits and criminality within its own ranks, as well as the conviction of many of its members under the British supergrass scheme. Harry Kirkpatrick, an INLA volunteer, was arrested in February 1983 on charges of five murders and subsequently agreed to give evidence against other INLA members.
The INLA kidnapped Kirkpatrick's wife Elizabeth, and later kidnapped his sister and his stepfather too. All were released physically unharmed. INLA Chief of Staff Dominic McGlinchey is alleged to have killed Kirkpatrick's lifelong friend Gerard 'Sparky' Barkley because he may have revealed the whereabouts of the Kirkpatrick family members to the police.
In May 1983, ten men were charged with various offences on the basis of evidence from Kirkpatrick. Those charged included IRSP vice-chairman Kevin McQuillan and former councillor Sean Flynn. IRSP chairman and INLA member James Brown was charged with the murder of a police officer. Others escaped; Jim Barr, an IRSP member named by Kirkpatrick as part of the INLA, fled to the US where, having spent 17 months in jail, he won political asylum in 1993.
In December 1985, 27 people were convicted on the basis of Kirkpatrick's statements. By December 1986, 24 of those convictions had been overturned. Gerard Steenson was given five life sentences for the deaths of the same five individuals that Kirkpatrick himself had been convicted of, these included Ulster Defence Regiment soldier Colin Quinn, shot in Belfast in December 1980.
The distrust and division that had been sowed was the last straw in splitting former comrades into warring factions and leading to the formation of the Irish People's Liberation Organisation by Jimmy Brown and Gerard Steenson, both of whom had been convicted under the supergrass scheme. This led to that organisation's feud with the INLA, in which 16 people were killed.
Killing of Seamus Ruddy
Seamus Ruddy from Newry joined the INLA in Dublin in the 1970s. He was arrested in 1978 for smuggling arms but was acquitted. After dissension among local members, Ruddy drifted away from the main organisation and in 1983 went to Paris where he taught English. He disappeared in late May 1985, after a meeting with three leading members of the INLA. The three were searching for arms and believed that Ruddy knew where they could be found. At the time, the INLA denied that it was involved with his disappearance and resisted pressure from the Ruddy family to help it locate his whereabouts. In late 1993, a former high-ranking member of the INLA, Peter Stewart, finally admitted that the INLA had killed Ruddy in Paris. Ruddy's remains were found there in 2017.
Feuds and splits
In 1987, the INLA and its political wing, the IRSP came under attack from the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO), an organisation founded by people who had resigned or been expelled from the INLA. The IPLO's initial aim was to destroy the INLA and replace it with their organisation. Five members of the INLA were killed by the IPLO, including leaders Ta Power and John O'Reilly. The INLA retaliated with several killings of their own. After the INLA killed the IPLO's leader, Gerard Steenson in 1987, a truce was reached. Although severely damaged by the IPLO's attacks, the INLA continued to exist. The IPLO, which was heavily involved in drug dealing, was put out of existence by the Provisional IRA in a large scale operation in 1992.
Directly after the feud in October 1987, the INLA received more damaging publicity when Dessie O'Hare, an erstwhile INLA volunteer, set up his own group called the 'Irish Revolutionary Brigade' and kidnapped a Dublin dentist named John O'Grady. O'Hare cut off two of O'Grady's fingers and sent them to his family in order to secure a ransom. O'Grady was eventually rescued and O'Hare's group arrested after several shootouts with armed Gardaí. The INLA disassociated itself from the action, issuing a statement saying O'Hare "is not a member of the INLA". O'Hare later rejoined the INLA while in prison.
Dominic McGlinchey was killed in 1994 by an unknown group, weakening the operational capabilities of the organization.
In 1995, four members of the INLA, including chief of staff Hugh Torney, were arrested by Gardaí in Balbriggan while trying to smuggle weapons from Dublin to Belfast. Torney, with the support of two of his co-accused, called a ceasefire in exchange for favourable treatment by the Irish Government. Since Torney, who was chief of staff, under the INLA's rules lacked the authority to call a ceasefire (because he was incarcerated), he and the two men who supported him were expelled from the INLA.
Torney and one of those men, Dessie McCleery, as well as founder-member John Fennell, did not wish to surrender the leadership of the organisation. Their faction, known as the INLA/GHQ, assassinated the new INLA chief of staff, Gino Gallagher. After the INLA killed both McCleery and Torney in 1996, the rest of Torney's faction quietly disbanded.
Killing of Billy Wright
A FEG PA-63 the type of gun used to kill Wright
Billy Wright was the founder and leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). Since July 1996, the group had launched a string of attacks on civilians (whom they identified as Catholics), killing at least five. In April 1997, Wright was sentenced to eight years in the Maze Prison. On the morning of 27 December 1997, he was assassinated by three INLA prisoners – Christopher "Crip" McWilliams, John "Sonny" Glennon and John Kennaway – who were armed with two pistols. He was shot as he travelled in a prison van (alongside another LVF prisoner, Norman Green and one prison officer) from one part of the prison to another. Kennaway held the driver hostage and Glennon gave cover with a .22 Derringer pistol while McWilliams opened the side door and fired seven shots at Wright with his PA63 semi-automatic. After killing Wright, the three volunteers handed themselves over to prison guards. They also handed over a statement, which read:
||"Billy Wright was executed for one reason and one reason only, and that was for directing and waging his campaign of terror against the nationalist people from his prison cell in Long Kesh.
That night, LVF gunmen opened fire on a disco in a mainly nationalist area of Dungannon. Four civilians were wounded and a former Provisional IRA volunteer was killed in the attack.
