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Provisional Irish Republican Army Research Paper

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Updated: May 11th, 2020


Various groups have emerged with the aim of destabilizing governments across the world. The groups use terrorist activities to force governments to comply with certain demands. Terrorism activities have been on the rise in the modern times and they have become a means of communicating people’s needs to governments across the world. Terrorism allegedly communicates certain message to the governments of the day (Crenshaw 386). The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) will be used to illustrate the nature of terrorist groups in the world. PIRA was a terrorist group that sought to destabilize the Northern Ireland’s government, which was under the British colony (Jackson et al. 111).

The British Government of Ireland Act was enacted in 1920 and it divided the country of Ireland into two, viz. the Irish Free State, which had 26 states, and the controversial Northern Ireland (Jackson et al.110). The partition of the country into two marked the beginning of violence in the country since the natives were opposed to the move (Crenshaw 381). The main objective of the group was to bring independence for all Irelands (Sanchez-Cuenca 301).

The group used terrorist activities to drive away the British authorities from Ireland. Initially, PIRA used weapons from local supplies by its members (Sanchez-Cuenca 295). The weapons were not as effective as the modern weapons and thus they could not cause great damage. The weapons included plastic explosives, guns, and timing devices (Horgan 83). In addition, PIRA manufactured certain explosive weapons that were used in place of bombs. This paper will analyze the reasons why PIRA resorted to less violent activities in the push to have the British leave Ireland for the natives to rule the country.

Overview of strategies

The group’s main objective was to use force and other terrorist activities to cause inclusion of the native people in the government (Sanchez-Cuenca 300). The activities were meant to cause the government of the day to collapse so that the Irish natives would have control over the country (Bosi 373). The group comprised Irish volunteers who were recruited and trained to cause chaos in order to force the British out of the country. The violence started after the British opened fire and killed innocent Irish citizens in what is popularly known as the ‘bloody Sunday incident’ (Horgan 89). PIRA received financial and military assistance from countries such as Libya and the United States (McSherry 54).

The group consented to a ceasefire in 1975 after a series of attacks directed to the British officials. The ceasefire agreement signed between PIRA and the British government required the group to refrain from terrorist activities (Jackson et al.117). However, the agreement remained effective for only a short period after which PIRA went back into violent activities. The group argued that the British rulers were neglecting the natives by forcing them into politics without meeting the pertinent issues affecting the Irish people. The group resolved to engage the British in a war, which is popularly known as ‘the Long War’. The group also formed the Sinn Fein party, which would act as an avenue for the PIRA to air its political grievances (McSherry 46).

In 1981, the group mobilized people to participate in a hunger strike (Sanchez-Cuenca 292). The strategy was successful in pressing the British government to look into the interests of the natives and it resulted in the Armalite and ballot box strategy, which emphasized on Irish people’s involvement in political activities. In 1994, talks were held between the British ruling party and the group leading to a ceasefire agreement (Crenshaw 386). Peace talks were launched and all parties were included in the talks in an attempt to coerce the group to drop its violent activities.

However, the British imposed conditions on the natives before the commencement of the talks, which caused the withdrawal of PIRA from the meeting. For instance, the British demanded that the group be disarmed before its political party could be allowed to participate in the talks. Following the condition, the group failed to honor its part of the deal and restarted violent activities. On realizing the effects that the condition had on the ceasefire agreement, the British dropped the condition and the agreement was thereby reinstated in 1996. Sinn Fein party, which represented the Irish people, was thus allowed to participate in the talks unconditionally (Horgan 93).By the time of the ceasefire, PIRA had lost about 300 of its members while British had lost 1700 people including both civilians and military personnel (Bosi 369). In 2005, the group’s army officials proclaimed an end to the terrorist activities, but the order was not honored by some of its members, which resulted in continued terrorist activities in the country.

Why did the PIRA shift from extremely violent strategies?

