Irish republicanism (Irish: poblachtánachas Éireannach) is the political movement for the unity and independence of Ireland. The development of nationalist and democratic sentiment throughout Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was reflected in Ireland in the emergence of republicanism, in opposition to British rule. This followed hundreds of years of British conquest and Irish resistance through rebellion. Discrimination against Catholics and nonconformists, attempts by the British administration to suppress Irish culture, and the belief that Ireland was economically disadvantaged as a result of the Acts of Union were among the specific factors leading to such opposition.
The Society of United Irishmen, formed in the 1780s and led primarily by liberal Protestants, evolved into a revolutionary republican organisation, inspired by the American Revolution and allied with Revolutionary France. It launched the 1798 Rebellion with the help of French troops. The rebellion had some success, especially in County Wexford, before it was suppressed. A second rising in 1803, led by Robert Emmet, was quickly put down, and Emmet was hanged. The Young Ireland movement, formed in the 1830s, was initially a part of the Repeal Association of Daniel O'Connell, but broke with O'Connell on the issue of the legitimacy of the use of violence. Primarily a political and cultural organisation, some members of Young Ireland staged an abortive rising, the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. Its leaders were transported to Van Diemen's Land. Some of these escaped to the United States, where they linked up with other Irish exiles to form the Fenian Brotherhood. Together with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, founded in Ireland by James Stephens and others in 1858, they made up a movement commonly known as "Fenians" which was dedicated to the overthrow of British imperial rule in Ireland. They staged another rising, the Fenian Rising, in 1867, and a dynamite campaign in England in the 1880s.
In the early 20th century IRB members, in particular Tom Clarke and Seán MacDermott, began planning another rising. The Easter Rising took place from 24 to 30 April 1916, when members of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army seized the centre of Dublin, proclaimed a republic and held off British forces for almost a week. The execution of the Rising's leaders, including Clarke, MacDermott, Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, led to a surge of support for republicanism in Ireland. In 1917 the Sinn Féin party stated as its aim the "securing the international recognition of Ireland as an independent Irish Republic", and in the general election of 1918 Sinn Féin took 73 of the 105 Irish seats in the British House of Commons. The elected members did not take their seats but instead set up the First Dáil. Between 1919 and 1921 the Irish Republican Army (IRA), who were loyal to the Dáil, fought the British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), a predominantly Roman Catholic force, in the Irish War of Independence. Talks between the British and Irish in late 1921 led to a treaty by which the British conceded, not a 32-county Irish Republic, but a 26-county Irish Free State with Dominion status. This led to the Irish Civil War, in which the republicans were defeated by their former comrades.
The Free State became an independent constitutional monarchy following the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931 and formally became a republic with the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948. That same year, the republican movement took the decision to focus on Northern Ireland thereafter. The Border Campaign, which lasted from 1956 to 1962, involved bombings and attacks on Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks. The failure of this campaign led the republican leadership to concentrate on political action, and to move to the left. Following the outbreak of The Troubles in 1968-9, the movement split between Officials (leftists) and Provisionals (traditionalists) at the beginning of 1970. Both sides were initially involved in an armed campaign against the British state, but the Officials gradually moved into mainstream politics after the Official IRA ceasefire of 1972; the associated "Official Sinn Féin" eventually renamed itself the Workers' Party. The Provisional IRA, except during brief ceasefires in 1972 and 1975, kept up a campaign of violence for nearly thirty years, directed against security forces and civilian targets (especially businesses). While the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) represented the nationalists of Northern Ireland in initiatives such as the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, republicans took no part in these, believing that a withdrawal of British troops and a commitment to a united Ireland was a necessary precondition of any settlement. This began to change with a landmark speech by Danny Morrison in 1981, advocating what became known as the Armalite and ballot box strategy. Under the leadership of Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin began to focus on the search for a political settlement. When the party voted in 1986 to take seats in legislative bodies within Ireland, there was a walk-out of die-hard republicans, who set up Republican Sinn Féin and the Continuity IRA. Following the Hume–Adams dialogue, Sinn Féin took part in the Northern Ireland peace process which led to the IRA ceasefires of 1994 and 1997 and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. After elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, republicans sat in government in Northern Ireland for the first time when Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brún were elected to the Northern Ireland Executive. However, another split occurred, with anti-Agreement republicans setting up the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and the Real IRA. Today, Irish republicanism is divided between those who support the institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement and the later St Andrews Agreement, and those who oppose them. The latter are often referred to as "dissident" republicans.
Following the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century, Ireland, or parts of it, had experienced alternating degrees of rule from England. While some of the native Gaelic population attempted to resist this occupation, a single, unified political goal did not exist amongst the independent lordships that existed throughout the island. The Tudor conquest of Ireland took place in the 16th century. This included the Plantations of Ireland, in which the lands held by Gaelic Irish clans and Hiberno-Norman dynasties were confiscated and given to Protestant settlers ("Planters") from England and Scotland. The Plantation of Ulster began in 1609, and the province was heavily colonised with English and Scottish settlers.
