What exactly was the IRA?
The provisional Irish Republican Army, or IRA, is an outgrowth of an older group known as the Irish Republican Army, which fought an insurgency that successfully challenged British rule in the whole of Ireland in the early years of the twentieth century. The 1916-1921 warfare culminated in the creation of an independent Irish Free State in 1921. But in exchange for its independence, the old IRA's leadership agreed to allow Ireland's six northern counties to remain under British rule. Britain reconstituted these provinces as Ulster or Northern Ireland, and inside the IRA, significant elements rejected this partition and launched a civil war ultimately won by the rejectionists. Ties between the Free State and Britain remained chilly into the 1970s. Meanwhile, the old IRA maintained a low level campaign of violence aimed at reuniting Ireland. By the 1960s, however, its activities had dwindled significantly.
In the late 1960s, developments in Northern Ireland hastened the declining influence of the old guard. Reacting to discrimination against Catholics in the British-ruled province, civil rights marchers engaged in civil disobedience and were met by violent crackdowns from the Protestant-dominated police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Tensions rose and Britain deployed regular army troops to the province's streets, ostensibly to protect the Catholic minority. These tensions split the IRA, too, which in 1969, the IRA splintered into two groups, the Dublin-based "officials," who advocated a united socialist Ireland by peaceful means, and the Belfast-based "provisionals," who vowed to use violence as a catalyst for unification.
At first, the provisional IRA, or "provos" conducted sniper attacks, assassinations, and several small bombings in the province, and appeared to have little public support. Then, in January 1972, British troops opened fire on a Catholic rally in Londonderry, killing fourteen unarmed people. PIRA recruitment soared, and the official wing of the organization fell away into obscurity. Their violent comrades proceeded to launch a series of bombing campaigns around Northern Ireland and in Britain targeting both military targets and civilian populations. So-called "Loyalist" groups determined to retain British rule sprung up to challenge them, and in the crossfire, together with British military and Northern Irish police forces, some 3,600 people would die before a peace accord was signed in the late 1990s. Today, the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, which means "Ourselves Alone" in the Gaelic language, holds various positions within the provincial Northern Irish government. The Royal Ulster Constabulary has been disbanded, Loyalist groups largely have laid down their arms, and most British troops have left the province.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Republican_Army - 82k -