The PIRA’s willingness to abandon violent strategies was largely influenced by the group’s leadership (Bosi 367). Certain leaders of the group were of the opinion that violence would not offer a solution to the issue surrounding the country. The rising of Gerry Adams to the leadership position of the group was very significant in the PIRA’s ceasefire decision (Sanchez-Cuenca 302). The leader argued that the problems facing the country were political, and thus they required a political solution. Gerry Adams focused on the inclusion of the republicans in the political decisions of the country. His leadership saw the group focus more on seeking political representation than engaging in violent activities to force the British hand over the country’s leadership to the natives. Additionally, the US government promised to increase its donation to the country from $19.2 million to $120-200 million. The money would be used to increase infrastructure and create job opportunities for the Irish people. This move was positive towards solving the problems that faced the region and it may have contributed to peace in the country.

The PIRA’s decision to resort to less violent activities was also perpetuated by the view that the group recognized that it would never force the British away from the country through violent means (Horgan 84). PIRA did not have enough weapons and resources to defeat the British in a war, and thus it had to seek for a political solution other than engaging in terrorism. The British imposed serious restrictions against import of weapons to the country. The government was keen to ensure that the group did not acquire weapons from foreign countries, thus making it weaker (Bosi 372).

Some group members were arrested and convicted for procuring dangerous weapons with the aim of causing havoc. An attempt by the group to import more weapons in 2000 failed since the Croatian police detected the consignment and made arrests of the involved members (Bosi 387). The process of acquiring weapons was long and risky, as the British had illegalized the procurement of weapons coupled with imposing serious penalties on the culprits. Three group members were arrested and charged for procurement of dangerous weapons and they were imprisoned for 30 years in 2001 (Jackson et al. 102). The British too recognized that PIRA was equally a strong group and winning the battle would be an arduous task. The British therefore attempted to woo the group by engaging it to peaceful talks and allowing their participation in the political decisions.

The inclusion of the Sinn Féin political party in government was also seen as a driving force towards the group’s ceasefire campaign. Sinn Féin was a political party affiliated to the republicans and its inclusion in major political decisions was a major boost for the peace efforts (Crenshaw 386). Since its engagement, the party had been in the forefront in negotiating for peace in the country. The party had been circulating articles containing recommendations on how the problem facing the country would be resolved and realize peace. The articles such as “Towards a Lasting Peace in Ireland” are said to have successfully influenced the PIRA members into peaceful activities (Sanchez-Cuenca 296). Since 1987, Sinn Féin had been formulating strategies meant to bring peace in the country. The party had established secret talks with the British government in a bid to bring lasting peace to the country.

The Good Friday Agreement, which was sealed between the two groups in 1998, also contributed greatly to the ceasefire campaign (Bosi 363). The agreement facilitated the formation of a new Northern Ireland Assembly, which would be composed of all communities in the country (Crenshaw 345). Under the agreement, PIRA consented to refrain from criminal activities and accepted to cooperate with the independent commission on decommissioning (Horgan 87). The republicans accepted to surrender all the weapons in their possession to the government. The agreement also prohibited procurement of dangerous weapons. The agreement required the British to escalate security, withdraw their military, and release all the prisoners arrested during the period of war (Sanchez-Cuenca 305). The agreement marked the beginning of peaceful campaign in the country and it was very promising. The Good Friday Agreement was set to achieve full decommissioning within a period of two years (McSherry 42). The decommissioning process would occur in two stages, viz. the collection of the weapons from the republicans and destruction of the weapons.

Information from the British archive reveals that PIRA had proposed a ceasefire deal with the British government in 1978, which the rulers rejected (Horgan 87). The British argued that the group’s demands were unrealistic and the long war thus persisted. However, PIRA signed an agreement with the ruling British government to a ceasefire in 1997(Bosi 355). The agreement stated that the group would refrain from all terrorism activities in exchange of inclusion of the natives in the government. The agreement saw the group reduce its terrorism activities slightly, but it did not mark the end of the attacks. The same year that the agreement was reached, “the country recorded 22 deaths, 251 shootings, and 78 bombings believed to be caused by the militia group” (Sanchez-Cuenca 298).