Campaigns against English presence on the island had occurred prior to the emergence of the Irish republican ideology. In the 1590s, resistance was led by Hugh O'Neill (see the Nine Years' War). The Irish chieftains were ultimately defeated, leading to their exile (the 'Flight of the Earls') and the aforementioned Plantation of Ulster in 1609. During the Thirty Years' War, Irish exiles in Spain petitioned Philip IV to launch an invasion of Ireland and so in December 1627 a document was drafted by Philip's ministers in Madrid containing among other things the first proposal for an Irish republic with the intention of preventing a conflict between the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell over the crown of Ireland. Ultimately however the invasion did not go ahead.
A decade later, the Irish Rebellion of 1641 began. This consisted of a coalition between the Irish and the Old English (descendents of the English/Norman settlers who settled during the Norman Invasion) rebelling against the English rulers. Beginning as a coup d'état with the aim of restoring lost lands in the north of Ireland and defending Catholic religious and property rights, (which had been suppressed by the Puritan Parliament of England) it evolved into the Irish Confederate Wars. In the summer of 1642, the Catholic upper classes formed the Catholic Confederation, which essentially became the de facto government of Ireland for a brief period until 1649, when the forces of the English Parliament carried out the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland and the old Catholic landowners were permanently dispossessed of their lands.
Irish republicanism has its origins in the ideals of the American and French revolutions in the late 18th century. In Ireland these ideals were taken up by the United Irishmen, founded in 1791. Originally they sought reform of the Irish parliament, such as an end to sectarian discrimination against Dissenters and Catholics, which was enshrined in the Penal Laws. Eventually they became a revolutionary group advocating an Irish republic free from British control.
At this stage, the movement was led primarily by liberal Protestants, particularly Presbyterians from the province of Ulster.The Founding members of the United Irishmen were mainly Southern Irish Protestant aristocrats. The key founders included Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell, Henry Joy McCracken, James Napper Tandy, and Samuel Neilson. By 1797, the Society of United Irishmen had around 100,000 members. Crossing the religious divide in Ireland, it had a mixed membership of Catholics, Presbyterians, and even Anglicans from the Protestant Ascendancy. It also attracted support and membership from Catholic agrarian resistance groups, such as the Defenders organisation, who were eventually incorporated into the Society.
The Irish Rebellion of 1798 began on 23 May, with the first clashes taking place in County Kildare on 24 May, before spreading throughout Leinster, as well as County Antrim and other areas of the country. French soldiers landed in Killala on 22 August and participated in the fighting on the rebels' side. Even though they had considerable success against British forces in County Wexford, rebel forces were eventually defeated. Key figures in the organisation were arrested and executed.
Though the Rebellion of 1798 was eventually crushed, small republican guerrilla campaigns against the British Army continued for a short time afterward in the Wicklow Mountains under the leadership of Michael Dwyer and Joseph Holt, involving attacks on small parties of yeomen. These activities were perceived by some to be merely "the dying echoes of an old convulsion", but others feared further large-scale uprisings, due to the United Irishmen continuing to attract large numbers of Catholics in rural areas of the country and arms raids being carried out on a nightly basis. It was also feared that rebels would again seek military aid from French troops, and another rising was expected take place by 10 April.
This perceived threat of further rebellion resulted in the Parliamentary Union between the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After some uncertainty, the Irish Parliament voted to abolish itself in the Acts of Union 1800, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, by a vote of 158 to 115. A number of tactics were used to achieve this end. Lord Castlereagh and Charles Cornwallis were known to use bribery extensively. In all, a total of sixteen Irish borough-owners were granted British peerages. A further twenty-eight new Irish peerages were created, while twenty existing Irish peerages increased in rank.
Furthermore, the government of Great Britain sought to replace Irish politicians in the Irish parliament with pro-Union politicians, and rewards were granted to those that vacated their seats, with the result being that in the eighteen months prior to the decision in 1800, one-fifth of the Irish House of Commons changed its representation due to these activities and other factors such as death. It was also promised by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger that he would bring about Catholic emancipation, though after the Acts of Union were successfully voted through, King George III saw that this pledge was never realised, and as such Catholics were not granted the rights that had been promised prior to the Acts.
A second attempt at forming an independent Irish republic occurred under Robert Emmet in 1803. Emmet had previously been expelled from Trinity College, Dublin for his political views. Like those who had led the 1798 rebellion, Emmet was a member of the United Irishmen, as was his brother Thomas Addis Emmet, who had been imprisoned for membership in the organisation.
Emmet and his followers had planned to seize Dublin Castle by force, manufacturing weaponry and explosives at a number of locations in Dublin. Unlike those of 1798, preparations for the uprising were successfully concealed from the government and law enforcement, and though a premature explosion at an arms depot attracted the attention of police, they were unaware of the United Irishmen activities at the time and did not have any information regarding the planned rebellion. Emmet had hoped to avoid the complications of the previous rebellion and chose not to organise the county outside of Dublin to a large extent. It was expected that the areas surrounding Dublin were sufficiently prepared for an uprising should one be announced, and Thomas Russell had been sent to northern areas of the country to prepare republicans there.
