Provisional IRA campaign 1969–1997

Provisional IRA campaign 1969–1997

From 1969 until 1997 [Moloney, p. 472] , the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provisional IRA) conducted an armed paramilitary campaign in the United Kingdom, aimed at ending British sovereignty in Northern Ireland in order to create a united Ireland.

Other aspects of the Provisional IRA's campaign are covered in the following articles:
*"For IRA armament, see Provisional IRA arms importation"
*"For the Provisionals' political strategy see Provisional IRA Strategy."
*"For a chronology see Chronology of Provisional IRA Actions


In the early days of the Troubles from around 1969-71, the Provisional IRA was very poorly armed, having available only a handful of old fashioned weapons left over from the IRA's Border campaign of the 1950s. The IRA had split in December 1969 into the Provisional IRA and Official IRA factions, in part over the failure of the IRA to defend nationalist areas of Belfast from loyalist attack - leading to the burning of many Catholic homes during the Battle of the Bogside in Derry and in Belfast during the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969. In the first years of the conflict, the Provisionals' main activities were providing firepower to support nationalist rioters and defending nationalist areas from attacks.

In contrast to the IRA's relative inaction during the rioting of 1969, Provisional IRA members in the summer of 1970 mounted determined armed defences of the nationalist areas of Belfast against loyalist attackers, killing a number of loyalists in the process. The most notable example of this came on 27 June, 1970, when the IRA killed seven Protestants in rioting Belfast. Three Protestants were shot in Ardoyne in north Belfast after gun battles broke out during an Orange Order parade. When loyalists retaliated by attacking the nationalist enclave of Short Strand in east Belfast, Billy McKee, the Provisionals' commander in Belfast, occupied St Mathew's Church and defended it in a five hour gun battle with the loyalists. One of his men was killed and he was badly wounded. Four Protestants were also killed. The Provisional IRA gained much of its support from these activities, as they were widely perceived within the nationalist community as being defenders of Irish nationalist and Catholic people against aggression. [cite book | last = English | first = Richard | authorlink = | title = Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA | publisher = Pan Books | date = 2003 | pages = pp. 134-135 | doi = | isbn = 0-330-49388-4 ]

Initially, the British Army, deployed into Northern Ireland in August 1969 to reinforce the RUC and restore law and order, was welcomed in Catholic nationalist areas as a neutral force compared to the Protestant and unionist dominated Northern Ireland security forces. [Taylor, pp. 56-59] However this good relationship with the nationalist community did not last long. The Army was discredited in the eyes of many nationalists by incidents such as the Falls Curfew of July 1970, when 3,000 British troops imposed martial law conditions on the nationalist Lower Falls area of West Belfast. After a gun and grenade attack on troops by Provisional IRA members, the British fired over 1,500 rounds of ammunition in gun battles with both the Official IRA and Provisional IRA in the area, killing six civilians. [cite book | last = Taylor | first = Peter | authorlink = Peter Taylor (Journalist) | title = Provos The IRA & Sinn Féin | publisher = Bloomsbury Publishing | date = 1997 | pages = p. 72 | doi = | isbn = 0-7475-3818-2 ] Thereafter, the Provisionals began targeting British soldiers. The first soldier to die was Robert Curtis, killed by Billy Reid in a gun battle in February 1971. [Taylor, p. 88]

1970 and 1971 also saw feuding between the Provisional and Official IRA's in Belfast, as both organisations vied for supremacy in nationalist areas. Charlie Hughes, commander of Provisionals' D Company in the Lower Falls, was killed before a truce was brokered between the two factions. [Taylor, p. 79]

Early campaign 1970-1980

In the early 1970s, the IRA imported large quantities of modern weapons and explosives, primarily from supporters in the United States and Libya.

As the conflict escalated in the early 1970s, the numbers recruited by the IRA mushroomed, in response to the nationalist community's anger at events such as the introduction of internment without trial and Bloody Sunday when the Parachute Regiment of the British army shot dead 13 unarmed civil rights marchers in Derry. The IRA leadership took the opportunity to launch an offensive, believing that they could force a British withdrawal from Ireland by inflicting severe casualties, thus undermining public support in Britain for its continued presence.

The first half of the 1970s was the most intense period of the Provisional IRA campaign. About half the total of 500 or so British soldiers to die in the conflict were killed in the years 1971-1973. [O'Brien, p. 135] In 1972 alone, the IRA killed 100 British soldiers and wounded 500 more. In the same year, they carried out 1,300 explosions and 90 IRA members were killed. [O'Brien, p. 119] Up to 1972, The Provisionals controlled large urban areas in Belfast and Derry, but these were eventually re-taken by a major British operation known as Operation Motorman. Thereafter, fortified Police and military posts were built in republican areas throughout Northern Ireland. During the early 1970s, a typical IRA operation involved sniping at British patrols and engaging them in fire-fights in urban areas of Belfast and Derry. They also killed local police and soldiers when off-duty. These tactics produced many casualties for both sides and for civilian by-standers. The British Army study of the conflict later described this period (1970-1972), as the 'insurgency phase' of the IRA's campaign.

Another element of their campaign was the bombing of commercial targets such as shops and businesses. The most effective tactic the IRA developed for its bombing campaign was the car bomb, where large amounts of explosives were packed into a car, which was driven to its target and then exploded. The most devastating example of the Provisionals' commercial bombing campaign was Bloody Friday in July 1972 in Belfast city centre, where 22 bombs exploded killing nine people and injuring 130. [Moloney, p. 116] While most of the IRA's attacks on commercial targets were not designed to cause casualties, on many occasions they killed civilian bystanders. Other examples include the bombing of the Abercorn restaurant in Belfast in 1972, where two people were killed and 130 wounded and the La Mon Restaurant bombing in County Down in February 1978, where 12 customers were killed by an incendiary bomb. [Mallie Bishop, p. 215, p. 337]

