The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA; more commonly referred to as the IRA, the Provos, or by some of its supporters as the army or the Ra) is an Irish Republican paramilitary organisation. The organisation has been outlawed and classified as a terrorist group in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States and many other countries. Since its emergence in 1969, its stated aim has been the reunification of Ireland, which it believed could not be achieved without an armed campaign directed against British rule in Northern Ireland. more...
On July 28, 2005, the Provisional IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign, stating that it would work to achieve its aims using "purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means" and that " Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever".
Like all other organisations calling themselves the IRA (see List of IRAs), the Provisionals refer to themselves in public announcements and internal discussions as Óglaigh na hÉireann (literally "Volunteers of Ireland"), the official Irish language title of the Irish Defence Forces (the Irish army).
The Provisional IRA has its ideological and organisational roots in the pre-1969 anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army. This organisation split into two groups at its Special Army Convention in December 1969, mainly over the issue of abstentionism and over the question on how to respond to the escalating violence in Northern Ireland. The two groups that emerged from the split became known as the Official IRA (which espoused a Marxist analysis of Irish partition) and the Provisional IRA.
Although a split in the IRA was inevitable given the irreconcilability of the two factions, a number of ministers of the then Fianna Fáil government attempted to help the fledgling Provisionals by purchasing arms for them. This gave rise to the Arms Crisis scandal of 1970, and marked the end of Fianna Fail's transition from the "slightly constitutional" party (with an ambiguous attitude to political violence) established by Eamon de Valera in 1926 to a completely constitutional one.
The main figures in the early Provisional IRA were Seán Mac Stiofáin (who served as the organisation's first chief of staff), Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (the first president of Provisional Sinn Féin), Dáithí Ó Conaill, and Joe Cahill. All served on the first Provisional IRA Army Council. The Provisional appellation deliberately echoed the "Provisional Government" proclaimed during the 1916 Easter Rising.
The Provisionals maintained a number of the principles of the pre-1969 IRA. It considered British rule in Northern Ireland and the government of the Republic of Ireland to be illegitimate. Like the pre-1969 IRA, it believed that the IRA Army Council was the legitimate government of the all-island Irish Republic. This belief was based on a complicated series of perceived political inheritances which constructed a legal continuity from the Second Dáil. Most of these abstentionist principles were abandoned in 1986, although Sinn Féin still refuses to take its seats in the British parliament.
Initially, both the Official IRA and Provisional IRA espoused military means to pursue their goals. Unlike the Officials, however, the Provisionals called for a more aggressive campaign against the Northern Ireland state. While the Officials were initially the larger organisation and enjoyed more support from the republican constituency, the Provisionals came to dominate, especially after the Official IRA declared an indefinite ceasefire in 1972.
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