A proclamation of independence, addressed from 'The Provisional Government' to 'The People of Ireland' was produced by Emmet, echoing the republican sentiments expressed during the previous rebellion:
You are now called on to show to the world that you are competent to take your place among nations, that you have a right to claim their recognisance of you, as an independent country ... We therefore solemnly declare, that our object is to establish a free and independent republic in Ireland: that the pursuit of this object we will relinquish only with our lives ... We war against no religious sect ... We war against English dominion. — Robert Emmet, Proclamation of the Provisional Government
However, failed communications and arrangements produced a considerably smaller force than had been anticipated. Nonetheless, the rebellion began in Dublin on the evening of 23 July. Emmet's forces were unable to take Dublin Castle, and the rising broke down into rioting, which ensued sporadically throughout the night. Emmet escaped and hid for some time in the Wicklow Mountains and Harold's Cross, but was captured on 25 August and hanged on 20 September 1803, at which point the Society of United Irishmen was effectively finished.
The Young Ireland movement began in the late 1830s. The term 'Young Ireland' was originally a derogatory one, coined by the press in Britain to describe members of the Repeal Association (a group campaigning for the repeal of the Acts of Union 1800 which joined the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain) who were involved with the Irish nationalist newspaper The Nation. Encouraging the repeal of the Acts of Union, members of the Young Ireland movement advocated the removal of British authority from Ireland and the re-establishment of the Irish Parliament in Dublin. The group had cultural aims also, and encouraged the study of Irish history and the revival of the Irish language. Influential Young Irelanders included Charles Gavan Duffy, Thomas Davis and John Blake Dillon, the three founders of The Nation.
The Young Irelanders eventually seceded from the Repeal Association. The leader of the Repeal Association, Daniel O'Connell, opposed the use of physical force to enact repeal, and passed 'peace resolutions' declaring that violence and force were not to be employed. Though the Young Irelanders did not support the use of violence, the writers of The Nation maintained that the introduction of these peace resolutions was poorly timed, and that to declare outright that physical force would never be used was 'to deliver themselves bound hand and foot to the Whigs.' William Smith O'Brien, who had previously worked to achieve compromise between O'Connell and The Nation group, was also concerned, and claimed that he feared these resolutions were an attempt to exclude the Young Irelanders from the Association altogether. At an Association meeting held in July 1846 at Conciliation Hall, the meeting place of the Association, Thomas Francis Meagher, a Young Irelander, addressing the peace resolutions, delivered his 'Sword Speech', in which he stated, "I do not abhor the use of arms in the vindication of national rights ... Be it for the defence, or be it for the assertion of a nation's liberty, I look upon the sword as a sacred weapon." John O'Connell, Daniel O'Connell's son, was present at the proceedings and interrupted Meagher's speech, claiming that Meagher could no longer be part of the same association as O'Connell and his supporters. After some protest, the Young Irelanders left Conciliation Hall and the Repeal Association forever, founding the Irish Confederation 13 January 1847 after negotiations for a reunion had failed.
The Young Ireland movement culminated in a failed uprising (see Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848), which, influenced by the French Revolution of 1848 and further provoked by government inaction during the Great Famine and the suspension of habeas corpus, which allowed the government to imprison Young Irelanders and other political opponents without trial, was hastily planned and quickly suppressed. Following the abortive uprising, several rebel leaders were arrested and convicted of sedition. Originally sentenced to death, Smith O'Brien and other members of the Irish Confederation were transported to Van Diemen's Land.
The Fenian movement consisted of the Fenian Brotherhood and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), fraternal organisations founded in the United States and Ireland respectively with the aim of establishing an independent republic in Ireland.
The IRB was founded on Saint Patrick's Day 1858 in Dublin. Members present at the first meeting were James Stephens, Thomas Clarke Luby, Peter Langan, Joseph Denieffe, Garrett O'Shaughnessy, and Charles Kickham. Stephens had previously spent time exiled in Paris, along with John O'Mahony, having taken part in the uprising of 1848 and fleeing to avoid capture. O'Mahony left France for America in the mid-1850s and founded the Emmet Monument Association with Michael Doheny. Stephens returned to Ireland in 1856.
The original oath of the society, drawn up by Luby under Stephens' direction, read:
I, AB., do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will do my utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to make [other versions, according to Luby, establish in'] Ireland an independent Democratic Republic; that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God [ 'laws of morality'] to the commands of my superior officers; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions [ 'affairs'] of this secret society that may be confided in me. So help me God! Amen.
The Fenian Brotherhood was the IRB's counterpart organisation, formed in the same year in the United States by O'Mahony and Doheny. The Fenian Brotherhood's main purpose was to supply weapons and funds for its Irish counterpart and raise support for the Irish republican movement in the United States. The term "Fenian" was coined by O'Mahony, who named the American wing of the movement after the Fianna — a class of warriors that existed in Gaelic Ireland. The term became popular and is still in use, especially in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where it has expanded to refer to all Irish nationalists and republicans, as well as being a pejorative term for Irish Catholics.
Public support for the Fenian movement in Ireland grew in November 1861 with the funeral of Terence MacManus, a member of the Irish Confederation, which Stephens and the Fenians had organised and which was attended by between twenty thousand and thirty thousand people. Following this, Stephens (accompanied by Luby) undertook a series of organisational tours throughout the island.
