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Provisional Irish Republican Army


Provisional Irish Republican Army

Provisional Irish Republican Army
(Óglaigh na hÉireann)
Participant in the Troubles
IRA members showing an improvised mortar and an RPG (1992)
Active 1969–2005
(on ceasefire from 1997)
Ideology Irish republicanism
Leaders IRA Army Council
Strength ~10,000 over 30 years[1]
Originated as Irish Republican Army
Opponents British Army, Royal Ulster Constabulary[2][3][4] UDA, UVF

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA or PIRA) was[5][6][7][8] an

  • CAIN (Conflict Archive Internet) Archive of IRA statements
  • FAS Intelligence Resource Program – Irish Republican Army (IRA)
  • Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) (aka, PIRA, "the provos," Óglaigh na hÉireann) (U.K., separatists)
  • Behind The Mask: The IRA & Sinn Fein PBS Frontline documentary on the subject.
  • IRA and U.S. Funding from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives

External links

Further reading

  • Martin Dillon, 25 Years of Terror – the IRA's War against the British
  • Richard English, Armed Struggle – A History of the IRA, MacMillan, London 2003, ISBN 1-4050-0108-9
  • Peter Taylor, Provos – the IRA and Sinn Féin
  • Ed Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA, Penguin, London 2002,
  • Eamonn Mallie and Patrick Bishop, The Provisional IRA, Corgi, London 1988. ISBN 0-552-13337-X
  • Toby Harnden, Bandit Country – The IRA and South Armagh, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1999, ISBN 0-340-71736-X
  • Brendan O'Brien, The Long War – The IRA and Sinn Féin. O'Brien Press, Dublin 1995, ISBN 0-86278-359-3
  • Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles,
  • Tim Pat Coogan, The IRA: A History (1994)
  • Tony Geraghty, The Irish War, 1998 ISBN 0-8018-6456-9
  • David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea, Lost Lives.
  • J Bowyer Bell, 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)
  • Ronald John Weitzer, Policing Under Fire: Ethnic Conflict and Police-Community Relations in Northern Ireland, State University of New York Press (Jan 1995), ISBN 079142247X.


