Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Provisional Irish Republican Army

Provisional Irish Republican Army

Overview
The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) is an Irish republican
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland
United Ireland
A united Ireland is the term used to refer to the idea of a sovereign state which covers all of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. The island of Ireland includes the territory of two independent sovereign states: the Republic of Ireland, which covers 26 counties of the island, and the...

 by force of arms and political persuasion. It emerged out of the December 1969 split of the Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army (1922–1969)
The original Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland in the Irish War of Independence 1919–1921. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, the IRA in the 26 counties that were to become the Irish Free State split between supporters and...

 over differences of ideology and how to respond to violence against the nationalist community. This violence had followed the community's demands for civil rights
Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association
The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was an organisation which campaigned for equal civil rights for the all the people in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s and early 1970s...

 in 1968 and 1969, which met with resistance from some of the unionist
Unionism in Ireland
Unionism in Ireland is an ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain...

 community and from the authorities, and culminated in the 1969 Northern Ireland riots
1969 Northern Ireland Riots
During 12–17 August 1969, Northern Ireland was rocked by intense political and sectarian rioting. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising from the civil rights campaign, which was demanding an end to government discrimination against Irish Catholics and nationalists...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Provisional Irish Republican Army'
Start a new discussion about 'Provisional Irish Republican Army'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Timeline

1972   Bloody Friday bombings by the Provisional IRA around Belfast, orthern Ireland

1972   Three car bombs are detonated in Claudy, Northern Ireland, killing nine in what is believed to be a Provisional Irish Republican Army attack.

1973   Mountjoy Prison helicopter escape. Three Provisional Irish Republican Army members escape from Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, Republic of Ireland aboard a hijacked helicopter that lands in the exercise yard.

1974   Guildford pub bombings: bombs planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) kill four British soldiers and one civilian.

1975   Balcombe Street Siege: An IRA Active Service Unit takes a couple hostage in Balcombe Street, London.

1978   The Troubles: The Provisional IRA detonates an incendiary bomb at the La Mon restaurant, near Belfast, killing 12 and seriously injuring 30.

1979   An IRA bomb kills British World War II admiral Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and 3 others while they are boating on holiday in Sligo, Republic of Ireland. Another bomb near Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland kills 18 British soldiers.

1979   In Dublin, Ireland, Provisional Irish Republican Army member Thomas McMahon is sentenced to life in prison for the assassination of Lord Mountbatten.

1981   Provisional Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands begins his hunger strike in HM Prison Maze.

1981   Francis Hughes starves to death in the Maze Prison in a Republican campaign for political prisoner status to be granted to Provisional IRA prisoners.

 
Encyclopedia
The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) is an Irish republican
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland
United Ireland
A united Ireland is the term used to refer to the idea of a sovereign state which covers all of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. The island of Ireland includes the territory of two independent sovereign states: the Republic of Ireland, which covers 26 counties of the island, and the...

 by force of arms and political persuasion. It emerged out of the December 1969 split of the Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army (1922–1969)
The original Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland in the Irish War of Independence 1919–1921. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, the IRA in the 26 counties that were to become the Irish Free State split between supporters and...

 over differences of ideology and how to respond to violence against the nationalist community. This violence had followed the community's demands for civil rights
Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association
The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was an organisation which campaigned for equal civil rights for the all the people in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s and early 1970s...

 in 1968 and 1969, which met with resistance from some of the unionist
Unionism in Ireland
Unionism in Ireland is an ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain...

 community and from the authorities, and culminated in the 1969 Northern Ireland riots
1969 Northern Ireland Riots
During 12–17 August 1969, Northern Ireland was rocked by intense political and sectarian rioting. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising from the civil rights campaign, which was demanding an end to government discrimination against Irish Catholics and nationalists...

. The IRA conducted an armed campaign, primarily in Northern Ireland but also in England and mainland Europe, over the course of which it was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 630 civilians. The IRA itself lost 275–300 members, of an estimated 10,000 total over the thirty-year period. The Provisional Irish Republican Army is also referred to as the PIRA, the Provos, or by its supporters as the Army or the 'RA; its constitution establishes it as Óglaigh na hÉireann
Óglaigh na hÉireann
Óglaigh na hÉireann , abbreviated ÓnaÉ, is an Irish language idiom that can be translated variously as soldiers of Ireland, warriors of Ireland, volunteers of Ireland or Irish volunteers...

("The Irish Volunteers") in the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

.

The IRA's initial strategy was to use force to cause the collapse of the Northern Ireland administration and to inflict enough casualties on the British forces that the British government would be forced by public opinion to withdraw from the region. This policy involved recruitment of volunteers
Volunteer (Irish republican)
Volunteer, often abbreviated Vol., is a term used by a number of Irish republican paramilitary organisations to describe their members. Among these have been the various forms of the Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army...

, increasing after Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (1972)
Bloody Sunday —sometimes called the Bogside Massacre—was an incident on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army...

, and launching attacks against British military and economic targets. The campaign was supported by arms and funding from Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 and from some groups in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The IRA agreed to a ceasefire in February 1975, which lasted nearly a year before the IRA concluded that the British were drawing them into politics without offering any guarantees in relation to the IRA's goals, and hopes of a quick victory receded. As a result, the IRA launched a new strategy known as "the Long War". This saw them conduct a war of attrition
Attrition warfare
Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent side attempts to win a war by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and matériel....

 against the British and increase emphasis on political activity, via the political party Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

.

The success of the 1981 Irish hunger strike
1981 Irish hunger strike
The 1981 Irish hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during The Troubles by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners...

 in mobilising support and winning elections led to the Armalite and ballot box strategy
Armalite and ballot box strategy
The Armalite and ballot box strategy was a strategy pursued by the Irish republican movement in the 1980s and early 1990s in which elections in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were contested by Sinn Féin, while the IRA continued to pursue an armed struggle against the British Army, the...

 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 SDLP
Social Democratic and Labour Party
The Social Democratic and Labour Party is a social-democratic, Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. Its basic party platform advocates Irish reunification, and the further devolution of powers while Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...

 and secret talks with British civil servants, the IRA ultimately called a ceasefire in 1994 on the understanding that Sinn Féin would be included in political talks for a settlement. When the British government then demanded the disarmament of the IRA before it allowed Sinn Féin into multiparty talks, the organisation called off its ceasefire in February 1996. Until July 1997, the IRA carried out several bombing and shooting attacks. These included the Docklands bombing and the Manchester bombing, which together killed 2 civilians, injured 212 more and caused around £500 million in damage.
After the ceasefire was reinstated, Sinn Féin was admitted into all-party talks, which produced the Belfast Agreement
Belfast Agreement
The Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement , sometimes called the Stormont Agreement, was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process...

 of 1998.

On 28 July 2005, the IRA Army Council
IRA Army Council
The IRA Army Council was the decision-making body of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, more commonly known as the IRA, a paramilitary group dedicated to bringing about the end of the Union between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The council had seven members, said by the...

 announced an end to its armed campaign
Provisional IRA campaign 1969–1997
From 1969 until 1997, the Provisional Irish Republican Army conducted an armed paramilitary campaign in Northern Ireland and England, aimed at ending British rule in Northern Ireland in order to create a united Ireland....

, stating that it would work to achieve its aims using "purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means", and shortly afterwards completed decommissioning
Decommissioning in Northern Ireland
Decommissioning in Northern Ireland was a process in the Belfast Agreement as part of the Northern Ireland peace process. Under the Belfast Agreement, all paramilitary groups fighting in The Troubles would decommission...

. In September 2008, the nineteenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission
Independent Monitoring Commission
The Independent Monitoring Commission was an organization founded on 7 January 2004, by an agreement between the British and Irish governments, signed in Dublin on 25 November 2003...

 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 IRA's Army Council was "no longer operational or functional". The organisation remains classified as a proscribed terrorist
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 group in the UK and as an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

. Two small groups split from the Provisional IRA, first in 1986 (Continuity IRA) and then in 1997 (Real IRA). Both reject the Belfast Agreement and continue to engage in direct paramilitary action.

Origins



In August 1969, a confrontation between nationalists and police in Derry
Derry
Derry or Londonderry is the second-biggest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth-biggest city on the island of Ireland. The name Derry is an anglicisation of the Irish name Doire or Doire Cholmcille meaning "oak-wood of Colmcille"...

 following an Apprentice Boys of Derry
Apprentice Boys of Derry
The Apprentice Boys of Derry is a Protestant fraternal society with a worldwide membership of over 80,000, founded in 1814. They are based in the city of Derry, Northern Ireland. However, there are Clubs and branches across Ireland, Great Britain and further afield...

 march led to the Battle of the Bogside
Battle of the Bogside
The Battle of the Bogside was a very large communal riot that took place during 12–14 August 1969 in Derry, Northern Ireland. The fighting was between residents of the Bogside area and the Royal Ulster Constabulary .The rioting erupted after the RUC attempted to disperse Irish nationalists who...

 – three days of heavy fighting between rioters throwing stones and petrol bombs and police who saturated the area with CS gas
CS gas
2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile is the defining component of a "tear gas" commonly referred to as CS gas, which is used as a riot control agent...

. Fighting spread beyond Derry over the following days. Burning, damage or intimidation by loyalists
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

 forced 1,505 Catholics from their homes in Belfast
Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

 in the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969, with over 200 Catholic homes being destroyed or requiring major repairs. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) had been poorly armed and unable to adequately defend the Catholic community, which had been considered its traditional rôle since the 1920s. Veteran republicans were critical of the IRA's Dublin leadership which, for political reasons, had refused to prepare for aggressive action in advance of the violence. On 24 August Joe Cahill
Joe Cahill
Joe Cahill was a prominent Irish republican and former chief of staff of the Provisional Irish Republican Army .- Background :In May 1920, Cahill was born in Divis Street in West Belfast, Ireland, where his parents had been neighbours of the Scottish-born Irish revolutionary James Connolly.Cahill...

, Seamus Twomey
Seamus Twomey
Seamus Twomey was an Irish republican and twice chief of staff of the Provisional IRA.-Biography:Born in Belfast, Twomey lived at 6 Sevastopol Street in the Falls district...

, Dáithí Ó Conaill
Dáithí Ó Conaill
Dáithí Ó Conaill was an Irish republican, a member of the IRA Army Council, vice-president of Sinn Féin and Republican Sinn Féin. He was also the first chief of staff of the Continuity IRA.-Joins IRA:...

