Irish Conflict

Irish conflict
Who is fighting whom?

It is not so much a fight between ordinary Catholic and Protestant citizens but rather a fight between extremist groups from either side of the divide. If one group carries out a violent act, it is usually responded by the other. The killings involved are usually referred to as sectarian or 'tit for tat' - killings. These are the extremist groups:

IRA (the Irish Republican Army)
Provisional IRA (Provos)
INLA (the Irish National Liberation Army)
UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force)
UDA (Ulster Defence Association)
UFF (Ulster Freedom Fighters)

The military structure of the IRA

This is a map of the city of Belfast with Skankill (Protestant) and Falls (Catholic) Roads

Irish Republican Army (IRA)
synonyms: Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), Provos, Direct Action Against Drugs
The main Republican paramilitary group involved in the Northern Ireland conflict. The central aim of the IRA is to end British control of Northern Ireland and to achieve the reunification of the island of Ireland. The Provisional IRA was established when the IRA split in December 1969 between the 'Officials' and the 'Provisionals'. Both groupings had a military wing, the 'Official' and 'Provisional' IRA, and both had a political wing, the 'Official' and 'Provisional' Sinn FĂ©in (SF). The 'Official' IRA declared a cease - fire in the summer of 1972 and from then on the term IRA was used for the organisation that had developed from the 'Provisional' IRA. From a splinter group of a small and badly equipped paramilitary grouping the 'Provisional' IRA developed into a comparatively large, well financed, well equipped guerrilla organisation which has been involved in, what it calls, an 'armed campaign' for almost three decades. This campaign has involved violent attacks on the security system in the region and on the civilian population. According to Sutton (1994) the IRA was responsible for the deaths of 1,755 people between July 1969 and December 1993. During the same period the IRA lost approximately 243 members. As part of the 'Peace Process' the IRA called a cease - fire on 31 August 1994. However, because of what it considered a lack of political movement in the peace process the IRA resumed its 'armed campaign' on 9 February 1996. After the election of a Labour government to Westminster a number of developments led to the resumption of the IRA cease - fire on 20 July 1997. The IRA considered that the Good Friday Agreement "document clearly falls short of presenting a solid basis for a lasting settlement" (statement 30 April 1998) however the IRA did not reject Agreement. The IRA is currently on cease - fire but has refused to decommission its weapons; an act which it considers to be a surrender to the British Crown.

