IRA (Irish Republican Army)

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The IRA (Irish Republican Army or Irish Republican Army) is an Irish paramilitary group created in 1919. Its purpose is an Ireland completely independent from the United Kingdom, for which they resorted to armed actions using guerrilla tactics.

The origin of this armed organization dates back to 1916, when the insurrection of the Irish nationalists took place.

Faced with the uprising, Britain turned to the army to suppress the uprising. Despite managing to crush the uprising, the Irish cause was gaining sympathy among the people as the conflict achieved international notoriety.

Origin of the IRA

In 1918, the Irish nationalist Sinn Féin party would end up winning the elections and counting on the backing of the IRA as an armed organization. Later, between 1919 and 1921, the country was plunged into war, with the IRA clashing with the police and the British army. In this sense, the IRA used a guerrilla warfare tactic to combat British forces.

Finally, in 1921, the conflict ended with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London. In this way, the south of Ireland became an independent state while Northern Ireland remained under British sovereignty.

Ireland was constituted as a republic headed by Eamon de Valera. However, this did not stop the claims of the IRA, which did not accept a divided Ireland. As a consequence, the so-called Irish Republican Army continued to carry out armed actions in Ulster. Now, in 1939, the IRA ended up being considered an illegal organization on Irish territory.

The provisional IRA

Already in the 1960s, paramilitary groups carried out violent actions against the Protestant population of Ulster. In this way, the tension between Catholics and Protestants was increasing, which made the situation untenable in August 1969. In response, the most radical Irish nationalists created the so-called Provisional IRA, which was constituted as a socialist and revolutionary paramilitary organization. Their goals were clear: to drive the British out of Northern Ireland and win the backing of the United States.

Thus, the IRA launched a bloody campaign of bombings and assassinations in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The streets of Belfast became on numerous occasions authentic battlefields and the United Kingdom ended up deploying the army.

The Good Friday Agreement and IRA spin-offs

After long years of violence in Northern Ireland, in 1998, the Irish nationalists of Sinn Féin, the Northern Irish Protestants and the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland, managed to reach an agreement to stop the violence. The Good Friday Agreement, signed in April 1998, broadly contained the following terms:

  • Dissolution of the IRA and delivery of its arsenals.
  • End of armed actions and of any paramilitary group.
  • The British army was to leave Northern Ireland.
  • Release of those prisoners who were willing to respect the terms of the ceasefire.
  • The political parties in Northern Ireland agreed to use only peaceful and democratic avenues.
  • Greater political and legislative autonomy for Northern Ireland. Unionists and Nationalists share political and legislative power.

Although the Good Friday Agreement was ratified by the people through a referendum, there were splits of the IRA contrary to said treaty. Thus, members of the IRA dissatisfied with the peace accords (called authentic IRA), perpetrated the bloody attack in Omagh in August 1998.

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