Official Irish Republican Army

The Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) was one of two groups to emerge from a split in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), an armed Catholic republican organization that fought for a unified, independent Ireland free of British control.

AT A GLANCE

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Overview

Brief Summary of the Organization's History

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Organization

How does a group organize? Who leads it? How does it finance operations?

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Strategy

How does a group fight? What are its aims and ideologies? What are some of its major attacks?

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Major Attacks

What are the group's most famous attacks? What are some key attacks in the group's evolution?

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Interactions

What is the group's relationship with the community? How does it interact with other groups?

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Maps

What is the group's relationship with other militants over time?

Key Statistics

1969 First Recorded Activity
2010 Last Recorded Activity

Contact

mappingmilitants@lists.stanford.edu

How to Cite

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Official Irish Republican Army.” Stanford University. Last modified June 2018. mappingmilitants.cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/profiles/official-irish-republican-army

Overview

Brief History

    Overview
  • Overview
  • Narrative

Overview

Formed 1969
Disbanded February 8, 2010
Updated August 25, 2012

 

The Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) is one of two splinter groups that broke away from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1969 (the other being the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA)). OIRA was by far the less violent of the two IRA offshoots, initially intending to lead a defensive united class struggle and avoid militant republicanism. It conducted mostly small attacks against British forces in an effort to unite and free Northern Ireland from England. OIRA declared a ceasefire in 1972, after which its violent activity dropped off dramatically, with most of its members becoming involved in socialist politics through the Workers' Party. The organization continued to stage isolated attacks at least until 1979, however, and did not fully decommission its weapons until February 2010.

Narrative

The Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA)  was one of two groups to emerge from a split in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), an armed Catholic republican organization that fought for a unified, independent Ireland free of British control. OIRA, also known as the Officials, was the smaller and less violent of the two groups, the other of which was the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). OIRA had remained loyal to the IRA's historic leadership after PIRA broke away from the core group to pursue a more militant strategy for Northern Irish independence.[i]

 

OIRA became the Northern Ireland core of the historic Irish Republican Army (IRA), based in the Republic of Ireland, the southern part of the Irish island. The original IRA, dating back to the Irish War of Independence in 1919-1921, had played an instrumental role in the British withdrawal from and  independence of the Republic of Ireland, but Northern Ireland had remained under British administration. In the late 1960s, elements of the IRA in Northern Ireland grew increasingly dissatisfied with the group's leadership in the south, which they felt was disconnected from the suffering of Catholics in Northern Ireland and had failed to protect them from Protestant attacks. The IRA, they felt, had neglected military preparedness in favor of politics.[ii] This group broke away to form the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA); the remainder of the IRA in the North, loyal to the southern leadership, became the OIRA.

 

Though PIRA was originally a small splinter of the historic organization, it soon eclipsed OIRA in membership, resources, violence, and prominence.[iii] OIRA was perceived by many PIRA recruits as ineffectual and as having failed to protect Catholic neighborhoods from Protestant pogroms that took place in August 1969. The Officials' strength was further depleted by the defection of several OIRA units to PIRA in 1970.[iv]

 

OIRA staged a handful of largely unsuccessful attacks before declaring a ceasefire in 1972. The organization engaged in occasional violence thereafter, however, and did not officially decommission its weapons until 2010.[v] OIRA is thought to have killed fewer than 50 people between 1969 and 1979.[vi] Its chief targets included the security forces and members of the PIRA, with which it engaged in significant feuds in the mid-1970s after an initial period of occasional cooperation against British security forces.[vii]



[i] Moloney, Ed. A Secret History of the Ira. London: Allen Lane, 2002. p. 288-289.

[ii] Moloney, Ed. A Secret History of the Ira. London: Allen Lane, 2002. p. 288-289.

[iii] Moloney, Ed. A Secret History of the Ira. London: Allen Lane, 2002. p. 92

[iv] Get cite from Brenna

[v] Cain Web Service. "Abstracts on Organizations - Official Irish Republican Army." University of Ulster. Last modified August 10, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/oorgan.htm

[vi] Cain Web Service. "Abstracts on Organizations - Official Irish Republican Army." University of Ulster. Last modified August 10, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/oorgan.htm

[vii] Moloney, Ed. A Secret History of the Ira. London: Allen Lane, 2002. p. 91

 

Organizational Structure

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

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Cathal Goulding (1970 to 1972)

Leadership

This section describes various leaders, their deputies, and other important officials in the militant organization.

Cathal Goulding (1970 to 1972)

Cathal Goulding had served for seven years as chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). His attempt to take the organization in a more political and less militant direction precipitated the split with the IRA faction that became the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). Goulding became chief of staff of the remainder of the Northern Ireland IRA, which became the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA). The OIRA under Goulding declared a ceasefire in 1972.[i]



[i] Moloney, Ed. A Secret History of the Ira. London: Allen Lane, 2002. pp. 198, 293, and CAIN Web Service. "Biographies of Prominent People - Cathal Goulding." Last modified January 14, 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2012 from http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/peo

 

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

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

There are no publicly available size estimates for this group. 

Resources

It is believed that OIRA's main military resources were 300-400 rifles, but that the group also possessed several handguns and a few machine guns.[i]



[i] Cain Web Service. "Abstracts on Organizations - Official Irish Republican Army." University of Ulster. Last modified August 10, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/oorgan.htm

 

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 OIRA operated primarily in Northern Ireland, including in and around Belfast.

 

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

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

Ideology and Goals

Catholic

Left-wing

Marxist

Nationalist

Republican

 

Political Activities

There are no recorded political activities for this group.

Targets and Tactics

OIRA targeted mostly British security forces, as well as members of the PIRA and some civilians. With the prominent exception of a 1972 bombing at a British military base that killed 7, OIRA attacks were mostly shootings with one to two fatalities.

 

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks
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Major Attacks

 

 

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

This group has not been designated as a terrorist organization by any major national government or international body.

Community Relations

The relationship between this group and the communities in which it resides is unknown.

Relationships with Other Groups

OIRA at first occasionally cooperated, and then feuded violently, with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), a more violent breakaway group that overtook the OIRA as the standard-bearer for the Northern Ireland Catholic community that sought independence from Great Britain. The worst of the feuding took place in 1975, when a shootout between the OIRA and PIRA proved fatal.

 

Following OIRA's 1972 ceasefire, dissident members broke away to form the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), a left-wing paramilitary organization devoted to the creation of a unified, independent, and socialist Ireland.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

There are no publicly available external influences for this group.

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.

Evolving Militant Interactions

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