MMP: New Irish Republican Army

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New Irish Republican Army

The New Irish Republican Army is a republican dissident militant organization operating in Northern Ireland.

Key Statistics

2012 First Recorded Activity
2012 First Attack
2019 Profile Last Updated

Profile Contents

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Overview

Narrative of the Organization's History

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Organization

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

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Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

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Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

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Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

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Maps

Mapping relationships with other militant groups over time

Contact MMP

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

Download Full Profile as PDF

Last updated August 2019

How To Cite

Mapping Militants Organization. "New Irish Republican Army." Stanford University. Last Modified August 2019. https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/content/mmp-new-irish-republican-army
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Organizational Overview

Formed: 2012

Disbanded: The group is active. 

First Attack: November 1, 2012: New IRA members shot and killed Northern Ireland Police officer David Black on his way to work. The group claimed the killing was in retaliation for the treatment of republican militants in prison.[2]

Last Attack: June 2019: The New IRA took responsibility for a bomb placed under a police car in East Belfast. No officers were harmed in the incident.[3]

 

Executive Summary

The New Irish Republican Army (New IRA) is a republican paramilitary group that formed in 2012. The group resulted from the merger of the Real Irish Republican Army, Republican Action Against Drugs, and several smaller dissident republican groups. In 2019, many former members of Oglaigh na hEireannalso joined the New IRA. Like most republican groups, the New IRA’s primary goals are to oppose the non-violent peace process in Northern Ireland and put an end to the ‘British Occupation’ of the region. The group primarily targets and kills police officers with its attacks. The New IRA has also steadily increased its bombing campaign in Northern Ireland, most recently setting off a car bomb beside a courthouse in Derry.[1]In April 2019, the New IRA mistakenly shot and killed protestant journalist Lyra McKee during a riot. Despite the significant backlash after the event, the group continues to operate. The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, also known as Brexit, has reportedly increased the appeal of the group to young disenfranchised republicans. The New IRA is considered to be the most deadly militant group active in Northern Ireland today. 

 

 

Group Narrative

The New Irish Republican Army (New IRA) is a dissident republican militant group formed in July 2012. The New IRA resulted from the merger of several existing dissident republican groups, including the Real IRA (rIRA), Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), and other independent republican paramilitary groups.[4]The new group collectively called themselves the Army Council of the IRA.[5]However, the media began referring to the group as the New IRA, and the name quickly stuck. The merger left the Continuity Irish Republican Army (Continuity IRA) as the only major independent republican militant group still in operation.[6]

The decision to merge into the New IRA resulted from the need to restore the groups’ resources and power. Before the merger, the rIRA had largely fallen into disrepair. In 2011, the Independent Monitoring Commission (the international body established to monitor military activity in Northern Ireland) stated in its report that the rIRA had “gone out of business as a paramilitary group.” [7]While some individual members were still active, the rIRA lacked any real organizational structure and leadership. In addition, while RAAD actively engaged in punishment shootings in Derry from 2008-2012, they had failed to produce any major attacks against British and PSNI authorities.[8]In a statement released after their formation, the New IRA claimed that “ the establishment of a free and independent Ireland has suffered setbacks due to the failure among the leadership of Irish nationalism and fractures within republicanism.”[9]The merger of several republican groups attempted to solve this issue, as the militias were finally united under a single leadership.

After the merger, the New IRA announced it would be subservient to the original constitution of the Irish Republican Army.[10]In so doing, the New IRA rejected the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA), an agreement signed by most of the actors involved in the Troubles. The group also held to the belief that the British existed as an occupying force in Northern Ireland. The New IRA pledged to pursue a campaign targeting Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and British army officers. However, the group also recognized that they did not have the operational capability to unequivocally remove British forces from Northern Ireland. One New IRA leader admitted, “To go at it full steam would increase momentum short term, but we believe ultimately would fail within a very short period of time.”[11]Instead, the New IRA aimed to engage in sporadic violence which would constantly disrupt any sense of peace in Northern Ireland. 

The group’s first attack came in November of 2012.[12]New IRA members shot and killed Northern Ireland Police officer David Black in his car on his way to work.  The New IRA claimed the killing was in retaliation for the treatment of republican militants in prison. At the time, there was an ongoing dispute at the prison where Black worked. 41 dissident republicans were being detained at Black’s prison. These inmates were refusing to wash or eat because the police would not designate them as political prisoners.[13]In December, the New IRA mounted another attack, killing a Dublin crime boss in retaliation for the murder of a Real IRA member earlier in 2012.[14]

Over the next several years, the New IRA continued to engage in punishment shootings and attacks against the state and local criminals. Like RAAD, the New IRA took it upon themselves to shoot suspected drug dealers and criminals north and south of the border. This allowed them to gain legitimacy in their community while also undermining the police.[15]The New IRA also planted bombs and fired mortar attacks at police stations and officers.[16] The group targeted off duty officers, British military members, and PSNI buildings with gun and bomb attacks. In one instance, the group mailed bombs to army recruitment centers across England.[17]Despite these efforts, the New IRA did not kill another police officer for several years.

Recruitment for the group reportedly increased during this time. The New IRA began to attract younger dissidents, many of whom were not born when the Provisional IRA announced a ceasefire in 1994.[18]The young recruits also came from both sides of the Irish border, and many of them operated in the Republic of Ireland. This new supply of recruits was likely driven by a slump in the Northern Irish economy. From 2008 to 2012, the global financial crisis caused the region’s unemployment rate to double from 4% to 8%.[19]The New IRA provided an outlet for unemployed republicans.  