  1. ^ a b c  
  2. ^ Murray, Gerard & Tonge, Jonathan (2005). Sinn Féin and the SDLP: From Alienation to Participation. C Hurst & Co Publishers. p. 67.  
  3. ^  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ McConville son says Gerry Adams 'threatened backlash'
  6. ^ IRA has disbanded but army council still exists, peace monitors report
  7. ^ IRA has disbanded terrorist structure, says report
  8. ^ I.R.A. Ex-Commander to Shake Hands With Queen
  9. ^ Moloney, Ed (2002). A Secret History of the IRA. Penguin Books. p. 246. ISBN 0-14-101041-X.
  10. ^ Moloney, p. 707
  11. ^ a b c d Home Office – Proscribed Terror Groups – Home Office website. Retrieved 11 May 2007
  12. ^ "McDowell insists IRA will remain illegal".  
  13. ^ a b The Provisional IRA by Patrick Bishop and Eamonn Mallie (ISBN 0-552-13337-X), p. 117.
  14. ^ a b O'Brien The Long War, p. 119.
  15. ^ a b O'Brien, Long War, p. 107.
  16. ^ The Prevention of Terrorism in British Law by Clive Walker (ISBN 978-0719022036), page 9
  17. ^ a b Bowyer Bell, J. (1997). The Secret Army: The IRA. Transaction Publishers, pp. 556–571. ISBN 1-56000-901-2
  18. ^ a b John O'Sullivan (15 February 2005). "The Padre Pio".  
  19. ^ a b John Lloyd (28 October 2002). "Sinn Féin could win the peace". New Statesman. UK. Retrieved 21 April 2007. 
  20. ^ a b c Taylor, p. 156.
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b  
  23. ^ The Irish Troubles: A Generation of Violence 1967–1992 by John Bowyer Bell (ISBN 0-7171-2201-8), page 555
  24. ^ a b  
  25. ^ a b 1969–2001: 1,821 deaths, including 621 civilians. Source: 2002 online update of 1994 book — Malcolm Sutton (1994) Bear in mind these dead ... An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969–1993, Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, ISBN 0-9514229-4-4. Update hosted at CAIN research project at the University of Ulster, CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths – extracts from Sutton's book
  26. ^ a b c 1969–2004: 1,781 deaths, including 644 civilians. Source: Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died Through the Northern Ireland Troubles (2004. Ed's David McKitrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea), Mainstream Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84018-504-1, page 1536
  27. ^ a b Lost Lives (2004), p1531 – 294 members; Sutton (2002) – 276 members.
  28. ^ Mallie Bishop, p. 12
  29. ^ a b c "Full text: IRA statement". The Guardian (London). 28 July 2005. Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  30. ^ a b Independent Monitoring Commission (3 September 2008). "Twelfth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission" (PDF). The Stationery Office. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  31. ^ a b "IRA army council 'no longer operational'". Raidió Teilifís Éireann, 3 September 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2009
  32. ^ a b "McDowell insists IRA will remain illegal".  
  33. ^ McDonald, Henry (26 July 2012). "Republican dissidents join forces to form a new IRA". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  34. ^ "'"New IRA: full statement by the dissident 'Army Council. The Guardian. 26 July 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  35. ^ Brady, Tom (14 September 2012). "Threat level remains severe after merger of terror groups". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  36. ^ The Provisional IRA by Patrick Bishop and Eamonn Mallie (ISBN 0-552-13337-X), pp. 108–112.
  37. ^ Provos, the IRA and Sinn Féin, page 60
  38. ^ Bishop and Mallie, pages 93–94
  39. ^ a b Bishop and Mallie, p. 125
  40. ^ God and the Gun: The Church and Irish Terrorism by Martin Dillon (ISBN 978-0415923637), page 7
  41. ^ Political Parties in the Republic of Ireland by Michael Gallagher (ISBN 978-0719017421), page 95
  42. ^ a b The Lost Revolution – the story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar pg 145
  43. ^ Mallie, Bishop p. 136.
  44. ^ Robert White, Ruairi O Bradaigh, the Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary, 2006, Indiana University Press.
  45. ^ Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA by Richard English (ISBN 0-330-49388-4), p. 105.
  46. ^ Provos, the IRA and Sinn Féin, page 65
  47. ^ Mallie, Bishop p. 141.
  48. ^ Patrick Bishop and Eamonn Mallie, The Provisional IRA, page 137
  49. ^ Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA by Richard English (ISBN 0-330-49388-4), p. 106.
  50. ^  
  51. ^ Taylor, pp. 104–105.
  52. ^ English, Richard (2003). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA.  
  53. ^ Taylor, pp. 289–291.
  54. ^ Robin Sheeran (21 January 2006). "Northern Ireland: The SDLP and the House of Lords". BBC. Retrieved 27 March 2007. 
  55. ^ Moloney, p. 80.
  56. ^ Nordstrom, Caroline and Martin, Joann (1992) The Paths to domination, resistance, and terror. University of California Press, p. 199. ISBN 0-520-07316-9
  57. ^ a b  
  58. ^ English, pp. 114–115.
  59. ^ English, p. 43
  60. ^ Moloney, pp. 155–160.
  61. ^ O'Brien p. 158.
  62. ^ Moloney, p. 103.
  63. ^ "1974: Compensation for Bloody Sunday victims". BBC News. 18 December 1974. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  64. ^ a b c O'Brien, p. 161.
  65. ^ Hoggart, Simon IRA may cut middle men to reduce arrests, The Guardian 18 August 1973
  66. ^ O'Brien, page 158
  67. ^ Moloney, p. 377.
  68. ^ O'Brien, p. 158.
  69. ^ Ó Dochartaigh, Niall (2005). From Civil Rights to Armalites. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 162.  
  70. ^ MacStiofáin, Seán (1979). Memoirs of a Revolutionary. Free Ireland Book Club. p. 146. 
  71. ^ Patrick Bishop, Eamon Mallie, The Provisional IRA, p. 40, "It aimed at destroying people rather than property and all units were under instruction to avoid civilian bloodshed. For this reason and because there were doubts about the Belfast IRA, which GHQ in Dublin to contain a traitor, there would be no action in the city".
  72. ^ AC 71842 Operation BANNER
  73. ^ Taylor, p. 139.
  74. ^ Moloney, page 182
  75. ^ Moloney, page 194
  76. ^ O'Brien, p. 128.
  77. ^ O'Brien, p. 23.
  78. ^ Irish Times, 30 December 2008, Britain rejected secret IRA peace talks offer, 1978 archives reveal
  79. ^ Richard English, Armed struggle: the history of the IRA, p. 200
  80. ^ O'Brien, p. 127.
  81. ^ a b O'Brien, p. 270
  82. ^ Taylor, Peter, Behind the mask: The IRA and Sinn Féin, Chapter 21: Stalemate, pp. 246–261
  83. ^ a b O'Brien, pp. 293–294
  84. ^ O'Brien, pp. 209–212
  85. ^ Taylor, p. 379
  86. ^ Taylor, p. 380
  87. ^ Moloney p345. "Adams was frustrated but nevertheless later managed to put some formal distance between Sinn Féin and the IRA. Sinn Féin let it be known in January 1991 that the party would no longer act as 'proxy spokespersons' for the IRA. A Sinn Féin source told the Irish Times, 'The IRA can speak for itself'.
  88. ^ Moloney, p. 432.
  89. ^ English, pp. 134–135.
  90. ^ Kingsmills families demand full inquiry into massacre BBC News 21 June 2011
  91. ^ "Crosstabulations (two-way tables)".  
  92. ^ Taylor, p. 378
  93. ^ Maillot Agnès (2005). New Sinn Féin: Irish republicanism in the twenty-first century. Routledge, p. 32. ISBN 0-415-32197-2
  94. ^ Moloney, p. 472.
  95. ^ "IRA guns: The list of weapons". BBC News. 26 September 2005. Retrieved 26 March 2007. 
  96. ^ Colonel Gaddafi is known to have given the British Government a detailed inventory of weapons he gave to the IRA in the 1970s and 1980s, this list was handed to British intelligence in 1995. See Bowyer Bell Page 578
  97. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 8 February 2006 (pt 26)". House of Commons. 8 February 2006. Retrieved 18 March 2007. 
  98. ^ "Tenth Report of the Independent Monitoring Commission" (PDF). Department of Justice and Equality, Ireland. 26 April 2006. pp. 13–14. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  99. ^ "'"IRA 'secretly buys weapons. Daily Mail (London). 
  100. ^ Bamber, David (21 April 2002). "IRA rearms with Russian special forces super-rifle". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  101. ^ Bamber, David (21 April 2002). "Provisionals buy supergun from Russia". Irish Independent. 
  102. ^ Belfast Newsletter, 14 July 2013
  103. ^ Dublin arms find included Provisional IRA weapons, RTÉ News, 11 July 2013
  104. ^ Arms and explosives – including semtex – seized by police in Dublin, The Guardian, 11 July 2013
  105. ^ Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA By Richard English
  106. ^ Revised and Updated Extracts from Sutton's Book, Bear in mind these dead ... An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969–1993, ISBN 0-9514229-4-4
  107. ^ Making Sense of the Troubles By David McKittrick, David McVea
  108. ^ Provos: The IRA and Sinn Fein By Peter Taylor
  109. ^ The IRA By Tim Pat Coogan
  110. ^ IRA border campaign ‘was ethnic cleansing’
  111. ^ Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland – Ed Moloney – Google Books
  112. ^ University Of Ulster News Release – Border Killings – Liberation Struggle or Ethnic Cleansing?
  113. ^ Jim Cusack: IRA engaged in 'ethnic cleansing' of Protestants along Border
  114. ^ a b David Lister and Sean O'Neill (25 February 2005). "IRA plc turns from terror into biggest crime gang in Europe".  
  115. ^ Jim Cusack (28 December 2008). "Fuel-laundering still in full swing".  
  116. ^ Diarmaid MacDermott and Bronagh Murphy (14 June 2008). "IRA kidnap gang 'captured' seven Gardaí and soldiers".  
  117. ^ "'"Bank heist blame 'led to IRA ending arms deal.  
  118. ^ Alan Erwin (18 February 2005). "Gang threatened to kill abductees and families".  
  119. ^ Independent Monitoring Commission (2005). Fourth Report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (Report). The Stationery Office. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  120. ^  
  121. ^  
