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The IRA (Irish Republican Army) is a name used to describe several armed movements in Irelandmarker in the 20th and 21st centuries, though the first known use of the term occurred in the Fenian raids on Canada in the 1860s.

All claim descent from the original Irish Republican Army, which was formed from the Irish Volunteers. It was the army of the Irish Republic, declared by Dáil Éireann in 1919. Most Irish people dispute the claims of more recently created organizations that insist that they are the only legitimate descendants of the original IRA, often referred to as the "Old IRA".

The playwright and former IRA member Brendan Behan once said that the first issue on any IRA agenda was "the split". For the IRA, that has constantly been the case. The first split came after the signature of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, with supporters of the Treaty forming the nucleus of the National Army while the anti-treaty forces continued to use the name Irish Republican Army. After the end of the Irish Civil War, the IRA was around in one form or another for forty years, when it split into the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA in 1969. The latter then had its own breakaways, namely the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, each claiming to be the true successor of the Army of the Irish Republic.

  • The original IRA (in later years, known as the "Old" IRA), recognised by the First Dáil as the legitimate army of the Irish Republic in April 1921, split into pro-Treaty forces (the National Army, also known as the Government forces or the regulars) and anti-Treaty forces (the Republicans, irregulars or Executive forces) after the Treaty.
  • The Irish Republican Army - the anti-treaty IRA which fought and lost the civil war and which thereafter refused to recognise either the Irish Free State or Northern Irelandmarker, deeming them both to be creations of British imperialism. It existed in one form or another for over 40 years before splitting in 1969.
  • The Official IRA (OIRA), the remainder of the IRA after the 1969 split with the Provisionals; led by Cathal Goulding and primarily Marxist in its political orientation. It is now inactive in the military sense, while its political wing, Official Sinn Fein, became the Workers Party of Ireland.
  • The Provisional IRA (PIRA), which broke from the OIRA in 1969 over the latter's failing to protect Catholic communities in Northern Irelandmarker. Though strongly opposed to the OIRA's Marxism, it also has a left-wing orientation and increasing political activity. Since the decline of the OIRA in the mid 1970's, the term 'IRA' (without qualifiers) is now used exclusively to denote this particular group.
  • The Continuity IRA (CIRA), broke from the PIRA in 1986 because the latter ended its policy on abstentionism (thus recognising the authority of the Republic of Irelandmarker).
  • The Real IRA (RIRA), a 1997 breakaway from the PIRA consisting of members opposed to the peace process.

Genealogy of the IRA and its splits

Here in more detail is a representation of a genealogical tree of Irish nationalist movements derived from the original IRA:

See also

 For a diagrammatic version of this, see Genealogy of the IRA.


  1. - The Irish Times - Mon, Feb 28, 2005 - Primates' creative ambiguity averts schism

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