, Billy McKee
Billy McKee
Billy McKee is an Irish republican and was a founding member and former leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army .-Early life:McKee was born in Belfast in the early 1920s, and joined the Irish Republican Army in 1939. During the Second World War, the IRA carried out a number of armed...

 and several other future Provisional leaders came together in Belfast intending to remove the Belfast leadership and turn back to traditional republicanism. Although the pro-Goulding
Cathal Goulding
Cathal Goulding was Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army and the Official IRA.One of seven children born into a republican family in East Arran Street in the north inner city of Dublin, Goulding was involved as teenager in Fianna Éireann, the IRA youth wing which he joined with his...

 commander Billy McMillen
Billy McMillen
Billy McMillen was an Irish republican activist and an officer of the Official Irish Republican Army...

 stayed in command, he was told it was only for three months and he was not to have any communication with the IRA's Dublin based leadership.

Traditional republicans formed the "Provisional" Army Council in December 1969, after an IRA Army convention was held at Knockvicar House in Boyle, County Roscommon
Boyle, County Roscommon
Boyle is a town in County Roscommon, Ireland. It is located at the foot of the Curlew Mountains near Lough Key in the north of the county. Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery, the Drumanone Dolmen and the popular fishing lakes of Lough Arrow and Lough Gara are also close by...

. The two main issues were the acceptance of the "National Liberation Strategy" and a motion to end abstentionism and to recognise the Dáil, Stormont and Westminster. While the motion on the "National Liberation Strategy" was passed unanimously the motion on abstentionism was only passed by 28 votes to 12. Opponents of this change argued strongly against the ending of abstentionism, and when the vote took place, Seán Mac Stíofáin
Seán Mac Stíofáin
Seán Mac Stíofáin was an Irish republican paramilitary activist born in London, who became associated with the republican movement in Ireland after serving in the Royal Air Force...

, present as IRA Director of Intelligence, announced that he no longer considered that the IRA leadership represented republican goals. However, there was not a walkout. Those opposed, who included Mac Stíofáin and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, refused to go forward for election to the new IRA Executive.

While others canvassed support throughout Ireland, Mac Stíofáin was a key person making a connection with the Belfast IRA under Billy McKee and Joe Cahill, who had refused to take orders from the IRA's Dublin leadership since September 1969, in protest at their failure to defend Catholic areas in August. Nine out of thirteen IRA units in Belfast sided with the Provisionals in December 1969, roughly 120 activists and 500 supporters. The first "Provisional" Army Council was composed of Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Paddy Mulcahy, Sean Tracey, Leo Martin, and Joe Cahill, and issued their first public statement on 28 December 1969, stating:

We declare our allegiance to the thirty-two county Irish republic, proclaimed at Easter 1916, established by the first Dáil Éireann in 1919, overthrown by forces of arms in 1922 and suppressed to this day by the existing British-imposed six-county and twenty-six-county partition states.


The Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 party split along the same lines on 11 January 1970, when a third of the delegates walked out of the Ard Fheis
Ard Fheis
Ardfheis or Ard Fheis is the name used by many Irish political parties for their annual party conference. The term was first used by Conradh na Gaeilge, the Irish language cultural organisation, for its annual convention....

 in protest at the party leadership's attempt to force through the ending of the abstentionist
Abstentionism
Abstentionism is standing for election to a deliberative assembly while refusing to take up any seats won or otherwise participate in the assembly's business. Abstentionism differs from an election boycott in that abstentionists participate in the election itself...

 policy, despite its failure to achieve a two-thirds majority vote of delegates required to change the policy. Despite the declared support of that faction of Sinn Féin, the early Provisional IRA was extremely suspicious of political activity, arguing rather for the primacy of armed struggle.

There are allegations that the early Provisional IRA received arms and funding from the Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party , more commonly known as Fianna Fáil is a centrist political party in the Republic of Ireland, founded on 23 March 1926. Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more accurate rendition would be Warriors of Fál...

-led Irish government
Irish Government
The Government of Ireland is the cabinet that exercises executive authority in Ireland.-Members of the Government:Membership of the Government is regulated fundamentally by the Constitution of Ireland. The Government is headed by a prime minister called the Taoiseach...

 in 1969, resulting in the Arms trial
Arms Crisis
The Arms Crisis or Arms Trial was a political scandal in the Republic of Ireland in 1970, when two cabinet ministers — Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney — were sacked for allegedly attempting to illegally import arms for the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland.-Background:The...

. Roughly £100,000 was donated by the Irish government to "Defence Committees" in Catholic areas and, according to historian Richard English
Richard English
Richard English is a historian from Northern Ireland. He was born in Belfast in 1963. His father, Donald English was a prominent Methodist preacher. He studied as an undergraduate at Keble College, Oxford, and subsequently at Keele University, where he was awarded a PhD in History...

, "there is now no doubt that some money did go from the Dublin government to the proto-Provisionals".

The Provisionals maintained the principles of the pre-1969 IRA, considering British rule in Northern Ireland and the government of the Republic of Ireland to be illegitimate and that the IRA's Army Council was the legitimate government of the all-island Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

. This belief was based on a series of perceived political inheritances which constructed a legal continuity from the Second Dáil
Second Dáil
The Second Dáil was Dáil Éireann as it convened from 16 August 1921 until 8 June 1922. From 1919–1922 Dáil Éireann was the revolutionary parliament of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic. The Second Dáil consisted of members elected in 1921...

.

The Provisionals inherited most of the existing IRA organisation in the north by 1971 and the more militant IRA members in the rest of Ireland. In addition, they recruited many young nationalists from the north, who had not been involved in the IRA before, but had been radicalised by the communal violence that broke out in 1969. These people were known in republican parlance as "sixty niners", having joined after 1969. The Provisional IRA adopted the Phoenix
Phoenix (mythology)
The phoenix or phenix is a mythical sacred firebird that can be found in the mythologies of the Arabian, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Indian and Phoenicians....

 as symbol of the Irish republican rebirth in 1969. One of its common slongan is "out of the ashes rose the provisionals".

Organisation


The IRA is organised hierarchically. At the top of the organisation is the IRA Army Council
IRA Army Council
The IRA Army Council was the decision-making body of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, more commonly known as the IRA, a paramilitary group dedicated to bringing about the end of the Union between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The council had seven members, said by the...

, headed by the IRA Chief of Staff.

Leadership


All levels of the IRA are entitled to send delegates to IRA General Army Conventions (GACs). The GAC is the IRA's supreme decision-making authority. Before 1969, GACs met regularly. Since 1969, there have only been two, in 1970 and 1986, owing to the difficulty in organising such a large gathering of an illegal organisation in secret.

The GAC in turn elects a 12-member IRA Executive, which selects seven volunteers to form the IRA Army Council. For day-to-day purposes, authority is vested in the Army Council which, as well as directing policy and taking major tactical decisions, appoints a Chief of Staff from one of its number or, less commonly, from outside its ranks.

The chief of staff then appoints an adjutant general as well as a General Headquarters (GHQ), which consists of a number of individual departments. These departments are:
  • IRA Quartermaster General
    IRA Quartermaster General
    The IRA Quartermaster General runs a department which is responsible for obtaining, concealing and maintaining the store of weaponry of the Irish Republican Army....

  • IRA Director of Finance
  • IRA Director of Engineering
  • IRA Director of Training
  • IRA Director of Intelligence
  • IRA Director of Publicity
  • IRA Director of Operations
  • IRA Director of Security

Regional command



At a regional level, the IRA is divided into a Northern Command, which operates in the nine Ulster counties as well as County Leitrim
County Leitrim
County Leitrim is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the village of Leitrim. Leitrim County Council is the local authority for the county...

 and County Louth
County Louth
County Louth is a county of Ireland. It is part of the Border Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the town of Louth. Louth County Council is the local authority for the county...

, and a Southern Command, operating in the rest of Ireland. The Provisional IRA was originally commanded by a leadership based in Dublin. However, in 1977, parallel to the introduction of cell structures at local level, command of the "war-zone" was given to the Northern Command. According to Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney is an Irish journalist and author best known for his coverage of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and particularly the activities of the Provisional IRA. Ed worked for the Hibernia magazine and Magill before going on to serve as Northern Ireland editor for The Irish Times and...

, these moves at reorganisation were the idea of Ivor Bell
Ivor Bell
Ivor Malachy Bell is an Irish republican, and a former volunteer in the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who later became Chief of Staff on the Army Council.-IRA career:...

, Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams is an Irish republican politician and Teachta Dála for the constituency of Louth. From 1983 to 1992 and from 1997 to 2011, he was an abstentionist Westminster Member of Parliament for Belfast West. He is the president of Sinn Féin, the second largest political party in Northern...

 and Brian Keenan
Brian Keenan (Irish republican)
Brian Keenan was a former member of the Army Council of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who received an 18-year prison sentence in 1980 for conspiring to cause explosions, and played a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process.-Early life:The son of a member of the Royal Air Force,...

.

Brigades


The IRA refers to its ordinary members as volunteers
Volunteer (Irish republican)
Volunteer, often abbreviated Vol., is a term used by a number of Irish republican paramilitary organisations to describe their members. Among these have been the various forms of the Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army...

 (or óglaigh in Irish). Up until the late 1970s, IRA volunteers were organised in units based on conventional military structures. Volunteers living in one area formed a company
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

 as part of a battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

, which could be part of a brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

, although many battalions were not attached to a brigade.

For most of its existence, the IRA had five Brigade areas within what it referred to as the "war-zone". These Brigades were located in Armagh, Belfast, Derry, Donegal and Tyrone/Monaghan. The Belfast Brigade
Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade
The Belfast Brigade of the Provisional IRA was the largest of the organisation's command areas, based in the city of Belfast. Founded in 1969, along with the formation of the Provisional IRA, it was historically organised into three battalions; the First Battalion based in the...

 had three battalions, respectively in the west, north and east of the city. In the early years of the Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

, the IRA in Belfast expanded rapidly. In August 1969, the Belfast Brigade had just 50 active members. By the end of 1971, it had 1,200 members, giving it a large but loosely controlled structure. Derry
Derry
Derry or Londonderry is the second-biggest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth-biggest city on the island of Ireland. The name Derry is an anglicisation of the Irish name Doire or Doire Cholmcille meaning "oak-wood of Colmcille"...

 city had one battalion and the South Derry Brigade. The Derry Battalion became the Derry Brigade in 1972 after a rapid increase in membership following Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (1972)
Bloody Sunday —sometimes called the Bogside Massacre—was an incident on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army...

 when British paratroopers killed 13 unarmed demonstrators at a civil rights march. County Armagh had three battalions, two very active ones in South Armagh and a less active unit in North Armagh. For this reason the Armagh IRA unit is often referred to as the South Armagh Brigade
Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade
The South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army operated during the Troubles in south County Armagh. It was organised into two battalions, one around Jonesborough and another around Crossmaglen. By the 1990s, the South Armagh Brigade was thought to consist of about 40 members,...

