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The Irish Republican Army

The Irish Republican Army, also called the Provisional Irish Republican Army, is a revolutionary military organisation based in the Irish republic (O'Brien, 1999). This Army has North Ireland as its home base, although it has its presence and operations throughout Great Britain, Ireland and Europe. The Irish Republican Army is strictly a paramilitary organization. However, it has a political wing called the Sinn Fein that defends the republicans. Most of these republicans are Catholics, who had been in a constant battle with the Protestants (Moloney, 2002).

The Irish Republican Army was formed with an aim of removing all the British forces from North Ireland and uniting the nation of Ireland. Because of the manner and nature in which the Irish Republican Army had conducted its activities, it was categorised as a proscribed terrorist group, by the British home office. Any other group that has originated from the Irish Republican Army is also placed in that category of proscribed terrorist groups. The Irish Republican Army has never been classified among the terrorist organisations by the state department. However, as it is discussed below, it has been involved in assassinations, bombings, extortions and kidnappings, all which are characteristic of a terrorist group. The splinter groups originating from the Irish Republican Army are actively involved in terrorist activities. These Irish Republic Army splinter groups are categorised by the state department as terrorist groups. The real Irish Republican Army and the continuity Irish Republican Army are still involved in active terrorist activities (Coaffee, 2003).

The history of the formation of the emergence of the Irish Republican Army dates back to the twentieth century. This started when Ireland was fighting for national independence from the hands of Great Britain. The republic of Ireland was under the rule of the British people, who also formed the protestant community. In the year 1801, the Anglican United Kingdom of Great Britain (English Protestants) joined with the Roman Catholic Ireland. The Protestants were able to embrace technology and develop more than the Catholics. Therefore, they were economically superior to the Catholics, and they formed the ruling class. They made rules that favoured them and oppressed the Catholics. In the following hundreds of years that followed, the Catholics opposed the Protestants, and the Irish Republican Army was in the forefront of such opposition as it aimed to drive out all the British out of Ireland (Geraghty, 1998).

The first Irish Republican Army emerged from the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which was an organisation formed on November 1983. This first Irish Republican Army was involved in the fight for independence in Ireland between the year 1919 and 1921. It did this through carefully planned guerrilla campaigns against the rule of the British government. The Irish Republican Army was also against the splitting of Ireland into two states. In 1921, an Anglo-Irish peace treaty was signed in an effort to end the war. The signing of this peace treaty caused a severe split within the Irish Republican Army. Those members who were in support of the peace treaty formed a nucleus of the Irish national army. Those members opposing  the peace agreement, who were the majority, started a civil war against their former army members. They did this with the intention of creating a republic of Ireland that was fully independent of the British rule. Although they failed in their course of war, they remained in existence with the main aim of overthrowing the Irish Free State and the Northern Ireland republics. They worked and fought tirelessly to form unified republic of Ireland (Richard, 2003).

In these early stages of its formation, Michael Collins was the chairman of the provisional government. He was also the commander-in-chief of the Ireland’s national army. In the year 1919, Michael Collins was also the president of the Irish republican brotherhood. He is credited with the formation of the Irish Republican Army from the remnants of the rebel units, which had dispersed after the Easter rebellion. He was able to assemble militant members of the Irish volunteers and form the Irish Republican Army.

The Irish Republican Army had an organised leadership structure. The top army council was headed by the chief of staff. In all the respective levels of leadership, the Irish Republican Army would send its representatives to the general army conventions. The general army convention was the sovereign decision making body in the Irish Republican Army. The general army conventions had regular meetings before 1969. However, the complexity of mobilising and organising an illegal group to meet in secret has reduced the number of these meetings (Bowyer, 1997).

The general army convention then elects a team of twelve executives. The elected team of twelve executives then appoints seven volunteers, who form the Irish Republican Army council. This elected council was given the mandate of directing the policies of the group, running the day to day errands and also making key tactical decisions. The army council is also mandated with the task of appointing a chief of staff from amongst themselves. The chief of staff is responsible for the appointments of directors of different departments such as finance, engineering, intelligence, publicity, security and operations. The chief of staff also appoints an Irish Republican Army quartermaster general (Coogan, 2000).

The lowest ranking members, who are the ordinary members of the Irish Republican Army, are referred to as volunteers. Before the year 1970, the volunteers were grouped and organised in units that were based on the conventional military structures. These volunteers, who lived together, formed a unit called a company. In most cases, the company was a part of a battalion, which was then a part of a brigade. However, most of the battalions were not connected to any brigade (Coaffee, 2003).

The Irish Republican Army was made up of five brigade areas, which were located in the war zone. The brigades were positioned in Belfast, Armagh, Monaghan, Derry and Donegal. The numbers of volunteers who were available in the brigades varied from time to time. In august 1969, a brigade located in Belfast had less than fifty members, who were active in the group’s activities. In contrast, more than one thousand two hundred volunteers were in the brigade by the end of 1971. This high number of membership made the army council lose control over the brigade. At the battalion and company level, there was a definite leadership structure consisting of a commanding officer, explosives officer, quartermaster and an intelligence officer. In some of the battalions, there was a finance or training officer to assist in the running of the battalion (Bowyer, 1997).