  122. ^ . Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  123. ^ Vincent Kearney (15 February 1998). "Hidden Agenda To IRA Hits on Drug Dealers". The Sunday Times. 
  124. ^ Kevin Sheehy (2008), More Questions than Answers – Reflections on a Life in the RUC, p.97
  125. ^ Alan Murray (31 January 2006). "Culture of racketeering is hardly decommissioned".  
  126. ^ Brian Laverty (6 March 2005). "Sinn Féin Leader Reasserts Rejection of Criminal Activity".  
  127. ^ Nick Squires, Tom Brady (6 March 2013). "Revealed: €450m IRA link to Mafia".  
  128. ^ Ronald John Weitzer, Policing Under Fire: Ethnic Conflict and Police-Community Relations in Northern Ireland. SUNY Press, 1995, p. 158
  129. ^ Robert Fisk, In Time of War. Gill & Macmillan 1983, p.189
  130. ^ Fisk (1983), p.269
  131. ^ Weitzer p157
  132. ^ "Punishment beatings: A grip of fear". BBC. 25 January 1999. Retrieved 1 May 2007. 
  133. ^ "Extraordinary scenes in Dail as Taoiseach challenges Gerry Adams on abuse". Irish Independent. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  134. ^
  135. ^ Bowcott, Owen (15 August 2006). "Belfast police sorry for failing woman's family". The Guardian. 
  136. ^ CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths
  137. ^ "Jean McConville: Ivor Bell charged in connection with murder". BBC News. 21 March 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  138. ^ "Gerry Adams arrested in McConville murder inquiry". 1 May 2014. RTÉ News. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  139. ^ "Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams released from police custody in Northern Ireland". 4 May 2014. CNN. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  140. ^ Vincent Kearney (9 March 2007). "IRA "collusion" inquiry launched". BBC News. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  141. ^
  142. ^ "Controversy over republican's murder". BBC. 17 October 2000. Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  143. ^ "IRA denies murdering dissident". BBC. 18 October 2000. Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  144. ^ Richard English (2003), Armed Struggle – The History of the IRA, p.378
  145. ^ Lost Lives (2004. Ed's David McKitrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea)
  146. ^ Sutton Index of Deaths: Crosstabulations
  147. ^ Lost Lives, p. 1531.
  148. ^ O'Brien, Long War, p. 26.
  149. ^ a b Mallie, Bishop, p. 12.
  150. ^ S.I. No. 162/1939 — Unlawful Organisation (Suppression) Order, 1939
  151. ^ FitzGerald, Garrett (2006). "The 1974–5 Threat of a British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland". Irish Studies in International Affairs 17: 141–150. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. 
  152. ^ Significant IRA statement still leaves questions: Alliance
  153. ^ Attwood: Libya Compensenation Claim Backs Seizure Of Ira Assets
  154. ^ a b U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Terrorist Organization Reference Guide January 2004, p119
  155. ^ "MP denies 'IRA freedom fighters' claim". BBC. 30 December 2001. Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  156. ^ Critical Terrorism Studies: A New Research Agenda by Richard Jackson, Marie Breen Smyth and Jeroen Gunning (ISBN 978-0415455077), page 142
  157. ^ Terrorists and Freedom Fighters (People, politics and powers) by David Hayes (ISBN 978-0853406525), page 77
  158. ^ Terrorism, Ideology, and Revolution/the Origins of Modern Political Violence by Noel O'Sullivan (ISBN 978-0813303451), page 104
  159. ^ Seanad Éireann – Volume 135 – 29 April 1993 – International Fund for Ireland: Statements
  160. ^ Irish Republican News
  161. ^ DUP warns Sinn Fein over IRA Army Council – Local – Limerick Leader
  162. ^ Recently released (3 May 2006) British Government documents show that overlapping membership between British Army units like the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and loyalist paramilitary groups was a wider problem than a "few bad apples" as was often claimed. The documents include a report titled "Subversion in the UDR" which details the problem. In 1973; an estimated 5–15% of UDR soldiers were directly linked to loyalist paramilitary groups, it was believed that the "best single source of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups was the UDR", it was feared UDR troops were loyal to "Ulster" alone rather than to "Her Majesty's Government", the British Government knew that UDR weapons were being used in the assassination and attempted assassination of Roman Catholic civilians by loyalist paramilitaries. 2 May 2006 edition of the Irish News available here.
  163. ^ Gerry Adam's 2006 Easter Message was that "unfinished business" remains, available here [1]. "But in truth The Proclamation is also unfinished business. It is unfinished business which the vast majority of the Irish people want to see brought to completion."
  164. ^ Transitional Justice in Northern Ireland Submitted for the 6th Annual Dalhousie University Graduate Symposium, 10 and 11 March 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia
  165. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 30 October 2002 (pt 8)". House of Commons. 30 October 2002. Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  166. ^ a b Parliamentary Debates (Official Report – Unrevised) Dáil Éireann Thursday, 23 June 2005 – Page 1
  167. ^ O'Brien, p. 115.
  168. ^ O'Brien, p. 198.
  169. ^ Local Government Elections 1993
  170. ^ (Coogan p284)
  171. ^ O'Brien, p. 199.
  172. ^ "A Chronology of the Conflict – 1982".  
  173. ^  
  174. ^ Mallie, Bishop, the Provisional IRA, p 307
  175. ^ Iran paid millions to fund IRA Adrian Levy and Anna Pukas. The Times , 21 August 1994
  176. ^ Hamilton, Fiona (27 December 1973). "IRA provided explosives for Madrid assassination". The Times (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  177. ^ Mallie, Bishop, p. 308.
  178. ^ for example
  179. ^ "Las excarcelaciones provocaron momentos difíciles para las víctimas, pero prevaleció la paz". NOTICIAS DE GIPUZKOA (in Spanish). 17 June 2006. Retrieved 11 June 2008. 
  180. ^ David Bamber (4 March 2000). "Basque bombers top up IRA's terror arsenal". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 27 September 2007. 
  181. ^ J. Michael Waller (15 May 1996). "Russia Reform Monitor No. 137". American Foreign Policy Council. Archived from the original on 27 September 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2007. 
  182. ^ Deborah Michaels (14 May 1996). "No. 93, Part II". Open Media Research Institute. Retrieved 26 March 2007. 
  183. ^ "Report". U.S. House of Representatives House International Relations Committee. 24 April 2002. Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  184. ^ Arms Dumps and the IRA, 1923–32 | History Today
  185. ^ "IRA in arms breakthrough". BBC News. 23 October 2001. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  186. ^ Taylor, p. 349
  187. ^ McCarthy, Patrick (2002). Language, Politics and Writing: Stolentelling in Western Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, p. 120. ISBN 1403960240
  188. ^ Hayden, Tom (2003). Irish on the Inside: In Search of the Soul of Irish America. Verso, p. 179. ISBN 1859844774
  189. ^ Cullen, Kevin (27 September 2005). Maintaining belief in peace aided N. Ireland transformation Boston Globe.
  190. ^ "'"Weapons witnesses 'IRA-nominated. BBC. 27 September 2005. Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  191. ^ "Adams condemns violent dissidents". 
  192. ^
  193. ^ Tenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission April 2006 available in PDF here [2] NOTE: the IMC report is issued every six months.
  194. ^ a b Clarke, Liam; Mooney, John (10 August 2008). "The IRA has not disbanded say intelligence experts". The Times (London). 
  195. ^ "IMC should be scrapped". 27 February 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  196. ^ Matt Weaver (4 October 2006). "Blair: Northern Ireland final settlement within reach". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 May 2007. 
  197. ^ "They haven't gone away, you know – it's the same old story up North". The Irish Examiner. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  198. ^ King, Steven (13 August 2008). "They haven't gone away, you know – it's the same old story up North". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  199. ^ "Provos 'Have Not Gone Away', 30 March 2010, Northern Ireland Newspapers". 30 March 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  200. ^ "Were Provos behind shooting incident in Gobnascale? Londonderry Sentinel". 30 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  201. ^ "Mainstream Republicans blamed for Gobnascale Indident". 12 August 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  202. ^ "The Nolan Show Radio Foyle 9 August 2010". BBC. 9 August 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  203. ^ a b Who is P O'Neill? – BBC News article, 22 September 2005.
  204. ^ "'"Half of all top IRA men 'worked for security services. 
  205. ^ Ted Oliver (19 August 2003). Stakeknife' loses bid to quash spy claim"'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  206. ^ "Sinn Féin man admits he was agent". BBC. 16 December 2005. Retrieved 26 March 2007. 
  207. ^ Suzanne Breen (26 March 2006). "Denis Donaldson – squalid living after a life of lies".  
  208. ^ Suzanne Breen (9 April 2006). "No tears over Denis Donaldson". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 26 March 2007. 
  209. ^ "Sinn Féin British agent shot dead". BBC. 4 April 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2007. 
  210. ^ "Kevin Fulton" (not his real name) made the comments on a BBC News 24 interview 10 April 2006, RealMedia available here [3] or available on googlevideo here [4]
  211. ^ Real IRA killed Dennis Donaldson
  212. ^ The Irish Times, 11 February 2008, p. 8.


