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Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA)
the Provos
Direct Action Against Drugs (DADD)

Northern Ireland came into existence with the British Government of Ireland Act (1920) which divided Ireland into two areas: the Irish Free State, made up of the 26 southern counties, and Northern Ireland - comprising of the counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh. Roman Catholics, who made up around one-third of the population of Northern Ireland, were largely opposed to the partition.

On 19 July 1997, the IRA declared a cease-fire, effective July 20. At the end of August, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced her finding that the cease-fire was being observed, allowing Sinn Fein, the political party closely identified with the IRA, entry into negotiations on Northern Ireland's political future. The July 20 cease-fire ended a 17-month terrorism campaign and led to the opening of inclusive political talks in September. Following the cease-fire there was a marked decrease--although not a total cessation--of sectarian violence. Police believe that paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland were responsible for 22 deaths, 251 shootings, and 78 bombings during 1997. Both republican and loyalist paramilitary groups continued to engage in vigilante "punishment" attacks, although there was a decrease in the number of such incidents even before the July cease-fire. Despite the lowering of the overall unemployment rate in Northern Ireland in December 1997 to 7.8 per cent, the unemployment rate for Catholic men in Northern Ireland remained twice that for Protestant men.

Sinn Fin is the oldest political party in Ireland, named from the Irish Gaelic expression for ``We Ourselves''. Since being founded in 1905 it has worked for the right of Irish people as a whole to attain national self-determination, and has elected representatives in every major Irish town and city.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) was formed in 1969 as the clandestine armed wing of Sinn Fein, a legal political movement dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland. The Provos were formed from the Official Sinn Fein and the Official IRA. The Official IRA declared a ceasefire in the summer of 1972, and subsequently the term IRA has been used for the organisation that had developed from the 'Provisional' IRA. Organized into small, tightly knit cells under the leadership of the Army Council, the Provisional IRA was the largest of the three republican armed resistance groups.

The policies of Sinn fein under the leadership Gerry Adams from 1994 to 1998 led to a split in the Provisional Irish Republican Army during the fall of 1997, with one faction accepting the new Good Friday Agreement, and the New or Real IRA continuing armed resistance to British partition. The Provisional IRA has accepted the ceasefire and it has endorsed taking of seats the new Stormont northern Assembly. Direct Action Against Drugs (DADD) is a cover name used byr the IRA.

IRA traditional activities have included 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 IRA has several hundred members, plus several thousand sympathizers, despite the defection of some members to RIRA and CIRA.

The IRA operates in Northern Ireland, Irish Republic, Great Britain, and Europe.

The IRA has received aid from a variety of groups and countries and considerable training and arms from Libya and, at one time, the PLO. Also, the IRA is suspected of receiving funds and arms from sympathizers in the United States. Similarities in operations suggest links to the ETA. In August 2002, three suspected IRA members were arrested in Colombia on charges of assisting the FARC to improve its explosives capabilities.

In July 2002, the IRA reiterated its commitment to the peace process and apologized to the families of what it called "non-combatants" who had been killed or injured by the IRA. The IRA is organized into small, tightly knit cells under the leadership of the Army Council.

In April 2002, the IRA conducted a second act of arms decommissioning that the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) called "varied" and "substantial." In late October, however, the IRA suspended contact with the IICD. The IRA retains the ability to conduct paramilitary operations. The IRA's extensive criminal activities reportedly provide the organizations with millions of dollars each year.

According to the State Department Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 Report, the IRA conducted a third act of arms decommissioning in October 2003 that the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) called "considerably larger" than the previous IRA move. The group disposed of light, medium, and heavy weapons, ammunition, and explosives. The IRA retains the ability to conduct paramilitary operations. The IRA's extensive criminal activities reportedly provide the organizations with millions of dollars each year.

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