Military


Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA)
Continuity Army Council IRA
Óglaigh na hÉireann
(Volunteers of Ireland)

Description

The Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) is a radical terrorist group dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland that has opposed calls for an IRA cease-fire. The Continuity IRA (which has attempted to drop the term "Continuity") was formed in 1986 in opposition to Sein Fein's decision to take part in elections in the Irish Free State and other British institutions in Northern Ireland. Organized into small, tightly knit cells, Continuity IRA supports policies similar to those of the Political Party Republican Sinn Féin, though it is not formally associated with any political party. Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act [PTA], the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland may proscribe any organization that "appears...to be concerned in, or in promoting or encouraging terrorism occurring in the United Kingdom and connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland." Membership in proscribed loyalist and republican paramilitary groups is punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment. In June 1997 the Secretary of State proscribed the Continuity Army Council IRA.

Activities

Bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, extortion, and robberies. Before its 1994 cease-fire, targets included senior British Government officials, British military and police in Northern Ireland, and Northern Irish Loyalist paramilitary groups. Since breaking its cease-fire in February 1996, IRA's operations have included bombing campaigns against train and subway stations and shoppping areas on mainland Britain, British military and Royal Ulster Constabulary targets in Northern Ireland, and a British military facility on the European Continent. The Council has claimed responsibility for attacks on the police and army and is suspected in a number of other sectarian attacks in Northern Ireland, including a car bomb attack in Markethill in September 1997.

Strength

According to the State Department, CIRA has fewer than 50 hard-core activists. Eleven CIRA members have been convicted of criminal charges, and others are awaiting trial. Police counterterrorist operations have reduced the group's strength, but CIRA has been able to reconstitute its membership through active recruiting efforts.

Location/Area of Operation

Northern Ireland, Irish Republic, Great Britain, and Europe.

External Aid

Has received aid from a variety of groups and countries and considerable training and arms from Libya and, at one time, the PLO. May also have acquired arms and materiel from the Balkans in cooperation with the Real IRA. Also is suspected of receiving funds and arms from sympathizers in the United States. Similarities in operations suggest links to the ETA.



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