See also

On 8 February 2008, Roy McShane was taken into police protection after being unmasked as an informant. McShane, a former IRA member, had been Gerry Adams' personal driver for many years. Adams said he was "too philosophical" to feel betrayed.[212]

On 16 December 2005, senior Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson appeared before TV cameras in Dublin and confessed to being a British spy for twenty years.[206] He was expelled from Sinn Féin and was said to have been debriefed by the party.[207] Donaldson was a former 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 US in the early 1990s.[208] On 4 April 2006, Donaldson was found shot dead at his retreat near Glenties in County Donegal.[209] 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" described Donaldson's role as a spy within Sinn Féin as "the tip of the iceberg".[210] The Real IRA claimed responsibility for his assassination on 12 April 2009.[211]

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 as the alleged identity of the British Force Research Unit's most senior informer within the IRA, code-named Stakeknife, 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, to state he was not an informer.[205] She has refused to do so, and since then Scappaticci has not launched any libel actions against the media making the allegations.

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" such as Raymond Gilmour. A Belfast newspaper has claimed that secret documents show that half of the IRA's top men were also British informers.[204]


The IRA traditionally uses a well-known signature in its public statements, which are all issued under the pseudonym of "P. O'Neill" of the "Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, Dublin".[203] 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 and pronunciation as "P. Ó Néill". According to Danny Morrison, the pseudonym "S. O'Neill" was used during the 1940s.[203]

"P. O'Neill"

In August 2010, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the Republican Network for Unity 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. 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.[200][201][202]

At the end of March 2010, SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley 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.[199]

In late 2008, the 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.[194][197] 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.[198]

On 4 October 2006, the IMC ruled that the IRA were no longer a threat.[196]

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.[195]

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.[193] 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.[194]

The 10th report published in April 2006 from the Independent Monitoring Commission (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.

Continuing activities of IRA members

In 2011 Sinn Féin 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."[191] In 2014 Adams said: "The IRA is gone. It is finished".[192]

The IRA permitted two independent witnesses, including a Methodist minister, Rev. Harold Good, and Father Alec Reid, a Roman Catholic priest close to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, to view the secret disarmament work.[189] Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (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.[190]

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."

[188][187][186] Some authors, like Patrick McCarthy, Peter Taylor and Brendan O'Brien concluded that, unlike previous IRA campaigns, the provisionals were not defeated.[185] After its defeat in the [184] This is not the first time that organisations styling themselves IRA have issued orders to dump arms.

In a statement read by Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (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".[29]

in 1997. Both reject the Good Friday Agreement and continue to engage in paramilitary activity. Real IRA in 1986, and the Continuity IRA Two small groups split from the IRA, the [32][11] On 28 July 2005, the

End of the armed campaign

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.

