Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Irish Republican Army (IRA), name adopted by a number of armed groups dedicated to ending British rule in Ireland, including Northern Ireland, and claiming allegiance to an independent Irish republic. The term is most commonly applied to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA, also known as Provos or Provisionals), which was formed in 1972.
The modern IRA was created by the disintegration
The modern IRA was created by the disintegration of law and order in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1972. The IRA became the self-proclaimed defender of the Catholic minority against sectarian attack, due to the failure of the police and the army to control the situation. The IRA also waged a terrorist campaign against Britain to force withdrawal of British military forces from Northern Ireland and to establish a united Irish republic. However, in July 2005 the IRA announced it would pursue exclusively peaceful means to achieve these goals. The IRA completed the process of surrendering its weapons, in accordance with the 1998 peace accord known as the Good Friday Agreement, in September 2005.
Origins and Early Activities
English control of Ireland was formally
English control of Ireland was formally established in 1541 when English king Henry VIII was given the title King of Ireland by the Irish Parliament. From then until the 19th century, revolutionary Irish groups staged periodic uprisings against English rule.
One of these groups in the 1860s was the
One of these groups in the 1860s was the first Irish Republican Army. It was the armed wing of the Fenian movement in Ireland, Britain, and North America. The Fenians wished to establish an independent Irish republic, and in 1867 they staged insurrections in Ireland and England. These were unsuccessful, however, and the Fenian movement ceased to exist around 1885.
The Irish Volunteers
The term IRA was later adopted by the Irish
The term IRA was later adopted by the Irish Volunteers who fought against British forces between 1919 and 1921, during the latter stages of the Irish Revolution. The Volunteers were established in response to the formation in 1913 of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a paramilitary organization centered in the province of Ulster, which comprises most of what is now Northern Ireland. The UVF wanted to prevent home rule, or self-government, for Ireland. They feared that Ulster`s largely Protestant population would be underrepresented in an independent Irish government, since most of southern Ireland was Roman Catholic. Conversely, the Irish Volunteers were dedicated to ensuring that home rule was established as a first step toward their primary goal: the creation of an independent Irish republic. By early 1914, Irish society and politics had been militarized by the two volunteer armies and there was the imminent possibility of a civil war over the issue of home rule.
The outbreak of World War I (1914-1918)
The outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) transformed Irish domestic politics. Both the UVF and the vast majority of the Irish Volunteers supported the war effort and enlisted in the Irish regiments of the British army. However, a minority within the Irish Volunteers refused to support the British war effort. On Easter Monday, 1916, this group mounted an unsuccessful insurrection in Ireland resulting in the destruction of central Dublin. The leaders of the insurrection were executed. "See "Easter Rebellion.
The executions created widespread sympathy
The executions created widespread sympathy for the insurgents. Several organizations campaigning against British rule were established in the wake of the revolt. These eventually merged under the banner of the Sinn Fein party, which to this point had been a small nationalist political group. This new support for Sinn Fein led to dramatic success for the party in the 1918 British parliamentary elections. The new revolutionary and republican Sinn Fein achieved an almost total victory outside Ulster, winning 73 out of a possible 105 Irish seats in the House of Commons. On January 21, 1919, the newly elected Sinn Fein representatives declared Ireland independent, and established a revolutionary congress in Dublin, the Dil ireann. On the same day, in County Tipperary, a group of Irish Volunteers shot and killed two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), an armed British police force. In the months following the attack, the Volunteers escalated their military campaign against the RIC. In August 1919 the hitherto autonomous Volunteers took an oath of allegiance to Sinn Fein`s revolutionary Dil and became the Irish Republican Army. Though the IRA and Sinn Fein were united by common goals and had many of the same members, their methods for achieving these goals differed. As a result, the militant IRA and the more politically oriented Sinn Fein remained essentially independent from one another, even after this official alliance.
In December 1920 the British government
In December 1920 the British government passed the Government of Ireland Act, which established six of the nine counties of Ulster as the province of Northern Ireland. However, this solution satisfied neither Northern Ireland, which wanted much closer ties with Britain, or the rest of Ireland, which wanted a unified, independent Irish republic. As a result, the war against the British in southern Ireland became increasingly embittered. The IRA was hampered, however, by a lack of arms and ammunition. While it was successful against the RIC, the IRA failed to achieve a decisive overall victory against the Black and Tans, auxiliary troops sent by Britain to assist the RIC. Though a truce was declared on June 22, 1921, it came about more as a result of British exasperation and embarrassment before the international community than because of a military defeat in Ireland.
The Irish Free State
Negotiations between Sinn Fein and the
Negotiations between Sinn Fein and the British resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 6, 1921, which established the 26 counties outside of Northern Ireland as the Irish Free State. However, the Free State would not be completely independent: Members of its government would still be forced to swear allegiance to the British Crown. Because of this, both the IRA and Sinn Fein split into pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty factions. The pro-Treaty faction was led by Michael Collins, one of those who had negotiated the treaty. Those favoring the treaty believed that, while the treaty did not deliver everything they had fought for, the situation could quickly be improved after the Free State was established. Those opposed to it were led by Sinn Fein president Eamon de Valera; this faction argued that they had sworn allegiance to the republic, and that they could not accept anything less. Despite the controversy, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was accepted by a small majority in the Dil in January 1922, and the Irish Free State was founded on December 6 of the same year.
Between January and June 1922
Between January and June 1922, relations between the opposing factions within Sinn Fein and the IRA deteriorated into violence. In the subsequent Irish Civil War (1922-1923), the anti-Treaty IRA was defeated and many of its leaders were killed. In May 1923 the anti-Treaty IRA called a cease-fire, effectively bringing the war to an end. Despite its surrender, the anti-Treaty IRA continued to exist as the underground military wing of a shadow government, which refused to accept the legitimacy of the Free State. In 1925 the IRA broke all political ties and elected its own executive.
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