. Similarly, the Tyrone/Monaghan Brigade, which operated from around the Border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is often called the East Tyrone Brigade
Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade
The East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army , also known as the Tyrone/Monaghan Brigade was one of the most active republican paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland during "the Troubles"...

. Fermanagh, South Down and North Antrim had units not attached to Brigades. The leadership structure at battalion and company level was the same: each had its own commanding officer, quartermaster, explosives officer and intelligence officer. There was sometimes a training officer or finance officer.

Active service units


In 1977, the IRA moved away from the larger conventional military organisational principle owing to its perceived security vulnerability. A system of two parallel types of unit within an IRA brigade was introduced in place of the battalion structures. Firstly, the old "company" structures were used for tasks such as "policing" nationalist areas, intelligence gathering, and hiding weapons. These were essential support activities. However, the bulk of actual attacks were the responsibility of a second type of unit, the active service unit
Active Service Unit
An active service unit was a Provisional Irish Republican Army cell of five to eight members, tasked with carrying out armed attacks. In 2002 the IRA had about 1,000 active members of which about 300 were in active service units....

 (ASU). To improve security and operational capacity, these ASUs were smaller, tight-knit cells, usually consisting of five to eight members. The ASU's weapons were controlled by a quartermaster
Quartermaster
Quartermaster refers to two different military occupations depending on if the assigned unit is land based or naval.In land armies, especially US units, it is a term referring to either an individual soldier or a unit who specializes in distributing supplies and provisions to troops. The senior...

 under the direct control of the IRA leadership. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was estimated that the IRA had roughly 300 members in ASUs and about another 450 serving in supporting roles.

The exception to this reorganisation was the South Armagh Brigade
Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade
The South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army operated during the Troubles in south County Armagh. It was organised into two battalions, one around Jonesborough and another around Crossmaglen. By the 1990s, the South Armagh Brigade was thought to consist of about 40 members,...

, which retained its traditional hierarchy and battalion structure and used relatively large numbers of volunteers in its actions.

The IRA's Southern Command, located in the Republic of Ireland, consists of a Dublin Brigade and a number of smaller units in rural areas. These were charged mainly with the importation and storage of arms for the Northern units and with raising finances through robberies and other means. They also maintained a sizable presence in North Kerry, where many training camps were based.

Initial phase


Following the violence of August 1969, the IRA began to arm and train to protect nationalist areas from further attack. After the Provisional's split from the Official IRA the Provisional IRA began planning for an all-out offensive action against what it claimed was British occupation.

The Official IRA were opposed to such a campaign because they felt it would lead to sectarian conflict, which would defeat their strategy of uniting the workers from both sides of the sectarian divide. The IRA Border Campaign
Border Campaign (IRA)
The Border Campaign was a campaign of guerrilla warfare carried out by the Irish Republican Army against targets in Northern Ireland, with the aim of overthrowing British rule there and creating a united Ireland.Popularly referred to as the Border Campaign, it was also referred to as the...

 in the 1950s had avoided actions in urban centres of Northern Ireland to avoid civilian casualties and resulting sectarian violence. The Provisional IRA, by contrast, was primarily an urban organisation, based originally in Belfast and Derry.

The Provisional IRA's strategy was to use force to cause the collapse of the Northern Ireland administration and to inflict casualties on the British forces such that the British government be forced by public opinion to withdraw from Ireland. According to journalist Brendan O'Brien, "the thinking was that the war would be short and successful. Chief of Staff Seán Mac Stíofáin decided they would 'escalate, escalate and escalate' until the British agreed to go". This policy involved recruitment of volunteers and carrying out attacks on British forces, as well as mounting a bombing campaign against economic targets. In the early years of the conflict, IRA slogans spoke of, "Victory 1972" and then "Victory 1974". Its inspiration was the success of the "Old IRA
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

" in the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

 (1919–1922). In their assessment of the IRA campaign, the British Army would describe these years, 1970–72, as the "insurgency phase".

The British government held secret talks with the IRA leadership in 1972 to try and secure a ceasefire based on a compromise settlement within Northern Ireland after the events of Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (1972)
Bloody Sunday —sometimes called the Bogside Massacre—was an incident on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army...

 when IRA recruitment and support increased. The IRA agreed to a temporary ceasefire from 26 June to 9 July. In July 1972, Seán Mac Stíofáin, Dáithí Ó Conaill
Dáithí Ó Conaill
Dáithí Ó Conaill was an Irish republican, a member of the IRA Army Council, vice-president of Sinn Féin and Republican Sinn Féin. He was also the first chief of staff of the Continuity IRA.-Joins IRA:...

, Ivor Bell
Ivor Bell
Ivor Malachy Bell is an Irish republican, and a former volunteer in the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who later became Chief of Staff on the Army Council.-IRA career:...

, Seamus Twomey
Seamus Twomey
Seamus Twomey was an Irish republican and twice chief of staff of the Provisional IRA.-Biography:Born in Belfast, Twomey lived at 6 Sevastopol Street in the Falls district...

, Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams is an Irish republican politician and Teachta Dála for the constituency of Louth. From 1983 to 1992 and from 1997 to 2011, he was an abstentionist Westminster Member of Parliament for Belfast West. He is the president of Sinn Féin, the second largest political party in Northern...

 and Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness
James Martin Pacelli McGuinness is an Irish Sinn Féin politician and the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. McGuinness was also the Sinn Féin candidate for the Irish presidential election, 2011. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland....

 met a British delegation led by William Whitelaw. The Irish republicans refused to consider a peace settlement that did not include a commitment to British withdrawal, a retreat of the British Army to its barracks, and a release of republican prisoners. The British refused and the talks broke up.

Éire Nua and the 1975 ceasefire


The Provisionals' goal in this period was the abolition of both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland states and their replacement with a new all-Ireland federal
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

 republic, with decentralised governments and parliaments for each of the four Irish historic provinces. This programme was known as Éire Nua
Éire Nua
Éire Nua, or "New Ireland", was a political strategy of the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin during the 1970s and early 1980s. It was particularly associated with the Dublin based leadership group centred around Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill who were the authors of the policy...

 (New Ireland). The Éire Nua programme remained policy until discontinued by the Provisionals under the leadership of Gerry Adams in the early 1980s in favour of the pursuit of a new unitary
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

 all-Ireland Republic.

By the mid 1970s, the hopes of the IRA leadership for a quick military victory were receding. The British military was unsure of when it would see any substantial success against the IRA. Secret meetings between Provisional IRA leaders Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Billy McKee
Billy McKee
Billy McKee is an Irish republican and was a founding member and former leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army .-Early life:McKee was born in Belfast in the early 1920s, and joined the Irish Republican Army in 1939. During the Second World War, the IRA carried out a number of armed...

 with British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, informally the Northern Ireland Secretary, is the principal secretary of state in the government of the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State is a Minister of the Crown who is accountable to the Parliament of...

 Merlyn Rees secured an IRA ceasefire which began in February 1975. The IRA initially believed that this was the start of a long-term process of British withdrawal, but later came to the conclusion that Rees was trying to bring them into peaceful politics without offering them any guarantees. Critics of the IRA leadership, most notably Gerry Adams, felt that the ceasefire was disastrous for the IRA, leading to infiltration by British informers, the arrest of many activists and a breakdown in IRA discipline resulting in sectarian killings and a feud with fellow republicans in the Official IRA
Official IRA
The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA is an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to create a "32-county workers' republic" in Ireland. It emerged from a split in the Irish Republican Army in December 1969, shortly after the beginning of "The Troubles"...

. By early 1976, the IRA leadership, short of money, weapons and members, was on the brink of calling off the campaign. The ceasefire, however, broke down in January 1976.

The "Long War"



Thereafter, the IRA, under the leadership of Adams and his supporters, evolved a new strategy termed the "Long War", which underpinned IRA strategy for the rest of the Troubles. It involved a re-organisation of the IRA into small cells
Clandestine cell system
A clandestine cell structure is a method for organizing a group of people in such a way that it can more effectively resist penetration by an opposing organization. Depending on the group's philosophy, its operational area, the communications technologies available, and the nature of the mission,...

, an acceptance that their campaign would last many years before being successful and an increased emphasis on political activity through the Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 party. A republican document of the early 1980s states, "Both Sinn Féin and the IRA play different but converging roles in the war of national liberation. The Irish Republican Army wages an armed campaign... Sinn Féin maintains the propaganda war and is the public and political voice of the movement". The 1977 edition of the Green Book
The Green Book (IRA training manual)
The IRA Green Book is a training and induction manual issued by the Irish Republican Army to new volunteers. It was used by the post-Irish Civil War Irish Republican Army and Cumann na mBan, , along with offspring groupings such as the Provisional IRA...

, an induction and training manual used by the Provisionals, describes the strategy of the "Long War" in these terms:
  1. A war of attrition
    Attrition warfare
    Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent side attempts to win a war by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and matériel....

     against enemy personnel [British Army] based on causing as many deaths as possible so as to create a demand from their [the British] people at home for their withdrawal.
  2. A bombing campaign aimed at making the enemy's financial interests in our country unprofitable while at the same time curbing long term investment in our country.
  3. To make the Six Counties... ungovernable except by colonial military rule.
  4. To sustain the war and gain support for its ends by National and International propaganda and publicity campaigns.
  5. By defending the war of liberation by punishing criminals, collaborators and informers.


Confidential documents released on 30 December 2008 from the British state archives show that the IRA leadership proposed a ceasefire and peace talks to the British government in 1978. The British refused the offer. Prime Minister James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

 decided that there should be "positive rejection" of the approach on the basis that the republicans were not serious and "see their campaign as a long haul". Irish State documents from the same period say that the IRA had made a similar offer to the British the previous year. An Irish Defence Forces
Irish Defence Forces
The armed forces of Ireland, known as the Defence Forces encompass the Army, Naval Service, Air Corps and Reserve Defence Force.The current Supreme Commander of the Irish Defence forces is His Excellency Michael D Higgins in his role as President of Ireland...

 document, dated 15 February 1977, states that "It is now known that feelers were sent out at Christmas by the top PIRA leadership to interest the British authorities in another long ceasefire."