In 2016, militant activity heightened to mark the centennial anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rebellion, an armed insurrection against British forces prominent in Irish history.[20]In a speech leading up to Easter, one New IRA leader warned that the group’s campaign against police forces would only increase in memory of the ‘unfinished rebellion.’ In March 2016, the group fulfilled its promise by killing another PSNI officer. On March 4, New IRA militants planted a bomb under a police van in Belfast. The bomb exploded, seriously injuring officer Adam Ismay. Ismay died eleven days later from injuries sustained by the bomb.[21]Following the event, MI5 elevated the risk of terror in Northern Ireland to ‘severe.’ A new report also confirmed that the New IRA had acquired a large stock of Semtex, a deadly explosive used to build homemade bombs.[22]In 2016, the number of bomb threats in Northern Ireland increased by 40 percent, and security forces responded to over 50 bomb attacks.[23]

In 2016, a socialist-republican political group called Saoradh established its presence in Derry. The New IRA became intimately tied to Saoradh; some analysts believe Saoradh serves as the legal political wing of the New IRA. The group is headquartered in Derry, though it maintains a strong presence in Belfast and Dublin as well.[24]Despite labeling itself as a political group, Saoradh has no elected representative serving in any form of government. Saoradh believes that Britain’s occupation of the six counties of Northern Ireland is illegal and rejects the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. While Saoradh has never openly advocated for republican armed groups, its rhetoric often justifies their use of violence. In one rally in 2018, Saoradh leaders claimed that Brexit “will drive home to the Irish people the partition of our country… and as history teaches us it will inevitably stoke the fires of resistance against British rule in Ireland.”[25]

Saoradh strongly denies any association with republican paramilitary groups. However, the PSNI has claimed that Saoradh is the “mouth and hub” of the New IRA and acts as the political voice for the group.[26]There is certainly overlap in leadership and membership between Saoradh and the New IRA.[27]The two groups are also committed to identical goals of removing British forces from Northern Ireland. The exact relationship between the two groups is still ambiguous. However, it is likely the two groups cooperate and support one another’s goals. For example, Saoradh heavily campaigns for the release of all republican prisoners from Irish and British prisons.[28]

From 2017-2018, the New IRA continued to increase its activity. The emergence of Brexit – the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union –heightened the level of terror activity. After the Brexit vote, the possibility of reinstating a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland angered and worried republicans throughout the north.[29]A ‘hard border’ refers to the imposition of physical barriers, guards, and cameras on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland.[30]A hard border was in place during the Troubles; to many republican dissidents, it symbolized the illegal British partition of Ireland and served as a popular target for terrorist attacks. There is currently no border between Ireland and Northern Ireland; residents of both sides move freely between the two regions on a daily basis. However, following the UK’s withdrawal from Europe, new trading, economic, political, and security concerns may call for the imposition of a hard border. The establishment of another hard border would infuriate republican, as it would distance their access to the Republic of Ireland. 

IRA militants have capitalized on this anger to mount a campaign of violence and rioting, primarily focusing on cities on the border like Derry. The group carried out over 24 punishment shootings resulting in the deaths of five men.[31]New IRA members also led the worst series of riots in Northern Ireland in over a decade. In 2018, republican dissidents rioted in Derry from July 8 to July 13 for six nights straight.[32]The riots originated from outrage over a unionist parade scheduled in Derry. New IRA dissidents led the crowd of hundred in hurling bricks, bottles, and petrol bombs at police officers. On July 13, dissidents bombed the house of Gerry Adams, the former head of Sinn Fein. [33]The riots resulted in dozens of injuries and arrests but no fatalities. 

The New IRA remained very active in 2019. The group continued to focus its efforts on border towns and cities. In January 2019, the group set off a car bomb in front of a Derry courthouse.[34]Later in March, New IRA militants sent five explosive packages to locations across the United Kingdom and Ireland. The bombs were sent to Waterloo Station, the University of Glasgow, locations near Heathrow and London City airports, and a postal office in County Limerick. No casualties resulted from the attack. However, this was the first instance the New IRA used the postal service to conduct a mass attack on civilians.[35]

In April 2019, the New IRA gained international attention after it accidentally killed protestant journalist Lyra McKee. On April 18, riots broke out in the Creggan area of Derry. PSNI officers attempted to raid several homes in the area suspected of holding weapons. The PSNI presence intensified riots throughout the night.[36]Saoradh leader Ashe Mellon reportedly sanctioned dissident members to fire bullets at police officers during the riot. Lyra McKee, a prominent journalist on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, was observing the riot near police vehicles when she was shot by a New IRA member.[37]She died shortly after being shot. McKee was the first journalist killed in the United Kingdom since 2001.[38]

McKee’s death spurred international outrage. In response, the New IRA took responsibility and apologized for the killing several days after McKee’s death.[39]The group lamented that the gunman meant to “engage the enemy” and that New IRA leaders “have instructed [their] volunteers to take the utmost care in future.”[40]  After the attack, several protesters defaced Saoradh’s headquarters in Derry with red-painted hand prints, and both the British and Irish prime ministers attended McKee’s funeral.[41]Her killing was also condemned in a rare joint statement issued by Northern Ireland’s six major political parties, including Sinn Fein.[42]

The New IRA refused to call a ceasefire after McKee’s killing despite the backlash they received. Throughout 2019, the group has continued to launch bomb attacks, carry out punishment shootings, and perform hoax bomb campaigns primarily directed at police forces.[43]Although the international and Irish community condemned the group, signs of their support appeared throughout Northern Ireland following the killing. In Creggan, graffiti reading “Informants will be shot” and other pro-IRA writing decorated the neighborhood following McKee’s death.[44]The New IRA’s ranks have also increased since McKee’s killing. Oglaigh na hEireann (OnH) – a Real IRA republican splinter group – announced its decision to call a ceasefire and suspend military operations. In June 2019, the leader of OnH – Seamus McGrane – died suddenly of a heart attack.[45] It was later reported that the vast majority of former OnH members defected to join the New IRA. As of August 2019, the New IRA appears to be the strongest it has ever been, capitalizing on increasing membership and wider name recognition. With Brexit looming on the horizon, the group expects to increase its activity in the future. 



[1]The town of Derry, situated on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is often referred to as ‘Derry’ by Irish nationalists and ‘Londonderry’ by unionists. The decision to refer to this city as Derry does not reflect any partisan opinions of the MMP team, but instead will be used for consistency.  

[2]“David Black murder: New 'IRA' group claims it murdered prison officer.” (2012). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-20296702

[3]“Timeline of dissident republican activity.” (2019). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-10866072

[4]Whiting, Sophie. (2015). Spoiling the peace? The threat of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. Manchester University Press

[5]Whiting, Sophie. (2015). Spoiling the peace? The threat of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. Manchester University Press

[6]Reilly, Gavin. (2012). Dissident republican groups merge to form ‘new IRA’. The Journal, https://www.thejournal.ie/republican-groups-form-new-ira-535041-Jul2012/

[7]O’Brien, Carl. (2015). International Monitoring Commission found IRA ‘out of business’. The Irish Times, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/international-monitoring-commis...

