Irish Republican Army

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a name used by various paramilitary organisations in Ireland throughout the 20th and the 21st centuries. Organisations going by this name have been dedicated to irredentism through Irish republicanism, the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic free from British rule.[1]

The original Irish Republican Army (1919–1922), often now referred to as the "old IRA", was raised in 1917 from members of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, later reinforced by Irishmen, formerly in the British Army in World War I, who returned to Ireland to fight against Britain in the Irish War of Independence In Irish law,[2] this IRA was the army of the revolutionary Irish Republic as declared by its parliament, Dáil Éireann, in 1919.

In the century that followed, the original IRA was reorganised, changed and split on multiple occasions, to such a degree that many subsequent paramilitary organisations have been known by that title – most notably the Provisional Irish Republican Army which was a key participant during the Troubles. The contemporary IRA organisations each claim the sole right to use that name, as they each insist they are the only legitimate descendants of the original IRA.

The playwright and former IRA member Brendan Behan once said that the first issue on any Irish organisation's agenda was "the split".[3] For the IRA, that has often been the case. The first split came after the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, with supporters of the Treaty forming the nucleus of the National Army of the newly created Irish Free State, while the anti-treaty forces continued to use the name Irish Republican Army. After the end of the Irish Civil War (1922–23), 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.

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

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