In December 2004, attempts to persuade the IRA to disarm entirely collapsed when the Democratic Unionist Party, under Ian Paisley, 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.

Calls from Sinn Féin led the IRA to commence disarming in a process that was monitored by Canadian General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body in October 2001. However, following the collapse of the Stormont 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.

The IRA ceasefire 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.

Good Friday Agreement

In May 1996, the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia's internal security service, publicly accused Estonia of arms smuggling, and claimed that the IRA had contacted representatives of Estonia's volunteer defence force, Kaitseliit, and some non-government groups to buy weapons.[181][182] In 2001, three Irish men, who later became known as the Colombia Three, were arrested after allegedly training Colombian guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in bomb making and urban warfare techniques. The US 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".[183]

It has been alleged that the IRA had a co-operative relationship with Basque militant group ETA since the early 1970s. In 1973 it was accused of providing explosives for the assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco in Madrid.[176] In the 1970s, ETA also exchanged a quantity of handguns for training in explosives with the IRA.[177] 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 other's cause.[178] Prominent former IRA prisoners such as Brendan McFarlane and Brendan Hughes have campaigned for the release of ETA prisoners.[179][180] 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.

[175] In the United States in November 1982, five men were acquitted of smuggling arms to the IRA after they claimed the

The IRA has also received weapons and logistical support from Irish Americans in the United States. 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, and the fallout from the events of 11 September 2001.[18][19]

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.[17]

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

Support from other countries and organisations

Sinn Féin now has 27 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (out of 108), five Westminster MPs (out of 18 from Northern Ireland) and 14 Republic of Ireland TDs (out of 166).

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 in Enniskillen in 1987 (Remembrance Day bombing), and the death of two children when a bomb exploded in Warrington, which led to tens of thousands of people demonstrating on O'Connell Street in Dublin to call for an end to the IRA's campaign. In the 1987 Irish General Election, they won only 1.7% of the votes cast.[171] They did not make significant electoral gains in the Republic until after the IRA ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. By the 2011 Irish general election Sinn Féin's proportion of the popular vote had reached 9.9 percent.

An IRA wall mural in Coalisland, County Tyrone

Few Protestant voters voted for Sinn Féin. In 1992, many of them voted for SDLP West Belfast candidate Joe Hendron rather than a unionist candidate to make sure Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin lost his seat in the constituency.[170]

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 (SDLP) until 2001. After the 1981 hunger strike, 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, only 34,000 votes behind the SDLP.[167] 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.[168] In the 1993 Local District Council Elections in Northern Ireland, the SDLP won 136,760 votes to Sinn Féin's 77,600 votes.[169]

Electoral and popular support

[166] In later years, the IRA's strength has been somewhat weakened by members leaving the organisation to join hardline splinter groups such as the [149] (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.The Provisional IRA According to the book

In the early to mid-1970s, the numbers recruited by the IRA may have reached several thousand, but these were reduced when the IRA re-organised its structures from 1977 onwards. An [166]

Numerical strength

Strength and support

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 [165]

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 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" – 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.

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.

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.[162] 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. The IRA sees the previous conflict as a guerrilla war which accomplished some of its aims, with some remaining "unfinished business".[163]


The IRA is a proscribed organisation in the United Kingdom under the [154]


A little under 300 IRA members were killed in the Troubles.[147] In addition, roughly 50–60 members of Sinn Féin were killed.[148] However, many more IRA volunteers were imprisoned than killed. 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.[149]

The IRA was responsible for more deaths than any other organisation during the Troubles.[144] Two detailed studies of deaths in the Troubles, the CAIN project at the University of Ulster, and the book Lost Lives,[145] differ slightly on the numbers killed by the IRA. CAIN gives a minimum figure of 1,707 and a maximum of 1,823, while Lost Lives gives a figure of 1,781. Of these, about 1,100 were members or former members of the security forces (the British Army, Royal Ulster Constabulary etc), while between 510[146] and 640[26] were civilians. The civilian figure also includes civilians employed by British forces, politicians, members of the judiciary, and alleged criminals and informers. The remainder were either loyalist or republican paramilitary members (including over 100 IRA members accidentally killed by their own bombs or shot for being security force agents or informers).

An IRA signpost with the word "Provoland" underneath in Strathroy, Omagh, County Tyrone.

This is a summary. For a detailed breakdown of casualties caused by and inflicted on the IRA see Provisional IRA campaign 1969-1997#Casualties


No-one has been charged with his killing. [143] but Sinn Féin denied the claims.[142] Leading

The IRA has also feuded with other republican paramilitary groups such as the Irish People's Liberation Organisation in the 1990s.

Attacks on other republican paramilitary groups

In December 2013 the report of the Smithwick Tribunal found there was collusion between the IRA and members of the Garda Síochána in the murders of two RUC officers in 1989.[141]

Collusion with Irish security forces

In March 2007, Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan announced that there would be an inquiry into claims of collusion between IRA members working as agents for the Special Branch and other agencies and the British security forces.[140]

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 from Belfast, who was killed by the IRA. Ed Moloney and IRA sources continue to claim she was an informer despite the Police Ombudsman recently stating that this was not the case. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) have described the killing as a "war crime". Her family contend that she was killed as a punishment for aiding a dying British soldier in West Belfast, however this claim has been rejected in an official investigation,[135] while neither the Sutton Index or Lost Lives record the death of any British soldier near her home prior to her killing.[136] In March 2014, Ivor Bell – former IRA Chief of Staff – was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting in the murder of Jean McConville.[137] In April 2014, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was arrested and questioned by PSNI detectives in relation to the abduction and murder of Jean McConville.[138] He was released 4 days later without charge.[139]

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. 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 (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.


Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, speaking in the Dáil Éireann, challenged Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, over allegations of sexual abuse and cover up by Sinn Féin/IRA. In the same debate Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said victims of sex abuse by IRA members were sworn to silence. Adams denied there was any Sinn Féin cover up and accused Kenny and Martin of politicising the issue.[133] Adams also apologised to abuse victims who he said were "let down" by the IRA's failure to properly investigate their claims of abuse.[134]

Allegations of sexual abuse

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. This vacuum in policing was functional for the IRA because it stopped the local community being in contact with the police which may have posed a threat if information was passed.[131] Therefore, the community would turn to the IRA first to deal with troublemakers or those practising what came to be called "anti-social behaviour".[132] 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 warn their intended victim, with further transgressions escalated to an attack known as a "punishment beating". 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 or drug dealing. In certain cases, for persistent offenders the IRA would intimidate the individual into leaving 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".

The IRA saw itself as the police force of nationalist areas of Northern Ireland during the Troubles instead of the RUC.[128] This was made possible by a feeling of mistrust by some members of the community against the police force and army. The feeling, that the RUC, B-Specials, UDR, British Army and other arms of the Governmental apparatus in Northern Ireland were biased against the nationalist community was not new; it predated the Troubles and took in organisations like the Ulster Defence Volunteers, a home guard body of World War II, who were also widely considered sectarian.[129] Catholics did, however, serve in the UDV,[130] Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).


In 2013 it was reported that an Italian police investigation had revealed links between the IRA and the Mafia in a €450m money laundering scheme.[127]

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 criminalise those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives".[126]

According to several sources, the organisation has also been involved in the Irish drugs trade. A 1999 report by racketeering, which involves the extortion of money from legitimate businesses for "protection".[125]

[121], and charged with IRA membership and offences relating to the robbery.Cork In May 2009, two men were arrested in [120] In 2004, £26.5m was

The IRA have allegedly been involved in criminal activities, including racketeering, bank robbery, fuel laundering, drug dealing and kidnapping.[114][115][116]

Alleged involvement in organised crime

A former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service has accused the IRA's campaign in some border areas of amounting to "ethnic cleansing".[110] Sir Kenneth Bloomfield was speaking at the launch of Professor Henry Patterson's book which claims that in County Fermanagh the Protestant minority there believed they were being ethnically cleansed by the PIRA, although this is a contested allegation.[111][112][113]

The IRA carried out sectarian attacks.[105] Sutton attributes 130 sectarian killings of Protestants to the IRA.[106] The IRA often denied being involved in such attacks and sometimes used cover names for such attacks.[107] For example using the cover name the South Armagh Republican Action Force, the IRA killed six Protestants at Tullyvallen.[108] Some in the IRA were unhappy with it carrying out sectarian attacks, but others considered them effective in preventing sectarian attacks on Catholics, as for example in justfiying the Kingsmill massacre of ten Protestants.[109]

Sectarian attacks and alleged ethnic cleansing

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

Other activities

In mid-July 2013, the Gardaí displayed arms and explosives (Semtex) recently recovered from dissident republicans in the Dublin area. The Gardaí believe this Semtex to have come from the Libyan connection back in the 1980s and therefore should have been decommissioned.[102][103][104]

The Russian AN-94

Since the process of decommissioning was completed, unnamed sources in MI5 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have reported to the press that not all IRA arms were destroyed during the process. This claim remains unsubstantiated so far.[97] In its report dated April 2006 the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) stated that it had no reason to disbelieve the IRA or to suspect that it had not fully decommissioned. It believed that any weaponry that had not been handed in had been retained locally and against the wishes of the IRA leadership.[98] The Russian and British Intelligence services alleged that during the decommissioning process the IRA secretly purchased a consignment of 20 Russian special forces AN-94 rifles in Moscow.[99][100][101]

Alleged failure to decommission

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 IRA weaponry has been destroyed.[96]

The IRA decommissioned all of its remaining arms between July and September 2005. The decommissioning of its weaponry was supervised by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD). Among the weaponry estimated (by Jane's Information Group) to have been destroyed as part of this process were:

On 31 August 1994, the IRA declared an indefinite ceasefire. However, from February 1996 until July 1997, the 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.[94]

Ceasefires and decommissioning of arms

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 policy) to negotiate with Sinn Féin after the IRA ceasefires of August 1994 and July 1997.[92][93]

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, 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 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.[91]

From 1971–1994, the IRA launched a sustained offensive armed campaign that mainly targeted the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), and economic targets in Northern Ireland. In addition, some IRA members carried out attacks against Protestant civilians.[90]

Grand Hotel following a bomb attack

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.[89]

The RPG-7

In the early days of the Troubles the IRA was very poorly armed, mainly with old World War II weaponry such as M1 Garands and Thompson submachine guns, but starting in the early 1970s it procured large amounts of modern weaponry from such sources as supporters in the United States, Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi,[20] and arms dealers in Europe, America, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Libyans supplied the IRA with the RPG-7.

Heckler & Koch G3. 100 of these, stolen from the Norwegian police, finished up with the IRA
An AK-47 assault rifle (over 1,000 of which were donated by Muammar Gaddafi to the IRA in the 1980s)
The Armalite AR-18, obtained by the IRA from an IRA member in the United States in the early 1970s, was an emotive symbol of its armed campaign

Weaponry and operations

[88] (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".Republican Movement Within the [87] According to author

The success of the Manchester bombing and the Docklands bombing causing approximately £500 million in combined damage. After the ceasefire was reinstated in July 1997, Sinn Féin was admitted into all-party talks, which produced the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The IRA's armed campaign, primarily in Northern Ireland but also in England and mainland Europe, caused the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 630 civilians.[25][26] The IRA itself lost 275–300 members,[27] of an estimated 10,000 total over the 30-year period.[1]

Peace strategy

After the success of IRA hunger strikers in mobilising support and winning elections on an Anti H-Block platform in 1981, republicans increasingly devoted time and resources to electoral politics, through the Sinn Féin party. Danny Morrison summed up this policy at a 1981 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis (annual meeting) as a "ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other".[80]

IRA prisoners convicted after March 1976 did not have Special Category Status applied in prison. In response, over 500 prisoners refused to wash or wear prison clothes (see Dirty protest and Blanket protest). This activity culminated in the 1981 Irish hunger strike, when seven IRA and three Irish National Liberation Army members starved themselves to death in pursuit of political status. The hunger strike leader Bobby Sands and Anti H-Block activist Owen 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.[79]