[8]Whiting, Sophie. (2015). Spoiling the peace? The threat of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. Manchester University Press

[9]McDonald, Henry. (2012). Republican dissidents join forces to form a new IRA. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jul/26/ira-northern-ireland-dissiden...

[10]McDonald, Henry. (2012). Republican dissidents join forces to form a new IRA. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jul/26/ira-northern-ireland-dissiden...

[11]Whiting, Sophie. (2015). Spoiling the peace? The threat of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. Manchester University Press

[12]“David Black murder: New 'IRA' group claims it murdered prison officer.” (2012). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-20296702

[13]“David Black murder: New 'IRA' group claims it murdered prison officer.” (2012). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-20296702

[14]McDonald, Henry. (2012). 'New IRA' group blamed for killing of Dublin crime boss. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/05/new-ira-blamed-killing-dub...

[15]Horgan, John and Morrison, John. (2013). A new breed of terror in Northern Ireland. CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/14/opinion/horgan-g8-northern-ireland/index.html

[16]Graham, Ian. (2013).Northern Ireland police foil IRA-style mortar attack.  Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-irish-bomb/northern-ireland-police-fo...

[17]McDonald, Henry. (2014). Four people arrested in Derry over New IRA plot to letter-bomb English targets. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/20/four-arrested-derry-new-...

[18]Horgan, John and Morrison, John. (2013). A new breed of terror in Northern Ireland. CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/14/opinion/horgan-g8-northern-ireland/index.html

[19]Geoghegan, Peter. (2012). Return of the Troubles. Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/20/return-of-the-troubles/

[20]McDonald, Henry. (2016). New IRA warns of more attacks on 'age-old enemies' in Northern Ireland. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/mar/29/new-ira-ireland-1916-ea...

[21]“Draft List of Deaths Related to the Conflict in 2016.” Cain Web Service – Ulster University, https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/issues/violence/deaths2016draft.htm

[22]McDonald, Henry. (2016). Police ‘are facing severe terror threat from IRA’. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/14/police-severe-terror-thr...

[23]McDonald, Henry. (2016). Police ‘are facing severe terror threat from IRA’. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/14/police-severe-terror-thr...

[24]Vardy, Emma. (2019).New IRA: The Derry estate in the shadow of paramilitaries. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-49153095

[25]Taylor, Peter. (2018). New dissidents hoping to exploit Brexit. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44082633

[26]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[27]Vardy, Emma. (2019).Challenging the political voice of the New IRA. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48146583

[28]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[29]Finch-Lees, Tess. (2018). Anyone who thinks Brexit won't bring back violence to Ireland doesn't understand the Good Friday Agreement. Independent,https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-good-friday-agreement-northe...

[30]Kirby, Jen. (2019). Brexit’s Irish Border Problem, Explained. Vox, https://www.vox.com/world/2019/2/18/18204269/brexit-irish-border-backsto...

[31]  Beattie, Jilly. (2018). 'Armed and deadly' new dissident republican group wants to take over from the provisional IRA. The Irish Mirror, https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/armed-deadly-new-dissident-republican-12958749

Brady, Tom. (2017). New IRA the 'biggest terrorist threat to state since the Provos'. Independent, https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/new-ira-the-biggest-terrorist-thre...

[32]“PSNI chief blames ‘New IRA’ for orchestrating Derry disorder.” (2018). The Irish Times, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/psni-chief-blames-new-ira-...

[33]“Northern Ireland sees its worst riots in years.” (2018). The Economist, https://www.economist.com/britain/2018/07/19/northern-ireland-sees-its-w...

[34]Ferguson, Amanda. (2019). 'IRA' claims responsibility for Londonderry car bomb. Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-nireland-blast/ira-claims-res...

[35]“Timeline of dissident republican activity.” (2019). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-10866072

[36]Stocker, Joanne. (2019). New IRA admits killing of Northern Ireland journalist in Derry shooting. The Defense Post, https://thedefensepost.com/2019/04/23/northern-ireland-new-ira-admits-ki...

[37]“2016 30 Under 30: Europe.” (2016). Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/pictures/glke45eml/lyra-mckee-25/#16240efd3e77

O’Loughlin, Ed. (2019). New I.R.A. Apologizes for Killing of Journalist in Northern Ireland. New York Times,https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/world/europe/lyra-mckee-new-ira-apology.html

[38]O’Loughlin, Ed. (2019). New I.R.A. Apologizes for Killing of Journalist in Northern Ireland. New York Times,https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/world/europe/lyra-mckee-new-ira-apology.html

[39]“New IRA admits to the killing of journalist in Northern Ireland.” (2019). Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/ira-admits-killing-journalist-nor...

[40]Kelly, Ben. (2019). “Lyra McKee murder: Twitter bans Irish dissident republican group linked to New IRA.” Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/saoradh-twitter-ban-new-ira-lyra-mckee-murder-a8884076.html

[41]Weaver, Matthews and Rawlinson, Kevin. (2019). Lyra McKee: New IRA says its activists killed journalist. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/22/lyra-mckee-friends-stage...

[42]“New IRA admits to the killing of journalist in Northern Ireland.” (2019). Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/ira-admits-killing-journalist-nor...

[43]Gallagher, Conor. (2019). Fermanagh attack carried out by Continuity IRA or New IRA, The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/fermanagh-attack-carried-o...

[44]Vardy, Emma. (2019).New IRA: The Derry estate in the shadow of paramilitaries. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-49153095

[45]Mooney, John. (2019). New IRA set to ramp up terror as OnH defectors swell ranks after death. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-ira-set-to-ramp-up-terror-as-onh-defectors-swell-ranks-after-death-zs20j7cbq

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Leadership

Colin Duffy (2012 to 2013): Colin Duffy is believed to have been the leader of the New IRA from December 2012 to December 2013.[1]In Late 2013, Duffy was formally charged with holding membership in a terrorist organization, forcing him to distance himself from New IRA leadership.[2]Before joining the New IRA, Duffy was a member of both the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein during the 1990s. In 1995 and 2009, Duffy was charged for the murder of Ulster members and policemen. In both cases, he was later acquitted.[3]Colin Duffy has also been linked to Saoradh, the New IRA’s political wing.[4]