The group’s activities were greatly hindered by arrests of its key members by the government. For example, McKevitt was arrested in 2001 and charged in court for terrorism (Bosi 367). McKevitt was an influential member and the leader of the group and his arrest was a major blow. His arrest and that of other influential members weakened the group as revealed by both the group’s officials and the government (Jackson et al. 140). Some of these leaders were later jailed after they pleaded guilty of the charges leveled against them, thus weakening the group further. In 2002, Dublin, who was a member of the group, was found guilty for directing attacks on the British and he was jailed for 3 years (Crenshaw 379). Police invaded his home and found secret information about the group that assisted them to get more culprits. This aspect led to a series of arrests and convictions of the group’s members in 2001 (McSherry 38). In addition to the arrests made, there were traitors among the group who informed the British of all their plans, thus enabling the rulers to counter the attacks before execution (Sanchez-Cuenca 292).

The ceasefire declaration made by the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Freedom Fighters may have prompted PIRA to abandon its violent strategies (Sanchez-Cuenca 293). The two groups declared ceasefire campaign in 1994 and declared their commitment to bringing peace in the country. Following the declaration, the British government engaged Sinn Féin in peaceful talks in December the same year (Bosi 354). The talks led to the publication of a document that offered political recommendations that would provide lasting solution to the problem. Though the recommendations were not implemented right away, they provided the basis for future peace talks between the two groups.


Individuals and organizations across the world resort to terrorist activities in order to cause governments to comply with their demands. Terrorism is believed to communicate a certain political message to the ruling government. Terrorism activities have been on the rise contemporarily and they have become the means by which people communicate their needs to the government. The terrorist groups target certain government properties or people linked to the government. A good example of such a terrorist group is the PIRA, which was a group in the Northern Ireland that sought to drive away the British who had occupied the country. PIRA initially used weapons manufactured locally by its members, but later on, it accessed weapons from outside the country. Importation of such weapons was not a simple task since the British government was against the practice.

Several members of the group were arrested and jailed in connection with supplying dangerous weapons to the group. One of the notable terrorism activities by the group is the Omagh bombing, which occurred in 1998. The Omagh bombing is probably the most memorable attacks made by the group (McSherry 44). It occurred in August 1998 when PIRA left a car carrying explosives packed in Omagh, which was 400 meters from the target, courthouse (Horgan 80). Attempts by the police to clear the public from the site did not help as the bomb exploded killing more than 26 civilians and injuring numerous others (Sanchez-Cuenca 292). The killings attracted the attention of the international community, which pressurized the government of the day to ensure safety of the innocent citizens. PIRA later resorted to less violent activities for different reasons, as explored in this paper.

Works Cited

Bosi, Lorenzo. “Explaining pathways to armed activism in the Provisional Irish Republican Army, 1969-1972.” Social Science History 36.3 (2012): 347-390. Print.

Crenshaw, Martha. Explaining Terrorism: Causes, Processes and Consequences (Political Violence), New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Horgan, John. “From profiles to pathways and roots to routes: Perspectives from psychology on radicalization into terrorism.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 618.1 (2008): 80-94. Print.

Jackson, Brian, John Baker, Kim Cragin, John Parachini, Horacio Trujillo, and Peter Chalk. Case Studies of Organizational Learning in Five Terrorist Groups, Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2006. Print.

McSherry, Patrice. “Tracking the origins of a state terror network: Operation Condor.” Latin American Perspectives29.1 (2002): 38-60. Print.

Sanchez-Cuenca, Ignacio. “The dynamics of nationalist terrorism: ETA and the IRA.” Terrorism and Political Violence 19.3 (2007): 289-306. Print.

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