In the year 1969, the Irish Republican Army was divided into two main groups due to internal disagreements. One of the groups, made up of the officials, was in support of a united socialist republic of Ireland, but they were against the use of terrorist activities to achieve this vision. The other group, which was made up of other provisional members, was also in support of the formation of a united socialist republic of Ireland, and they believe that terrorism was the most efficient tool they would use to achieve their mission. The provisional group of the Irish Republican Army began its terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland and latter spread it out to the territories of Great Britain (Moloney, 2002).

In its tenure, the Irish Republican Army has been involved in numerous terrorist attacks that have killed many people and left other scores of people injured. The Irish Republican Army has been involved in bombings, assassinations, raids, street battles and even grenade attacks both in Ireland and beyond. The provisional Irish Republican Army members started their terrorist activities in the form of assassinations, small bombing in the province and sniper attacks. Their primary targets were the prison guards, court judges, drug dealers, British troops, informers in Ulster, police officers and their rival paramilitary militants. During this period, they received little public support, and the number of volunteers was small (Coaffee, 2003).

It was not until January 1972 when the number of people willing to volunteer sky rocketed to a point where it even went out of control. The surge in this number of volunteers was prompted by the British troops that opened fire on a group of Catholics gathered for a public rally in Londonderry. This ambush killed fourteen civilians, and the provisional Irish Republican Army was able to find numerous volunteers to fight the British troops. The volunteers became violent, and they launched a series of bombing campaigns both in Britain and around Northern Ireland. These attacks targeted both the civilians and the British military (Geraghty, 1998).

During the fight for independence, the Irish Republican Army was involved in numerous murders of police. Michael Collins, who was the director of intelligence in the Irish Republican Army, had organised a group of assassins, called the squad. This group was based in Dublin. This group of assassins targeted the police who were involved in gathering intelligence concerning the Irish Republican Army. The squad had been able to kill four Dublin Metropolitan policemen and eleven royal Irish constabulary men towards the end of the year 1919. The Irish Republican Army also burned down more than four hundred barracks previously occupied by the royal Irish constabulary. They did this in an organised operation throughout Ireland in April 1920 (Oppenheimer, 2009).

On other attacks between January and June 1920, the Irish Republican Army attacked fortified police barracks located around the Irish towns. In this period, sixteen fortified police barracks were destroyed entirely while around twenty nine others were badly damaged. After the British had formulated laws that allowed for the imprisonment and execution of members of the Irish Republican Army, the attacks shifted from the direct ambush attacks into guerrilla war fares. During this period, the Irish Republican Army, under the guidance of Tom Barry, ambushed and killed seventeen out of eighteen British Auxiliaries. Thirteen other British soldiers were ambushed and killed under the command of Liam Lynch in 1921.

In another ambush, named the Belfast’s bloody Sunday, the Irish Republican Army attacked the catholic community in Belfast (Coaffee, 2003). It burned down houses of the residents and looted their property. In this ambush, more than four hundred people were killed. In the morning of this bloody Sunday, the Irish Republican Army, through their assassination squad, killed fourteen people. Nine of those killed were British agents, and they were murdered in the presence of their wives. These infuriated the British forces, and they opened fire on a football crowd at Croke Park. In this massacre, fourteen civilians were killed. The murder of these civilians led the Irish Republican Army into other attacks. During the subsequent attacks, most of the killed people were Catholics although the Irish Republican Army was working to protect them. Many houses and industries belonging to both Protestants and Christians were also burned down (David, 1998).

In July 1921, the provisional Irish Republican Army was involved in a bombing spree, in Belfast. This day was labelled the bloody Friday after the incidence claimed the lives of nine people and injured one hundred and thirty other people. Among the nine people that were killed on this day, two of the dead were British soldiers. On this day, a total of twenty two bombs were planted in the city centre of Belfast. These bombs were then detonated one after the other in a time frame of seventy five minutes. Among the one hundred and thirty people who were injured in this terror attack, seventy seven of them were children and women. Warnings and distress calls had been made to the police thirty minutes before the attacks began, but this was not enough to help the police prevent the bombings. The Irish Republican Army officially apologised after thirty years for the harm that it inflicted on unarmed civilians with this bombing (Coogan, 2000).

In the year 1974, the Irish Republican Army was involved in the bombing of a pub in Birmingham that resulted to the death of nineteen people. This attack occurred on 21st November 1974 in two pubs, the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the town, located in Birmingham, England. Although a warning had been sent to the police, they were not able to evacuate the people inside the pubs in time. The bombings claimed the lives of nineteen people and injured more than one hundred and eighty people. After the attack, the Irish Republican Army denied the responsibility but the British government shouldered the responsibility on them (Geraghty, 1998).

