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Irish Republican Army

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The Irish Volunteers, formed in 1913/14 and reorganized along conventional military command lines after the Easter Rising, became known as the IRA from 1919. During the Anglo‐Irish War, 1919–21, it became the dominant military arm of the Dáil government. Divided over the Anglo‐Irish treaty of December 1921, the minority formed the Provisional Government/Free State Army, while the majority armed against the new state in the civil war 1922–3. Defeat was implicit in the cease‐fire of April 1923. The raison d'être of the organization remained because of partition and the allegiance to the British crown. The outbreak of violence in Derry and Belfast from 1969 found the movement wanting in its traditional protective role for the catholic minority: graffiti claimed IRA stood for ‘I ran away’. A split occurred between the Belfast‐based traditional nationalist Provisional IRA and the Marxist Official IRA, with the latter shrinking and splintering into smaller republican organizations. The Provisional IRA waged a high‐profile terror campaign, which was instrumental in the collapse of Stormont in 1972 and in power‐sharing initiatives, but it lost support and momentum as a result of an unsuccessful truce 1974/5. Gaining considerable support from the hunger strike crisis of 1981, the movement adopted a more political strategy with Sinn Fein Armalite and ballot policy. Its refusal to begin effective disarmament jeopardized the peace process in the early 21st cent. The IRA would not disband but agreed to put its weapons out of use and in 2005 declared the armed struggle to be at an end.

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