1981 hunger strikes and electoral politics


IRA prisoners convicted after March 1976 did not have Special Category Status
Special Category Status
In July 1972, William Whitelaw, the British government's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, granted Special Category Status to all prisoners convicted of Troubles-related offences...

 applied in prison. In response, over 500 prisoners refused to wash or wear prison clothes (see Dirty protest
Dirty protest
The dirty protest was part of a five year protest during the Troubles by Provisional Irish Republican Army and Irish National Liberation Army prisoners held in the Maze prison and Armagh Women's Prison in Northern Ireland.-Background:Convicted paramilitary prisoners were treated as ordinary...

 and Blanket protest
Blanket protest
The blanket protest was part of a five year protest during the Troubles by Provisional Irish Republican Army and Irish National Liberation Army prisoners held in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland. The republican prisoners' status as political prisoners, known as Special Category Status, had...

). This activity culminated in the 1981 Irish hunger strike
1981 Irish hunger strike
The 1981 Irish hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during The Troubles by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners...

, when seven IRA and three Irish National Liberation Army
Irish National Liberation Army
The Irish National Liberation Army or INLA is an Irish republican socialist paramilitary group that was formed on 8 December 1974. Its goal is to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a socialist united Ireland....

 members starved themselves to death in pursuit of political status. The hunger strike leader Bobby Sands
Bobby Sands
Robert Gerard "Bobby" Sands was an Irish volunteer of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and member of the United Kingdom Parliament who died on hunger strike while imprisoned in HM Prison Maze....

 and Anti H-Block
Anti H-Block
Anti H-Block was the political label used in 1981 by supporters of the Irish republican hunger strike who were standing for election in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland...

 activist Owen Carron
Owen Carron
Owen Gerard Carron is an Irish republican activist and who was Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 1981 to 1983.Carron is the nephew of former Nationalist Party politician John Carron....

 were elected to the British Parliament, and two other protesting prisoners were elected to the Irish Dáil. In addition, there were work stoppages and large demonstrations all over Ireland in sympathy with the hunger strikers. Over 100,000 people attended the funeral of Sands, the first hunger striker to die.

After the success of IRA hunger strikers in mobilising support and winning elections on an Anti H-Block
Anti H-Block
Anti H-Block was the political label used in 1981 by supporters of the Irish republican hunger strike who were standing for election in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland...

 platform in 1981, republicans increasingly devoted time and resources to electoral politics, through the Sinn Féin party. Danny Morrison
Danny Morrison (republican)
Daniel Gerard Morrison , known generally as Danny Morrison is an Irish republican writer and activist...

 summed up this policy at a 1981 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis
Ard Fheis
Ardfheis or Ard Fheis is the name used by many Irish political parties for their annual party conference. The term was first used by Conradh na Gaeilge, the Irish language cultural organisation, for its annual convention....

 (annual meeting) as a "ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other". (See Armalite and ballot box strategy
Armalite and ballot box strategy
The Armalite and ballot box strategy was a strategy pursued by the Irish republican movement in the 1980s and early 1990s in which elections in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were contested by Sinn Féin, while the IRA continued to pursue an armed struggle against the British Army, the...

)

"TUAS" – peace strategy


According to author Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney is an Irish journalist and author best known for his coverage of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and particularly the activities of the Provisional IRA. Ed worked for the Hibernia magazine and Magill before going on to serve as Northern Ireland editor for The Irish Times and...

, the IRA made an attempt to escalate the conflict with the so called "Tet Offensive" in the 1980s. When this did not prove successful, republican leaders increasingly looked for a political compromise to end the conflict. Gerry Adams entered talks with John Hume
John Hume
John Hume is a former Irish politician from Derry, Northern Ireland. He was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, and was co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, with David Trimble....

, the leader of the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party
Social Democratic and Labour Party
The Social Democratic and Labour Party is a social-democratic, Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. Its basic party platform advocates Irish reunification, and the further devolution of powers while Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...

 (SDLP) and secret talks were also conducted with British civil servants. Thereafter, Adams increasingly tried to disassociate Sinn Féin from the IRA, claiming they were separate organisations and refusing to speak on behalf of the IRA. Within the Republican Movement
Republican Movement (Ireland)
The Republican Movement is a collective term used to describe the Irish Republican Army and other political, social and paramilitary organisations associated with it.The term is not restricted to any one movement and can include:...

 (the IRA and Sinn Féin), the new strategy was described by the acronym "TUAS", meaning either "Tactical Use of Armed Struggle" or "Totally Unarmed Strategy".

The IRA ultimately called a ceasefire in 1994 on the understanding that Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 would be included in political talks for a settlement. When this did not happen, the IRA called off its ceasefire from February 1996 until July 1997, carrying out several bombing and shooting attacks. The bombings caused severe economic damage, with the Manchester bombing and the Docklands bombing causing approximately £500 million in combined damage. After its ceasefire was reinstated, Sinn Féin was re-admitted into the "peace process
Northern Ireland peace process
The peace process, when discussing the history of Northern Ireland, is often considered to cover the events leading up to the 1994 Provisional Irish Republican Army ceasefire, the end of most of the violence of the Troubles, the Belfast Agreement, and subsequent political developments.-Towards a...

", which produced the Belfast Agreement
Belfast Agreement
The Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement , sometimes called the Stormont Agreement, was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process...

 of 1998.

Weaponry and operations



In the early days of the Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

 the Provisional IRA was very poorly armed, mainly with old World War II weaponry such as M1 Garand
M1 Garand
The M1 Garand , was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to the infantry of any nation. Called "the greatest battle implement ever devised" by General George S...

s and Thompson submachine gun
Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals...

s, but starting in the early 1970s it procured large amounts of modern weaponry from such sources as supporters in the United States, Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

n leader Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

, and arms dealers in Europe, America, the Middle East and elsewhere.

In the first years of the conflict, the IRA's main activities were providing firepower to support nationalist rioters and defending nationalist areas from attacks. The IRA gained much of its support from these activities, as they were widely perceived within the nationalist community as being defenders of Irish nationalist and Roman Catholic people against aggression.

From 1971–1994, the IRA launched a sustained offensive armed campaign that mainly targeted the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...

 (RUC), the Ulster Defence Regiment
Ulster Defence Regiment
The Ulster Defence Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army which became operational in 1970, formed on similar lines to other British reserve forces but with the operational role of defence of life or property in Northern Ireland against armed attack or sabotage...

 (UDR), and economic targets in Northern Ireland. The first half of the 1970s was the most intense period of the IRA campaign. In addition, some IRA volunteers engaged in reprisal attacks against Protestant civilians, although killing civilians was against IRA rules.


The IRA was chiefly active in Northern Ireland, although it took its campaign to England and mainland Europe. The IRA also targeted certain British government officials, politicians, judges, establishment figures, British Army and police officers in England, and in other areas such as the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, West Germany and the Netherlands. By the early 1990s, the bulk of the IRA activity was carried out by the South Armagh Brigade, well known through its sniping operations
South Armagh Sniper (1990-1997)
The South Armagh Sniper is the generic name given to the members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army's South Armagh Brigade who conducted a sniping campaign against British security forces from 1990 to 1997....

 and attacks on British Army helicopters. The bombing campaign principally targeted political, economic and military targets, and approximately 60 civilians were killed by the IRA in England during the conflict. It has been argued that this bombing campaign helped convince the British government (who had hoped to contain the conflict to Northern Ireland with its Ulsterisation
Ulsterisation
Ulsterisation refers to one part 'primacy of the police' of a three part strategy by the British Government to pacify Northern Ireland during the conflict known as The Troubles...

 policy) to negotiate with Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 after the IRA ceasefires of August 1994 and July 1997.

Ceasefires and decommissioning of arms


On 31 August 1994, the Provisional IRA declared an indefinite ceasefire. However, from February 1996 until July 1997, the Provisional IRA called off its 1994 ceasefire because of its dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations. They re-instated the ceasefire in July 1997, and it has been in operation since then.

The Provisional IRA decommissioned all of its arms between July and September 2005. The decommissioning of its weaponry was supervised by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning was established to oversee the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons in Northern Ireland, as part of the peace process.-Legislation and organisation:...

 (IICD). Among the weaponry estimated (by Jane's Information Group
Jane's Information Group
Jane's Information Group is a publishing company specializing in transportation and military topics.-History:It was founded by Fred T...

) to have been destroyed as part of this process were:
  • 1,000 rifle
    Rifle
    A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

    s
  • 3 tonnes of Semtex
    Semtex
    Semtex is a general-purpose plastic explosive containing RDX and PETN. It is used in commercial blasting, demolition, and in certain military applications. Semtex became notoriously popular with terrorists because it was, until recently, extremely difficult to detect, as in the case of Pan Am...

  • 20–30 heavy machine gun
    Heavy machine gun
    The heavy machine gun or HMG is a larger class of machine gun generally recognized to refer to two separate stages of machine gun development. The term was originally used to refer to the early generation of machine guns which came into widespread use in World War I...

    s
  • 7 surface-to-air missiles (unused)
  • 7 flamethrower
    Flamethrower
    A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

    s
  • 1,200 detonator
    Detonator
    A detonator is a device used to trigger an explosive device. Detonators can be chemically, mechanically, or electrically initiated, the latter two being the most common....

    s
  • 20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers
  • 100 handgun
    Handgun
    A handgun is a firearm designed to be held and operated by one hand. This characteristic differentiates handguns as a general class of firearms from long guns such as rifles and shotguns ....

    s
  • 100+ hand grenade
    Hand grenade
    A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

    s


Having compared the weapons destroyed with the British security forces' estimates of the IRA weaponry, and because of the IRA's full involvement in the process of destroying the weapons, the IICD arrived at their conclusion that all Provisional IRA weaponry has been destroyed. Since the process of decommissioning was completed, unnamed sources in MI5
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland
Police Service of Northern Ireland
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is the police force that serves Northern Ireland. It is the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary which, in turn, was the successor to the Royal Irish Constabulary in Northern Ireland....

 (PSNI) have reported to the press that not all IRA arms were destroyed during the process. This claim remains unsubstantiated so far. In its report dated April 2006 the Independent Monitoring Commission
Independent Monitoring Commission
The Independent Monitoring Commission was an organization founded on 7 January 2004, by an agreement between the British and Irish governments, signed in Dublin on 25 November 2003...

