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What is the IRA?

The IRA is an ongoing movement in Irish history stemming from the original fighters for freedom from British rule. After partition, the IRA split and later split again into officials and provisionals, who continued the struggle for the reunion of Northern Ireland and Eire. Since the peace settlement, a rump has remained, again split into different groups. In this article, learn more about the IRA.


Movements for independence Oppression by the ruling class in Ireland produced resistance movements, such as the United Irishmen and the Fenians. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, pressure for Irish home rule was developing and the Sinn Fein party had become established. The traditional IRA was the pre-independence military wing of Sinn Fein and is the descendant of the Fenians of the nineteenth century The split It had a variety of leaders during the troubles leading up to the independence of the Irish republic. Among these were Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera. However, when Collins accepted partition, the IRA split, with a faction fighting on. They continued in a war with the government for several years, before being defeated, but the troubles flared up every now and again, as did IRA action. There was some limited action during World War Two.

Provisionals and officials

In 1968, the Northern Ireland troubles were beginning to reactivate as Catholic resistance to economic and social injustice were reaching boiling point. During this time, the IRA began to revive. The Official and Provisional IRA split apart on differences about political agenda and tactics, and soon the official IRA ceased military action and played no part in the fighting. So, if we are to ask what is the IRA, most people would think of the provisionals, who fought a sustained war against Britain to reunite Northern Ireland and Eire. IRA versus INLA We must distinguish the IRA from INLA, a more socialist wing of Irish republicanism, which was always small and was eventually thoroughly defeated by Britain. The provisionals were essentially a Nationalist movement which retained their link to Sinn Fein. The provisionals eventually accepted a ceasefire at the Good Friday agreement under the leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, and is now inactive.

Splinter groups

Some groups continued the struggle, wanting total reunion. These were the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, along with distinct group OGlaigh nah Eirreann, which means soldiers of Ireland, an older name with republican pedigree. These groups have engaged in sporadic action against the union of Britain and Northern Ireland. However, they have little support in the community, except in very small areas and a number are imprisoned.

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