In rural areas such as South Armagh (which is a majority Catholic area near the border with the Republic of Ireland), the IRA unit's most effective weapon was the "culvert-bomb" - where explosives were planted under drains in country roads. This proved so dangerous for British army patrols that virtually all troops in the area had to be transported by helicopter, [cite book | last = Harnden | first = Toby | authorlink = Toby Harnden | title = Bandit Country | publisher = Hodder & Stoughton | date = 1999 | pages = p. 19 | month = | isbn = 034071736X] a policy which continued until 2007, when the last British Army base was closed in South Armagh. [ [ Sinn Fein welcomes end of British Army occupation in South Armagh (6 March 2007)] ] The highest military death toll from an IRA attack came on 27 August, 1979, with the Warrenpoint ambush in County Down, when 18 British soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were killed by two culvert bombs placed by the Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade. On the same day the IRA killed one of their most famous victims, the uncle of Prince Philip, Lord Louis Mountbatten, assassinated along with two teenagers (aged 14 and 15) and The Dowager Baroness Brabourne in County Sligo, by a bomb placed in his boat. Another effective IRA tactic devised in the 1970s was the use of home-made mortars mounted on the back of trucks which were fired at police and army bases. These mortars were first tested in 1974 but did not kill anyone until 1979. The most lethal of these attacks came in February 1985 in the Newry mortar attack, when 9 RUC officers were killed by mortar rounds fired at a police station. As at Warrenpoint, the South Armagh IRA unit was responsible. [Mallie Bishop, p. 420]

Overall, the years 1976 to 1979 that mark the stewardship of Northern Ireland by Roy Mason, Merlyn Rees' replacement as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, are characterised by a falling death rate as he developed a policy that rejected a political or military solution in favour of treating paramilitary violence 'as a security problem'. In 1976 there were 297 deaths in the province; in the next three years the figures were 112, 81, 113 and it was an IRA man who acknowledged that "we were almost beaten by Mason". Martin McGuinness commented, "Mason beat the shit out of us". [cite web | title = A happy 80th birthday to the IRA's most deadly foe | author = Geoffrey Wheatcroft | url = | publisher = "The Daily Telegraph" | date = 18 April, 2004 | accessdate = 2007-03-30]

Ceasefires - 1972 and 1975

The Provisional IRA declared two ceasefires in the 1970s, temporarily suspending its armed operations. In 1972, the IRA leadership thought that Britain was on the verge of leaving Northern Ireland. The British Government held secret talks with the Provisional IRA leadership in 1972 to try and secure a ceasefire based on a compromise settlement within Northern Ireland. The Provisional IRA agreed to a temporary ceasefire from 26 June to 9 July. In July 1972, Provisional leaders, Seán Mac Stíofáin, Dáithí Ó Conaill, Ivor Bell, Seamus Twomey, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met a British delegation led by William Whitelaw. The IRA leaders refused to consider a peace settlement that did not include a commitment to British withdrawal, a retreat of the British Army to barracks and a release of republican prisoners. The British refused and the talks broke up. [Taylor, p. 139]

By the mid 1970s, it was clear that the hopes of the Provisional IRA leadership for a quick military victory were receding. Secret meetings between IRA leaders Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Billy McKee with British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Merlyn Rees secured an IRA ceasefire from February 1975 until January of the next year. The republicans believed that this was the start of a long term process of British withdrawal. However, the IRA felt that Rees was trying to bring the Provisionals into peaceful politics without giving them any guarantees. [cite book | last = Taylor | first = Peter | authorlink = Peter Taylor (Journalist) | title = Brits | publisher = Bloomsbury Publishing | date = 2001 | pages = pp. 184-185 | doi = | isbn = 0-7475-5806-X] Critics of the IRA leadership, most notably Gerry Adams, felt that the ceasefire was disastrous for the IRA, leading to infiltration by British informers, the arrest of many activists and a breakdown in IRA discipline - leading to sectarian killings (see next section) and a feud with fellow republicans in the Official IRA. The ceasefire broke down in January 1976. [Taylor, p. 156]

In response to the 1975 ceasefire and the arrest of many IRA volunteers in its aftermath, the Provisionals re-organised their structures in the late 1970s into small cell based units that were thought to be harder to infiltrate. They also embarked on a strategy known as the "Long War" - a process of attrition based on the indefinite continuation of an armed campaign until the British government grew tired of the political, military and financial costs involved in staying in Northern Ireland. [Moloney, pp. 149-162]

Accusations of sectarian attacks

The IRA has always argued that its campaign was aimed not at the Protestant/Unionist community, but at the British presence in Ireland, manifested in the British Army and the Northern Ireland security forces. However, many Unionists believe that the IRA's campaign was sectarian and there are many incidents where the organisation targeted Protestant civilians.

The 1970s were the most violent years of the Troubles. As well as its campaign against the security forces, the IRA became involved, in the middle of the decade, in a "tit for tat" cycle of sectarian killings with loyalist paramilitaries. The worst examples of this occurred in 1975 and 1976. In September 1975, for example, IRA members machine-gunned an Orange Hall in Newtownhamilton, killing five Protestants. On 5 January, 1976, an IRA unit in Armagh shot dead ten Protestant building workers at Kingsmills, in reprisal for Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) killings of six Roman Catholics the previous day. [English, p. 172] In similar incidents, the IRA deliberately killed 91 Protestant civilians in 1974-76 (CAIN). The IRA did not officially claim the killings, but justified them in a statement on 17 January, 1976, "The Irish Republican Army has never initiated sectarian killings ... [but] if loyalist elements responsible for over 300 sectarian assassinations in the past four years stop such killing now, then the question of retaliation from whatever source does not arise". [English, p. 173] In late 1976, the IRA leadership met with representatives of the loyalist paramilitary groups and agreed to halt random sectarian killings and car bombings of civilian targets. The loyalists revoked the agreement in 1979, after the IRA killing of Lord Mountbatten but the pact nevertheless halted the cycle of sectarian revenge killings until the late 1980s, when the loyalist groups began killing Catholics again in large numbers. [Mallie Bishop, p. 390]

As the IRA campaign continued through the 1970s and 1980s, the organisation increasingly targeted RUC officers and Ulster Defence Regiment servicemen—including when they were off duty. Because these men were largely Protestant and unionist, these killings were also widely portrayed (and perceived in unionist circles) as a campaign of sectarian assassination. Vincent McKenna, (later convicted of a paedophile offence) [ [ Sunday Buisness Post] ] has claimed that Jim Lynagh's military tactics of creating "sanitised zones"—expelling members of the UDR from their farms to gain territory "a field at a time"—was "sectarian". [ Liam Clarke, IRA accused of 'ethnic cleansing', "The Sunday Times", 29 March 1998.] the IRA have denied he was ever a member. [ [ APRN] ] Former Unionist MP and a major in the UDR, Ken Maginnis, compiled a record of IRA attacks on the UDR and claimed from this that the IRA's campaign was sectarian and genocidal in that the eldest sons and breadwinners were especially targeted in order to ethnically cleanse Protestants from their farms and jobs west of the River Bann. [cite book | last = Bardon | first = Jonathan | authorlink = | title = A History of Ulster | publisher = Blackstaff Press | date = 2001 | pages = p. 807 | doi = | isbn = 0856407038]