In 1865 the Fenian Brotherhood in America had split into two factions. One was led by O'Mahony with Stephens' support. The other, which was more powerful, was led by William R. Roberts. The Fenians had always planned an armed rebellion, but there was now disagreement as to how and where this rebellion might be carried out. Roberts' faction preferred focusing all military efforts on British Canada (Roberts and his supporters theorised that victory for the American Fenians in nearby Canada would propel the Irish republican movement as a whole to success). The other, headed by O'Mahony, proposed that a rising in Ireland be planned for 1866. In spite of this, the O'Mahony wing of the movement itself tried and failed to capture New Brunswick's Campobello Island in April 1866. Following this failure, the Roberts faction of the Fenian Brotherhood carried out its own, occupying the village of Fort Erie, Ontario on 31 May 1866 and engaging Canadian troops at the battles of Ridgeway and Fort Erie on 2 June. It was in reference to Fenians fighting in this battle that the name "Irish Republican Army" was first used. These attacks (and those that followed) in Canada are collectively known as the "Fenian raids".
After the Act of Union in 1801 merging Ireland with Britain into the United Kingdom, Irish independence movements were suppressed by the British authorities. Nationalist rebellions against British rule in 1803, by Robert Emmet, 1848 (by the Young Irelanders) and 1865 and 1867 (by the Fenians) were followed by harsh reprisals by British forces.
In 1916 the Easter Rising, organised by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, was launched in Dublin and the Irish Republic was proclaimed, albeit without significant popular support. The Rising was suppressed after six days, and most of its leaders were executed by the British authorities. This was a turning point in Irish history, leading to the War of Independence and the end of British rule in most of Ireland.
From 1919–1921 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was organised as a guerilla army, led by Richard Mulcahy and with Michael Collins as Director of Intelligence and fought against British forces. During the Anglo-Irish War (or War of Independence), the British sent paramilitary police, the "Black and Tans" and the Auxiliary Division, to help the British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary. These groups committed atrocities which included killing captured POWs and any Irish civilians they viewed as being sympathetic to the IRA. Among the most infamous of their actions were the burning of half the city of Cork in 1920 and the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1920. These atrocities, together with the popularity of the republican ideal, and British repression of republican political expression, led to widespread support across Ireland for the Irish rebels.
In 1921 the British government led by David Lloyd George negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty with republican leaders led by Arthur Griffith who had been delegated as plenipotentiaries on behalf of the Second Dáil, thus ending the conflict.
Though many across the country were unhappy with the Anglo-Irish Treaty (since, during the war, the IRA had fought for independence for all Ireland and for a republic, not a partitioned dominion under the British crown), some republicans were satisfied that the Treaty was the best that could be achieved at the time. However, a substantial number opposed it. Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament, voted by 64 votes to 57 to ratify it, the majority believing that the treaty created a new base from which to move forward. Éamon de Valera, who had served as President of the Irish Republic during the war, refused to accept the decision of the Dáil and led the opponents of the treaty out of the House. The pro-Treaty republicans organised themselves into the Cumann na nGaedheal party, while the anti-Treaty republicans retained the Sinn Féin name. The IRA itself split between pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty elements, with the former forming the nucleus of the new Irish National Army.
Michael Collins became Commander-in-Chief of the National Army. Shortly afterwards, some dissidents, apparently without the authorisation of the anti-Treaty IRA Army Executive, occupied the Four Courts in Dublin and kidnapped a pro-Treaty general. The government, responding to this provocation and to intensified British pressure following the assassination by an IRA unit in London of Sir Henry Wilson, ordered the regular army to take the Four Courts, thereby beginning the Irish Civil War. It is believed that Collins continued to fund and supply the IRA in Northern Ireland throughout the civil war, but, after his death, W. T. Cosgrave (the new President of the Executive Council, or prime minister) discontinued this support.
By May 1923, the war (which had claimed more lives than the War of Independence) ended in the call by the IRA to dump arms. However, the harsh measures adopted by both sides, including assassinations of politicians by the Republicans and executions and atrocities by the Free State side, left a bitter legacy in Irish politics for decades to follow.
De Valera, who had strongly supported the Republican side in the Civil War, reconsidered his views while in jail and came to accept the ideas of political activity under the terms of the Free State constitution. Rather than abstaining from Free State politics entirely, he now sought to republicanise it from within. However, he and his supporters – which included most Sinn Féin TDs – failed to convince a majority of the anti-treaty Sinn Féin of these views and the movement split again. In 1926, he formed a new party called Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny), taking most of Sinn Féin's TDs with him. In 1931, following the enactment of the Statute of Westminster, the country became a sovereign state along with the other Dominions and the United Kingdom. The following year, De Valera was appointed President of the Executive Council of the Free State and began a slow process of turning the country from a constitutional monarchy to a constitutional republic, thus fulfilling Collins's prediction of "the freedom to achieve freedom".
By then, the IRA was engaged in confrontations with the Blueshirts, a quasi-fascist group led by a former War of Independence and pro-Treaty leader, Eoin O'Duffy. O'Duffy looked to Fascist Italy as an example for Ireland to follow. Several hundred supporters of O'Duffy briefly went to Spain to volunteer on the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, and a smaller number of ex-IRA members, communists and others participated on the Republican side.