Kevin Brainey (unknown to 2019): Kevin Brainey was the leader in Dublin of the New IRA.[5]Brainey was also the chairperson of the Dublin branch of Saordh, the political counterpart of the New IRA.[6]In 2013, Brainey and several New IRA members murdered Peter Butterly, a former senior figure of the Real IRA that had fallen out with the organization. Brainey was arrested in 2017 for an unrelated crime and eventually sentenced to life in prison for the murder in 2019.[7]He is currently serving his sentence in Portlaoise Prison.[8]

Thomas Ashe Mellon (2015 to present): Thomas Ashe Mellon is the leader of the New IRA in Derry.[9]Before the New IRA merger in 2012, Mellon was involved in the leadership of Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD).[10]Mellon was also a member of the Provisional IRA in the 1990s. Mellon previously served fifteen months in prison for involvement in terrorist activity and was released in 2015. After his release, he assumed leadership of the New IRA in Derry. [11]Mellon is also a high-ranking member of Saordh, the political counterpart of the New IRA. Outside of Republican activity, Mellon drives a taxi as his day job. After the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, PSNI’s investigation unit and MI5 begun working hard to prepare a new case of terrorism charges against Mellon. Mellon reportedly sanctioned New IRA members to fire bullets at police officers during the riot where McKee was killed.[12]As of May 2019, security forces are still working to prepare a case against Mellon for his involvement with McKee’s murder. 

Fergal Melaugh (unknown to present): Fergal Melaugh is a high-ranking member of both the New IRA and Saordh in Derry. Before his involvement with the New IRA, Melaugh was a member of the Provisional IRA in the 1990s and Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) in the 2000s.[13]Although never charged, Melaugh is connected to a republican attack in 1990 that killed five soldiers and one civilian. As of May 2019, Melaugh was under investigation for his involvement in the murder of journalist Lyra McKee. [14]

 



[1]Smith, Lisa. (2015). Dissident republican Colin Duffy due in court charged with directing New IRA terror gang. Belfast Telegraph, https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/dissident-repub...

[2]“Colin Duffy charged with membership of the IRA.” (2013). The Irish Mirror, https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/crime/colin-duffy-charged-mem...

[3]Moriarty, Gerry. (2012). Republican Colin Duffy has walked free from five murder charges since 1993. The Irish Times, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0121/1224310577963.html

[4]Vardy, Emma. (2019).New IRA: The Derry estate in the shadow of paramilitaries. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-49153095

[5]MacDermott, Diarmaid. (2019). Backgrounder: New IRA leader under Garda surveillance for years. The Irish Times, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/backgrounder-new-ir...

[6]Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

[7]O’Riordan, Alison. (2019). New IRA leader jailed for life over murder of dissident republican. The Irish Times, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/new-ira-leader-jail...

[8]Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

[9]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[10]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[11]Barnes, Ciaran. (2019). MI5 closes in on New IRA gangster Mellon, Belfast Telegraph, https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/mi5-closes-in-on-new-ira-...

[12]Barnes, Ciaran. (2019). MI5 closes in on New IRA gangster Mellon, Belfast Telegraph.https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/mi5-closes-in-on-new-ira-...

[13]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[14]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

 

Name Changes

  • In the New IRA’s first statement, which was released in 2012, the militants referred to themselves as the ‘Army Council.’ This was a historic term used to describe the decision making body of the Provisional IRA. However, the group has not been referred to as the Army Council since 2012. 
  • The New IRA prefer to refer to themselves simply as ‘The IRA.’[1]They believe they are the one true continuation of the original IRA.[2]However, the media often disregards this name preference. Most government agencies and news organizations refer to this group as the ‘New IRA.’


[1]Beattie, Jilly. (2018). 'Armed and deadly' new dissident republican group wants to take over from the provisional IRA. The Irish Mirror, https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/armed-deadly-new-dissident-republican-12958749

[2]Taylor, Peter. (2018). New dissidents hoping to exploit Brexit. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44082633

 

Size Estimates

There are various estimates on the size of the New IRA’s membership. The group no doubt has several hundred supporters and allies across Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England. However, a 2019 estimate suggests that only 50 members are actually trained to conduct attacks.[1]

  • 2012: 100 – 200 active members (Ulster University)[2]
  • 2016: Several hundred active dissidents (The Guardian)[3]
  • 2019: 50 active members and several hundreds of sympathizers (Garda)[4]


[1]Beattie, Jilly. (2018). 'Armed and deadly' new dissident republican group wants to take over from the provisional IRA. The Irish Mirror, https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/armed-deadly-new-dissident-republican-12958749

Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

[2]“Abstracts on Organizations.” Cain Web Service – Ulster University, https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/othelem/organ/rorgan.htm

[3]Mcdonald, Henry. (2015). Dissident republican terror attack highly likely, say Northern Ireland police. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/01/dissident-republican-terror-attack-likely-police

[4]MacDermott, Diarmaid. (2019). Backgrounder: New IRA leader under Garda surveillance for years. The Irish Times, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/backgrounder-new-ir...

 

Resources

The New IRA originally recruited members from a variety of groups. The New IRA formed from the merger between the Real IRA and Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD). During this merger, dozens of other unaffiliated dissident republicans joined the organization as well, including former Provisional IRA members and anti-drug vigilantes.[1]In 2019, the New IRA’s membership grew after several militants from Oglaigh na hEireann (OnH) defected from the group after their leader was killed.[2]

The New IRA has also successfully attracted teenagers and young men. Northern Ireland remains the poorest region in the United Kingdom, and the 2007 financial crisis only added to its economic strain. Young and unemployed men in cities like Derry and Strabane consider republican dissident groups an attractive alternative to work.[3]The PSNI also predicted that Brexit might help the organization recruit members. [4]The restoration of checkpoints and other forms of border control between Ireland and Northern Ireland would no doubt upset nationalists, as it would distance their connection to the Republic of Ireland and increase British presence in the area. Additionally, the New IRA may use the consequences of Brexit as propaganda to ultimately attract new members. 