Despite the fact that most of the IRA's security force victims by the late 1980s were locally recruited RUC or UDR personnel, the Provisional leadership maintained that the British Army was their preferred target. Gerry Adams in an interview given in 1988, said it was, "vastly preferable" to target the British Army as it "removes the worst of the agony from Ireland" and "diffuses the sectarian aspects of the conflict because loyalists do not see it as an attack on their community". [Taylor, p. 337]

Towards the end of the troubles, the Provisionals widened their campaign even further, to include the killing of people who worked in a civilian capacity with the RUC and British Army. The bloodiest example of this came in 1992, when an IRA bomb killed eight Protestant building workers who were working on a British Army base at Teebane. [cite web | title = Remembering Teebane | author = | url = | publisher = "BBC" | date = 25 October, 2001 | accessdate = 2007-03-21]

Attacks outside Northern Ireland

The Provisional IRA was chiefly active in Northern Ireland, but from the early 1970s, it also took its bombing campaign to England.One of the first IRA bombings took place on the 31st of October 1971 when an English IRA unit calling themselves the "Kilburn Battalion" planted a bomb in the Post Office tower in London. The bomb caused considerable damage to the building but no casualties. [ 1971: Bomb explodes in Post Office tower] At a meeting of the Provisional IRA Army Council in June 1972, Sean MacStiofain proposed bombing targets in England to, "take the heat off Belfast and Derry". However, the Army Council did not consent to a bombing campaign in mainland Britain until early 1973, when talks they had held with the British government in the previous year had broken down. [Mallie Bishop, p. 250] They believed that such bombing would create a demand among the British public for their government to withdraw from Northern Ireland. [English, pp. 163-164]

The first IRA team sent to England included eleven members of the Belfast Brigade, who hijacked four cars in Belfast, fitted them with explosives and drove them to London via Dublin and Liverpool. The team were betrayed to the London Metropolitan Police by an informer and all but one of them were arrested. Nevertheless, two of the bombs exploded, killing one man and injuring 180 people. [Mallie Bishop, p. 253]

Thereafter, control over IRA bombings in Britain was given to Brian Keenan, a member of the Army Council from Belfast. Keenan, along with Peter McMullen, a former member of the British Parachute regiment, conducted a series of bombings in 1973. A bomb, planted by McMullen, exploded at a barracks in Yorkshire, injuring a female canteen worker. [Mallie Bishop, p. 255]

Some of the most indiscriminate bombing attacks of the IRA's bombing campaign were carried out by the so-called "Balcombe Street gang", a unit of IRA members from Dublin, who were sent to London in the summer of 1974. They avoided contact with the Irish community there in order to remain inconspicuous and aimed to carry out one attack a week. In addition to bombings, they carried out several assassinations. Ross McWhirter, a right wing politician, was shot dead at his home and the group made attempts on the lives of Margaret Thatcher, Airey Neave and Edward Heath. They were eventually arrested after they machine gunned an exclusive restaurant on Mayfair. Pursued by police, they took hostages and barricaded themselves for six days in a house on Balcombe Street before they surrendered, an incident known as the Balcombe Street Siege. They were sentenced to thirty years each for a total of six murders. [Mallie Bishop, p. 257] The Balcombe group later admitted responsibility also for the Guildford pub bombing of 5 October, 1974, which killed 5 people (4 of them soldiers) and injured 54 and the bombing of a pub in Woolwich, which killed another 2 people and injured 28.cite web | title = A Chronology of the Conflict - 1974 | author = | url = | publisher = "CAIN" | date = | accessdate = 2007-03-22]

On 21 November, 1974, an IRA unit recruited in Birmingham from among the Irish immigrant community carried out the Birmingham pub bombings, two separate bombings of pubs which killed 21 civilians and injured 162. An inadequate warning was given for one bomb and no warning for the other. [English, p. 169] There were no military targets associated with either of the pubs.

Two groups of people, the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, were imprisoned were for the Guildford and Birmingham bombings respectively, but each group protested their innocence. They were eventually released and pardoned after serving lengthy prison sentences. [cite web | title = The IRA campaigns in England | author = | url = | publisher = "BBC" | date = 4 March, 2001 | accessdate = 2007-03-25]

ManySpecify|date=September 2007 British civilians were killed during the IRA bombing campaign in England, which was occasionally directed against civilian targets such as pubs and public transport such as the London Underground.

After the campaign of the mid 1970s, the IRA did not undertake a major bombing campaign again in Britain until the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, throughout the intervening period, they did carry out a number of high profile bombing attacks in Britain.

In 1982, they exploded two bombs at a British Army ceremonial parade at Hyde Park and Regents Park in London, killing 11 soldiers and wounding 50 soldiers and civilians (see Hyde Park and Regents Park bombings). [cite web | title = London: past terror attacks | author = Donald MacLeod | url =,12780,1523526,00.html | publisher = "The Guardian" | date = 7 July, 2005 | accessdate = 2007-03-22] [cite web | title = 1982: IRA bombs cause carnage in London | author = | url = | publisher = "BBC" | date = | accessdate = 2007-03-22]

In 1984, in the Brighton hotel bombing, the IRA tried to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet. She survived, but five people including Sir Anthony Berry, a Conservative Party Member of Parliament, Eric Taylor, the north-west party chairman and three wives of party officials were killed. Several others including Margaret Tebbit, wife of Norman Tebbit, were left permanently disabled. [cite web | title = Freedom for the Brighton bomber | author = John Mullin | url =,2763,204987,00.html | publisher = "The Guardian" | date = 23 June, 1999 | accessdate = 2007-03-25] [cite web | title = I regret the deaths but military campaign was necessary, says the Brighton bomber | author = David McKittrick | url = | publisher = "The Independent" | date = 28 August, 2000 | accessdate = 2007-03-25]

On several occasions, the Provisional IRA attacked British troops stationed in Britain, the most lethal of which was the 1989 Deal barracks bombing, where 11 Royal Marines Band Service bandsmen were killed. [cite web | title = 1989: Ten dead in Kent barracks bomb | author = | url = | publisher = "BBC" | date = | accessdate = 2007-03-21]

Republicans argued that these bombings "concentrated minds" in the British government far more than the violence in Northern Ireland. The IRA had an official policy of bombing only targets in England (not the Celtic countries of Scotland and Wales), although they detonated a bomb at an oil terminal in the Shetland Isles in 1981 while Queen Elizabeth II was performing the official opening of the terminal. [cite web | title = Queen enjoys robust health | author = | url = | publisher = "BBC" | date = 13 January, 2003 | accessdate = 2007-03-21]

The Provisional IRA also carried out pinpointed attacks in other countries such as West Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, where British soldiers were based. [cite web | title = 1987: 30 hurt as car bomb hits Army base | author = | url = | publisher = "BBC" | date = | accessdate = 2007-03-25] Between 1979 and 1990, eight soldiers and six civilians died in these attacks, including the British Ambassador to the Netherlands Sir Richard Sykes. [ [ CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths - menu page ] ] On one occasion, the IRA shot and killed two Australian tourists mistaken for off duty British soldiers. [cite web | title = From occupiers and protectors to guests | author = Chris Summers | url = | publisher = "BBC" | date = 20 July, 2004 | accessdate = 2007-03-21] The IRA also sent members on arms importation, logistical support and intelligence operations at different times to continental Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Libyan arms and the "Tet Offensive"

Muammar al-Gaddafi to the Provisional IRA in the 1980s.]

