Provisional Irish Republican Army

Provisional Irish Republican Army
Óglaigh na hÉireann
Participant in the Troubles
IRA members showing an improvised mortar and an RPG-7 (1992)
Active1969–2005 (on ceasefire from 1997)
IdeologyNational liberation war
Irish republicanism
Irish nationalism[1]
Allegiance Irish Republic[n 1]
LeadersIRA Army Council
Area of operationsIreland
SizeIn total the lowest estimate was 8,000, the highest 30,000, most scholars and historians believe about 10,000 passed through its ranks between 1969 and 1998.
Martin McGuinness, the former Derry commander, also said he believed that 10,000 passed through its ranks.[3]
At any one time Ed Moloney wrote the Belfast Brigade alone had 1,200 volunteers active at its peak in 1972. By the 1980s with the cell structure re-organisation the Belfast IRA had been lowered to 100 active, with about 300–400 volunteers active in total, with about another 450 in support roles.[4][5]
Originated asIrish Republican Army (IRA)
Opponent(s) United Kingdom (incl. British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary)[6][7][8]
 Ulster loyalist paramilitaries[9]
Official IRA (1975)
Irish People's Liberation Organisation (1992)

The Irish Republican Army (IRA; Irish: Óglaigh na hÉireann), also known as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provisional IRA or Provos),[10][11][12] was[13][14][15][16] an Irish republican paramilitary organisation that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland,[17] facilitate the reunification of Ireland and bring about an independent republic encompassing all of Ireland.[18][19] It was the biggest and most active republican paramilitary group during the Troubles. It saw itself as the successor to the original IRA and called itself simply the Irish Republican Army (IRA), or Óglaigh na hÉireann in Irish,[20] and was broadly referred to as such by others. The IRA was designated an unlawful terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom and an unlawful organisation in the Republic of Ireland.[21][22]

The Provisional IRA emerged in December 1969, following a split in the republican movement. It was so-called to mirror the 1916 Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, and also to designate it as temporary pending reorganisation of the movement. Although this eventually happened in 1970, the name "Provisional" stuck with them.[23] The Troubles had begun shortly before when a largely Catholic, nonviolent civil rights campaign was met with violence from both Ulster loyalists and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), culminating in the August 1969 riots and deployment of British troops.[24] The IRA initially focused on defence of Catholic areas, but it began an offensive campaign in 1971 (see timeline). The IRA's primary goal was to force the United Kingdom to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland.[25] It used guerrilla tactics against the British Army and RUC in both rural and urban areas. It also carried out a bombing campaign in Northern Ireland and England against what it saw as political and economic targets.

The IRA called a final ceasefire in July 1997, after its political wing Sinn Féin was re-admitted into the Northern Ireland peace talks. It supported the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and in 2005 it disarmed under international supervision. An internal British Army document (released in 2007 under the Freedom of Information Act) examining its 37 years of deployment in Northern Ireland, describes the IRA as "a professional, dedicated, highly skilled and resilient force", while loyalist paramilitaries and other republican groups are described as "little more than a collection of gangsters".[26] US media usually described the IRA as "activists" and "guerillas", while the British press widely dubbed them "terrorists". Several splinter groups have been formed as a result of splits within the IRA, including the Continuity IRA which emerged from a split in 1986 but did not become active until the Provisional IRA ceasefire of 1994, and the Real IRA after the final 1997 ceasefire, both of which are still active in the low-level dissident Irish republican campaign.

Overview of strategies

The IRA's initial strategy was to use guerrilla tactics to cause the collapse of the government of Northern Ireland and to inflict enough casualties on British forces that the British government would be forced by public opinion in Britain to withdraw from the region.[27] This policy involved recruitment of volunteers, increasing after the 1972 Bloody Sunday incident in which the British armed forces killed unarmed protesters, and launching attacks against British military and economic targets.[28][29] The campaign was supported by arms and funding from Libya[30] and from some Irish American groups.[31][32] The IRA agreed to a ceasefire in February 1975, which lasted nearly a year[33] before the IRA concluded that the British were drawing them away from military action without offering any guarantees in relation to the IRA's goals (as well as launching an intelligence offensive),[34] and hopes of a quick victory receded.[35] As a result, the IRA launched a new strategy known as "the Long War". This saw them conduct a war of attrition against the British and increased emphasis on political activity, via the political party Sinn Féin.[36]

The success of the 1981 Irish hunger strike in mobilising support and winning elections led to the Armalite and ballot box strategy, with more time and resources devoted to political activity. The abortive attempt at an escalation of the military part of that strategy led republican leaders increasingly to look for a political compromise to end the conflict, with a broadening dissociation of Sinn Féin from the IRA. Following negotiations with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and secret talks with representatives of both the Irish and British governments, the IRA ultimately called a ceasefire in 1994 on the understanding that Sinn Féin would be included in political negotiations for a settlement.[37] When the British government, dependent on Ulster Unionist Party votes at Westminster, then demanded the disarmament of the IRA before it allowed Sinn Féin into multiparty talks, the IRA called off its ceasefire in February 1996. The British demand was quickly dropped after the May 1997 general election in the UK. The IRA ceasefire was then reinstated in July 1997 and Sinn Féin was admitted into all-party talks, which produced the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The IRA's armed campaign, primarily in Northern Ireland but also in England and mainland Europe, caused the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 640 civilians.[38][39] The IRA itself lost 275–300 members[40] and an estimated 10,000 imprisoned at various times over the 30-year period.[41][42]

On 28 July 2005, the IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign, stating that it would work to achieve its aims using "purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means",[43] and shortly afterwards completed decommissioning. In September 2008, the nineteenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission stated that the IRA was "committed to the political path" and no longer represented "a threat to peace or to democratic politics", and that the Army Council was "no longer operational or functional".[44][45] The organisation remains classified as a proscribed terrorist group in the UK and as an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland.[21][22] Two small groups split from the Provisional IRA, the Continuity IRA in 1986, and the Real IRA in 1997. Both reject the Good Friday Agreement and continue to engage in paramilitary activity.

Other Languages
Gaeilge: IRA Sealadach
日本語: IRA暫定派