Since the Provisional Irish Republican Army called a ceasefire and ended its armed campaign in 1997, breakaway groups opposed to the ceasefire ("dissident republicans") have continued an armed campaign against the British security forces in Northern Ireland. The main paramilitaries involved are the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, which both split from the Provisional IRA. Their campaign began at the end of The Troubles, a 30-year period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland that spilled over at various times into the Republic of Ireland, England and mainland Europe. The Good Friday Agreement of May 1998 is generally seen as marking the end of The Troubles. Like the Provisional IRA, the main loyalist paramilitaries have also been on ceasefire since the end of The Troubles. However, small-scale violence has been continued by dissident (anti-ceasefire) loyalists too, partly as a reaction to the dissident republican campaign.
The campaign is of much lower intensity than The Troubles, which resulted in over 3,500 deaths. To date, two British Army soldiers, two Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers and one Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) guard have been killed as part of the campaign. Over 30 civilians have also been killed, 29 of whom died in the Omagh bombing.
Since the 1169 invasion of Ireland by Norman knights at the request of ousted King of Leinster Dermot MacMurrough, Ireland has, in part or in whole, been under English, and later British, administration. Rebellions against rule from Great Britain were unsuccessful until 1919–1921's Anglo-Irish War, when the original Irish Republican Army (IRA) succeeded in removing 26 of Ireland's 32 traditional counties from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State. The remaining six counties, located in the province of Ulster, however, became Northern Ireland and remained a part of the renamed United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
A civil war followed in the new southern state, and the IRA split for the first time, into the Irish National Army—the war's victor, which became the army of the Free State—and the Anti-Treaty IRA, which was opposed to the treaty that had partitioned Ireland into two states.
The IRA ceased to be a significant force following its defeat in the Civil War, and it wasn't until a further split, into the Official IRA and Provisional IRA (PIRA) following the 1969 Northern Ireland riots, that a group calling itself the Irish Republican Army—this time the Provisionals—would again come to prove a significant military force. As a belligerent in what would come to be known as The Troubles, the PIRA waged an armed campaign against the British state that lasted until 1997 and claimed around 1800 lives.
The PIRA called an indefinite ceasefire in 1997 and decommissioned its arms in 2005, but a number of hardline splinter groups, known as dissident republicans, have vowed to continue using "armed struggle" to achieve the republican aim of a united Ireland.
Beginnings of the campaign
The first dissident grouping to carry out attacks in Northern Ireland were the Continuity IRA, when they carried out a bomb attack in Enniskillen in 1994, although it had existed since 1986 it did not begin attacks until after the first Provisional IRA ceasefire of 1994. The CIRA carried out a number of attacks over the next 3 years before the Provisionals called their second ceasefire, notably these attacks included a 1,200 lb car bomb outside a hotel in County Fermanagh and a number of other car bombings. After the Real IRA split from the Provisionals it quickly became active and carried out a number of attacks, the first being an unsuccessful car bombing attempt in January 1998. Both groups carried out a number of attacks throughout 1998 in an attempt to destabilise the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
The Omagh bombing
On 15 August 1998 the RIRA left a car containing 500 lb of home-made explosives in the centre of Omagh, County Tyrone. The bombers could not find a parking space near the intended target of the courthouse, and the car was left 400 metres away. As a result three inaccurate telephone warnings were issued, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) believed the bomb was actually located outside the courthouse. They attempted to establish a security cordon to keep civilians clear of the area, which inadvertently pushed people closer to the actual location of the bomb. Shortly after, the bomb exploded killing 29 people and injuring 220 others, in what became the deadliest attack in The Troubles inside Northern Ireland.
The bombing caused a major outcry throughout the world, and the Irish and British governments introduced new legislation in an attempt to destroy the organisation. The RIRA also came under pressure from the Provisional IRA, when Provisional IRA members visited the homes of 60 people connected with the RIRA and ordered them to disband and stop interfering with Provisional IRA arms dumps. With the organisation under intense pressure, the RIRA called a ceasefire on 8 September.
Return to activity
The RIRA used the ceasefire to regroup and procure more arms for their campaign. Meanwhile the CIRA continued its activities and carried out a number of attacks. However there was a lull in dissident activity after the outcry from the Omagh bombing. The RIRA returned to its campaign in January of the year 2000, declaring in a statement sent to the Irish News, "Once again, Óglaigh na hÉireann declares the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland. We call on all volunteers loyal to the Irish Republic to unite to uphold the Republic and establish a permanent national parliament representative of all the people." The next month it attempted to bomb an army barracks, however the bombers were disturbed before the device was assembled. As well as attacking the security forces the dissidents have carried out actions such as punishing criminals on their 'territory' through punishment attacks, these can range from a warning, to a punishment beating, to shooting the victim (kneecapping), and in some cases, killing them, or forcing them to leave the country.
The RIRA have also been responsible for a number of bomb attacks in England, most notably the 4 March 2001 BBC bombing and the 3 August 2001 Ealing bombing, as well as launching an RPG-22 rocket at MI6 headquarters in London in 2000.
