LivingTravelIrish Republican Army - the IRA

Irish Republican Army – the IRA

Defining the ‘Irish Republican Army’, or in short IRA, is not as easy as it sounds: in public perception, as well as in selfish propaganda, many different entities and organizations are combined under this convenient umbrella term. Which tends to muddy the endless waters. And no end is in sight, as the splinter groups “IRA flavor of the month” appear with alarming regularity, claiming the only true title for their activities. Here is a brief summary of the organizations called ‘Irish Republican Army’, with or without additional qualifiers:

Irish Republican Army – 1866 to 1870

Right after the War Between the States, in the years between 1866 and 1870, the Fenian Brotherhood based in the United States instigated and carried out the “Fenian raids.” These attacks ultimately failed on British Army forts and customs posts in Canada, beginning in the hope of putting pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland. The actual raids were carried out by an assortment of Fenians, some apparently dressed in a green uniform (and otherwise very similar to Union army uniforms), the buttons of which bore the abbreviation ‘IRA’ for the Irish Republican Army. .

Also the flags with that nickname seem to have been carried (or at least designed).

Irish Republican Army – 1916 to the 1920s

The nickname ‘Irish Republican Army’ (or at least versions to the same effect) came into use during the Easter Rising of 1916, when the combined forces of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army attempted to overthrow British rule in Ireland. After the defeat, the remnants of the rebel forces reorganized and, from 1918, regularly referred to themselves as the Irish Republican Army, the armed forces of Ireland as an emerging nation-state. From 1919 to 1921, this Irish Republican Army fought against British forces in a guerilla war, the Anglo-Irish War, or the Irish War of Independence.

When this ended with the Treaty, parts of the Irish Republican Army became the regular armed forces of the Free State, while those who disagreed with the partition formed the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army … which fought against the forces of the State. Free. Even after the defeat, many in the Irish Republican Army claimed that they, and not the Dail Eireann, represented the true government of Ireland.

Irish Republican Army – Post-Civil War until the 1960s

The Irish Republican Army continued an underground existence after defeat in the Irish Civil War and was still actively preparing for armed insurrection. Occasional raids, bombings and shootings occurred, both in Ireland and abroad. While continuing to claim legitimacy as both the “true government” and the successor to the Irish republic as declared in 1916, the Irish Republican Army actually became a hotbed of ideas, ideologies and idealists. Changing course from time to time and moving from communist sympathies to collaboration with Nazi Germany (all championed by an early doctrine “by any means necessary” that classified every enemy of Great Britain as a possible ally).

The ‘Border Campaign’ during the 1950s and early 1960s was the last large-scale military engagement of this version of the Irish Republican Army.

1960 Split – Official IRA and Provisional IRA

In the 1960s, the leadership of the Irish Republican Army flirted (again) with communist and socialist ideas, discarding the doctrine of helping only the nationalist side and opting for an all-out proletarian revolution. That did not materialize, mainly due to sectarianism in Northern Ireland. In 1969, the fractions were divided.

The Official Irish Republican Army continued to fight against British forces until 1972 and then announced a conditional ceasefire. Since then, he has mainly made headlines with extensive political statements, internal disputes with other Republicans, and possible involvement in organized crime. Only in 2010 was it disarmed.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army , also known as PIRA or ‘Provos’, carried out most of the armed attacks in the years to come and built a strong political base through Sinn Fein. While primarily engaged in fighting British forces, PIRA was also involved in “side activities” that could be seen as involvement in organized crime and vigilantism. With the rise of Sinn Fein’s political fortune, PIRA became a liability and he was convinced to accept a ceasefire in 1997, which led to the Good Friday Agreement.

In July 2005, the Provisional Irish Republican Army announced the end of its military campaign and dismantled all weapons.

Another dissident group was the Irish National Liberation Army.

Dissidents – CIRA and RIRA

With the Official and Provisional Irish Republican Army slowly drifting from bullet to ballot, the hardliners where (as expected) disappointed and began to break away from the ‘old order’. Several groups were formed, it is often not entirely clear if they are separate entities, where there are overlaps and what the real aim of the group is … apart they form an often ill-defined ideological claim of a ‘free and united Ireland’.

Two large dissident groups claim the name of the Irish Republican Army and therefore legitimacy:

  • The Irish Republican Continuity Army (CIRA) was created as a splinter group from the Provisional IRA in 1986, but did not function actively until the PIRA ceasefire of 1994. The CIRA is still armed and active, its strength and Arsenal are unknown. In the true spirit of republicanism, the CIRA created several splinter groups that also claim to be the only true IRA.
  • The Royal Irish Republican Army (Royal IRA or RIRA) is another splinter group that split from the Provisional IRA, this time in 1997 after the declaration of a ceasefire. The RIRA is the largest and most active of the dissident factions. He was responsible for the 1998 Omagh massacre.

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