 (IMC) points out that it has no reason to disbelieve the IRA or information to suspect that the group has not fully decommissioned. Rather, it indicated that any weaponry that had not been handed in had been retained by individuals outside the IRA's control. The Russian and British Intelligence services alleged that during the decommissioning process the IRA secretly purchased a consignment of high-powered Russian special forces AN-94
AN-94
The AN-94 is an advanced Russian assault rifle. The initials stand for Avtomat Nikonova Model of 1994....

 rifles in Moscow.

Other activities


Apart from its armed campaign, the IRA has also been involved in many other activities.

Alleged involvement in organised crime


As with other paramilitary groups and similar organisations, the IRA and its members have allegedly been involved in many other activities, including racketeering, bank robbery, fuel laundering, and kidnapping.

In 2004, £26.5m was stolen
Northern Bank robbery
The Northern Bank robbery was a large robbery of cash from the Donegall Square West headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Carried out by a large, proficient group on 20 December 2004, the gang seized the equivalent of £26.5 million in pounds sterling and small amounts of...

 from the Northern Bank's
Northern Bank
Northern Bank , is a commercial bank in Northern Ireland. It is one of the oldest banks in Ireland having been formed in 1809. Northern Bank is considered one of the leading retail banks in Northern Ireland with 82 branches and four finance centres...

 vaults in Belfast city centre. The British and Irish governments agreed with the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's report blaming the robbery on the IRA. On 18 January 2005, the IRA issued a two-line statement denying any involvement in the robbery: "The IRA has been accused of involvement in the recent Northern Bank robbery. We were not involved". In February 2005, the Independent Monitoring Commission's
Independent Monitoring Commission
The Independent Monitoring Commission was an organization founded on 7 January 2004, by an agreement between the British and Irish governments, signed in Dublin on 25 November 2003...

 Fourth Report stated their belief that the robbery was carried out with the prior knowledge and authorisation of the IRA's leadership. Commentators including Suzanne Breen
Suzanne Breen
Suzanne Breen is the Northern Ireland editor for the Sunday Tribune newspaper. She has also written for Village magazine about Northern Ireland....

 have stated that the IRA was the only organisation capable of carrying out the raid. In May 2009, two men were arrested in Cork
County Cork
County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is located in the South-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster. It is named after the city of Cork . Cork County Council is the local authority for the county...

, and charged with IRA membership and offences relating to the robbery.

According to several sources, the organisation has also been involved in the Irish drugs trade. A 1999 report by John Horgan
John Horgan (political psychologist)
Dr. John Horgan is the Director of the at the Pennsylvania State University. He is also Associate Professor of Psychology at Penn State and Affiliate Professor at the School of International Affairs.- Profile :...

 and Max Taylor
Max Taylor (psychologist)
Maxwell "Max" Taylor is a Forensic and Legal psychologist who initially specialized in the study of terrorism and who subsequently became involved in the study of sex offenders, returning later to the study of terrorism.-Life and career:...

 cited Royal Ulster Constabulary
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...

 reports, alleging that this involves the "licensing" of drug operations to criminal gangs and the payment of protection money, rather than direct involvement. According to Horgan and Taylor's report, the IRA are also involved in several legitimate businesses including taxi firms, construction, restaurants and pubs. The IRA have also been involved in racketeering
Protection racket
A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces a victim to pay money, supposedly for protection services against violence or property damage. Racketeers coerce reticent potential victims into buying "protection" by demonstrating what will happen if they...

, which involves the extortion of money from legitimate businesses for "protection".

Speaking at Sinn Féin 2005 Ard Fheis, Gerry Adams stated that "'There is no place in republicanism for anyone involved in criminality". However, he went on to say "we refuse to criminalize those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives".

Policing of communities



The IRA saw itself as the police force of nationalist areas of Northern Ireland during the Troubles instead of the RUC. There were a number of reasons for this. In many Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, the RUC and British Army, as a result of their conduct and perceived involvement in oppression and violence against Nationalists, were considered biased and untrustworthy, and so were not welcome. Also, the RUC and other forces of the authorities were, in some instances, reluctant to enter or patrol certain Nationalist areas unless it was in armoured Land Rovers and in convoy. Police stations were also heavily armoured because of persistent attacks from the IRA. This gave them the appearance of being fortresses. Therefore, the community would turn to the IRA first to deal with troublemakers or those practising what came to be called "anti-social behaviour". In efforts to stamp out "anti-social behaviour" and alleged instances of drug dealing reported to or noticed by the organisation, the IRA killed or otherwise attacked suspected drug dealers and other suspected criminals. These attacks varied in severity and depended on various factors. In the first instance, the IRA may serve a caution on the perceived offender, with further transgressions escalated to an attack known as a "punishment beating". Shooting the offender was seen as a last resort. The process which the IRA went through to determine an offender's "guilt" or "innocence" was never open to debate or scrutiny. The IRA also engaged in attacks that broke the bones of alleged offenders, or involved shooting through the hands, or knees for persistent offenders of activities such as joyriding
Joyride (crime)
To joyride is to drive around in a stolen car, boat, or other vehicle with no particular goal, a ride taken solely for pleasure.In English law, joyriding is not considered to be theft, because the intention to "permanently deprive" the owner of the vehicle cannot be proven...

 or drug dealing. In certain cases, for persistent offenders the IRA would serve a notice for the individual to leave the country, this was known as being "put out" of the community/country, and the clear message given to individuals served with these notices was that if they returned to the community/country they would be killed. This practice was frequently criticised by all sections of the political establishment in Northern Ireland as "summary justice
Summary justice
Summary justice refers to the trial and punishment of suspected offenders without recourse to a more formal and protracted trial under the legal system...

".

Informers


In an effort to stamp out what the IRA termed "collaboration with British forces" and "informing", they killed a number of Catholic civilians, such as Joseph Fenton
Joseph Fenton
Joseph "Joe" Fenton was an estate agent from Belfast, Northern Ireland, killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army for acting as an informer for the Royal Ulster Constabulary's Special Branch....

. Purges against these individuals, whom the IRA considered traitors to their own community and to the cause of nationalism, were most prevalent when the IRA found itself persistently vulnerable to infiltration. Investigations into informers and infiltration are suspected to have been dealt with by an IRA unit called the Internal Security Unit
Internal Security Unit
The Internal Security Unit was the name given to the counter-intelligence and interrogation unit of the Provisional Irish Republican Army...

 (ISU), known colloquially as the "Nutting Squad". This unit is said to be directly attached to IRA GHQ. Where a confession was solicited, the victim was often exiled or executed with a bullet in the back of the head. The body was either buried or, later in the IRA campaign, left in a public place, often in South Armagh.

One particular example of the killing of a person deemed by the IRA to have been an informer that is the source of continuing controversy is that of Jean McConville
Jean McConville
Jean McConville was a woman from Northern Ireland who, in 1972, was abducted and killed by the Provisional IRA and secretly buried on a beach in the Republic of Ireland. The IRA subsequently claimed that she had been passing information on republican activities to British security forces...

 from Belfast, who was killed by the IRA. Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney is an Irish journalist and author best known for his coverage of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and particularly the activities of the Provisional IRA. Ed worked for the Hibernia magazine and Magill before going on to serve as Northern Ireland editor for The Irish Times and...

 and IRA sources continue to claim she was an informer despite the Police Ombudsman
Police Ombudsman
The Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is a non-departmental public body intended to provide an independent, impartial police complaints system for the people and police under the Police Acts of 1998 and 2000.-Personnel:...

 recently stating that this was not the case. The Social Democratic and Labour Party
Social Democratic and Labour Party
The Social Democratic and Labour Party is a social-democratic, Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. Its basic party platform advocates Irish reunification, and the further devolution of powers while Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...

 (SDLP) have described the killing as a "war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

". Her family contend that she was killed as a punishment for aiding a dying British soldier in West Belfast, although this claim is completely unsubstantiated.

In March 2007, Police Ombudsman
Police Ombudsman
The Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is a non-departmental public body intended to provide an independent, impartial police complaints system for the people and police under the Police Acts of 1998 and 2000.-Personnel:...

 Nuala O'Loan
Nuala O'Loan
Nuala Patricia O'Loan, Baroness O'Loan, DBE is a noted public figure in Northern Ireland. She was the first Police Ombudsman in between 1999 and 2007. In July 2009, it was announced that she was to be appointed to the House of Lords. Consequently, she was raised to the peerage as Baroness O'Loan,...

 announced that there would be an inquiry into claims of collusion between IRA members and the British security forces.

Attacks on other republican paramilitary groups


The IRA has also feuded with other republican paramilitary groups such as the Official IRA
Official IRA
The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA is an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to create a "32-county workers' republic" in Ireland. It emerged from a split in the Irish Republican Army in December 1969, shortly after the beginning of "The Troubles"...

 in the 1970s and the Irish People's Liberation Organisation
Irish People's Liberation Organisation
The Irish People's Liberation Organisation was a small Irish republican paramilitary organization which was formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the Irish National Liberation Army whose factions coalesced in the aftermath of the supergrass trials...

 in the 1990s.

Leading Real Irish Republican Army
Real Irish Republican Army
The Real Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as the Real IRA , and styling itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann , is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation which aims to bring about a united Ireland...

 (RIRA) member Joseph O'Connor was shot dead in Ballymurphy
Ballymurphy Massacre
The Ballymurphy Massacre was an incident involving the killing of eleven civilians by the British Army in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The killings happened between 9 and 11 August 1971, during Operation Demetrius....

, west Belfast on 11 October 2000. Claims have been made by O'Connor's family and people associated with the RIRA that he was killed by the IRA as the result of a feud between the organisations. but Sinn Féin denied the claims. No-one has been charged with his killing.

Casualties


This is a summary. For a detailed breakdown of casualties caused by and inflicted on the IRA see Provisional IRA campaign 1969-1997#Casualties
The IRA was responsible for more deaths than any other group during the Troubles. Two very detailed studies of deaths in the Troubles, the CAIN project at the University of Ulster
University of Ulster
The University of Ulster is a multi-campus, co-educational university located in Northern Ireland. It is the largest single university in Ireland, discounting the federal National University of Ireland...

, and Lost Lives, differ slightly on the numbers killed by the Provisional IRA, but a rough synthesis gives a figure of 1,800 deaths. Of these, roughly 1,100 were members of the security forces: British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, Royal Ulster Constabulary
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...

 and Ulster Defence Regiment
Ulster Defence Regiment
The Ulster Defence Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army which became operational in 1970, formed on similar lines to other British reserve forces but with the operational role of defence of life or property in Northern Ireland against armed attack or sabotage...