In 1937, the Constitution of Ireland was drafted by the de Valera government and approved via referendum by the majority of the population of the Free State. The constitution changed the name of the state to Éire in the Irish language (Ireland in English) and asserted its national territory as the whole of Ireland.[a] The new state was headed by a President of Ireland elected by universal suffrage, (though the constitutional Monarch of the State (by then George VI) remained, albeit with a role diminished solely to functions in relation to accreditation of diplomats. He is believed to have been left with those residual functions as a concession to Unionist opinion.) The new state had the objective characteristics of a republic and was referred to as such by de Valera himself, but, it remained within the British Commonwealth and was regarded by the British as a Dominion, like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Furthermore, the claim to the whole of the island did not reflect practical reality and inflamed anti-Dublin sentiment among northern Protestants.
In 1948, Fianna Fáil went out of office for the first time in sixteen years. John A. Costello, leader of the coalition government, announced his intention to declare Ireland a republic. The Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which "described" the state as the Republic of Ireland (without changing its name), led the British government to pass the Ireland Act 1949, which declared that Northern Ireland would continue as part of the United Kingdom unless the Parliament of Northern Ireland consented to leave; and Ireland ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth. As a result of this—and also because continuing struggle against the Dublin government was futile—the republican movement took the decision to focus on Northern Ireland from then on. The decision was announced by the IRA in its Easter statement of 1949.
In 1921, Ireland was partitioned. Most of the country became part of the independent Irish Free State. However, six out of the nine counties of Ulster remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland. In the 1921 elections in Northern Ireland,
This territory of Northern Ireland, as established by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, had its own provincial government which was controlled for 50 years until 1972 by the conservative Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The tendency to vote on sectarian lines and the proportions of each religious denomination ensured that there would never be a change of government. In local government, constituency boundaries were drawn to divide nationalist communities into two or even three constituencies and so weaken their effect (see Gerrymandering).
The (mainly Catholic) Nationalist population in Northern Ireland, besides feeling politically alienated, was also economically alienated, often with worse living standards compared to their Protestant (mainly Unionist) neighbours, with fewer job opportunities, and living in ghettos in Belfast, Derry, Armagh and other places. Many Catholics considered the Unionist government was undemocratic, bigoted and favoured Protestants. Emigration for economic reasons kept the nationalist population from growing, despite its higher birth rate. Although poverty, (e)migration and unemployment were fairly widespread (albeit not to the same extent) among Protestants as well, on the other hand the economic situation in Northern Ireland (even for Catholics) was for a long time arguably still better than in the Republic of Ireland.
During the 1930s the IRA launched minor attacks against the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and British Army in Northern Ireland. The IRA began another armed campaign in Britain in 1939. During World War II the IRA leadership hoped for support from Germany, and chief of staff Seán Russell travelled there in 1940; he died later that year after falling ill on a U-boat that was bringing him back to Ireland (possibly with a view to starting a German sponsored revolution in Ireland). Suspected republicans were interned on both sides of the border, for different reasons.
The Border Campaign in the mid-50s was the last attempt at traditional military action and was an abject failure. The Movement needed to reconsider its strategy.
In the late 1960s, Irish political activists groups found parallels with their struggle against religious discrimination in the civil rights campaign of African Americans the US against racial discrimination. Student leaders such a Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and Nationalist politicians such as Austin Currie tried to use non-violent direct action to draw attention to the blatant discrimination. By 1968, Europe as a whole was engulfed in a struggle between radicalism and conservativism. In Sinn Féin, the same debate raged. The dominant analysis was that Protestant Irishmen and women would never be bombed into a united Ireland. The only way forward was to have both sides embrace socialism and forget their sectarian hatreds. They resolved to no longer to be drawn into inter-communal violence.
As a response to the civil rights campaign militant loyalist paramilitary groups started to emerge in the Protestant community. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was the first. The UVF had originally existed among loyalist Ulster Protestants before World War I to oppose Home Rule. In the 1960s it was relaunched by militant loyalists, encouraged by certain politicians, to oppose any attempt to reunite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland, which is how they saw any change in their status vis-a-vis Catholics.
By mid-1969 the violence in Northern Ireland exploded. Consistent with their new political ideology, the IRA declined to intervene. By late August, the British government had to intervene and declare a state of emergency, sending a large number of troops into Northern Ireland to stop the intercommunal violence. Initially welcomed by some Catholics as protectors, later events such as Bloody Sunday and the Falls Road curfew turned many against the British Army.
Divisions began to emerge in the Republican movement between leftists and conservatives. The leader of the IRA, Cathal Goulding believed that the IRA could not beat the British with military tactics and should turn into a workers' revolutionary movement that would overthrow both governments to achieve a 32-county socialist republic through the will of the people (after WWII the IRA no longer engaged in any actions against the Republic). Goulding also drove the IRA into an ideologically Marxist-Leninist direction which attracted idealistic young supporters in the Republic, but alienated and angered many of the IRA's core supporters in the North. In particular, his decision to regard the UVF as deluded rather than as the enemy, was anathema to traditionalists and those who were its potential victims.