In the year 1979, the Irish Republican Army was involved in the assassination of Lord Mountbatten. Lord Mountbatten was a naval officer and a British statesman who was a cousin to the queen Elizabeth II. He was assassinated when he was on holiday at his summer home in Mullaghmore. He had gone for tuna fishing on 27th August, 1979 despite receiving security warnings concerning his safety.  The boat that he was using had been fitted with a bomb by Thomas McMahon, who belonged to the Irish Republican Army. When the bomb was detonated, it killed Lord Mountbatten, one of the earl’s twin grandsons, Nicholas, and a local boy who had been employed as a boat boy. The Irish Republican Army claimed the responsibility of the assassination. They claimed that it was a way of reminding the English people that they were still illegally occupying their country (David, 1998).

In the year 1984, the Irish Republican Army bombed a Brighton hotel where a meeting of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet was taking place. This incidence occurred on 12th October 1984. The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was residing with her cabinet at the grand Hotel in Brighton for the conservative party conference. The bomb was planted in the hotel by Patrick Magee, who was a member of the provisional Irish Republican Army (Bowyer, 1997). When the bomb detonated, neither the Prime Minister nor her government ministers were injured. However, five people were killed in the incidence, including the parliamentary Treasury secretary and a conservative member of parliament. Thirty four other people got injuries, and they were admitted in the hospital for recovery. After this incidence, the provisional Irish Republican Army released a statement claiming responsibility of the bombing. The provisional army also warned the Prime Minister that she had been lucky once, and it would take only one more lucky chance from the army to assassinate her. They also proclaimed that they could not allow Britain to continue occupying their country, torturing their prisoners, and shooting the people of Ireland in their own streets (David, 1998).

In 1993, the provisional Irish Republican Army was involved in a car bombing that resulted to the demise of one person and caused damages worth one billion dollars. This bombing occurred in March 1993. Using a stolen truck, the provisional Irish Republican Army smuggled a one-tonne fertiliser bomb into England and drove it into Bishops gate. Warnings from the Irish Republican Army minutes before the explosion allowed the police to evacuate the area and reduce the number of casualties. The only person who died in this incidence was a photographer who had ignored the evacuation notice. However, forty four people were injured in this bombing. Buildings up to five hundred meters away were damaged due to the size and strength of the bomb. There was over five hundred tonnes of broken glass and a large office space that was affected.

In other consequent attacks, the provisional Irish Republican Army was involved in several mortar attacks in Northern Ireland. The army had homemade mortars that had a shooting range of a few meters. The first death caused by these mortars was from a British soldier who was trying to defuse a misfired projectile. The Irish Republican Army continued with similar attacks using the mortar in the early 1990’s. At one point, they planned and executed a mortar attack in the residence of the British Prime Minister. They also attacked the London’s Heathrow airport before successfully shooting down two British helicopters between March and July in 1994 (Coaffee, 2003).

After these numerous acts of terrorism running through several decades, the Irish Army formally announced that it was going to cease fire in August 1994. The Irish Republican Army pledged its commitment to using non-violent ways to unite the two states of Ireland. They were able to observe the cease-fire until a short period in the year 1996. Prime Minister Tony Blair initiated the peace talks again and facilitated the signing of a cease-fire agreement after the watershed on Good Friday. The Irish Republican Army restated their commitment to the peace agreement and again pledged to use means which were not violent to achieve their vision. Although the Irish Republican Army has clearly stated that they had agreed to use peaceful ways of achieving their goal, their members did not stop taking part in criminal activities, including robberies and smuggling.

The splinter groups from of Irish Republican Army such as the continuity Irish Republican Army and Real Irish Republican Army were against the peace agreement, and the cease fire. They slowed down the negotiations of peace, but in the year 2001, the Irish Army formally announced that it was going to disarm its army. The Irish Republican Army took another further step and gave a public apology to every person who was affected by its previous attacks. In the year 2005, a report that checked the progress of the Irish Republican Army showed that they had disarmed its members and they were respecting the peace agreement (Dillon, 1996).

Currently, the Irish Republican Army continues to obey the agreements of peace that it formulated with Britain. Therefore, the Irish republican Army is not a threat to the United States of America (Coogan, 2000). To signify the warm blood between the British monarch and the Irish Republican Army, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II shook the hand of Martin McGuiness, a former commander of the Provisional Irish Republican Army in June 2012. The groups that pose a threat to the U.S.A are the breakaway organisations of the Irish Republican Army that are not in agreement with the signed peace agreements. The Irish Republican Army received some funding from some sympathisers in the U.S.A. This group of people, who funded the Irish Republican Army is a threat to peace in U.S.A. They can easily support the activities of the breakaway organisations (Dillon, 1996).

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