; between 600 and 650 were civilians and the remainder were either loyalist or republican paramilitaries (including over 100 IRA members accidentally killed by their own bombs or shot after being exposed as security force agents).

The IRA lost a little under 300 members killed in the Troubles. In addition, roughly 50–60 members of Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 were killed. Far more common than the killing of IRA volunteers, however, was their imprisonment. Journalists Eamonn Mallie and Patrick Bishop estimate in their book The Provisional IRA that roughly 8,000 people passed through the ranks of the IRA in the first 20 years of its existence, many of them leaving after arrest (senior officers are required to surrender their post after being arrested), retiring from the armed campaign or "disillusionment". They give 10,000 as the total number of past and present IRA members at that time.

Categorisation


The IRA is a proscribed organisation in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000
Terrorism Act 2000
The Terrorism Act 2000 is the first of a number of general Terrorism Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It superseded and repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989 and the Northern Ireland Act 1996...

. In Northern Ireland, the IRA are referred to as terrorists by the Ulster Unionist Party
Ulster Unionist Party
The Ulster Unionist Party – sometimes referred to as the Official Unionist Party or, in a historic sense, simply the Unionist Party – is the more moderate of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland...

, the Democratic Unionist Party
Democratic Unionist Party
The Democratic Unionist Party is the larger of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland. Founded by Ian Paisley and currently led by Peter Robinson, it is currently the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons of the...

, and the Progressive Unionist Party
Progressive Unionist Party
The Progressive Unionist Party is a small unionist political party in Northern Ireland. It was formed from the Independent Unionist Group operating in the Shankill area of Belfast, becoming the PUP in 1979...

. Members of the IRA are tried in the Republic of Ireland in the Special Criminal Court
Special Criminal Court
The Special Criminal Court is a juryless criminal court in the Republic of Ireland which tries terrorist and organized crime cases. Article 38 of the Constitution of Ireland empowers the Dáil to establish "special courts" with wide-ranging powers when "the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure...

. On the island of Ireland, the largest political party to state that the IRA is not a terrorist organisation is Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin is widely regarded as the political wing of the IRA, but the party insists that the two organisations are separate. Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson
Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Baron Mandelson, PC is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Hartlepool from 1992 to 2004, served in a number of Cabinet positions under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and was a European Commissioner...

, a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, informally the Northern Ireland Secretary, is the principal secretary of state in the government of the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State is a Minister of the Crown who is accountable to the Parliament of...

, contrasted the post-1997 activities of the IRA with those of Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

, describing the latter as "terrorists" and the former as "freedom fighters" (though Mandelson subsequently denied this sentiment). The IRA prefer the terms freedom fighter, soldier
Soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

, or volunteer
Volunteer (Irish republican)
Volunteer, often abbreviated Vol., is a term used by a number of Irish republican paramilitary organisations to describe their members. Among these have been the various forms of the Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army...

.

The IRA described its actions throughout "The Troubles" as a military campaign waged against the British Army, the RUC, other security forces, judiciary, loyalist politicians and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, England and Europe. The IRA considers these groups to be all part of the same apparatus. As noted above, the IRA seeks to draw a direct descendancy from the original IRA and those who engaged in the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

. The IRA sees the previous conflict as a guerrilla war which accomplished some of its aims, with some remaining "unfinished business". The IRA considers its members guerrillas fighting a war.

A process called "Criminalisation" was begun in the mid 1970s as part of a British strategy of "Criminalisation, Ulsterisation, and Normalisation". The policy was outlined in a 1975 British strategy paper titled "The Way Ahead", which was not published but was referred to by Labour's first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Merlyn Rees, and came to be the dominant British political theme in the conflict as it raged into the 1980s.

Another categorisation avoids the terms "guerrilla" or "terrorist" but does view the conflict in military terms. The phrase originated with the British military strategist Frank Kitson
Frank Kitson
General Sir Frank Edward Kitson GBE, KCB, MC and Bar, DL is a retired British Army officer and writer on military subjects, notably low intensity operations...

 who was active in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s. In Kitson's view, the violence of the IRA represented an "insurrection" situation, with the enveloping atmosphere of belligerence representing a "low intensity conflict
Low intensity conflict
Low intensity conflict is the use of military forces applied selectively and with restraint to enforce compliance with the policies or objectives of the political body controlling the military force...

" — a conflict where the forces involved in fighting operate at a greatly reduced tempo, with fewer combatants, at a reduced range of tactical equipment and limited scope to operate in a military manner.

Membership of the IRA remains illegal in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but IRA prisoners convicted of offences committed before 1998 have been granted conditional early release as part of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. In the United Kingdom a person convicted of membership of a "proscribed organisation", such as the IRA, still nominally faces imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Strength and support



Numerical strength


In the early to mid 1970s, the numbers recruited by the Provisional IRA may have reached several thousand, but these were reduced when the IRA re-organised its structures from 1977 onwards. An RUC
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...

 report of 1986 estimated that the IRA had 300 or so members in Active Service Units and up to 750 active members in total in Northern Ireland. This does not take into consideration the IRA units in the Republic of Ireland or those in Britain, continental Europe, and throughout the world. In 2005, the then Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell is a Senior Counsel in the Bar Council of Ireland and a former politician. A grandson of Irish revolutionary Eoin MacNeill, McDowell was a founding member of the Progressive Democrats political party in the mid-1980s...

 told the Dáil
Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas , which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann . It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote...

 that the organisation had "between 1,000 and 1,500" active members. According to the book The Provisional IRA (by Eamon Mallie and Patrick Bishop), roughly 8,000 people passed through the ranks of the IRA in the first 20 years of its existence, many of them leaving after arrest, "retirement" or disillusionment. In later years, the IRA's strength has been somewhat weakened by members leaving the organisation to join hardline splinter groups such as the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA. According to former Irish Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, these organisations have little more than 150 members each.

Electoral and popular support


The popular support for the IRA's campaign in the Troubles is hard to gauge, given that Sinn Féin, the IRA's political wing, did not stand in elections until the early 1980s. Most nationalists in Northern Ireland voted for the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party
Social Democratic and Labour Party
The Social Democratic and Labour Party is a social-democratic, Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. Its basic party platform advocates Irish reunification, and the further devolution of powers while Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...

 (SDLP) until 2001. After the 1981 hunger strike
1981 Irish hunger strike
The 1981 Irish hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during The Troubles by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners...

, Sinn Féin mobilised large electoral support and won 105,000 votes, or 43% of the nationalist vote in Northern Ireland, in the United Kingdom general election, 1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

, only 34,000 votes behind the SDLP. However, by the 1992 UK General Election, the SDLP won 184,445 votes and four seats to Sinn Féin's 78,291 votes and no seats. In the 1993 Local District Council Elections in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland local elections, 1993
Elections for local government were held in Northern Ireland on 19 May 1993.-Overall:-Belfast:-References:...

, the SDLP won 136,760 votes to Sinn Féin's 77,600 votes.

Few Protestant voters voted for Sinn Féin. In 1992, many of them voted for SDLP West Belfast
Belfast West (UK Parliament constituency)
Belfast West is a parliamentary constituency in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.-Boundaries:The seat was restored in 1922 when as part of the establishment of the devolved Stormont Parliament for Northern Ireland, the number of MPs in the Westminster Parliament was drastically cut...

 candidate Joe Hendron
Joe Hendron
Joseph Gerard Hendron is a Northern Ireland politician, a member of the moderate Irish nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party ....

 rather than a unionist candidate in order to make sure Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin lost his seat in the constituency.
The IRA enjoyed some popular support in the Republic of Ireland in the early 70s. However, the movement's appeal was hurt badly by bombings such as the killing of civilians attending a Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph
Cenotaph
A cenotaph is an "empty tomb" or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been interred elsewhere. The word derives from the Greek κενοτάφιον = kenotaphion...

 in Enniskillen
Enniskillen
Enniskillen is a town in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is located almost exactly in the centre of the county between the Upper and Lower sections of Lough Erne. It had a population of 13,599 in the 2001 Census...

 in 1987 (Remembrance Day bombing
Remembrance Day Bombing
The Remembrance Day bombing took place on 8 November 1987 in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland...

), and the death of two children
Warrington bomb attacks
The Warrington bombings were two separate bombing attacks that happened during early 1993 in Warrington, England. The first attack happened in February when a bomb exploded at a district pressure gas storage facility. It caused extensive damage but no injuries; however, a police officer was shot...

 when a bomb exploded in Warrington
Warrington
Warrington is a town, borough and unitary authority area of Cheshire, England. It stands on the banks of the River Mersey, which is tidal to the west of the weir at Howley. It lies 16 miles east of Liverpool, 19 miles west of Manchester and 8 miles south of St Helens...

, which led to tens of thousands of people demonstrating on O'Connell Street
O'Connell Street
O'Connell Street is Dublin's main thoroughfare. It measures 49 m in width at its southern end, 46 m at the north, and is 500 m in length...

 in Dublin to call for an end to the IRA's campaign. Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 did very badly in elections in the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 during the IRA's campaign. For example, in the December 1981 local government elections, Sinn Féin candidates won just 5% of the popular vote. By the 1987 Irish General Election, they won only 1.7% of the votes cast. They did not make significant electoral gains in the Republic until after the IRA ceasefires and the Belfast Agreement of 1998. By the 2011 Irish general election Sinn Féin's proportion of the popular vote had reached 9.9 percent.

Sinn Féin now has 27 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (out of 108), five Westminster
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 MPs (out of 18 from Northern Ireland) and 14 Republic of Ireland TDs
Teachta Dála
A Teachta Dála , usually abbreviated as TD in English, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas . It is the equivalent of terms such as "Member of Parliament" or "deputy" used in other states. The official translation of the term is "Deputy to the Dáil", though a more literal...

 (out of 166).

Support from other countries and organisations



The IRA have had contacts with foreign governments and other illegal armed organisations.

Libya has been the biggest single supplier of arms and funds to the IRA, donating large amounts: three shipments of arms in the early 1970s and another three in the mid 1980s, the latter reputedly enough to arm two regular infantry battalions.

The IRA has also received weapons and logistical support from Irish American
Irish American
Irish Americans are citizens of the United States who can trace their ancestry to Ireland. A total of 36,278,332 Americans—estimated at 11.9% of the total population—reported Irish ancestry in the 2008 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau...

s in the United States, especially the NORAID
NORAID
Noraid or the Irish Northern Aid Committee is an Irish American fund raising organization founded after the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1969...

 group. Apart from the Libyan aid, this has been the main source of overseas IRA support. American support has been weakened by the War against Terrorism
War on Terrorism
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

, and the fallout from the events of 11 September 2001.