The argument led to a split in 1970, between the Official IRA (supporters of Goulding's Marxist line) and the Provisional IRA (also called Provos, traditional nationalist republicans). The Provos were led by Seán Mac Stíofáin and immediately began a large scale campaign against British state forces and economic targets in Northern Ireland. The Official IRA were also initially drawn into an armed campaign by the escalating communal violence. In 1972, the Official IRA declared a cease-fire, which, apart from feuds with other republican groups, has been maintained to date. Nowadays the term 'Irish Republican Army' almost always denotes the Provisional IRA.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the conflict continued claiming thousands of lives, with the UVF (and other loyalist groups) extending attacks into the Republic of Ireland and the IRA launching attacks on targets in England. However some things slowly began to change. In the 1980s Provisional Sinn Féin (the Provisional IRA's political wing) began contesting elections and by the mid-1990s was representing the republican position at peace negotiations. In the loyalist movement splits occurred, the Ulster Unionist Party made tentative attempts to reform itself and attract Catholics into supporting the union with Britain, while the radical Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Rev. Ian Paisley began attracting working class Protestant loyalists who felt alienated by the UUP's overtures towards Catholics.
At the 1986 Sinn Féin Ardfheis, a motion declaring the end of the policy of abstentionism (refusing to take seats in the Republic of Ireland's parliament), was passed. This motion caused a split in the movement creating Republican Sinn Féin, a party committed to the 1970s "provisional" Sinn Féin vision of a 32 County federal republic. It was led by former Sinn Féin President Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (who had previously led "provisional" Sinn Féin to split from Official Sinn Féin). The policy of participation in Dáil elections became known as "the Armalite and the ballot box".
In 1994 the leaders of Northern Ireland's two largest nationalist parties, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin and John Hume, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) entered into peace negotiations with Unionist leaders like David Trimble of the UUP and the British government. At the table most of the paramilitary groups (including the IRA and UVF) had representatives. In 1998 when the IRA endorsed the Good Friday Agreement between nationalist and unionist parties and both governments, another small group split from the IRA to form the Real IRA (RIRA). The Continuity and Real IRA have both engaged in attacks not only against the British and loyalists, but even against their fellow nationalists (members of Sinn Féin, the SDLP and IRA).
Since 1998, the IRA and UVF have adhered to a ceasefire.
Today the republican movement can be divided into moderates who wish to reunite with the Republic through peaceful means and radicals who wish to continue an armed campaign.
In late July 2005, the IRA announced that the armed conflict was over and that their weapons were to be put out of use. A large stock of weapons was reportedly "decommissioned" later that year. Some Unionists disputed the claim that this represented the entire stock of IRA weaponry.
Socialism has traditionally been part of the Irish republican movement since the early 20th century, when James Connolly, an Irish Marxist and Syndicalist theorist, took part in the Easter Rising of 1916. Today, most Irish nationalist and Republican organizations located in Northern Ireland advocate some form of socialism, both Marxist and non-Marxist. The Social Democratic and Labour Party, which until recently was the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland, promotes social democracy, while militant republican parties such as Sinn Féin, Éirígí, Republican Sinn Féin, and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement all promote their own varieties of democratic socialism intended to re-distribute wealth on an all-island basis once a united Ireland has been achieved. The Irish Republican Socialist Movement, encompassing the Irish Republican Socialist Party and Irish National Liberation Army, as well as the defunct Official Irish Republican Army and Irish National Liberation Front, are known for promoting an ideology which combines Marxism–Leninism with traditional revolutionary militant republicanism and is claimed by its adherents to be the most direct fulfilment of Connolly's legacy.
The following are active republican parties in Ireland.
An Phoblacht (Irish pronunciation: [ənˠ ˈfˠɔbˠlˠəxt̪ˠ]; English: The Republic) was a weekly, and later monthly, newspaper published by Sinn Féin in Ireland. From early 2018 An Phoblacht will move to a magazine format while remaining an online news platform. Editorially the paper took a left-wing, Irish republican position and was supportive of the Northern Ireland peace process. Along with covering Irish political and trade union issues the newspaper frequently featured interviews with celebrities, musicians, artists, intellectuals and international activists. The paper sold an average of up to 15,000 copies every week. During the 1981 Irish hunger strike its sales soared to over 70,000 per week. It was the first Irish paper to provide an edition online and currently has in excess of 100,000 website hits per week.Armalite and ballot box strategy
The Armalite and ballot box strategy was a strategy pursued by the Irish republican movement in the 1980s and early 1990s in which elections in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were contested by Sinn Féin, while the IRA continued to pursue an armed struggle against the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and loyalist paramilitary groups. This strategy was a matter of some controversy within republicanism; some IRA members and supporters who disagreed with the strategy left to form Republican Sinn Féin in 1986.