In the mid 1980s, the Provisional IRA received large quantities of modern weaponry, including heavy weaponry such as heavy machine guns, over 1,000 rifles, several hundred handguns, rocket propelled grenades, flamethrowers, surface to air missiles and the plastic explosive Semtex from the Libyan regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. Reportedly, Qadaffi donated enough weapons to arm the equivalent of three infantry battalions. (See Provisional IRA arms importation).

The IRA therefore, came to be very well armed by the end of the Troubles, but this did not necessarily correlate with the intensity of its armed campaign. Most of the losses it inflicted on the British Army occurred in the early to mid 1970s, although they continued to inflict substantial casualties on the British military, the RUC and UDR throughout the Troubles. The IRA Army Council had plans for a dramatic escalation of the conflict in the late 1980s which they likened to the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War with the aid of the arms obtained from Libya. However, a third of the arms donated were intercepted aboard the ship, the "Eksund" by the French and Irish authorities. This brought the Provisional IRA's new capability to the attention of the authorities on either side of the Irish border. Five men were captured with the boat; three IRA members, including Gabriel Cleary, received jail sentences.Moloney, pp. 18-23]

The plan had been to take and hold several areas along the border, forcing the British Army to either withdraw from border areas or use maximum force to re-take them - thus escalating the conflict beyond the point which the Provisional IRA thought that British public opinion would accept. The IRA's expectation was that the British Army would try to re-take these areas with their helicopters which could be shot down due to the SAM-7 Surface to Air missiles now in the IRAs hands. The British would then be forced to ground all of their helicopters across Northern Ireland and use heavy armoured transport which would now be very vulnerable to RPG-7s, Semtex and cannons that the IRA had received from Libya. The "Tet offensive" also included plans to bombard and sink a Royal Navy vessel that patrolled the Carlingford Lough with 106mm Cannons mounted on motorboats and plans to bomb British embassies and military bases on the continent. However this offensive failed to materialise. IRA sources quoted in The "Secret History of the IRA" by Ed Moloney say that the interception of the "Eksund" shipment eliminated the element of surprise which they had hoped to have for this offensive. The role of informers within the IRA seems to have also played a role in the failure of the "Tet Offensive" to get off the ground.

In the event, much of the IRA's new heavy weaponry, for instance the surface-to-air missiles and flamethrowers, were never, or very rarely, used. The only recorded use of flamethrowers took place in Derryard, County Fermanagh, when two soldiers were killed when a permanent checkpoint manned by the King's Own Scottish Borderers was the target of a multiple weapons attack on 13 December, 1989. [cite web | title = Tribute Paid To Soldiers Killed In IRA Attack | author = Anne Palmer | url = | publisher = "The News Letter" | date = 14 December, 2004 | accessdate = 2007-03-30] The SAMs turned out to be out of date models and were unable to shoot down British helicopters equipped with anti-missile technology. [Taylor, pp. 277-278] The semtex plastic explosive proved the most valuable asset to the IRA's armoury.

As it was, the numbers of members of the British and Northern Ireland military personnel killed by the IRA increased slightly in the years 1988-1990, from 12 in 1986 to 39 in 1988, but dropped to 27 in 1989 and decreased again to 18 in 1990. The death toll by 1991 was similar to that of the mid-80's, with 14 fatalities. [Sutton, Malcom: "Bear in mind these dead...An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland". Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications.( [ main page] ).

Use this link for details of fatalities between 1986 and 1990. Produce tabulation by introducing "Status" and "Year":
] Of these deaths, the numbers of the regular British Army killed by the IRA in the years 1988-1990, were as follows; 5 in 1986, 22 in 1988, 24 in 1989 10 in 1990 and five by 1991. [(Moloney p338)] This was politically significant, as the deaths of locally recruited RUC and UDR members had little impact on public opinion in BritainFact|date=February 2007.

The failure to intensify the conflict in the mid 1980s meant that while the Provisional IRA, in the judgement of journalist and author Brendan O'Brien, "could not be beaten, it could be contained. Politically and militarily, that was the most significant factor. It was why the IRA had to decide whether to put away their guns for another day as they had done in previous decades, or continue with a long and 'sickening' war". [O'Brien, p. 158. 'Sickening' is derived from a speech Martin McGuinness made in 1988, when he said, "I believe the...Irish Republican Army has got the capability, the ways and the means of bringing about the defeat of the British forces, both militarily and politically in the Six Counties. But in saying that I am not saying that the IRA have the ability to drive every last British soldier out of Belfast, Derry...or anywhere else. But they have the ability to sicken the British forces of occupation", cited in O'Brien, p152] By the late 1980s and early 1990s, roughly 9 out of every 10 IRA attacks were aborted or failed to cause casualties. [O'Brien, p. 157] Republican sources such as Mitchel McLaughlin and Danny Morrison argued by the early 1990s the Provisional IRA could not attain their objectives by military means. [Taylor, p. 314]

War with British special forces

Despite the relative failure of the "Tet offensive" the IRA campaign continued up to 1994. However the costs of this campaign for both the Provisional IRA and the community which supported the Provisional IRA were increased by the actions of British special forces units and the loyalist paramilitaries.

The IRA suffered some heavy losses at the hands of British special forces like the Special Air Service (SAS), the heaviest being the ambush and killing of eight armed IRA members at Loughgall in 1987 as the IRA gunmen attempted to destroy Loughgall police station. The East Tyrone Brigade was hit particularly hard by British killings of their members in this period, losing 28 members killed by British forces in the period 1987-1992, out of 53 dead in the whole Troubles. [Moloney, p. 319] In many of these cases, Provisional IRA members were killed after being ambushed by British special forces. Republicans alleged that this amounted to a campaign of targeted assassination on the part of state forces (see shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland).