Since that time, tensions have resulted in a number of splinter groups from both organisations. These have included two CIRA splinter groups, Óglaigh na hÉireann, which is now inactive and ceased all activity in 2009, and Saoirse na hÉireann. A Real IRA splinter group, also calling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann, is active and growing.
The first fatalities suffered by the security forces since the end of the Troubles occurred in the 2009 Massereene Barracks shooting, when the Real IRA shot dead two British soldiers, and injured four others, including two soldiers and two civilians. Within a week a Continuity IRA sniper shot dead a PSNI officer responding to a distress call. In January 2010, the Real IRA killed convicted Drug Dealer Gerard Staunton in Cork City, and warned that it would kill others involved in the drugs trade. Earlier in January 2010, Óglaigh na hÉireann carried out a booby trap bomb attack on a PSNI officer, leaving him seriously injured and his leg having to be amputated. In April, 2011, another PSNI officer was killed, this time by a booby trap bomb that was attached to his car.
On 20 June 2011, the UVF invaded the nationalist area of the Short Strand and began attacking nationalist homes, the men were dressed in balaclavas and full camouflage gear. Republicans opened fire, shooting two loyalists in the legs. Riots continued for hours, and a nationalist resident of the short strand was seriously injured when a breezeblock was dropped on his head by loyalists. A second night of rioting followed, with a press photographer being shot in the leg by republicans. See 2011 Belfast riots.
On 26 July 2012, the Real IRA and a number of breakaway IRA organisations, including Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) and Oglaigh na hEireann, put out a statement of unity "Following extensive consultations, Irish republicans and a number of organisations involved in armed actions against the armed forces of the British crown have come together within a unified structure, under a single leadership, subservient to the constitution of the Irish Republican Army". The day after this statement was issued the Belfast-based Oglaigh na hEireann carried out a gun and mortar rocket attack on police in west Belfast, this is the first time any so called "dissident" grouping has carried out a horizontal mortar attack on police. Police later also found two car bombs.
On 3 September 2012, a leading Real IRA member, Alan Ryan was shot dead in an apparent ambush by drug dealers in Dublin.
On 1 November a senior member of the Northern Ireland Prison Service was gunned down in an apparent ambush by Republican Paramilitaries on a motorway as he was driving to work in Maghaberry Prison. In March 2013 Republicans tried to target the G8 summit held in Northern Ireland with a car bomb but were unsuccessful. They also tried to target a police station in Derry City with mortars but just before they could carry out the attack they were apprehended by the PSNI.
On 29 August after a long security alert the PSNI found and defuses two mortar-type devices in south Armagh. On November 25 a car bomb partially exploded outside a shopping centre in Belfast city centre, the detonator went off, but failed to trigger the bomb, which consisted of home-made explosives in a beer keg. Almost a week later on 6 December multiple shots were fired at a PSNI convoy from an AK47 automatic assault rifle in North Belfast, the next day a number of shots hit a PSNI Landrover while it was travelling through West Belfast. On 14 December a small bomb made of explosives and flammable liquid blew out in the centre of Belfast. The attack was claimed by Oglaigh na hEireann.
In February 2014 Scotland Yard confirmed that the New IRA were responsible for sending parcel bombs to British Army recruitment centres in Oxford, Brighton, Aldershot, Reading, Chatham, Canterbury and the Queensmere shopping centre in Slough. This later sparked a major bomb alert at the Royal Mail Sorting office in Tomb Street Belfast.
On 14 March 2014 a motar was fired into a residential area by republicans who claimed to be the IRA. The explosion damaged buildings and serveral cars damaged one family narrowly avoided injury. 19 March a nail bomb device was found in East Belfast
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- "Real IRA Gangster Shot Dead In Dublin 'Hit'". Sky News. 2012-09-04. http://news.sky.com/story/980557/real-ira-gangster-shot-dead-in-dublin-hit?f=ob. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
- "Prison officer killed in Co Armagh shooting". RTÉ News. 2012-11-02. http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/1101/man-shot-dead-in-co-armagh.html. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
- Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent (2013-03-25). "Terror group claims car bomb was meant for Northern Ireland G8 summit". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/mar/25/terror-bomb-g8-northern-ireland. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
- Londonderry mortars: Bombs 'within minutes' of launch. BBC news, 5 March 2013
- Cullyhanna mortar find: Police say plan was to kill officers BBC news, 28 August 2012
- Car bomb partially explodes in Belfast. Independent.ie, 24 November 2013
- Shots fired at police patrol in West Belfast . RTÉ news, 7 December 2013
- Belfast bomb 'despicable' say Robinson and McGuinness. BBC News, 14 December 2013
- List of Irish Republican Paramilitary Groups
- List of Loyalist Paramilitary Groups
- The Irish Republican Movement Collection at Indiana University
- BBC News timeline of dissident republican activity (March 2009 – March 2013)
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