A long history of conflict
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland from 4pm on Thursday.
The guerrilla group said it would cease all armed activity and pursue its aims through politics in what is seen as a crucial move to revive talks on a lasting political settlement in Northern Ireland.
Here are some facts about the IRA:
The Irish Republican Army began as an alternative name
for the Irish Volunteers who were the official army of the emergent Irish state and its new parliament which, in 1919, declared Ireland a free republic in defiance of Britain.
The partition of Ireland into a British-ruled northern territory and a semi-autonomous Irish Free State, which still owed allegiance to the British crown under the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, split the IRA in two. The ensuing civil war was fought between the Free State army and the IRA, known to the government as Irregulars.
The IRA was banned by the Irish government in 1936 and became a fringe group. It re-emerged at the start of the so-called Northern Ireland “troubles” in the late 1960s when tensions between republicans and pro-British unionists in the province led to riots and the subsequent placing of British troops on the streets.
In 1969, the organisation splintered again. The Official IRA declared a ceasefire in 1972 while the Provisional IRA (Provos) launched a military campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland. The provisionals received a significant boost to their support base after British paratroopers shot dead 13 protesters in Londonderry on 30 January 1972, an event that became known as Bloody Sunday.
Blamed for half of the 3600 deaths during three decades of the “troubles”, the IRA called a ceasefire in 1997 but its arsenal of weapons, its role in organised crime and its use of punishment beatings to “police” Catholic areas have blocked a final resolution.
Dissident republican guerrilla groups such as the “Real IRA” and the “Continuity IRA” still retain the capacity to carry out attacks.