Another high profile incident took place in Gibraltar in March 1988, when three unarmed IRA members were shot dead by an SAS unit while scouting out a bombing target (see Operation Flavius). [Moloney, p. 330] The subsequent funerals of these IRA members in Belfast were attacked by loyalist gunman Michael Stone. At a funeral of one of Stone's victims, two un-uniformed British Army corporals were lynched after intruding on the crowd (see Corporals killings). [O'Brien, p. 164] These kind of reactions, both in the increasing level of violence and on the propaganda front, showed that the use of preventive killings of republicans were counterproductive to both the British and Unionist interests. [In 1995, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention but rejected claims for compensation as the three had been engaged in terrorism under domestic UK laws:

Loyalists and the IRA - killing and reprisals

The IRA and also its political wing, Sinn Féin also suffered from a campaign of assassination launched against their members by Loyalist paramilitaries from the late 1980s. These latter attacks killed about 12 IRA and 15 Sinn Féin members between 1987 and 1995. [Geraghty, p. 320] In addition, the loyalists killed family members of known republicans. However, the vast majority of loyalist victims were innocent Catholic civilians. According to recently released documents the British Government knew since 1973 that British Army units such as the Ulster Defence Regiment were partisan and actively helping loyalist paramilitaries with arms and membership. Despite knowing this the British Government stepped up the role of the UDR in "maintaining order" within Northern Ireland. [Recently released (3 May 2006) British Government documents show that overlapping membership between British Army units like the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and loyalist paramilitary groups was a wider problem than a "few bad apples" as was often claimed. The documents include a report titled "Subversion in the UDR" which details the problem. In 1973; an estimated 5-15% of UDR soldiers were directly linked to loyalist paramilitary groups, it was believed that the "best single source of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups was the UDR", it was feared UDR troops were loyal to "Ulster" alone rather than to "Her Majesty's Government", the British Government knew that UDR weapons were being used in the assassination and attempted assassination of Roman Catholic civilians by loyalist paramilitaries. May 2, 2006 edition of the Irish News available [ here.] ]

It has also been confirmed that the loyalists were aided in this campaign by elements of the security forces including the British Army and RUC Special Branch (see Stevens Report). Loyalist sources have since confirmed that they received intelligence files on republicans from Army and Police intelligence in this period and an Army agent within the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Brian Nelson, was convicted in 1992 of the killings of Catholic civilians. It was later revealed that Nelson, while working as a British Army agent, was also involved in the importation of arms for loyalists from South Africa in 1988. [O'Brien, p. 231] In 1993, for the first time, Loyalist paramilitaries killed more people than Republican paramilitaries. While the difference was only two, in the following year, Loyalists killed eleven more people than Republicans, and in 1995, they killed twelve more. [In the latter case (1995 period), it should be note that the Provisional IRA 1994's cease-fire was still in place:
* [ CAIN]

In response to these attacks, the IRA began a reactive assassination campaign against leading members of the UDA and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). In the mid-1970s, from 1974, the IRA had a policy of retaliating to loyalist attacks on Catholics with attacks on Protestants such as the Kingsmill massacre of 1976 (see section above). However, by the late 1980s, the IRA Army Council would not sanction attacks on Protestant civilians, but only at named, identified loyalist targets. The main reason for this was the negative impact of attacks on civilians on the Republican movement's electoral appeal. The IRA issued a statement in 1986 saying: "At no time will we involve ourselves in the execution of ordinary Protestants, but at all times we reserve the right to take armed action against those who attempt to terrorise or intimidate our people into accepting British/unionist rule". [English, p. 246] Gerry Adams reiterated the point in 1989; "Sinn Féin does not condone the deaths of people who are non combatants".Moloney, p. 321]

To maximise the impact of such killings, the IRA targeted senior loyalist figures. Among such leading loyalists killed were John McMichael, Joe Bratty, Raymond Elder and Ray Smallwoods of the UDA and John Bingham, Robert Seymore, Leslie Dallas and Trevor King of the UVF. [O'Brien, p. 314] One IRA attempt to kill the entire leadership of the UDA on 23 October, 1993 caused many civilian casualties, when a bomb was planted at a Shankill Road fish shop. The bomb was intended to kill the entire senior leadership of the UDA, including Johnny Adair, who were meeting in a room above the shop. Instead, the bomb ended up killing only nine Protestant civilians and also the bomber, Thomas Begley, when the device exploded prematurely. In addition, 58 more people were injured. [Coogan, p. 437] This provoked a series of retaliatory killings by the UVF and UDA of Catholic civilians with no political or paramilitary connections. [Moloney, p. 415]

According to the [ Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN)] , University of Ulster statistics, the Provisional IRA killed 35 loyalist militants in total. "Lost Lives" gives a figure of 28 [Lost Lives, p. 1536] out of a total number of loyalists killed in the Troubles of 126. [Lost Lives, p. 1531] According to "The Irish War" by Tony Geraghty, the IRA killed 45 loyalists. [Geraghty, p. 235] Such killings intensified just before the IRA ceasefire of 1994 and it has been speculated that this assassination programme against Loyalist leaders helped convince the leadership of both the UDA and UVF, to call ceasefires at this point. However the Loyalists called their ceasefire six weeks after the IRA ceasefire of that year and indeed argued that it was their killing of Catholic civilians in general that had forced the IRA ceasefire by placing intolerable pressure on the nationalist community. Republicans deny this - citing how few of the loyalist victims were republican paramilitaries. They argue that the republican political strategy was unaffected by loyalist actions.

While neither SAS operations nor loyalist killings "defeated" the Provisional IRA, they heightened the costs to the IRA of carrying on an indefinite armed campaign (the "Long War" in their terminology) and contributed to the war-weariness of their host community.

Campaign up to and after the 1994 ceasefire

:"See also Northern Ireland peace process"

Early 1990s

By the early to mid 1990s, the IRA found it more difficult to kill British military personnel in Northern Ireland, who were by now familiar with operating there and well protected by body armour and anti-bomb electronic counter measures. One of several methods the IRA used to counter this, was the use of high velocity Barrett Light 50 and Belgian FN sniper rifles, several of which the Provisionals imported from the USA. Two snipers teams of the South Armagh Brigade killed nine members of the security forces in this way. To avoid the jamming of wireless-triggered detonators, the organisation began to employ radar beacons to prime their explosive devices, improving dramatically the effectiveness of the attacks. [Harnden, p. 265.] [Geraghty. p. 209.]