Armalite refers to the AR-15 and AR-18 ArmaLite rifles. Both were originally manufactured by the Armalite corporation, later Colt. The IRA smuggled significant quantities of these rifles into Northern Ireland during the early 1970s and the "Armalite" became a symbol of republican armed struggle. Through the AR-18's mass use by the PIRA and volunteers' love of the weapon for its accuracy and compact nature, the rifle became known as the "Widowmaker".Dissident republican
Dissident republicans, renegade republicans, anti-Agreement republicans or anti-ceasefire republicans (Irish: poblachtach easaontach) are Irish republicans who do not support the current peace agreements in Northern Ireland. The agreements followed a 30-year conflict known as the Troubles, which claimed over 3,500 lives. During the conflict, republican paramilitary groups such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army waged a campaign to bring about a united Irish republic. Peace negotiations in the 1990s led to an IRA ceasefire in 1994 and to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Mainstream republicans, represented by Sinn Féin, supported the Agreement as a means of achieving Irish unity peacefully. 'Dissidents' saw this as an abandonment of republican ideals and acceptance of partition and British rule. They hold that the Northern Ireland Assembly and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are illegitimate and see the PSNI as a "British paramilitary police force".
Some dissident republican political groups, such as Republican Sinn Féin (which was established by a split from Sinn Féin, and no longer has a connection to the party) and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, support political violence against the British security forces. Thus, they oppose the Provisional IRA's 1994 ceasefire.
However, other groups, such as the Republican Network for Unity, wish to achieve their goals only through peaceful means.
Since the IRA called a ceasefire, splinter groups have continued an armed campaign against the British security forces in Northern Ireland. Like the Provisional IRA, each of these groups sees itself as the only rightful successor of the original IRA and each calls itself simply "the IRA", or Óglaigh na hÉireann in Irish (see also Irish republican legitimism).Irish Republic (1798)
The Irish Republic of 1798, more commonly called the Republic of Connacht, was a short lived puppet state proclaimed during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 that resulted from the French Revolutionary Wars. In theory the republic was to cover the whole island of Ireland, but its functional control was limited to only very small parts of the Province of Connacht. The opposing Irish Royal Army was deployed across most of the country including the main towns such as Dublin, Belfast and Cork.Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a paramilitary political movement in Ireland in the 20th and the 21st century dedicated to Irish republicanism, the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic from British rule. The original Irish Republican Army formed in 1917 from those Irish Volunteers who did not enlist in the British Army during World War I, members of the Irish Citizen Army and others. Irishmen formerly in the British Army returned to Ireland and fought in the Irish War of Independence. During the Irish War of Independence it was the army of the Irish Republic, declared by Dáil Éireann in 1919. Some Irish people dispute the claims of more recently created organisations that insist that they are the only legitimate descendants of the original IRA, often referred to as the "Old IRA" (in contrast to the New IRA).
The playwright and former IRA member Brendan Behan once said that the first issue on any Irish organisation's agenda was "the split". For the IRA, that has often been the case. The first split came after the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, with supporters of the Treaty forming the nucleus of the National Army of the newly created Irish Free State, while the anti-treaty forces continued to use the name Irish Republican Army. After the end of the Irish Civil War (1922–23), the IRA was around in one form or another for forty years, when it split into the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA in 1969. The latter then had its own breakaways, namely the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, each claiming to be the true successor of the Army of the Irish Republic.
The Irish Republican Army (1919–1922) (in later years, known as the "Old" IRA), recognised by the First Dáil as the legitimate army of the Irish Republic in April 1921 and fought the Irish War of Independence. On ratification by the Dáil of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, it split into pro-Treaty forces (the National Army, also known as the Government forces or the Regulars) and anti-Treaty forces (the Republicans, Irregulars or Executive forces) after the Treaty. These two went on to fight the Irish Civil War.
The Irish Republican Army (1922–1969), the anti-treaty IRA which fought and lost the civil war and which thereafter refused to recognise either the Irish Free State or Northern Ireland, deeming them both to be creations of British imperialism. It existed in one form or another for over 40 years before splitting in 1969.
The Official IRA (OIRA), the remainder of the IRA after the 1969 split with the Provisionals; was primarily Marxist in its political orientation. It is now inactive in the military sense, while its political wing, Official Sinn Féin, became the Workers' Party of Ireland.
The Provisional IRA (PIRA) broke from the OIRA in 1969 over abstentionism and how to deal with the increasing violence in Northern Ireland. Although opposed to the OIRA's Marxism, it came to develop a left-wing orientation and increasing political activity.
The Continuity IRA (CIRA) broke from the PIRA in 1986, because the latter ended its policy on abstentionism (thus recognising the authority of the Republic of Ireland).
The Real IRA (RIRA), a 1997 breakaway from the PIRA consisting of members opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.
In April 2011, former members of the Provisional IRA announced a resumption of hostilities, and that "they had now taken on the mantle of the mainstream IRA." They further claimed "We continue to do so under the name of the Irish Republican Army. We are the IRA." and insisted that they "were entirely separate from the Real IRA, Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH), and the Continuity IRA." They claimed responsibility for the April assassination of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr as well as responsibility for other attacks that had previously been claimed by the Real IRA and ONH.