IRA funeral, 1981

1981 hunger strikes and electoral politics

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 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 document, dated 15 February 1977, states that "It is now known that feelers were sent out at Christmas by the top IRA leadership to interest the British authorities in another long ceasefire."[78]

  1. A war of attrition 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.[77]

Thereafter, the IRA evolved a new strategy which they called the "Long War". This underpinned IRA strategy for the rest of the Troubles and involved the re-organisation of the IRA into small cells, an acceptance that their campaign would last many years before being successful and an increased emphasis on political activity through Sinn Féin. 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".[76] The 1977 edition of the Green Book, an induction and training manual used by the IRA, describes the strategy of the "Long War" in these terms:

IRA political poster from the 1980s, featuring a quote from Bobby Sands – "There can never be peace in Ireland until the foreign, oppressive British presence is removed, leaving all the Irish people as a unit to control their own affairs and determine their own destinies as a sovereign people, free in mind and body, separate and distinct physically, culturally and economically".

The "Long War"

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 with British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 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.[22] 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. At this time, 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.[20]

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 republic, with decentralised governments and parliaments for each of the four Irish historic provinces. This programme was known as Éire Nua (New Ireland). The Éire Nua programme remained IRA policy until discontinued by the Army Council in 1979.[74] Éire Nua remained Sinn Féin policy until 1982.[75]

Éire Nua and the 1975 ceasefire

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 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, Ivor Bell, Seamus Twomey, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness 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.[73]

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".[14] 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".[15] Its inspiration was the success of the "Old IRA" in the Irish War of Independence (1919–1922). In their assessment of the IRA campaign, the British Army would describe these years, 1970–72, as the "insurgency phase".[72]

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 in the 1950s had avoided actions in urban centres of Northern Ireland to avoid civilian casualties and resulting sectarian violence.[71] The Provisional IRA, by contrast, was primarily an urban organisation, based originally in Belfast and Derry.

Following the violence of August 1969, the IRA began to arm and train to protect nationalist areas from further attack.[69] After the Provisionals' split from the Official IRA the Provisional IRA began planning for an all-out offensive action against what it claimed was British occupation.[70]

Initial phase

Details on strategy 1969–1998

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.[68]

The exception to this reorganisation was the South Armagh Brigade, which retained its traditional hierarchy and battalion structure and used relatively large numbers of volunteers in its actions.[67]

From 1973, the IRA started to move away from the larger conventional military organisational principle owing to its security vulnerability.[65] 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 (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 brigade's quartermaster.[66] By the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was estimated that in the late 1980s the IRA had roughly 300 members in ASUs and about another 450 serving in supporting roles.[64]

Active service units

The Derry Brigade had two battalions – one based in Derry City, known as the South Derry Brigade, and another in Donegal. The Derry Battalion became the Derry Brigade in 1972 after a rapid increase in membership following Bloody Sunday when British paratroopers killed 13 unarmed demonstrators at a civil rights march.[63] Volunteers based in Donegal were a part of the Derry Brigade as well. 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. 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. Fermanagh, South Down and North Antrim had units not attached to Brigades.[64] 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.

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.[61] The Belfast Brigade had three battalions, respectively in the west, north and east of the city. In the early years of the Troubles, 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.[62]

The IRA refers to its ordinary members as company as part of a battalion, which could be part of a brigade, although many battalions were not attached to a brigade.


The IRA was divided into a Northern Command, which operated in the nine Ulster counties as well as Ivor Bell, Gerry Adams and Brian Keenan.[60]

Republican colour party in Dublin – March 2009. The blue flag being carried at the front is that of "Dublin Brigade IRA"

Regional command

  • Armory
  • Finance
  • Engineering
  • Training
  • Intelligence
  • Publicity
  • Operations
  • Security

The Chief of Staff would appoint an adjutant general as well as a General Headquarters (GHQ), which consisted of heads of the following departments:

PIRA re-enacment in Galbally, County Tyrone (2009)

The GAC in turn elected a 12-member IRA Executive, which selected seven volunteers to form the IRA Army Council.[57] For day-to-day purposes, authority was vested in the Army Council which, as well as directing policy and taking major tactical decisions, appointed a Chief of Staff from one of its number or, less commonly, from outside its ranks.[59]

All levels of the organisation were entitled to send delegates to IRA General Army Conventions (GACs). The GAC was 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.[57][58]


The Provisional IRA was organised hierarchically. At the top of the organisation was the IRA Army Council, headed by the IRA Chief of Staff.


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.[55] The Provisional IRA adopted the Phoenix as symbol of the Irish republican rebirth in 1969. One of its common slogans is "out of the ashes rose the provisionals".[56]

The Provisionals maintained the principles of the pre-1969 IRA; they considered both British rule in Northern Ireland and the government of the Republic of Ireland to be illegitimate, insisting that the Provisional IRA's Army Council was the only valid government, as head of an all-island Irish Republic. This belief was based on a series of perceived political inheritances which constructed a legal continuity from the Second Dáil.[53][54]

There are allegations that the early Provisional IRA received arms and funding from the Fianna Fáil-led Irish government in 1969, resulting in the 1970 "Arms trial" in which criminal charges were pursued against two former government ministers. Roughly £100,000 was donated by the Irish government to "Defence Committees" in Catholic areas and, according to historian Richard English, "there is now no doubt that some money did go from the Dublin government to the proto-Provisionals".[52]

The Sinn Féin party split along the same lines on 11 January 1970, when a third of the delegates walked out of the Ard Fheis in protest at the party leadership's attempt to force through the ending of abstentionism, despite its failure to achieve a two-thirds majority vote of delegates required to change the policy.[50] 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.[51]

We declare our allegiance to the 32 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.[49]

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.[45][46] Nine out of thirteen IRA units in Belfast sided with the Provisionals in December 1969, roughly 120 activists and 500 supporters.[47] The first "Provisional" Army Council was composed of Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Paddy Mulcahy, Sean Tracey, Leo Martin, and Joe Cahill,[48] and issued their first public statement on 28 December 1969, stating:

