The Irish republican army is a network of armed resistance to resist the British rule in Ireland. It began as early as in 1921. Later, the organization split into different organization. Initially, the network used armed resistance to liberate Ireland from the British rule. The main aim of the IRA was to have an independent Ireland with its liberal governance rather than to be under the British rule. The activities of IRA can be traced to the Irish war of independence from 1919 to 1921. After this war, Ireland was divided into the Northern Ireland which consisted of protestants who supported the British rule. This became known as the province of Britain. To the south, the state was mostly occupied by Roman Catholics. These Roman Catholics were against the British rule. Apart from the northern counties of Ireland, the rest of Ireland became free of the British rule (Coogan 2000).

After these divisions, there were conflicts between the Roman Catholics who lived in the Northern Ireland and the Protestants. After these riots, the IRA carried out a series of attacks against the British and those Irish based groups which supported the British rule in Northern Ireland.

The IRA mounted guerilla attacks on the British forces after the declaration of the independence of Ireland. Beginning in 1919, the guerilla warfare continued to 1921. This is after the two sides; the British forces and the IRA agreed to stop the attacks. After this ceasefire agreement, what followed was mostly political and violence involving sectors. This was mostly by the Catholics and Protestants. The IRA that was involved was named old IRA. It had been named from its forerunners, the Irish volunteers of 1919. This was after the issue of a message to free nations that the Ireland was in active war with the British.

The war by IRA in the early days of 1921 involved attacks involving shootings. The members of the network could attack the British property and loot weapons. They also targeted key members of the British administration. The organization was well directed by Michael Collins.  He was the minister for finance and played a crucial role in providing funds to the IRA. Being the head of intelligence, this officer could provide arms to those who needed them and assisted in recruiting the members to the IRA.   

The network of IRA also had their chief of staff. At the initial stage, he was called Richard Mulcahy. He could organize how forces were to be deployed in the country. IRA benefited from the support offered to it by the general public of Ireland. The public could provide housing to the troops and refused to provide any information to the British forces. The peak of the war by IRA was witnessed in 1921. During that apprising, it was estimated that around 1000 people died, among them were the British police and other civilians. The British could retaliate by killing the IRA servicemen. The most marked loss by the IRA occurred when they lost a good number of servicemen to the British forces. However, even after such a loss, the IRA guerillas were found to be so successful that even the British forces acknowledged that IRA could not be defeated in terms of military war.    

As the war continued, the IRA as well as the British forces turned to propaganda. For example, the British could solicit support from the Irish nationals by claiming that the IRA was against the Protestants. The IRA, on its side, used its political arm, which was called Sinn Fein. The IRA also changed their tactics using less bloody attacks. These were mostly favored by talks that were convened by the representatives of both sides. Hunger strikes were also used.

The IRA evolved into several groups. This split was due to the difference in the ideological approaches and the tactics used by each branch. The original IRA was the very founding organization. Others were the provisional IRA and the continuity IRA. The provisional IRA was the most active branch of them.  It aimed at liberating the Northern Ireland from the British rule (Derkins 2003).

The initial strategies of IRA were to use force to collapse the Northern Ireland British rule. This was by causing enough casualties so that the British could be required to withdraw from Ireland by their citizens. The activities of IRA were boosted by other nations such as Libya and the United States of America. In 1975, the IRA shifted their tactic into another one that was called long war (Bell 1997). This was a shift from the bloody war to the political strategies through the political party branch of the IRA. The reason behind this change of tactic was the realization that the British were unwilling to grant the IRA their demands. The IRA also learnt that their war could last for long.

The strategy of the long war can be described in the following terms. A war aimed at causing as many deaths of the enemies as possible has the goal of making the financial investment of the enemy to be unprofitable by the use of international campaigns and propaganda. Another new tactic was hunger strike like the one of 1981. This was performed by IRA prisoners. The prisoners also refused to wear prison clothes. The success of this hunger strike was the main cause of the IRA turning to active politics. They realized that peaceful resistance was more successful than armed resistance. After the IRA found that its ‘Tet’ offensive tactic did not work, it turned to political compromise. Finally, the IRA decommissioned its arms in 1994 and declared an infinite end of guerilla resistance. However, active resistance was to be brought back in 1997 to date. This was because the British forces were unwilling to grant the IRA.

The Irish Republican Army Council announced that it had ended its armed campaign in 2005. It had stated its willingness to work towards achieving its aims by using peaceful means. The IRA can be compared to a modern day terrorist groups. In the UK, it was literally prescribed as a terrorist group. In addition, in the Republic of Ireland, the IRA was classified as an illegal organization. This is a characteristic similar to many groups in various countries such as the Muslim extremist and al-Qaeda among others.

Another similarity lies in the mode of recruitment. The IRA obtained members using voluntary means. They were called ‘oglaigh’ in the Irish language. This is also found in many modern illegal organizations. The organization was also operating in units. Those living in an area could form a company which was a part of a battalion. This is another similarity found in other terrorist groups. For instance, this form of the organization was used in the 9/11 attack. Their use of force also resembles the modern terrorist groups (Moloney 2010).

However, we can note various differences that were unique in the IRA. This includes the organizational structure it operated. Another difference can be found in its origin. The IRA traces its origin to 1969. It emerged following a split due to the differences of ideology. There were also differences on how to respond to violence from the nationalist community (Taylor 1997).

The other difference between IRA and modern terror groups lies in their change of strategy. The IRA shifted from the use of armed campaign to settling grievances by the use of political path. In contrast, modern terror groups are usually static. They do not have a room for dialogue. The IRA launched the ‘The Long War’. They opted to use political activities to achieve their aims. Modern terror organization is always committed to fight to the end. There exists no room for discussions. Another unique characteristic of the IRA was its agreement to honor ceased fire. Modern day terror groups do not have a provision for such an agreement. IRA stopped its armed campaign and resorted to political talks that bore fruits (Bell 1997).

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