An IRA technique used in the early 1990s was the "proxy bomb", a type of involuntary suicide bomb where a victim was kidnapped and forced to drive a car bomb to its target. In one operation in Derry in October 1990, the Provisional IRA chained a British Army cook to a car laden with explosives, held his family hostage and forced him to drive to an Army checkpoint where the bomb exploded, killing himself and five soldiers. Another "human bomb" killed one soldier the same day, but the driver saved his own life by jumping from the moving car. This practice was stopped due to the revulsion it caused among the nationalist community. [English, pp. 347-350]

However, the number of British soldiers killed had dropped significantly from the worst years of the 1970s. Nevertheless, the IRA campaign, while not as lethal as previously, continued to severely disrupt normal life in Northern Ireland. In 1987, for instance, the IRA carried out 140 shooting attacks and 154 bombings, killing 31 RUC, UDR and British Army personnel and injuring over 100 more. It also killed 20 civilians and injured roughly 150. [O'Brien, p. 157] In 1990, in 193 shootings and 187 bombings, IRA attacks killed 10 British Army soldiers, 8 UDR members, 12 RUC members and injured 190 soldiers and 150 police, along with more civilians. [O'Brien, p. 203] [Sutton index. Once again, see the following link for the 1990fatalities and produce tabulation by introducing "Status" and "Year":

One of the bombings carried out that year shattered and flooded the engine room of an RFA ship, the "Fort Victoria", recently built in Harland and Wolff's shipyards, and at anchor in Belfast harbour at the time. This action delayed her commissioning for almost three years. [ [ IRA bombs British Navy ship] "An Phoblacht", 13 September 1990 ] [ [ Shipbuilder with Midas touch for making deals] The Times. 13 March 2006]

By 1992, the figure for IRA gun attacks was 144 and the number of bombings had increased to 282. [O'Brien, p. 168] The evidence strongly suggests, therefore, that the IRA was capable of carrying on a significant level of violence for the foreseeable future. Moreover, it can be argued that the real attrition for the UK was not in the number of soldiers or RUC members killed, but in the enormous budget needed to keep their huge security system in Northern Ireland working indefinitely. [cite book | last = Toolis | first = Kevin | authorlink = | title = Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul | publisher = St. Martin's Griffin | date = 1997 | pages = p. 56 | doi = | isbn = 0312156324]

The attacks and bombings in the early 1990s forced the UK government to dismantle several bases and security posts, whose maintenance or reconstruction was not affordable. [The list included:
* Three permanent checkpoints at Boa Island, Derryard [ "The Irish Immigrant", March 1991 issue] and Cloghogue (Harnden, p. 263-264).
* The UDR base at Glenane.

In South Armagh, in contrast to other IRA brigade areas, militant activity increased in the early 1990s. The IRA there shot down three helicopters (one of them in 1988) and damaged at least another three in this period, using DShK heavy machine guns and improvised mortars. [Harnden, p. 361, p.398] Another one was brought down in early 1990 in County Tyrone, wounding three of the crew. [See this two-pages British Commons account about the NI violence for the period of 1989-90:

For some details on the helicopter crash-landing, go to this archive page of the "New York Times":
* [ "Copter forced down in Ulster"]

On 22 April 1993, the South Armagh IRA unit took control of the village of Cullaville near the border with the Republic, for two hours. The fact that the Republican militants executed the action despite the presence of a British Army watchtower nearby, caused outrage among the British security and the Unionist public opinion. The parliamentary debates of the time also reflect a mounting pressure on the UK government to find a negotiated solution to the 25 years old conflict. [See these transcripts of the Commons debate over the security situation in NI and the Cullaville incident (Column 196 in the first link and Column 184 in the second one):
* the increasing pressure over the British government, check the following debate about the Downing Street Declaration, in particular the words of the Prime Minister :

During this period, the IRA also established a highly damaging economic bombing campaign against the British mainland, particularly London, and other major British cities, which caused a huge amount of physical and economic damage to property. Among their targets were the City of London, Bishopsgate and Baltic Exchange in London, with the Bishopsgate bombing causing damage initially estimated at £1 billion.cite book | last = Dillon | first = Martin | authorlink = Martin Dillon | title = 25 Years of Terror: The IRA's war against the British | publisher = Bantam Books | date = 1996 | pages = p. 292 | isbn = 0-553-40773-2 ] There was also a propaganda boost for the Republicans when three mortar rounds flew over the British Prime minister's office in Downing Street in London during a Cabinet meeting in February 1991. [cite web | title = IRA shells the War Cabinet | author = Stephen Cook & Michael White | url =,,112630,00.html | publisher = "The Guardian" | date = 8 February, 1991 | accessdate = 2007-03-26] A particularly notorious bombing was the Warrington bomb attack in 1993, which killed two young children. In early March 1994 there were three mortar attacks on Heathrow Airport in London, which forced the authorities to shut down the facility. [cite web | title = A Draft Chronology of the Conflict - 1994 | author = | url = | publisher = "CAIN" | date = | accessdate = 2007-03-26] It has been argued that this bombing campaign was decisive to convince the British government (who had hoped to contain the conflict to Northern Ireland with its Ulsterisation policy) to negotiate with Sinn Féin after the IRA ceasefires of August 1994 and July 1997. [In the latter case, while the British Government remained adamant during the 1994-95 cease-fire period on its demand of the Provisional IRA decommissioning of weapons before the beginning of any meetings, just three weeks after the London Docklands Bombing (February 1996), British Prime Minister John Major and his Irish counterpart, John Bruton, made the announcement of multi-party talks for 10 June, with the only precondition of the Provisional IRA restoring the cease-fire, therefore dropping the idea of a previous disarmament. The IRA Army Council and Sinn Féin choose to await until the next year UK elections to accept the offer. (Taylor, pp. 406-407)]

The ceasefires

In August 1994, the Provisional IRA announced a "complete cessation of military operations". This was the culmination of several years of negotiations between the Republican leadership, led by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, various figures in the local political parties, the Irish government and British government. It was informed by the view that neither the UK forces, nor the IRA could win the war and that greater progress towards Republican objectives might be achieved by negotiation.