In the United States in November 1982, five men were acquitted of smuggling arms to the IRA after they claimed the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 had approved the shipment, although the CIA denied this. There are allegations of contact with the East German Stasi
Stasi
The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), commonly known as the Stasi (abbreviation , literally State Security), was the official state security service of East Germany. The MfS was headquartered...

, based on the testimony of a Soviet defector to British intelligence Vasili Mitrokhin
Vasili Mitrokhin
Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin was a Major and senior archivist for the Soviet Union's foreign intelligence service, the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, and co-author with Christopher Andrew of The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, a massive account of Soviet intelligence...

. Mitrokhin revealed that although the Soviet KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 gave some weapons to the Marxist Official IRA
Official IRA
The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA is an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to create a "32-county workers' republic" in Ireland. It emerged from a split in the Irish Republican Army in December 1969, shortly after the beginning of "The Troubles"...

, it had little sympathy with the Provisionals. The IRA has received some training and support from the Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 (PLO). In 1977, the Provisionals received a 'sizeable' arms shipment from the PLO, including small arms, rocket launchers and explosives, but this was intercepted at Antwerp after the Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i intelligence alerted its European counterparts. In the 1980s, the Provisionals also had some contact with Hezbollah.

It has been alleged that the IRA had a co-operative relationship with Basque militant group ETA
ETA
ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

 since the early 1970s. In 1973 it was accused of providing explosives for the assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco
Luis Carrero Blanco
Don Luis Carrero Blanco, 1st Duke of Carrero Blanco, Grandee of Spain was a Spanish admiral and long-time confidant of dictator Francisco Franco.- Biography :...

 in Madrid. In the 1970s, ETA also exchanged a quantity of handguns for training in explosives with the IRA. In addition, the leaders of the political wings of the respective Irish republican and Basque separatist movements have exchanged visits on several occasions to express solidarity with each others' cause. Prominent former IRA prisoners such as Brendan McFarlane
Brendan McFarlane
Brendan "Bik" McFarlane is an Irish republican activist. Born into a Roman Catholic family, he was brought up in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, Northern Ireland. At 16, he left Belfast to train as a priest in a north Wales seminary...

 and Brendan Hughes
Brendan Hughes
Brendan Hughes , also known as "The Dark", was an Irish republican and former Officer Commanding of the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army...

 have campaigned for the release of ETA prisoners. In the mid 1990s after the IRA ceasefire, Basque media outlets followed the process carefully, sending a team to follow the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday as they campaigned for apology.

In May 1996, the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia's internal security service, publicly accused Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 of arms smuggling, and claimed that the IRA had contacted representatives of Estonia's volunteer defense force, Kaitseliit, and some non-government groups to buy weapons. In 2001, three Irish men, who later became known as the Colombia Three
Colombia Three
The Colombia Three are three individuals – Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley – who are currently living in the Republic of Ireland, having fled from Colombia, where they were sentenced to prison terms of seventeen years for training FARC rebels.-Arrest:The three came to...

, were arrested after allegedly training Colombian guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army is a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict, currently involved in drug dealing and crimes against the civilians..FARC-EP is a peasant army which...

 (FARC), in bomb making and urban warfare techniques. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations in its report of 24 April 2002 concluded "Neither committee investigators nor the Colombians can find credible explanations for the increased, more sophisticated capacity for these specific terror tactics now being employed by the FARC, other than IRA training".

The Belfast Agreement



The IRA ceasefire
Ceasefire
A ceasefire is a temporary stoppage of a war in which each side agrees with the other to suspend aggressive actions. Ceasefires may be declared as part of a formal treaty, but they have also been called as part of an informal understanding between opposing forces...

 in 1997 formed part of a process that led to the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. One aim of the Agreement is that all paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland cease their activities and disarm by May 2000.

Calls from Sinn Féin led the IRA to commence disarming in a process that was monitored by Canadian General John de Chastelain's
John de Chastelain
Alfred John Gardyne Drummond de Chastelain is a retired Canadian soldier and diplomat.De Chastelain was born in Romania and educated in England and in Scotland before his family immigrated to Canada in 1954...

 decommissioning body
Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning was established to oversee the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons in Northern Ireland, as part of the peace process.-Legislation and organisation:...

 in October 2001. However, following the collapse of the Stormont
Belfast Agreement
The Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement , sometimes called the Stormont Agreement, was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process...

 power-sharing government in 2002, which was partly triggered by allegations that republican spies were operating within Parliament Buildings and the Civil Service, the IRA temporarily broke off contact with General de Chastelain.

In December 2004, attempts to persuade the IRA to disarm entirely collapsed when the Democratic Unionist Party, under Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley
Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Baron Bannside, PC is a politician and church minister in Northern Ireland. As the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party , he and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness were elected First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively on 8 May 2007.In addition to co-founding...

, insisted on photographic evidence. Justice Minister Michael McDowell (in public, and often) insisted that there would need to be a complete end to IRA activity.

At the beginning of February 2005, the IRA declared that it was withdrawing from the disarmament process, but in July 2005 it declared that its campaign of violence was over, and that transparent mechanisms would be used, under the de Chastelain process, to satisfy the Northern Ireland communities that it was disarming totally.

End of the armed campaign



On 28 July 2005, the IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign. In a statement read by Séanna Breathnach
Séanna Breathnach
Séanna Breathnach is an Irish republican and a former volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army .Breathnach was born in the Short Strand area of East Belfast but for a time lived in Ravenhill Avenue until loyalists intimidated the Walsh family out of their home...

, the organisation stated that it had instructed its members to dump all weapons and not to engage in "any other activities whatsoever" apart from assisting "the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means". Furthermore, the organisation authorised its representatives to engage immediately with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning was established to oversee the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons in Northern Ireland, as part of the peace process.-Legislation and organisation:...

 (IICD) to verifiably put its arms beyond use "in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible".

This is not the first time that organisations styling themselves IRA have issued orders to dump arms. After its defeat in the Irish Civil War
Irish Civil War
The Irish Civil War was a conflict that accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State as an entity independent from the United Kingdom within the British Empire....

 in 1924 and at the end of its unsuccessful Border Campaign
Border Campaign
The Border Campaign may refer to several armed campaigns, in particular:*The US Army's Mexican Border Campaign of 1916-17*The Irish Republican Army's Border Campaign of 1956-62...

 in 1962, the IRA Army Council issued similar orders. However, this is the first time in Irish republicanism that any organisation has voluntarily decided to dispose of its arms.
On 25 September 2005, international weapons inspectors supervised the full disarmament of the IRA, a long-sought goal of Northern Ireland's peace process. The office of IICD Chairman John de Chastelain, a retired Canadian general who oversaw the weapons' decommissioning at secret locations, released details regarding the scrapping of many tons of IRA weaponry at a news conference in Belfast on 26 September. He said the arms had been "put beyond use" and that they were "satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA's arsenal."

The IRA permitted two independent witnesses, including a Methodist minister, Rev. Harold Good, and Father Alec Reid
Alec Reid
Father Alec Reid, C.Ss.R. is an Irish priest noted for his facilitator role in the Northern Ireland peace process. Born and raised in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Reid was professed as a Redemptorist in 1950, and ordained a priest seven years later...

, a Roman Catholic priest close to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, to view the secret disarmament work. Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley
Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Baron Bannside, PC is a politician and church minister in Northern Ireland. As the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party , he and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness were elected First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively on 8 May 2007.In addition to co-founding...

, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
Democratic Unionist Party
The Democratic Unionist Party is the larger of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland. Founded by Ian Paisley and currently led by Peter Robinson, it is currently the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons of the...

 (DUP), complained that since the witnesses were appointed by the IRA themselves, rather than being appointed by the British or Irish governments, they therefore could not be said to be unbiased witnesses to the decommissioning. Nationalists and Catholics viewed his comments as reflecting his refusal to support devolution in Northern Ireland with Catholics in power.

In 2011 Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: "The war is over. The IRA is gone. The IRA embraced, facilitated and supported the peace process. When a democratic and peaceful alternative to armed struggle was created the IRA left the stage."

Continuing activities of IRA members


The 10th report published in April 2006 from the Independent Monitoring Commission
Independent Monitoring Commission
The Independent Monitoring Commission was an organization founded on 7 January 2004, by an agreement between the British and Irish governments, signed in Dublin on 25 November 2003...

 (IMC), an organisation monitoring activity by paramilitary groups on behalf of the British and Irish governments, prefaced its remarks about IRA activity by commenting that the IRA leadership has committed itself to following a peaceful path and that in the last three months this process has involved the further dismantling of the IRA as a military structure.

The report commented that there was no paramilitary or violent activity sanctioned by the leadership; there is a substantial erosion in the IRA's capacity to return to a military campaign; and, that the IRA had no intentions of returning to violence. However the IMC report also noted that following decommissioning, the IRA still retained a considerable amount of weaponry beyond what was needed for self defence.

The IMC has come in for criticism (mainly by republicans) as having been set up outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as a sop to Unionism. Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy stated that the IMC was established outside and in breach of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and that it is politically biased, and had an anti-Sinn Féin agenda.

On 4 October 2006, the IMC ruled that the IRA were no longer a threat.

In late 2008, the The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

quoted a senior Garda intelligence officer as saying that "the IRA had recruited in recent years, still held arms despite apparently decommissioning the lot, and was being maintained in 'shadow form.'" The Gardaí also said that the IRA was still capable of carrying out attacks. A senior member of the PSNI, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan, said that it was unlikely that the IRA would disband in the foreseeable future.

At the end of March 2010, SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley
Dominic Bradley
Dominic Bradley MLA is an Irish politician and currently an Social Democratic and Labour Party Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Newry and Armagh...

 said that the IRA were still active and that they had been responsible for a number of incidents in his constituency including a punishment shooting and an armed robbery during which a shot was fired.

In August 2010, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement
32 County Sovereignty Movement
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, often abbreviated to 32CSM or 32csm, is an Irish republican political organisation.The 32CSM's objectives are:* "The restoration of Irish national sovereignty"....