The New IRA has suffered severely from police surveillance and counterterrorism efforts. From 2015-2017, MI5 disrupted over 250 planned terrorist attacks.[5]The PSNI also inflicted major damage on the group by disrupting attacks, seizing huge quantities of weapons, and securing convictions against many prominent New IRA members.[6]There are probably more militant members in prison than outside. As of February 2019, 45 New IRA members are being held in Portlaoise and Castlerea prisons, and another 20 dissidents are jailed in Northern Ireland.[7]

The New IRA has access to a wide range of weapons. The group’s arsenal contains handguns, assault refiles, sub-machine guns, and commercial explosives.[8]The militants have smuggled some of these weapons from Eastern European countries. However, the vast majority of the New IRA’s arsenal comes from Northern Ireland weapon dumps. In 2005, the Provisional IRA and other smaller dissident groups agreed to disarm, leaving their weapons in secret dumps around Northern Ireland.[9]The New IRA looted these dumps, taking guns, ammunition, and up to a quarter ton of Semtex – a highly explosive material used to make bombs and other explosives.[10]  

The New IRA receives funding from through a variety of outlets. The group often engages in illegal activity to support its operations. Militants steal cars, raid arms dumps, and commit armed robberies to support the group. [11]New IRA militants in the Republic of Ireland commonly rob ATMs throughout cities to secure funds. The New IRA also generates income from smuggling goods. Like previous republican dissident groups, the New IRA smuggles cigarettes, tobacco, perfume, alcohol, and designer clothes into Northern Ireland.[12]New evidence suggests the group has also used front businesses and shops to provide resources for its operations. Although other IRA groups have historically received funding from sympathetic American-Irish populations, there is little evidence to suggest that the New IRA relies on funding from abroad. 

 



[1]Mooney, John. (2019). New IRA set to ramp up terror as OnH defectors swell ranks after death. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-ira-set-to-ramp-up-terror-as-onh-defectors-swell-ranks-after-death-zs20j7cbq

[2]Mooney, John. (2019). New IRA set to ramp up terror as OnH defectors swell ranks after death. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-ira-set-to-ramp-up-terror-as-onh-defectors-swell-ranks-after-death-zs20j7cbq

[3]O’Neill, Sean. (2019). Londonderry bomb: MI5 has 700 officers in Belfast as dissidents stoke Brexit fears. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/londonderry-bomb-mi5-has-700-officers-in-belfast-as-dissidents-stoke-brexit-fears-xbb6bp9j3

[4]Elliott, Josh. (2019). The New IRA: How Irish militants are capitalizing on Brexit’s border troubles. Global News, https://globalnews.ca/news/5047230/new-ira-irish-militants-brexit/

[5]O’Connor, Niall. (2017). MI5 says terror threat in Ireland is greatest in Europe. The Irish Mirror, https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/m15-terror-threat-ireland-gre...

[6]Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

[7]Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

[8]Sommerland, Nick. (2019). New IRA 'has recruited dozens of dissidents amid mounting anger over Brexit'. The Mirror, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/new-ira-has-recruited-dozens-14093143

[9]“IRA says armed campaign is over.” (2005). BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4720863.stm

[10]McDonald, Henry. (2016). Police ‘are facing severe terror threat from IRA’. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/14/police-severe-terror-thr...

[11]Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

[12]Beattie, Jilly. (2018). 'Armed and deadly' new dissident republican group wants to take over from the provisional IRA. The Irish Mirror, https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/armed-deadly-new-dissident-republican-12958749

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer:  This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences. 

The New IRA has cells operating throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The organization is reported to have strongholds in Northern Ireland near Derry, Belfast, Amagh, Lurgan and Stratbane.[1]The New IRA also had cells in the Republic of Ireland near Dublin, Limerick, Cork, and Louth.[2]All of these cells were active at one point in time, though it is not clear which remain active today. 

 

The leadership of the New IRA is based in primarily based in Derry, Amagh, and Belfast. The New IRA has been particularly active in Derry from 2018-2019.[3]In 2018, New IRA dissidents led six nights of riots and protests in Derry. In 2019, the organization set off a bomb in front of the Derry courthouse.[4]Later that year, the New IRA murdered a journalist covering protests in Derry.[5]The group’s activity is Derry is likely heightened because of Saoradh’s presence in the city. Saoradh, the republican political group associated with the New IRA, headquarters its operations in Derry.[6]The two organizations overlap in leadership and members, making Derry as a hotbed of dissident republican activity. 

 

The New IRA has also become increasingly active in East Belfast, where the city’s unionist protestant population resides.[7]Until recently, the group had been reluctant to mount attacks in this area of Belfast. However, PSNI officers reported that New IRA members have become more confident traveling around East Belfast to plant bombs and attack officers.[8]

 



[1]Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

Beattie, Jilly. (2018). 'Armed and deadly' new dissident republican group wants to take over from the provisional IRA. The Irish Mirror, https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/armed-deadly-new-dissident-republican-12958749

[2]Horgan, John and Morrison, John. (2013). A new breed of terror in Northern Ireland. CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/14/opinion/horgan-g8-northern-ireland/index.html

Reynolds, Paul. (2019). Kevin Braney: The inglorious end of an IRA career. RTE, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0209/1028283-republicanism-organised-crime/

[3]O’Neill, Sean. (2019). Londonderry bomb: MI5 has 700 officers in Belfast as dissidents stoke Brexit fears. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/londonderry-bomb-mi5-has-700-officers-in-belfast-as-dissidents-stoke-brexit-fears-xbb6bp9j3

[4]Ferguson, Amanda. (2019). 'IRA' claims responsibility for Londonderry car bomb. Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-nireland-blast/ira-claims-res...

[5]Hollingsworth, Julia. (2019). 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee shot dead in Northern Ireland violence. CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/19/asia/ireland-shooting-londonderry-intl/in...

[6]Kelly, Ben. (2019). “Lyra McKee murder: Twitter bans Irish dissident republican group linked to New IRA.” Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/saoradh-twitter-ban-new-ira-lyra-mckee-murder-a8884076.html

[7]O’Hagan, Sean. (2012). Belfast, divided in the name of peace. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jan/22/peace-walls-troubles-belfast-...

[8]Mooney, John. (2019). New IRA set to ramp up terror as OnH defectors swell ranks after death. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-ira-set-to-ramp-up-terror-as-onh-defectors-swell-ranks-after-death-zs20j7cbq

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

The New IRA is a republican dissident group that adheres closely to the Irish republicanism associated with the original IRA. The group has three primary goals: (1) to reject and oppose the peace process in Northern Ireland, (2) to fight to end the British Presence in Northern Ireland, and (3) to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.[1]

The group acknowledges that it does not have the manpower or public support to realistically achieve its goals. Instead, the group seeks to pursue a sporadic, extended campaign. As one group member explained, “To go at it full steam would increase momentum short term, but we believe ultimately would fail within a very short period of time.”[2]As a result, the group’s attacks are often random and spaced far apart from each other. The New IRA believes this type of campaign will ensure that Northern Ireland never exists in a state of peace. 