While many Provisional IRA volunteers were (and are) reportedly unhappy with the end of armed struggle short of the achievement of a united Ireland, the peace strategy has since resulted in substantial electoral and political gains for Sinn Féin, the movement's political wing. It may now be argued that the Sinn Féin political party has eclipsed the Provisional IRA as the most important part of the republican movement. The ceasefire of 1994 therefore, while not a definitive end to Provisional IRA operations, marked the effective end of its full scale armed campaign.The Provisional IRA called off its 1994 ceasefire on 9 February, 1996 because of its dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations. They signalled the end of the ceasefire by detonating a truck bomb at Canary Wharf in London, which caused the deaths of two civilians and massive damage to property. In the summer of 1996, another truck bomb devastated Manchester city centre. However the Provisional IRA campaign after the ceasefire was suspended during this period never reached the intensity of previous years. In total the IRA killed 2 British soldiers, 2 RUC officers, 2 British civilians, and 1 Garda according to the CAIN project. [Moloney, p. 459] They resumed their ceasefire on 20 July, 1997. These Provisional IRA military activities of 1996-97 were widely believed to have been used to gain leverage in negotiations with the British government during the period. Whereas in 1994-95, the British Conservative Party government had refused to enter public talks with Sinn Féin until the IRA had given up its weapons, the Labour Party government in power by 1997 was prepared to include Sinn Féin in peace talks before IRA decommissioning. Another widespread interpretation of the temporary breakdown in the first IRA ceasefire is that the leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness tolerated a limited return to violence in order to avoid a split between hardliners and moderates in the IRA Army Council. Once they had won over or removed the militarists from the Council, they re-instated the ceasefire. [Moloney, p. 472]


According to the CAIN research project at the University of Ulster, [ [ CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths - extracts from Sutton's book ] ] the Provisional IRA was responsible for the deaths of 1,821 people during the Troubles up to 2001. This figure represents 48.4 percent of the total fatalities in the conflict.
*621 of these casualties were civilians.
*A total of 655 were British armed forces; 465 from the British Army, 190 were from the Ulster Defence Regiment (a part time local British Army reserve unit).
*272 were members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, 14 were former Royal Ulster Constabulary members, six were British Police, 20 were Northern Ireland Prison Service officers, two were former prison officers.
*A further 35 were loyalist paramilitaries (21 Ulster Defence Association (UDA), three former UDA, 11 Ulster Volunteer Force).
*Six were Gardaí and one was Irish Army.
*About 180 were republican paramilitaries, including 12 Official IRA members, one Irish People's Liberation Organisation member, 63 alleged informers and 103 accidental deaths of Provisional IRA members due to premature explosions.

Another detailed study, ["Lost Lives" (2004. Ed's David McKitrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea)] gives the following figures for people killed by the Provisional IRA up to 2004:
*644 civilians,
*456 British military (including British Army, RAF, Royal Navy, and Territorial Army), 273 Royal Ulster Constabulary (including RUC reserve), 182 Ulster Defence Regiment,
*163 Republican paramilitary members (including from the IRA),
*28 loyalist paramilitary members, 23 Northern Ireland Prison Service officers, 7 Gardaí or Irish Army, and five British police officers ("Lost Lives", page 1536).

"Lost Lives" therefore concludes that the Provisional IRA was responsible for a total of 1,781 deaths to date. It has also been estimated that the IRA injured 6,000 British Army, UDR and RUC and up to 14,000 civilians, during the Troubles. [O'Brien, p. 135]

The IRA lost 276 members during the Troubles according to the CAIN figures. "Lost Lives" states that 294 Provisional IRA members died in the Troubles. [Lost Lives, p. 1531] In addition, many members of Sinn Féin were killed, some of whom were also IRA members, but this was not publicly acknowledged. An Phoblacht gives a figure of 341 IRA and Sinn Féin members killed in the Troubles, indicating between 50-60 Sinn Féin deaths if the IRA deaths are subtracted. [O'Brien, p. 26] In roughly 123 of these cases, IRA members caused their own deaths. Twelve IRA members died on hunger strike. Another hundred or so were killed by their own explosives in premature bombing accidents - 103 deaths according to CAIN, 105 according to an RUC report of 1993. [O'Brien, p. 160] Thirteen were killed on allegations of having worked for the security forces (CAIN). Lost Lives gives a figure of 163 killings of republican paramilitary members (but this includes bombing accidents and feuds with republicans from other organisations). [Lost Lives, p. 1536] Most of the remaining 200 or so IRA killed were by the British Army, followed by the RUC and then the loyalist paramilitaries.

Far more common than the killing of IRA volunteers however, was their imprisonment. Journalists Eamonn Mallie and Patrick Bishop estimate in "The Provisional IRA" (1988), that between 8-10,000 Provisional IRA members were, up until that point, imprisoned during the course of the conflict, a number they also give as the total number of IRA members during the Troubles. [Mallie Bishop, p. 12] The total number of Provisional IRA members imprisoned must therefore be considerably higher, once the figures from 1988-1998 are included.

British Army assessment

An internal British Army document released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in 2007 stated an expert opinion that the British Army had failed to defeat the IRA by force of arms but also claims to have "shown the IRA that it could not achieve its ends through violence". [ [ Army paper says IRA not defeated] ] The document [ [ AC 71842 Operation BANNER ] ] examined 37 years of British troop deployment and was compiled following a six month study by a team of three officers carried out in early 2006 for General Sir Mike Jackson, the British Army's Chief of the General Staff. The military assessment describes the IRA as "professional, dedicated, highly skilled and resilient". [Chapter I, page 3]

The paper divides the IRA activity and tactics in two main periods: The so called "insurgency" phase (1971-1972), and the "terrorist" phase (1972-1997). [Chapter I, page 2] The British Army claims to have curbed the IRA insurgency by 1972, [The paper asserts that Operation Motorman was key to this achievement] but suggests that their efforts since the 1980s aimed to destroy [Chapter II, page 15: "The British Government’s main military objective in the 1980s was the destruction of PIRA, rather than resolving the conflict."] the cell-structured organisation produced no final success "in any recognisable way". [Chapter VII, page 5]

Other activities

Apart from its armed campaign, the Provisional IRA was also involved in many other activities, including "policing" of nationalist communities, robberies and kidnapping for the purposes of raising funds, fund raising in other countries, involvement in community events and parades, and intelligence gathering. The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), a body supervising the ceasefire and activities of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland has judged the Provisional IRA to have ceased all of the above activities. [The IMC issues a bi-yearly public report on the activities of all paramilitary groups operating and known of in Northern Ireland. [ Official website] ]

Community Policing

The Provisional IRA considered itself the policing force and defender of nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. This was generally accepted by the communities involved who expressed little confidence in the neutrality of the RUC and British Army. The Provisional IRA was often turned to first for help in solving problems of crime and disorder. [ On occasion policing or presence by the Provisional IRA was rejected by communities. Communities which had undergone attack by Loyalists were more likely to be supportive of the organisation eg. the Short Strand and West Belfast are two prime examples.] The role of protector which the Provisional IRA assumed often saw members of those communities physically harmed, forced out of the areas (being "put out" or exiling), otherwise threatened and in extreme cases killed by the Provisional IRA.