, the Republican Network for Unity
Republican Network for Unity
The Republican Network for Unity is a small Irish republican political group. It was formed in 2007 in opposition to the Sinn Féin special Ard Fheis's vote of support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It was originally known as the "Ex-POWs and Concerned Republicans against RUC/PSNI &...

 and the UPRG, claimed that the IRA were responsible for a shooting incident in the Gobnascale area of Derry. It is claimed that up to 20 masked men, some armed with handguns, attacked a group of teenagers who were engaging in anti-social behaviour at an interface area
Interface area
Interface area is the name given to areas where segregated nationalist and unionist residential areas meet in Northern Ireland. They have been defined as "the intersection of segregated and polarised working class residential zones, in areas with a strong link betweenterritory and ethno-political...

. A number of the teenagers were attacked and shots were fired into the air. The men are then reported to have removed their masks when the PSNI arrived and were subsequently identified as members of the Republican Movement. Sinn Féin denied the IRA were involved.

"P. O'Neill"


The IRA traditionally uses a well-known signature in its public statements, which are all issued under the pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 of "P. O'Neill" of the "Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, Dublin". According to Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, it was Seán Mac Stiofáin, as chief of staff of the IRA, who invented the name. However, under his usage, the name was written and pronounced according to Irish orthography
Irish orthography
Irish orthography has evolved over many centuries, since Old Irish was first written down in the Latin alphabet in about the 6th century AD. Prior to that, Primitive Irish was written in Ogham...

 and pronunciation as "P. Ó Néill". According to Danny Morrison
Danny Morrison (republican)
Daniel Gerard Morrison , known generally as Danny Morrison is an Irish republican writer and activist...

, the pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 "S. O'Neill" was used during the 1940s.

Ó Brádaigh maintains that there is no particular significance to the name.

Informers


Throughout the Troubles, some members of the IRA passed information to the security forces. Members of the IRA suspected of being informants were usually executed after an IRA "court-martial". In the 1980s, many more IRA members were imprisoned on the testimony of former IRA members known as "supergrasses
Supergrass (informer)
Supergrass is a slang term for an informer, which originated in London. Informers had been referred to as "grasses" since the late-1930s, and the "super" prefix was coined by journalists in the early 1970s to describe those informers from the city's underworld who testified against former...

" such as Raymond Gilmour
Raymond Gilmour
Raymond Gilmour is a former Irish National Liberation Army and Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer who worked clandestinely from 1977 until 1982 for the Royal Ulster Constabulary within those paramilitary organisations...

.

In recent years, there have been some high profile allegations of senior IRA figures having been British informers. In May 2003, a number of newspapers named Freddie Scappaticci
Freddie Scappaticci
Freddie Scappaticci was accused in the Irish and British media on 11 May 2003 of being a high-level double agent in the Provisional Irish Republican Army , known by the codename Stakeknife.-Early life:...

 as the alleged identity of the British Force Research Unit's
Force Research Unit
Force Research Unit is alleged to be a name used by a covert military intelligence unit established by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army based at Templer Barracks, Ashford in Kent. The FRU is alleged to have been formed between 1980 and 1981...

 most senior informer within the Provisional IRA, code-named Stakeknife
Stakeknife
Stakeknife is the code name of an alleged spy who infiltrated the Provisional Irish Republican Army at a high level, while working for the top secret Force Research Unit of the British Army...

, who is thought to have been head of the IRA's internal security force, charged with rooting out and executing informers. Scappaticci denies that this is the case and, in 2003, failed in a legal bid to force the then NIO Minister, Jane Kennedy
Jane Kennedy (politician)
Jane Elizabeth Kennedy is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree from 1992 until she stood down in 2010...

, to state he was not an informer. She has refused to do so, and since then Scappaticci has not launched any libel actions against the media making the allegations.

On 16 December 2005, senior Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson
Denis Donaldson
Denis Martin Donaldson was a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army and a member of Sinn Féin who was exposed in December 2005 as an informer in the employment of MI5 and the Special Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Denis Martin Donaldson (Short Strand, Belfast,...

 appeared before TV cameras in Dublin and confessed to being a British spy for twenty years. He was expelled from Sinn Féin and was said to have been debriefed by the party. Donaldson was a former Provisional IRA volunteer and subsequently highly placed Sinn Féin party member. Donaldson had been entrusted by Gerry Adams with the running of Sinn Féin's operations in the U.S. in the early 1990s. On 4 April 2006, Donaldson was found shot dead at his retreat near Glenties
Glenties
Glenties is a village in the northwest of Ireland in central County Donegal. It is situated where two glens meet, northwest of the Blue Stack Mountains, near the confluence of two rivers. Glenties is the largest centre of population in the parish of Iniskeel...

 in County Donegal
County Donegal
County Donegal is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Border Region and is also located in the province of Ulster. It is named after the town of Donegal. Donegal County Council is the local authority for the county...

. When asked whether he felt Donaldson's role as an informer in Sinn Féin was significant, the IRA double agent using the pseudonym "Kevin Fulton
Kevin Fulton
"Kevin Fulton" is the pseudonym of Peter Keeley, a British agent from Newry, Northern Ireland who allegedly spied on the Provisional Irish Republican Army for British Military Intelligence....

" described Donaldson's role as a spy within Sinn Féin as "the tip of the iceberg". The Real IRA claim responsibility for his assassination on 12 April 2009. The former Force Research Unit and MI5
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 operative using the pseudonym "Martin Ingram
Martin Ingram
Martin Ingram is the pseudonym of an ex-British Army soldier who served in the Intelligence Corps and Force Research Unit . He has made a number of allegations about the conduct of the British Army, its operations in Northern Ireland via the FRU, and against figures in the Provisional Irish...

" concurs with "Kevin Fulton" and has alleged that Gerry Adams knew that Donaldson was an agent. Ingram was described in court as a Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty is a fictional character in James Thurber's short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", first published in the New Yorker on March 18, 1939, and in book form in My World and Welcome to It in 1942...

type character. Ingram has also claimed that Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness
James Martin Pacelli McGuinness is an Irish Sinn Féin politician and the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. McGuinness was also the Sinn Féin candidate for the Irish presidential election, 2011. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland....

 is a British agent. As evidence for this claim he alleges that McGuinness was involved in the death of IRA volunteer and FRU agent Frank Hegarty in May 1986. McGuinness has denied any involvement in the Hegarty case and brushed off allegations that he is a spy.

On 8 February 2008, Roy McShane was taken into police protection after being unmasked as an informer. McShane, a former IRA member, had been Gerry Adams' personal driver for many years. Adams said he was "too philosophical" to feel betrayed.

See also

  • British Military Intelligence Systems in Northern Ireland
    British Military Intelligence Systems in Northern Ireland
    The British Military is alleged by author Tony Geraghty to have exploited a number of information sources during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Geraghty describes these in his book, The Irish War, basing his description on an extract from an unspecified, classified document passed to him by an...

  • History of Northern Ireland
    History of Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland is today one of the four countries of the United Kingdom, situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, having been created as a separate legal entity on 3 May 1921, under the Government of Ireland Act 1920...

  • List of Provisional IRA dead

Sources

  • Martin Dillon
    Martin Dillon
    Martin Dillon is an author and journalist from Northern Ireland. He worked for eighteen years at the BBC and has written a number of plays and novels, but he is best known for his non-fiction books about the Troubles....

    , 25 Years of Terror – the IRA's War against the British
  • Richard English
    Richard English
    Richard English is a historian from Northern Ireland. He was born in Belfast in 1963. His father, Donald English was a prominent Methodist preacher. He studied as an undergraduate at Keble College, Oxford, and subsequently at Keele University, where he was awarded a PhD in History...

    , Armed Struggle – A History of the IRA, MacMillan, London 2003, ISBN 1-4050-0108-9
  • Peter Taylor
    Peter Taylor (Journalist)
    Peter Taylor born in Scarborough, North Riding of Yorkshire is a British journalist and documentary-maker who had covered for many years the political and armed conflict in Northern Ireland, widely known as the Troubles...

    , Provos – the IRA and Sinn Féin
  • Ed Moloney
    Ed Moloney
    Ed Moloney is an Irish journalist and author best known for his coverage of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and particularly the activities of the Provisional IRA. Ed worked for the Hibernia magazine and Magill before going on to serve as Northern Ireland editor for The Irish Times and...

    , A Secret History of the IRA
    A Secret History of the IRA
    A Secret History of the IRA by award-winning journalist Ed Moloney. In The Blanket, an on-line journal, reviewer Liam O Ruairc described the book as potentially "the standard if not the definitive work on the history of the Provisional IRA"...

    , Penguin, London 2002,
  • Eamonn Mallie and Patrick Bishop, The Provisional IRA, Corgi, London 1988. ISBN 0-552-13337-X
  • Toby Harnden
    Toby Harnden
    Toby Harnden is an Anglo-American journalist and author. He has been US editor of The Daily Telegraph since 2006.-Background:...

    , Bandit Country – The IRA and South Armagh, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1999, ISBN 0-340-71736-X
  • Brendan O'Brien
    Brendan O'Brien (Irish journalist)
    Brendan O'Brien is a senior Irish journalist on RTÉ One's Prime Time current affairs programme.In 1983, O'Brien won a Jacob's Award for his reporting on the RTÉ current affairs programme, Today Tonight....

    , The Long War – The IRA and Sinn Féin. O'Brien Press, Dublin 1995, ISBN 0-86278-359-3
  • Tim Pat Coogan
    Tim Pat Coogan
    Timothy Patrick Coogan is an Irish historical writer, broadcaster and newspaper columnist. He served as editor of the Irish Press newspaper from 1968 to 1987...

    , The Troubles,
  • Tim Pat Coogan, The IRA: A History (1994)
  • Tony Geraghty
    Tony Geraghty
    Tony Geraghty is a British-Irish writer and journalist. He served in the Parachute Regiment, and was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his work as a military liaison officer with U.S. forces during the Gulf War...

    , The Irish War, 1998 ISBN 0801864569
  • David McKittrick
    David McKittrick
    David McKittrick is a Belfast-born journalist who has reported on Northern Ireland since 1971.-Professional career:McKittrick began his career as a reporter for the East Antrim Times. He joined the Irish Times in 1973 as a reporter in Belfast, becoming Northern editor in 1976 and London editor in...

    , Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea, Lost Lives.
  • J Bowyer Bell
    J. Bowyer Bell
    J. Bowyer Bell was an American historian, artist and art critic.-Background and early life:Bell was born into an Episcopalian family on 15 November 1931 in New York City. The family later moved to Alabama, from where Bell attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, majoring in...

    , The Secret Army – The IRA, 1997 3rd Edition, ISBN 1-85371-813-0
  • Christopher Andrews, The Mitrokhin Archive (also published as The Sword and the Shield)

External links