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
synonyms: Protestant Action Force; Protestant Action Group
The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is a Loyalist paramilitary group that was formed in 1966. The group adopted the name of the previous UVF which was formed in 1912 to oppose, by armed force, the arrangements for Home Rule in Ireland. Potential conflict in Ireland was averted by the First World War and many of the members of the then UVF joined the British Army's 36th (Ulster) Division and fought - and died in large numbers - on the battlefields of the Somme. The aim of the present UVF is to ensure that Northern Ireland's constitutional position within the United Kingdom is secure. The re - established UVF was opposed to the reform that were being considered in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As Loyalist paramilitary groups often did not claim responsibility for the killings they committed and on many occasions used pseudonyms, it is difficult to give an accurate count of the number of people killed by each organisation. However, the UVF has been responsible, over a period of almost 30 years, for scores of assassinations in Northern Ireland, mostly of innocent Catholics. The UVF is also believed to have been responsible for the greatest loss of life in a single day when it planted bombs in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974 killing 33 innocent people. In May 1966 the UVF killed a Catholic man in the Falls Road, Belfast. On 26 June 1966 Peter Ward (18), who was working as a barman in a pub in the Shankill Road, Belfast, was shot dead as he left work. Augustus ('Gusty') Spence was sentenced to life imprisonment for this killing. In the early 1970s the main centres of UVF influence were the Shankill area of Belfast, East Antrim, and parts of County Armagh. In April 1974 Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland, removed the proscription on the UVF (making it a legal organisation) in an attempt to encourage it to move towards constitutional politics. However, on 2 October 1975 the UVF carried out a number of attacks in which 12 people died, 6 of them were Catholic civilians. On 3 October 1975 the UVF was once again 'proscribed'. On 5 October 1975 the security forces swooped on a number of houses in Belfast and East Antrim and arrested 26 suspected UVF men. In March 1977 the men were sentenced to a total of 700 years imprisonment. In April 1983 Joseph Bennett, who was a commander in the UVF, became an informer giving the RUC information which lead to the conviction of 14 leading members of the UVF. In the coming years the UVF was to suffer from the effects of further informers. During the 1990s the UVF had a particularly active unit in the Portadown area of Northern Ireland which was responsible for the killing of many innocent Catholics. The UVF became a part of the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) in 1991 (?). In 1996 a number of disaffected 'maverick' members of the mid - Ulster brigade of the UVF broke away to form the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is considered to be the source of political analysis for the UVF. The UVF has been on ceasefire since October 1994. The announcement of the ceasefire by the CLMC was made by 'Gusty' Spence. [Estimates of the level of membership and the size of the arsenal of weapons available to the UVF are difficult to make. The UVF may have reached its high point with a membership of approximately 1,500 in the early 1970s. It is probable that the UVF currently has several hundred members many of whom would provide support to those who actually carry out attacks. The UVF is believed to have access to AK - 47 rifles, pistols, and revolvers. It also believed to have a small number of RPG - 7 rocket launchers. The UVF has also used stolen Powergel mining explosive in a number of attacks some of which were launched in the Republic of Ireland.]
Membership: Membership of the UVF is estimated to be up to several hundred, with a smaller number being 'active' members.
Arsenal: 200 AK - 47 rifles, Uzi machineguns, and machine pistols (also home - made submachine guns); dozens of pistols and revolvers. The UVF also has a small number of RPG - 7 rocket launchers and a small amount of Powergel (commercial plastic explosive), some of which has been used in occasional bomb attacks in the Republic of Ireland.

Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
synonyms: Ulster Freedom Fighters
The UDA was, and remains, the largest Loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. It was formed in September 1971 from a number of Loyalist vigilante groups many of which were called 'defence associations'; one such group was the Shankill Defence Association. The UDA's first leader was Charles Smith. Members of the UDA have, since 1973, used the cover name of Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) to claim the responsibility for the killing of Catholics. Despite the well known link between the two groups the UDA was only proscribed (declared illegal) on 10 August 1992. The UDA attracted many thousands of members (at its peak the estimated membership was 40,000) and very quickly became a formidable force particularly in Belfast. The UDA had a policy of excluding Members of Parliament (MPs) and clergymen from its membership and sought to retain its working - class credentials. During the protests against the imposition of direct rule from Westminster the UDA campaigned with Ulster Vanguard and the Loyalist Association of Workers (LAW). The UDA arranged massive displays of strength on the streets of Belfast during the summer of 1972, when thousands of 'uniformed' members marched through the city centre. One of the biggest 'stand - offs' between the UDA and the British Army at this time took place on 3 July 1972 in Belfast, when 8,000 UDA members confronted 250 troops. However, it was during the May 1974 Ulster Workers' Council strike that the UDA carried out its biggest operation. It was the UDA, through the use of road blocks, which brought large sections of Northern Ireland to a stand - still. From 1973 the UFF was responsible for scores of shootings and bombing attacks. In 1977 the UDA supported the United Unionist Action Council (UUAC) strike, but it did not support Ian Paisley's 'Day of Action' nor his 'Third Force' in 1981. In 1978 the UDA sponsored the New Ulster Political Research Group (NUPRG) a political think - tank. In March 1979 the NUPRG issued a proposal for an independent Northern Ireland. In June 1981 the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party (ULDP) was established to replace the NUPRG. The ULDP advocated independence for Northern Ireland within the British Commonwealth and the European Community. The UDA opposed the Anglo - Irish Agreement but was not in favour of a national strike over the issue. In January 1987 the UDA published the document Common Sense which set out plans for a future political settlement. The document did receive favourable responses from the British government, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). In December 1987 John McMichael, then deputy leader of the UDA, was killed in a bomb attack carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). However, it was alleged that McMichael had been set up by fellow members of the UDA. Early in 1988 Andy Tyrie was removed as leader of the UDA and control passed to an 'inner council' of six members. During 1988 large quantities of arms were secured by the UDA some of which came from South Africa. In October 1988 both the UDA and the UFF were included in the direct broadcasting ban. In 1989 the ULDP changed its name to Ulster Democratic Party (UDP). During the Stevens inquiry it became apparent that the UDA had access to a large number of security files on Republicans and suspected members of Republican paramilitary groups. During the 1990s the UFF stepped up its attacks on Catholics and Republicans. It also attacked SDLP politicians and councillors. There were a number of multiple killings including: five Catholics on 5 February 1992 in Belfast; three Catholics on 14 November 1992; six Catholics during 48 hours in March 1993; and six Catholics and one Protestant on 30 October 1993. The UDA and the UFF joined with other Loyalist paramilitary groups in calling a ceasefire on 13 October 1994 in response to the earlier IRA ceasefire. The UDP earned a place at the multi - party talks following the Forum election in May 1996. The UFF (and the UDA) broke their ceasefire during December 1997 and January 1998 and this resulted in the UDP being expelled from the talks. The UDP were readmitted to the talks when the UFF announced a renewed ceasefire on 23 January 1998. Although the paramilitary organisations had resevations about the Good Friday Agreement they backed the UDP in its support for the Agreement.
Membership: At its peak in the mid - 1970s, the UDA could organise 30,000 members on the streets of Belfast. Its current strength is probably several hundred with a few dozen being 'active' in the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) a covername used by the UDA.
Arsenal: 200 AK - 47 rifles, Uzi machineguns, and machine pistols (also home - made submachine guns, perhaps hundreds); 200 handguns; an unknown amount of Powergel (commercial plastic explosive) which was probably obtained some time in 1994;

Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
synonyms: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
The UFF is a cover - name used by the UDA and as such the UFF could draw on the support of one of the largest Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.
(see: Ulster Defence Association; UDA)

Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
synonyms: People's Liberation Army (PLA); People's Republican Army (PRA); Catholic Reaction Force (CRF)
A Republican paramilitary group which was established in 1975. This group initially used the name People's Liberation Army (PLA) before adopting the name INLA. The INLA has also used a number of covernames including, People's Republican Army (PRA) and Catholic Reaction Force (CRF). At the time it was formed the INLA was considered to be the military wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP). The aim of the INLA, and the IRSP, is the re - unification of Ireland and the creation of a revolutionary socialist republic. Many of the initial recruits for the INLA were believed to have come from the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) which had called a ceasefire in 1972. Much of the support came from the Markets and Lower Falls areas of Belfast and from parts of County Derry. The INLA achieved world attention when it claimed responsibility for the bomb which killed Airey Neave within the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. Members of the INLA have been involved in a number of feuds when splinter groups developed and numerous previous members have died at the hands of former associates. During the ceasefires that began in 1994 the INLA did not declare a ceasefire, instead it adopted a policy of 'no - first - strike'. The INLA has always been a much smaller, and less active, paramilitary group than the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The INLA has killed approximately 125 people during the conflict of whom 45 were members of the security forces. The INLA has had approximately 20 (??) members killed. The INLA called a ceasefire on 22 August 1998.
Membership: Estimated at a couple of dozen active members with a network of supporters in Ireland and continental Europe.
Arsenal: Small stocks of rifles, hand guns and, possibly, grenades; it is also believed to have a small stock of commercial explosive from a source in New Zealand in the mid - 1990s.
Jack Holland and Henry McDonald (1994) INLA Deadly Divisions
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