Activities deemed punishable by the Provisional IRA (often described as "anti-social activities"), included collaboration with the RUC and/or British Army ie. informing, drug dealing, criminal activity outside of the Provisional IRA, joy riding, spreading of dissent, and any other activities which might either damage the Provisional IRA or interests of the community as defined by the Provisional IRA. For the most part the list of activities deemed punishable by the Provisional IRA coincided with those deemed punishable by the community at large. Punishments ranged in severity from verbal warnings to physical attacks, through to wounding by gunshot, progressing to forcing the suspect to flee Ireland for their lives and execution. This process was often described as "summary justice" by the political establishment and media. In the majority of cases the Provisional IRA claimed that a full investigation had been carried out and that guilt had been established before their sentence was carried out. The process, which was widely known of in nationalist communities, worked on a sliding scale of severity- in the case of a petty thief a warning to stop may initially be issued, escalating to a physical attack known as a "punishment beating" usually with baseball bats or similar tools. If the behaviour continued then a more serious physical assault known as a "knee-capping" (gunshot wounds to limbs, hands, joints) would occur. The final level would be a threat of death against the suspect if they did not leave the island of Ireland, and if this order was not adhered to, death. The IMC has noted that the Provisional IRA has repeatedly come under pressure from nationalist community members since its cessation of violence to resume such policing but has resisted such requests.cite web | title = Thirteenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission | author = | url = | publisher = "Independent Monitoring Commission" | date = 30 January, 2007 | accessdate = 2007-03-30]

Suspected informers and those who cooperated with the RUC and British Army (sometimes referred to as collaborators) were generally dealt with by a counter-intelligence unit titled the Internal Security Unit (ISU) sometimes referred to as the "nutting squad". Typically the ISU would abduct and interrogate suspects frequently using torture to extract confessions. The interrogations would often be recorded and played back to senior Provisional IRA members at a secretly held board of inquiry. This board would then pronounce judgement, usually a fatal gunshot to the head. A judgement as severe as execution was frequently made public in the form of a communique released to the media but in some cases, for reasons of political expediency, the Provisional IRA did not announce responsibility. The bodies of executed informers were usually found shot dead by roadsides in isolated areas. On occasion recordings of their confessions were released to the media.

This style of summary justice, often meted out based on evidence of dubious quality, by untrained investigators and self appointed judges frequently lead to what the Provisional IRA has acknowledged as horrific mistakes. The killings of Jean McConville and other "disappeared" are the most prominent examples. Members of the Provisional IRA have also often been linked to killings and crimes which the Provisional IRA denies it authorised, the murder of Robert McCartney, being the last known example. As of February 2007 the IMC has stated that the Provisional IRA has issued "instructions to members not to use physical force" and noted what it describes as "the leadership’s maintenance of a firm stance against the involvement of members in criminality." Where criminality has been engaged in by Provisional IRA members the IMC note that "we were satisfied these individual activities werecontrary to the express injunctions of the leadership".

Internal Republican Feuds

The Provisional IRA has also targeted other republican paramilitary groups and dissenting members of the Provisional IRA who refuse or disregard orders. In 1972, 1975 and 1977, the Official IRA and Provisional IRA engaged in attacks on the opposing organisation leaving several dead on either side. In 1992, The Provisional IRA attacked and eliminated the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO), which was widely perceived as being involved in drug dealing and other criminality in West Belfast. One IPLO member was killed, several knee-capped and more ordered to disband and/or leave the country. The last known example of this practise as of February 2007 took place in 2000 and involved the shooting dead of a Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) member for his opposition to the Provisionals' political strategy. [ [ British Irish Rights Watch] ]

Activities in Republic of Ireland

Although the Provisional IRA's General Order No.8 forbids military action "against 26 County forces under any circumstances whatsoever",O'Brien, p. 121] members of the Garda Síochána (the Republic of Ireland's police force) have also been killed. Perhaps the most notorious was the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. McCabe was killed by machine-gun fire as he sat in his patrol car in Adare County Limerick during the escort of a post office delivery in 1996. Sinn Féin has called for the release of his killers under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. In total the Provisional IRA killed six Gardaí and one Irish Army soldier, mostly during robberies. These killings as well as sectarian attacks against Protestant civilians, and punishment attacks on the nationalist community lost the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin political, financial and moral support in the Republic.

Robberies and criminal enterprise

The Provisional IRA has carried out numerous bank and post office robberies across Ireland throughout its existence. An RUC estimate from 1982-83, puts the amount stolen in such raids by the Provisional IRA at around £700,000 (sterling 1982-83 rate). In the 1980s, Provisional IRA members were suspected of kidnapping the racehorse Shergar in an attempt to ransom the animal. Also in the 1980s the Provisional IRA were involved in in the kidnapping and ransom of businessmen Gael Weston, Ben Dunne and Don Tidey. Activities such as these were linked to the IRA's fund-raising. Gardaí estimate that the Provisional IRA got up to £1.5 million from these activities. Activities such as smuggling, sale of stolen items and contraband including cigarettes and red diesel, extortion and protection rackets, and money laundering. Most recently the Provisional IRA is suspected to have carried out the Northern Bank Robbery in December 2004, although this crime remains unsolved as of September 2007. The proceeds of the Provisional IRA's past criminal enterprises are largely thought to have been invested in property and business ventures. Such investments are an ongoing matter of investigation for the British and Irish authorities under proceeds of crime legislation. The IMC note that in their view the Provisional IRA has not had any "organisational involvement in robbery or other such organised crime" up to January 2007.



*Martin Dillon, "25 Years of Terror - the IRA's War against the British"
*Richard English, "Armed Struggle - the History of the IRA"
*Peter Taylor, "Provos - the IRA and Sinn Féin"
*Ed Moloney, "The Secret History of the IRA"
*Eamonn Mallie and Patrick Bishop, "The Provisional IRA"
*Toby Harnden, "Bandit Country -The IRA and South Armagh"
*Brendan O'Brien, "The Long War - The IRA and Sinn Féin"
*Tim Pat Coogan, "The Troubles"
*Tony Geraghty, "The Irish War"
*Kevin Toolis, "Rebel Hearts"
*David McKitrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea, "Lost Lives".

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