While some dissident groups have kept up the fight, most factions of the Irish Republican Army have been maintaining the ceasefire as outlined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. However in a development that has gone almost unnoticed, the Provisional IRA delivered a warning
to the Police Service of Northern Ireland advising them to cease operations in the South Armagh area. When the warning was ignored, the Provisional IRA set up two mortars outside the village where the police were investigating.
While splinter groups have been conducting armed operations since 1998, this operation by the mainstream faction of the IRA is surprising. Coming on the heels of the Loyalist riots
in Belfast, there is reason to suspect that the Provisional IRA is rethinking the peace process.
Modern Irish Republican overview in six sentences:
On Easter of 1916, 1,200 men marched into the streets of Dublin and raised the Irish flag over the General Post Office; at the time the island was ruled from London. This action could be seen as the birth of the modern form of the IRA; and after a few years of guerrilla warfare the British offered a ceasefire that created the Irish Free State in the South, but left six counties in the North under the control of London. This treaty caused the first of many splits within the IRA, and armed conflict broke out between those that wanted to accept the treaty and those that would accept nothing short of free and united Ireland. Eventually, the pro-treaty side won in 1921, and relative peace followed until 1969 when rioting sparked armed resistance. That same year saw the Provisional IRA or “Provos” broke away from the organization that had been in existence since 1916. Decades of bombings, assassinations, prison riots, and mortar attacks followed until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which caused a large number of factions to break off forming the Official IRA, the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, as well as other smaller organizations.
The New IRA:
Last year, those splinter groups that broke off from the Provisional IRA after the Good Friday Agreement announced they were now operating under a unified command with a unified structure. The factionalism that had occurred was a blessing to British security services in the North, as the best and brightest of the Republican movement were scattered among rival organizations. Now that the senior leadership has come to an agreement, they are a more formidable force. The increase in Republican violence since the merger
has been slight, but it is widely agreed that the time has been spent reorganizing the groups into a cohesive organization.
The stage is set:
Historically, the IRA has always waited until Britain was either at war with a foreign power, or the public has lost its appetite for war. It is very likely, that Republican leadership sees the vote against the Syrian war as a sign that the British people, after weathering long engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, do not have the stomachs for a prolonged campaign in Ireland.
The mindset of the Republicans:
Those committed to the Republican cause have always talked about it in terms of generations of war. The idea that the struggle will continue on forever is firmly implanted in their minds, and to be fair, it has been going on for about 800 years. However, one of the most telling statements about the IRA’s willingness to wait comes in the form of an announcement
the IRA made shortly after failing to assassinate Margaret Thatcher.
“Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once – you will have to be lucky always.”
The IRA may be trying their luck a lot sooner than most expect.