Traditional republicans formed the "Provisional" Army Council in December 1969, after an IRA Army convention was held at Knockvicar House in Boyle, County Roscommon.[40][41][42] The two main issues were the acceptance of the "National Liberation Strategy" and a motion to end abstentionism and to recognise the British, Irish and Northern Ireland parliaments. While the motion on the "National Liberation Strategy" was passed unanimously[42] 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, present as IRA Director of Intelligence, announced that he no longer considered that the IRA leadership represented republican goals.[43] 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.[44]

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.[37][38] On 24 August Joe Cahill, Seamus Twomey, Dáithí Ó Conaill, Billy McKee and several other future Provisional leaders came together in Belfast intending to remove the Belfast leadership and turn back to traditional militant republicanism.[39] Although the pro-Goulding commander Billy McMillen 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.[39]

Protests and riots organised by NICRA in support of the Bogsiders began elsewhere in the Province sparking retaliation by Protestant mobs; the subsequent burning, damage to property and intimidation largely against the minority community forced 1,505 Catholics from their homes in Belfast in what became known as the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969, with over 200 Catholic homes being destroyed or requiring major repairs[13] and a number of people were killed on both sides, some by the forces of law and order. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) had been poorly armed and unable to adequately defend the Catholic community, which had been considered one of its traditional roles since the 1920s.[36]

In August 1969, a confrontation between Catholic residents of the Bogside and police in Derry following an Apprentice Boys of Derry march led to a large communal riot now referred to as the Battle of the Bogside – three days of fighting between rioters throwing stones and petrol bombs and police who saturated the area with CS gas.

An IRA badge – the Phoenix is frequently used to symbolise the origins of the Provisional IRA.


On 26 July 2012, it was announced that some former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army were merging with the Real Irish Republican Army, other independent republican paramilitary groups and the vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs (but, notably, not with the Continuity Irish Republican Army) into a unified formation known simply as the "Irish Republican Army".[33][34] This new IRA group is estimated by Police Service of Northern Ireland intelligence sources to have between 250 and 300 active militants and many more supporting associates.[35]

On 28 July 2005, the Republic of Ireland.[11][32] Two small groups split from the Provisional IRA, the Continuity IRA in 1986, and the Real IRA in 1997. Both reject the Good Friday Agreement and continue to engage in paramilitary activity.

This demand was quickly dropped after the May 1997 general election in the UK. The IRA ceasefire was then reinstated in July 1997 and Sinn Féin was admitted into all-party talks, which produced the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The IRA's armed campaign, primarily in Northern Ireland but also in England and mainland Europe, caused the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 640 civilians.[25][26] The IRA itself lost 275–300 members[27] and an estimated 10,000 imprisoned at various times over the 30-year period.[28][1]

The success of the 1981 Irish hunger strike in mobilising support and winning elections led to the Armalite and ballot box strategy, with more time and resources devoted to political activity. The abortive attempt at an escalation of the military part of that strategy led republican leaders increasingly to look for a political compromise to end the conflict, with a broadening dissociation of Sinn Féin from the IRA. Following negotiations with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and secret talks with 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.[24] When the British government, dependent on Ulster Unionist Party votes at Westminster, then demanded the disarmament of the IRA before it allowed Sinn Féin into multiparty talks, the IRA called off its ceasefire in February 1996.

The IRA agreed to a ceasefire in February 1975, which lasted nearly a year[20] before the IRA concluded that the British were drawing them into politics without offering any guarantees in relation to the IRA's goals (as well as launching an intelligence offensive),[21] and hopes of a quick victory receded.[22] As a result, the IRA launched a new strategy known as "the Long War". This saw them conduct a war of attrition against the British and increase emphasis on political activity, via the political party Sinn Féin.[23]

The IRA's initial strategy was to use force to cause the collapse of the government of Northern Ireland and to inflict enough casualties on British forces that the British government would be forced by public opinion to withdraw from the region.[14] This policy involved recruitment of volunteers, increasing after the 1972 Bloody Sunday incident, in which the British military killed unarmed protesters, and launching attacks against British military and economic targets.[15][16] The campaign was supported by arms and funding from Libya[17] and from some groups in the United States.[18][19]

Overview of strategies


  • Overview of strategies 1
  • Origins 2
  • Organisation 3
    • Leadership 3.1
    • Regional command 3.2
    • Brigades 3.3
    • Active service units 3.4
  • Details on strategy 1969–1998 4
    • Initial phase 4.1
    • Éire Nua and the 1975 ceasefire 4.2
    • The "Long War" 4.3
    • 1981 hunger strikes and electoral politics 4.4
    • Peace strategy 4.5
  • Weaponry and operations 5
    • Ceasefires and decommissioning of arms 5.1
    • Alleged failure to decommission 5.2
  • Other activities 6
    • Sectarian attacks and alleged ethnic cleansing 6.1
    • Alleged involvement in organised crime 6.2
    • Vigilantism 6.3
    • Allegations of sexual abuse 6.4
    • Informers 6.5
    • Collusion with Irish security forces 6.6
    • Attacks on other republican paramilitary groups 6.7
  • Casualties 7
  • Categorisation 8
  • Strength and support 9
    • Numerical strength 9.1
    • Electoral and popular support 9.2
    • Support from other countries and organisations 9.3
  • Good Friday Agreement 10
  • End of the armed campaign 11
    • Continuing activities of IRA members 11.1
  • "P. O'Neill" 12
  • Informers 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • Sources 16
  • Further reading 17
  • External links 18

The Provisional IRA emerged in December 1969, following a split in the IRA. The Troubles had begun a year before, when a Catholic, nonviolent civil rights campaign was met with violence from Ulster loyalists and state forces, culminating in the August 1969 riots and deployment of British troops.[13] The IRA initially focused on defence, but it began an offensive operation in 1971 (see timeline). The IRA's primary goal was to force the British to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland. It used guerrilla tactics against the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary in both rural and urban areas. It also carried out a bombing campaign in Northern Ireland and England against what it saw as political and economic targets. Telephoned warnings were usually sent before such bombings. The IRA called a final ceasefire in July 1997, when Sinn Féin were admitted into the Northern Ireland peace talks. It supported the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and in 2005 it disarmed under international supervision.


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