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The IRA Army Council was the decision-making body of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, more commonly known as the IRA, a paramilitary group dedicated to bringing about the end of the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The Council had seven members, said by the British and Irish governments to have included Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin. The Independent Monitoring Commission declared in 2008 that the council was "no longer operational or functional".[1] However, the IMC report also says the Army Council still exists and has not dissolved.[2]



The Army Council of the IRA split in December 1969 and a "Provisional" Army Council emerged as the head of the newly formed Provisional Irish Republican Army.[3]

Legal status

The IRA was a proscribed organization under the terms of the Offences Against the State Acts passed between 1939 and 1998 in the Republic of Ireland and under equivalent anti-terrorist legislation in the United Kingdom, making membership of it a criminal offence. In the Republic, trials for membership take place in the Special Criminal Court (where three judges hear cases without a jury, on the evidence of a Garda superintendent or higher rank) and carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Relationship with Sinn Féin

Senior members of Sinn Féin, some of whom, according to both the British and Irish governments, have sat on the Army Council, together with IRA members not known to be involved in illegal activities, have been effectively immune from prosecution in recent years in order to enable progress in the peace process.[citation needed]

On 14 January 2005, Martin Ferris, a Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry, was accused of being a member of the IRA Army Council in an article in The Irish Times written by journalist Kevin Myers. In the same article, Myers also accused members of Sinn Féin who had visited Downing Street in December 2004, a delegation that had included Gerry Adams, of sitting on the Army Council.[citation needed]

On February 20, 2005, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell publicly named Ferris, Gerry Adams, and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, as members of the Army Council during a radio interview.[4] The three men issued a statement the next day denying the charge.[5]

On 27 July 2005, McDowell expressed his belief that Adams, McGuinness, and Ferris had recently (within the previous few days) left the IRA Army Council. However he also claimed that it was his opinion that this by itself did not necessarily amount to a permanent split between the two organisations.


In 1985, The Sunday Times named Thomas "Slab" Murphy as a prominent IRA member. Although Murphy denied the allegation, in 1998 he lost his resulting libel case against the newspaper.

At the General Army Convention in May 2005, The Sunday Times reported that the following changes were made to the IRA Army Council:[6]

  • Bernard Fox replaced Brian Keenan
  • Brian Arthurs and Sean Murray were named as possible replacements for Gerry Adams
  • Martin "Duckster" Lynch replaced Martin McGuinness
  • Martin Ferris was also reported to have stepped down

The Sunday Times reported in July 2005 that security sources believed that the current Army Council consisted of:[7]

  • Thomas "Slab" Murphy, chief of staff
  • Brian Arthurs, Commander, Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade
  • Bernard Fox, a former hunger striker (on 24 September 2006, The Sunday Times reported that Fox had resigned from the Army Council)[8]
  • Sean "Spike" Murray, from Belfast, OC of Northern Command
  • Martin Lynch, Adjutant-general, an Adams supporter from Belfast[9]
  • Brian Gillen, from Belfast
  • A Dublin man who cannot be named for legal reasons

See also


  1. RTÉ September 3, 2008, "IRA Army Council no longer operational".
  2. The Guardian, September 3, 2008, "Provisionals' ruling body, the army council, has not dissolved"
  3. Gallagher, Michael (1985). Political Parties in the Republic of Ireland. Manchester University Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780719017971. Retrieved 2014-02-11. "In December 1969 the IRA's Army Council voted 39 - 12 to give de facto recognition to Westminster and the two Irish parliaments (the Dáil and Stormont), whereupon the minority withdrew and set up a 'Provisional' Army Council." 
  4. Chrisafis, Angelique (21 February 2005). "Minister accuses Adams of IRA role". The Guardian. London.,3604,1418906,00.html. 
  5. Chrisafis, Angelique (22 February 2005). "Pressure mounts on Sinn Féin as IRA men convicted". The Guardian. London.,2763,1419862,00.html. 
  6. Clarke, Liam (1 May 2005). "Hardliners go in big IRA shuffle". The Times. London.,,2091-1592812,00.html. 
  7. Clarke, Liam (24 July 2005). "De Chastelain extends stay to await IRA move". The Times. London.,,2091-1706378,00.html. 
  8. Clarke, Liam (24 September 2006). "Key members quit Sinn Féin over controls". The Times. London.,,176-2372287,00.html. 
  9. Leppard, David (16 January 2005). "MI5 boss admits bugging Adams". The Times. London.,,2087-1442540,00.html. 


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