The nature of Wright's killing led to speculation that prison authorities colluded with the INLA to have him killed, as he was a danger to the peace process. The INLA strongly denied these rumours, and published a detailed account of the assassination in the March/April 1999 issue of The Starry Plough newspaper.
The INLA declared a ceasefire on 22 August 1998. When calling its ceasefire, the INLA acknowledged the "faults and grievous errors in our prosecution of the war". The INLA admitted that innocent people had been killed and injured "and at times our actions as a liberation army fell far short of what they should have been". The INLA went on to accept the massive vote in favour of the Good Friday Agreement – which it had opposed during the 1998 referendum – by the people of Ireland. It said "The will of the Irish people is clear. It is now time to silence the guns and allow the working classes the time and the opportunity to advance their demands and their needs."
Although the INLA does not support the Good Friday Agreement, it does not call for a return to armed struggle on behalf of republicans either. An INLA statement released in 1999 declared, "we do not see a return to armed struggle as a viable option at the present time".
The INLA maintains a presence in parts of Northern Ireland and has carried out punishment beatings on alleged petty criminals.
The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which monitors paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, claimed in a November 2004 report that the INLA was heavily involved in criminality. In 1997, an INLA man named John Morris was shot dead by Garda Síochána (the Republic's police force) in Dublin during the attempted robbery of a newspaper distributor's depot in Inchicore. Three other INLA members were arrested in the incident. In 1999, the INLA in Dublin became involved in a feud with a criminal gang in the city. After a young INLA man named Patrick Campbell was killed by drug dealers, the INLA carried out several shootings in reprisal, including at least one killing. Republic of Ireland journalist Paul Williams has also claimed the INLA, especially in Dublin, is now primarily a front for organised crime. The IRSP and INLA deny these allegations, arguing that no one has been simultaneously convicted of membership in the INLA and of drug offences. The IRSP and the INLA have both strongly denied any involvement with drug dealing, stating that the INLA has threatened criminals which it claims have falsely used its name.
In 2006, the INLA claimed to have put at least two drugs gangs out of business in Northern Ireland. After their raid on a criminal organisation based in the northwest, they released a statement saying that "the Irish National Liberation Army will not allow the working class people of this city to be used as cannon fodder by these criminals whose only concern is profit by whatever means available to them."
The October 2006 IMC report stated that the INLA "was not capable of undertaking a sustained campaign [against the United Kingdom], nor does it aspire to".
In December 2007, disturbances broke out at an INLA parade in the Bogside in Derry between spectators and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers attempting to arrest four of the marchers.
In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth IMC reports the INLA was said to remain a threat, with a desire to mount attacks that could well be more dangerous in the future, but was characterized as being largely a criminal enterprise at that time. The INLA killed
Brian McGlynn on 3 June 2007 during the span of the first of these reports. This killing was said to have occurred because the victim used the INLA name in the drug trade. On 24 June 2008, the INLA was said to have committed the murder of Emmett Shiels, although the IMC report did indicate the investigation was continuing.
It was also said to be partaking in "serious crimes" such as drug dealing, extortion, robbery, fuel laundering and smuggling. Furthermore, the INLA and Continuity IRA were stated to have co-operated.
On 15 February 2009 the INLA claimed responsibility for the shooting death of Derry drug dealer Jim McConnell.
In March 2009 it was reported that the INLA had stood down its Dublin Brigade in order to allow its army council to carry out an internal investigation into allegations of drug dealing and criminality. The INLA denied it as an organisation was involved in drug dealing and went on to say that "As a result of evidence presented to us, we are investigating the activities of people associated with us in [Dublin]. Pending that outcome, we have stood down several people." A short time later the INLA's Dublin Commander, Declan "Whacker" Duffy, publicly disassociated himself from the organisation. Duffy criticized the INLA leadership stating that "You would imagine if there was a thorough investigation being carried out by the INLA they would have at least came and spoke to me." He went on to state that: "I can't deny that I’m disappointed with the way the INLA has handled things but at the same time I'm not going to get into a sniping match with them." 
On 19 August 2009 the INLA shot and wounded a man in Derry. The INLA claimed that the man was involved in drug dealing although the injured man and his family denied the allegation. However, in a newspaper article on 28 August the victim retracted his previous statement and admitted that he had been involved in small scale drug dealing but has since ceased these activities.
End of armed campaign
On 11 October 2009, speaking at the graveside of its founder Seamus Costello in Bray, the INLA formally announced an end to its armed campaign, stating the current political framework allowed for the pursuit of its goals through peaceful, democratic means. Martin McMonagle from Derry said: "The Republican Socialist Movement has been informed by the INLA that following a process of serious debate ... it has concluded that the armed struggle is over. The objective of a 32-county socialist republic will be best achieved through exclusively peaceful political struggle".
The governments of Britain and Ireland were informed before the announcement. Hillary Clinton of the United States was due to visit Belfast the following day. Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams was doubtful but added: "However, if it is followed by the actions that are necessary, this is a welcome development". On 6 February 2010, days before the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) was due to disband, the INLA revealed that it had decommissioned its weapons over the preceding few weeks. Had the INLA retained its weapons beyond 9 February, the date on which the legislation under which the IICD operated ended, then they would have been treated as belonging to common criminals rather than remnants from the Troubles.
The decommissioning was confirmed by General John de Chastelain of the IICD on 8 February 2010. On the same day INLA spokesman Martin McMonagle said that the INLA made "no apology for [its] part in the conflict" but they believed in the "primacy of politics" to "advance the working class struggle in Ireland".