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

Northern Ireland appointed leaders of its two main political parties to head the country's power-sharing government on 11 January 2020, bringing an end to a three-year standoff. The Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had shared power for most of the years since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that underpins the country's peace process, but the power-sharing government broke down at the beginning of 2017. Sinn Fein and the largest pro-British party, the DUP, had blamed each other for a number of failed attempts to find a solution to the impasse.

Michelle O'Neill, leader of Sinn Fein, was appointed deputy first minister as part of the accord and told the assembly in Belfast: "This is a defining moment for politics here. Our mission must be to deliver on health, education and secure jobs for everyone across the whole community." Naomi Long, leader of the centrist, nonsectarian Alliance Party, will be justice minister, and in a show of cross-party support, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey was elected speaker with DUP backing.

Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein party, which favors reuniting the North with the Republic, vehemently opposes a no-deal exit from the EU. "In the event of a hard Brexit and a crash Brexit, I don't know for the life of me how anybody could sustain an argument that things remain the same," Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald told BBC radio. She warned that the return of a hard border would wreck the Northern Irish economy and threaten a delicate peace deal known as the 1998 Good Friday agreement. The accord ended decades of sectarian violence between pro-British protestants and pro-Irish Catholics known as The Troubles.

Mary Lou McDonald will succeed Gerry Adams as the head of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein, the party said on 20 January 2018, completing a generational shift for the Irish nationalist party as it bids to enter government on both sides of the Irish border. Adams, a pivotal figure in the political life of Ireland for almost 50 years, announced he would step down as leader of the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) last November after more than three decades in charge. McDonald, an English literature graduate from Trinity College Dublin who has been at the forefront of a new breed of Sinn Fein politicians softening the party's image, was the only Sinn Fein lawmaker to put her name forward for the leadership ahead of a special convention on 10 February 2018.

Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party, fell just short of becoming the largest party in March 04, 2017 elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Democratic Unionist Party led with 28 seats, just one more than Sinn Fein’s total. The Democratic Unionists were narrowly on top with 28.1 percent, down 1 point from the last election 10 months ago. Sinn Fein trailed with 27.9 percent, up 4 points, the narrowest sectarian gap in Northern Ireland electoral history. At stake in the outcome from the snap election was the revival or demise of power-sharing between Irish Catholics and British Protestants, the central objective of the US-brokered Good Friday peace accord nearly two decades ago.

Nationalism was and is a potent populist force in Irish politics. The turn of the century witnessed a surge of interest in Irish nationalism, including the founding of Sinn Fein ("Ourselves Alone") as an open political movement. The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 put home rule efforts on hold, and, in reaction, Padraic Pearse and James Connolly led the unsuccessful Easter Rising of 1916. The decision by the British-imposed court structure to execute the leaders of the rebellion, coupled with the British Government's threat of conscription, alienated public opinion and produced massive support for Sinn Fein in the 1918 general election. Under the leadership of Eamon de Valera, the elected Sinn Fein deputies constituted themselves as the first Dail. Tensions only increased: British attempts to smash Sinn Fein ignited the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-1921. The end of the war brought the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, which established the Irish Free State of 26 counties.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed in 1969 as the clandestine armed wing of the political movement Sinn Fein. The IRA is devoted both to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and to unifying Ireland. The IRA conducted attacks until its cease-fire in 1997 and agreed to disarm as part of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which established the basis for peace in Northern Ireland. The political situation in Northern Ireland is changing as well. In the North, the vision of peace, enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement and based on inclusive power sharing, is available to all.

In Northern Ireland, in May 1996 elections were held, with Sinn Fein doing particularly well. However, the party was turned away from the negotiations, chaired by Sen. Mitchell, when they began on June 10 because of the IRA's continued campaign of violence. Throughout the latter half of 1996 and early 1997 the negotiations made little progress. The May 1997 election of Tony Blair and the Labour Party government in the U.K., however, re-energized the process and led to increasing pressure on the IRA/Sinn Fein to restore the cease-fire. After gaining assurances that the negotiations process would be time-limited and that decommissioning would not again become a stumbling block, the IRA restored its cease-fire in July 1997, and Sinn Fein was admitted to the talks in September 1997. In a final marathon push in April 1998, which included the personal intervention of President Bill Clinton, all parties, on April 10, 1998 signed the Good Friday agreement.

The political leadership joined the call for the IRA to disarm, demobilize, and disband, once and for all. Stealing from banks and slaying men in the streets to settle personal grievances were not the acts of freedom fighters. They were the work of a small minority trying to hold back the forces of history and democracy, and they hurt the very people for whom they claimed to fight.

The IRA has long enjoyed the support in Ireland of people who might have regretted their tactics, but appreciated their service in the republican cause and their defense of Catholics persecuted in the North. In February 2010 Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party agreed on a roadmap and timeline for the devolution of policing and justice powers.

Northern Ireland has taken an important step toward a lasting peace. Its two largest political parties, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, have agreed on a roadmap and timeline for the devolution of policing and justice powers after months of a political standoff. Sinn Féin’s strong performance in both European Parliament (EP) and local elections in 2014 fueled speculation that the party was gaining momentum ahead of general elections scheduled for 2016.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was a key figure in the 1998 peace settlement after 30 years of killings in Northern Ireland between Irish Catholic nationalists and mostly Protestant pro-British loyalists seeking to keep Northern Ireland as part of Britain. Historians and witnesses say Adams served as an IRA commander for decades during the conflict. Adams has always denied holding any position in the outlawed group.

Martin McGuinness of Derry, Northern Ireland, died on March 21, 2017, at the age of 66. McGuinness was actively involved in negotiations and peace talks; while initially believing that British presence in Ireland could only be ended by armed struggle, he later became a passionate believer in compromise, leading the republican movement away from violence. McGuinness went on to be the Minister of Education from December 2, 1999 to October 14, 2002; in 2007, he became a leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, a position he held until January of 2017.

Irish Republican Army (IRA)

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 Féin 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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Page last modified: 28-01-2020 17:38:02 ZULU