[1]Barrios, Edgar. (2018). New IRA’ Ignites Unrest in Northern Ireland. The American Spectator, https://spectator.org/new-ira-ignites-unrest-in-northern-ireland/

[2]Whiting, Sophie. (2015). Spoiling the peace? The threat of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. Manchester University Press

 

Political Activities

The New IRA does not engage in domestic or international politics and has never competed in elections. However, the group is closely affiliated with Saoradh, a political republican group in Northern Northern Ireland. 

Founded in 2016, Saoradh describes itself as a socialist, republican, anti-imperialist group. It claims on its website that it is dedicated to ending British rule in Ireland.[1]The group is headquartered in Derry, though it maintains a strong presence in Belfast and Dublin.[2]Despite labeling itself as a political group, Saoradh has no elected representative serving in any form of government. Saoradh believes Britain’s occupation of the six counties of Northern Ireland is illegal and rejects the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Saoradh has been highly critical of Sinn Fein, the political party historically associated with the original IRA. Saoradh leaders argue the modern Sinn Fein has become far too moderate, and the group labels its members as “false prophets who have been defeated and consumed by the very system they claim to oppose.”[3]Saoradh believes it has filled Sinn Fein’s original role, serving as the primary left-wing extremist political party in Northern Ireland. While Saoradh has never openly advocated for republican paramilitary groups, its rhetoric often justifies their use of violence. In one rally in 2018, Saoradh leaders claimed that Brexit “will drive home to the Irish people the partition of our country… and as history teaches us it will inevitably stoke the fires of resistance against British rule in Ireland.”[4]

Saoradh strongly denies any association with republican paramilitary groups. However, the PSNI has claimed that Saoradh is the “mouth and hub” of the New IRA and acts as the political voice for the group.[5]There is significant overlap in leadership and membership between Saoradh and the New IRA.[6]The two groups are also committed to identical goals of removing British forces from Northern Ireland. The exact relationship between the two groups is still ambiguous. However, it is likely the two groups cooperate and support one another’s goals. For example, Saoradh heavily campaigns for the release of all republican prisoners from Irish and British prisons.[7]

The level of public support for Saoradh in Northern Ireland is not extensive. Following the shooting of journalist Lyra McKee by a republican dissident, Saoradh faced significant backlash from the Irish community. Saoradh leaders claimed that they were not involved in McKee’s murder, yet many people believe the group endorsed the type of violence that lead to her death.[8]After the attack, protesters defaced Saoradh’s headquarters in Derry with red-painted hand prints.[9]The slogan, “Not in Our Name” began to appear around the city as well. Public outrage also pressured Twitter to ban the group’s political account, severely limiting their public outreach abilities.[10]However, some support for Saoradh still exists. The group’s Facebook page has over 6,000 likes and nearly 10,000 followers.[11]The group also has a newly developed youth wing named Eistigi (Irish for “Listen”).[12]Saoradh believes Brexit will help draw new members to both its political and youth wings. 

 


[1]Kelly, Ben. (2019). “Lyra McKee murder: Twitter bans Irish dissident republican group linked to New IRA.” Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/saoradh-twitter-ban-new-ira-lyra-mckee-murder-a8884076.html

[2]Vardy, Emma. (2019).New IRA: The Derry estate in the shadow of paramilitaries. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-49153095

[3]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[4]Taylor, Peter. (2018). New dissidents hoping to exploit Brexit. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44082633

[5]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[6]Vardy, Emma. (2019).Challenging the political voice of the New IRA. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48146583

[7]Spackman, Conor and Fee, Patrick. (2019). Saoradh's Ashe Mellon and Melaugh ‘in New IRA leadership'. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48519106

[8]Vardy, Emma. (2019).Challenging the political voice of the New IRA. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48146583

[9]Weaver, Matthews and Rawlinson, Kevin. (2019). Lyra McKee: New IRA says its activists killed journalist. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/22/lyra-mckee-friends-stage...

[10]Byrne, Leanna. (2019). Saoradh Twitter account is suspended. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48036849

 

Targets and Tactics

From 2012-2018, the New IRA carried out a total of 40 attacks.[1]As of August 2019, the group has already carried out a half dozen attacks since the start of the year, including the fatal shooting of a protestant journalist. The New IRA uses a variety of methods to conduct attacks, including shootings, rioting, and car bombings. The group recently attempted a major package bomb campaign, in which they mailed explosive devices to five locations around the United Kingdom and Ireland.[2]  New IRA militant also have access to mortars, which they have used in attempts to blow up and penetrate police vehicles.[3]

The most common targets of the New IRA are PSNI and British army officers. When the group was founded in 2012, members specifically pledged to pursue a campaign that targeted soldiers and police officers.[4]The New IRA believes that these officers support the illegal occupation of the British state in Northern Ireland and uses this fact to justify its violence. Despite its grandiose promises to wage war against all representatives of the British state, the group has not been particularly deadly. From 2012-2019, the New IRA killed a total of two police officers. The group’s inability to inflict casualties is largely due to the high sophistication of counterterrorism efforts in Northern Ireland. For example, MI5 has over 700 officers stationed in Belfast as part of its counterterrorism campaign.[5]It is likely MI5 and the PSNI have thwarted countless attacks over the past several years.  

In addition to members of the British state, the New IRA commonly targets drug dealers and other criminals in their cities. New IRA militants often gain support from local community members by shooting drug dealers, both north and south of the border.[6]While the group claims that its campaign against drugs is apolitical, these targeted attacks allow the group to undermine the PSNI and form close relations with residents living in the areas in which it operates. 

Members of the New IRA are acutely aware of the group’s limitations. The militants understand that they will never have the manpower to singlehandedly remove the British presence from Northern Ireland.[7]As a result, they seek to pursue a sporadic, extended campaign. The group’s attacks are often random and spaced far apart from each other. The New IRA believes this type of campaign will ensure that Northern Ireland never exists in a state of peace. 

