Provisional Irish Republican Army

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The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a United Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion.[5] It emerged out of the December 1969 split of the Irish Republican Army due to differences over ideology and over how to respond to violence against the nationalist community. This violence had followed the community's demands for civil rights in 1968 and 1969, which met with resistance from the unionist community and from the authorities, and culminated in the 1969 Northern Ireland riots.[6] The IRA conducted an armed campaign, primarily in Northern Ireland but also in England and mainland Europe, over the course of which is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 630 civilians.[7][8] The IRA itself lost 275 – 300 members,[9] of an estimated 10,000 total over the thirty-year period.[1] The Provisional Irish Republican Army is also referred to as the PIRA, the Provos, or by its supporters as the Army or the 'RA;[10] its constitution establishes it as Óglaigh na hÉireann ("The Irish Volunteers") in the Irish language.[11]

The IRA's initial strategy was to use force to cause the collapse of the Northern Ireland administration and to inflict enough casualties on the British forces that the British government would be forced by public opinion to withdraw from the region.[12] This policy involved recruitment of volunteers, increasing after Bloody Sunday, and launching attacks against British military and economic targets.[13][14] The campaign was supported by arms and funding from Libya[15] and from some groups in the United States.[16][17] The IRA agreed to a ceasefire in February 1975, which lasted nearly a year[18] before the IRA concluded that the British were drawing them into politics without offering any guarantees in relation to the IRA's goals, and hopes of a quick victory receded.[19] As a result, the IRA launched a new strategy known as "the Long War". This saw them conduct a war of attrition against the British and increase emphasis on political activity, via the political party Sinn Féin.[20]

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