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History of Irish Republican Army

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Irish Republican Army

This article is about the historical organisation that fought in the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence of 1919–21. For the groups that existed from 1922–1969, see Irish Republican Army (1922–1969). For later republican groups using the same name, such as the Provisional IRA, see List of organisations known as the Irish Republican Army.

The list

The original I.R.A

  • (in later years, known as the "Old" IRA), recognised by the First Dáil as the legitimate army of the Irish Republic in April 1921, split into pro-Treaty forces (the National Army, also known as the Government forces or the regulars) and anti-Treaty forces (the Republicans, irregulars or Executive forces) after the Treaty.

The Irish Republican Army

  • (1922–1969) - the anti-treaty IRA which fought and lost the civil war and which thereafter refused to recognise either the Irish Free State or Northern Ireland, deeming them both to be creations of British imperialism. It existed in one form or another for over 40 years before splitting in 1969.

The Official IRA

  • (OIRA), the remainder of the IRA after the 1969 split with the Provisionals; led by Cathal Goulding and primarily Marxist in its political orientation. It is now inactive in the military sense, while its political wing, Official Sinn Féin, became the Workers' Party of Ireland.

The Provisional IRA

  • (PIRA), which broke from the OIRA in 1969 over the latter's failing to protect Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. Though strongly opposed to the OIRA's Marxism, it also has a left-wing orientation and increasing political activity. Since the decline of the OIRA in the mid 1970s, the term 'IRA' (without qualifiers) is now used exclusively to denote this particular group.

The Continuity IRA

  • (CIRA), broke from the PIRA in 1986 because the latter ended its policy on abstentionism (thus recognising the authority of the Republic of Ireland).

The Real IRA

  • (RIRA), a 1997 breakaway from the PIRA consisting of members opposed to the peace process.
  • In April 2011, former members of the Provisional IRA announced a resumption of hostilities, and that "they had now taken on the mantle of the mainstream IRA." They further claimed "We continue to do so under the name of the Irish Republican Army. We are the IRA." and insisted that they "were entirely separate from the Real IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), and the Continuity IRA." They claimed responsibility for the April killing of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr as well as responsibility for other attacks that had previously been claimed by the Real IRA and ONH.

Genealogy of the IRA and its splits

The genealogical tree of Irish nationalist movements derived from the original IRA

  • The original IRA (the "old" IRA) - fought in the War of Independence 1919-1921.
  • That part of the Old IRA that accepted the compromise of the 1921 treaty which established the Irish Free State and that became the initial Free State government. Its supporters became the modern-day Fine Gael Party, currently the largest party in Ireland. With additional recruits, it became the National Army, later known as the Irish Defence Forces.
  • That part of the original IRA organised within Northern Ireland not included within the Free State (see below)
  • That part of the IRA, organised within the twenty six counties that became the Free State, which rejected the compromise of the 1921 treaty with Britain and under Liam Lynch fought the Irish Civil War against the Free State 'National Army' (led by Michael Collins), with the support of the anti-treaty faction of Sinn Féin, led by Éamon de Valera.
  • Fianna Fáil - some years after losing the Civil War a faction led by de Valera resigned from Sinn Féin and established the Fianna Fáil party, which is currently the third-largest party in Ireland. (In December 2007, Fianna Fáil was officially registered as a political party in Northern Ireland).
  • In the 1930s the remainder of the IRA, including that part of the Old IRA organised within Northern Ireland, attempted a bombing campaign in Britain, a campaign in Northern Ireland (after a shift in leadership to the north) and some military activities in the Free State (later the Republic of Ireland). The World War II period also saw attempts to gain financial and military support from Nazi Germany and German Intelligence. After a period of poor relations, the symbiotic relationship between Sinn Féin and the IRA was re-established in the late 1930s.
  • By the 1960s, after the failed border campaign, Sinn Féin moved towards a Marxist class struggle outlook. With the outbreak of the Troubles Sinn Féin, or as it came to be called after the formation of the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin, Official IRA / Official Sinn Féin found itself sidelined because of its decision not to engage in aggressive warfare against the British state. Over time the Official IRA faded away, while Official Sinn Féin moved to a purely Marxist position, renaming itself first Sinn Féin the Workers Party, and then in 1982 the The Workers' Party.
  • After the Official IRA's 1972 ceasefire it and Official Sinn Féin suffered a split in 1974 leading to the formation of the extreme left wing Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and the Irish Republican Socialist Party, led by Seamus Costello (later assassinated by the Official IRA during a bloody feud). The INLA was known for a series of internal feuds and some of the more sectarian killings from the nationalist side.
  • In 1987, the Irish People's Liberation Organisation split from the INLA.
  • In 1992 the Workers' Party suffered a split when a majority faction failed to secure changes. They left and formed the Democratic Left the most leftist of the parties in the Republic with seats in the Dáil Éireann (though also operating in Northern Ireland). Ultimately the Democratic Left merged into the Labour Party.
  • n 1969, the more traditionalist republican members split off into the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin. The Provisional IRA operated mostly in Northern Ireland, using violence against the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British army, and British institutions and economic targets. They also killed members of the Irish army and the Garda Síochána (the Irish police force), which was against one of their standing orders.
  • A further split occurred in 1986, when the former leader of Sinn Féin Ruairí Ó Brádaigh - who was replaced by Gerry Adams in 1983 - walked out of the Sinn Féin Ard fheis after delegates voted to end the policy of abstentionism to Leinster House. The followers of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who adhere to republican legitimatism, and opposing Sinn Féin's decision to abandon abstentionism and enter Dáil Éireann, set up a rival party and military wing, called Republican Sinn Féin and the Continuity IRA.
  • In 2006, the Irish Republican Liberation Army split from the Continuity IRA.
  • In 2006, Óglaigh na hÉireann split from the Continuity IRA.
  • In 1997 Members of the Provisional IRA who did not accept the peace process split off to form the Real IRA. Its political wing is the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.
  • In 2009, Óglaigh na hÉireann split from the Real IRA.
  • In 2011 former members of the Provisional IRA announced a resumption of hostilities, under the name "Irish Republican Army".

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