 



[1]Taylor, Peter. (2018). New dissidents hoping to exploit Brexit. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44082633

[2]“Timeline of dissident republican activity.” (2019). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-10866072

[3]“Timeline of dissident republican activity.” (2019). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-10866072

[4]Whiting, Sophie. (2015). Spoiling the peace? The threat of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. Manchester University Press

[5]O’Neill, Sean. (2019). Londonderry bomb: MI5 has 700 officers in Belfast as dissidents stoke Brexit fears. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/londonderry-bomb-mi5-has-700-officers-in-belfast-as-dissidents-stoke-brexit-fears-xbb6bp9j3

[6]Horgan, John and Morrison, John. (2013). A new breed of terror in Northern Ireland. CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/14/opinion/horgan-g8-northern-ireland/index.html

[7]Whiting, Sophie. (2015). Spoiling the peace? The threat of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. Manchester University Press

 

cardinal red photo

Major Attacks

November 1, 2012: New IRA members shot and killed Northern Ireland Police officer David Black on his way to work. The group claimed that the killing was in retaliation for the treatment of republican militants in prison (1 killed, 0 injured).[1]

October 9, 2013: Kevin Kearney, a low-level drug dealer from Belfast, was shot and killed by the New IRA (1 killed, 0 injured).[2]

March 4, 2016: New IRA militants planted a bomb under a police van in Belfast. The bomb exploded, seriously injuring police officer Adam Ismay. Ismay died eleven days later from injuries sustained by the bomb (1 killed, 0 injured).[3]

April 16, 2016: New IRA militants shot Belfast taxi driver Michael McGibbon in both legs. McGibbon died shortly after being taken to the hospital. The New IRA claimed its attack on McGibbon was only meant as a punishment shooting and not a murder. The reason behind the attack is still unclear (1 killed, 0 injured).[4]

January 22, 2017: New IRA militants used an automatic weapon to fire shots at a PSNI member in north Belfast. The officer was hit three times in the arm but survived the murder attempt (0 killed, 1 injured).[5]

January 19, 2019: The New IRA set off a car bomb in front of a courthouse in Derry (0 killed, unknown injured).[6]

March 2019: New IRA militants sent five explosive packages to locations across the United Kingdom and Ireland. The letter bombs were sent to Waterloo Station, the University of Glasgow, locations near Heathrow and London City airports, and a postal office in County Limerick. No casualties resulted from the attack. However, this was the first instance the New IRA used the postal service in an attempt to conduct a mass attack on civilians (0 killed, 0 injured).[7]

April 18, 2019: Lyra McKee, a protestant reporter, was shot while observing a riot in Derry. McKee was standing near a police vehicle when a single dissident republican fired shots in her direction, striking and killing her.[8]She was the first journalist killed in the United Kingdom since 2001. The New IRA claimed responsibility and apologized for the attack. The group lamented that the gunman meant to “engage the enemy” and that New IRA leadership “have instructed [their] volunteers to take the utmost care in future.”[9]  Significant public backlash followed the event. Several protesters defaced Saoradh’s headquarters in Derry with red-painted hand prints, and both the British and Irish prime ministers attended McKee’s funeral. [10]As of June 2019, the PSNI and MI5 are conducting investigations and arresting those related to the event (1 killed, 0 injured).



[1]“David Black murder: New 'IRA' group claims it murdered prison officer.” (2012). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-20296702

[2]“Kevin Kearney's killing 'callous and cold-blooded murder'.” (2013). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-24471376

[3]“Draft List of Deaths Related to the Conflict in 2016.” Cain Web Service – Ulster University, https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/issues/violence/deaths2016draft.htm

[4]“Michael McGibbon: Daughter of murdered taxi driver urges people to speak out.” (2016). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-36480636

[5]Moriarty, Gerry. (2017). ‘New IRA’ says it carried out shooting of PSNI officer. BBC News,https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/new-ira-says-it-carri...

[6]Ferguson, Amanda. (2019). 'IRA' claims responsibility for Londonderry car bomb. Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-nireland-blast/ira-claims-res...

[7]“Timeline of dissident republican activity.” (2019). BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-10866072

[8]Hollingsworth, Julia. (2019). 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee shot dead in Northern Ireland violence. CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/19/asia/ireland-shooting-londonderry-intl/in...

[9]Kelly, Ben. (2019). “Lyra McKee murder: Twitter bans Irish dissident republican group linked to New IRA.” Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/saoradh-twitter-ban-new-ira-lyra-mckee-murder-a8884076.html

[10]Weaver, Matthews and Rawlinson, Kevin. (2019). Lyra McKee: New IRA says its activists killed journalist. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/22/lyra-mckee-friends-stage...

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/Listed
  • Designated/Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/Listed

  • United Kingdom: 2012 to present (The New IRA are designated simply as ‘The IRA’ under the United Kingdom’s Proscribed Terrorist Organizations list.)[1]  
  • The United States has not designated The New IRA as a terrorist group. However, the United States still lists the Real IRA as a terrorist group and may consider the New IRA as the continuation of the Real IRA.[2]

 



[2]“Country Report on Terrorism 2017.” (2018). United States Department of State. https://www.refworld.org/docid/5bcf1f2d13.html

 

Community Relations

The New IRA’s relationship with the Northern Irish community is complex. Support for dissident groups remains minimal in Northern Ireland, as both Catholics and Protestants prefer to endorse non-violent action.[1]This lack of support is partially due to the improving sectarian relations in Northern Ireland. In a 2018 poll, 81% of Northern Irish respondents reported that they believed relationships between Protestants and Catholics had either improved or not changed in the last five years.[2]In contrast, only 10% of respondents reported that relations had worsened. In the same poll, 50% of respondents reported that they define themselves as neither republican nor unionist.[3]Tensions in the region are quickly diminishing as sectarian labels become less relevant, and the support for paramilitary groups has simultaneously dropped. [4]

The killing of journalist Lyra McKee further worsened public opinion of the New IRA. Both local and international backlash followed the murder. Crowds gathered outside Saoradh’s office – the New IRA’s suspected political wing – in Derry to deface the building with red paint.[5]The New IRA’s killing was also condemned in a rare joint statement issued by Northern Ireland’s six main political parties, including Sinn Fein. [6]

Still, the New IRA has successfully inserted itself into several Catholic and nationalist communities in the country. The New IRA has often asserted its dominance in a neighborhood by acting as a quasi-police force. Militants threaten or shoot drug dealers and criminals that are operating in their neighborhoods. In major cities like Belfast and Derry, their presence can be seen everywhere. Placards reading “Salute the men and women of violence” and “PSNI scum watch your back” hang around grocery stores and shopping centers in Derry.[7]Following the killing of journalist Lyra McKee, the republican dissidents painted pro-IRA graffiti around the city, such as “Informants will be shot.” Many people choose not report paramilitary members to the police because of closeness in proximity. As one analyst described, “In a small community, they are people's neighbors, family members, friends…Many do not agree with their extremist views, but still have to live with them.”[8]According to a 2018 survey, the presence of paramilitary groups in local communities either does not bother or has not affected a majority of the population. 70% of Northern Irish respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that paramilitary forces create fear and intimidation in their neighborhoods.[9]

The New IRA has more recently started to recruit young men and disaffected youth in the north.[10]Analysts blame deteriorating conditions in Northern Ireland for this upswing in recruitment, as opposed to the impending Brexit. Catholics in Northern Ireland still suffer from low employment and a lack of education, health care, and affordable housing. Catholics on average wait six months longer than their Protestant counterparts on affordable housing lists.[11]The Catholic unemployment rate of 8.8 percent is also higher than the Protestant rate of 5.7 percent.[12]Lack of employment and stable housing – especially among urban youth – provide a steady stream of recruits to paramilitary groups. The recruitment of youth has steadily risen since 2007, when Ireland suffered a hard economic hit from the global financial crisis.[13]

 



[1]English, Richard. (2019). How Would Brexit Affect Counterterrorism? Lawfare, https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-would-brexit-affect-counterterrorism

[2]“2018 NI Life and Time Survey.” (2018). North Ireland Life & Times, https://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2018/Community_Relations/RLRELAGO.html

[3]“2018 NI Life and Time Survey.” (2018). North Ireland Life & Times, https://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2018/Political_Attitudes/UNINATID.html

[4]“2018 NI Life and Time Survey.” (2018). North Ireland Life & Times, https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-would-brexit-affect-counterterrorism

[5]Weaver, Matthews and Rawlinson, Kevin. (2019). Lyra McKee: New IRA says its activists killed journalist. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/22/lyra-mckee-friends-stage...

[6]“New IRA admits to the killing of journalist in Northern Ireland.” (2019). Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/ira-admits-killing-journalist-nor...

[7]Haverty, Dan. (2019). Paramilitaries Are Surging Again in Northern Ireland. Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/24/paramilitaries-are-surging-again-in...

[8]Vardy, Emma. (2019).New IRA: The Derry estate in the shadow of paramilitaries. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-49153095

[9]“2018 NI Life and Time Survey.” (2018). North Ireland Life & Times, https://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2018/Community_safety/PGFEAR.html

[10]Vardy, Emma. (2019).New IRA: The Derry estate in the shadow of paramilitaries. BBC News,https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-49153095

[11]Haverty, Dan. (2019). Paramilitaries Are Surging Again in Northern Ireland. Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/24/paramilitaries-are-surging-again-in...

[12]Haverty, Dan. (2019). Paramilitaries Are Surging Again in Northern Ireland. Foreign Policy,https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/24/paramilitaries-are-surging-again-in...

[13]McDonald, Gary. (2018). Northern Ireland still suffering economic hangover - more than a decade after crash. The Irish News, https://www.irishnews.com/business/2018/03/20/news/northern-ireland-stil...

 

Relationships with Other Groups

The New IRA is by far the largest and most active republican paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. The group probably has more members, resources, and support than all other active republican paramilitary groups combined.[1]Since its foundation in 2012, the New IRA has often engulfed or merged with fellow republican dissident groups. However, the New IRA has never released a public statement endorsing or announcing an affiliation with another armed group. 

In 2012, two of the largest republican dissident groups in Northern Ireland – the Real IRA and Republican Action Against Drugs – merged to form the New IRA. Several smaller dissident groups, former Provisional IRA (PIRA) members, and some Dublin criminal elements also merged with the New IRA in 2012.[2]In 2016, another wave of defections from smaller dissident groups bolstered the New IRA’s membership.[3]Two years later, Oglaigh na hEireann (OnH) – a Real IRA republican splinter group – announced its decision to call a ceasefire and suspend military operations. In 2019, the leader of OnH – Seamus McGrane – died suddenly of a heart attack. The two events caused massive defections from OnH.[4]By June 2019, it was reported that the vast majority of former OnH members had joined the New IRA. 

The New IRA believes that the PIRA and Sinn Fein are traitors who have betrayed the original cause of Irish republicans. These two groups agreed to a partitionist government in Northern Ireland, and the New IRA no longer believes that they adequately represent nationalists in the region. The New IRA has consistently threatened Sinn Fein members and former members of the PIRA. For example, the group bombed the house of the former head of Sinn Fein in 2018.[5]

The IRA has historically held relationships with other paramilitary groups abroad. For example, the IRA was known to be closely affiliated with Palestinian resistant groups during The Troubles. There is evidence that New IRA members have attended courses in several Slavic countries to acquire counter-surveillance skills.[6]In addition, the New IRA may import weapons from countries in Eastern Europe. However, the New IRA is not closely aligned with prominent groups abroad. Any relationship the New IRA holds with foreign groups appears to be purely transactional. 

 



[1]Gallagher, Conor. (2019). Fermanagh attack carried out by Continuity IRA or New IRA, The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/fermanagh-attack-carried-o...

[2]Mooney, John. (2019). New IRA set to ramp up terror as OnH defectors swell ranks after death. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-ira-set-to-ramp-up-terror-as-onh-defectors-swell-ranks-after-death-zs20j7cbq

[3]Taylor, Peter. (2018). New dissidents hoping to exploit Brexit. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44082633

[4]Mooney, John. (2019). New IRA set to ramp up terror as OnH defectors swell ranks after death. The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-ira-set-to-ramp-up-terror-as-onh-defectors-swell-ranks-after-death-zs20j7cbq

[5]“Northern Ireland sees its worst riots in years.” (2018). The Economist, https://www.economist.com/britain/2018/07/19/northern-ireland-sees-its-w...

[6]Brady, Tom. (2017). New IRA the 'biggest terrorist threat to state since the Provos'. Independent,  https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/new-ira-the-biggest-terrorist-thre...

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

 

The New IRA is not supported or funded by any foreign government. Garda (the police service of the Republic of Ireland), the Northern Irish Police Service, and MI5 have all engaged in efforts to infiltrate the New IRA and arrest its members. 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.