The New IRA, which was formed as a merger between the Real IRA and other republican groups in 2012. (see Real IRA)Irish Republican Socialist Party
The Irish Republican Socialist Party or IRSP (Irish: Páirtí Poblachtach Sóisialach na hÉireann) is a republican socialist party active in Ireland. It is often referred to as the "political wing" of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) paramilitary group. and claims the legacy of socialist revolutionary James Connolly, who founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in 1896 and was executed after the Easter Rising of 1916.Irish rebellion of 1803
The Irish rebellion of 1803 was an unsuccessful attempt by a group of Irish republicans and Irish nationalists to secure Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom.Irish republican legitimism
A concept within Irish Republicanism, Irish republican legitimatism denies the legitimacy of the political entities of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and posits that the pre-partition Irish Republic continues to exist. The concept shapes aspects of, but is not synonymous with, abstentionism.Jubilee Plot
The Jubilee Plot was a supposed assassination attempt by radical Irish nationalists on Queen Victoria during her Golden Jubilee, on 20 June 1887. Those who presented the idea of a plot claimed that the radicals intended to blow up Westminster Abbey, Queen Victoria and half the British Cabinet. The story was closely connected to a set of forged letters by Richard Pigott, which attempted to implicate Charles Stuart Parnell with supporting physical force Irish republicanism.New Departure (Ireland)
The term New Departure has been used to describe several initiatives in the late 19th century by which Irish republicans, who were committed to independence from Britain by physical force, attempted to find a common ground for co-operation with groups committed to Irish Home Rule by constitutional means. The term refers to the fact that Fenians were to some extent departing from their orthodox doctrine of noninvolvement with constitutional politics, especially the British parliament. It was coined by John Devoy in an anonymous article in the New York Herald on 27 October 1878 in which he laid out a framework for a new policy.Physical force Irish republicanism
Physical force Irish republicanism (PFIR) is the recurring appearance of a non-parliamentary violent insurrection in Ireland between 1798 and the present. It is often described as a rival to parliamentary nationalism which for most of the period drew the predominant amount of support from Irish nationalists.Republican News
Republican News was a longstanding newspaper/magazine published by Sinn Féin. Following the split in physical force Irish republicanism in the late 1960s between the Officials (Official Sinn Féin — also known as Sinn Féin Gardiner Place — and the Official IRA) and the Provisionals (Provisional Sinn Féin — also known as Sinn Féin Kevin Street and now most commonly simply as Sinn Féin — and the Provisional IRA) Republican News was eclipsed by An Phoblacht, a new magazine launched by Provisional Sinn Féin in 1970. "An Phoblacht" came first and then in early 1970, Joe Graham and Proinsias Mac Airt put together "The Republican News" and it functioned independently for quite a while. Graham worked on only three issues of it before starting "The Vindicator". The magazines merged under the name An Phoblacht/Republican News in 1979.Republican movement (Ireland)
The republican movement refers to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and other political, social and paramilitary organisations and movements associated with it. It can include:
Irish Republican Army (1922-1969)
Provisional Irish Republican Army (and Provisional Sinn Féin, Ógra Shinn Féin)
Continuity Irish Republican Army (and Republican Sinn Féin, Cumann na mBan, Fianna Éireann)
Óglaigh na hÉireann (CIRA splinter group)
Saoirse na hÉireann
Irish Republican Liberation Army
Real Irish Republican Army (and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement)Óglaigh na hÉireann (and Republican Network for Unity)
Saor Éire (1967–75)
Official Irish Republican Army (and Official Sinn Féin)Irish National Liberation Army (and the Irish Republican Socialist Party)Irish People's Liberation Organisation (and Republican Socialist Collective)The term was in use at least as early as 1957 when the United Irishman reported:
"Jim Dolan, election agent for the successful Sinn Féin candidate John Joe Mac Fhearghaill, went on to say that in the course of the election campaign the Republican Movement had been at a great disadvantage because, as a result of arrests and internments, some of their very best speakers north and south had not been available to them."J. Bowyer Bell, in The Secret Army, uses the term throughout to refer to the several organizations associated with the IRA in the 1960s and beyond. For instance, in chapter XVII he says: "But beneath the smooth patina applied by MacGiolla, The Republican movement seethed with bitter faction and the advanced rot of despair." Specifically mentioned in relation to this are Sinn Féin, the Clan (Clan na Gael) in America, the United Irishman and the National Graves Association.Peter Taylor, although he himself uses the term to refer to the IRA and Sinn Féin, claims that Irish republicans use it to refer to the IRA only. However, a Sinn Féin 'members course' of around 1979 specifically states: "Sinn Féin is the political section of the Republican Movement". Martin McGuinness, interviewed by John Humphrys for the BBC, denied that he was then a member of the IRA but did not contradict Humphrys when he described him as "a leader of the Republican Movement". Similarly, Francie Molloy, chair of the National Commemorations Committee said that "the growth in the attendance at Bodenstown (the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration) is a reflection of the growth of the Republican Movement."Roy Greenslade
Roy Greenslade (born 31 December 1946) is Emeritus Professor of Journalism at City University London, and has been a media commentator since 1992, most especially for The Guardian. He writes a daily blog on The Guardian media site and wrote a column for the London Evening Standard for ten years from 2006.Sinn Féin (newspaper)
Sinn Féin was a weekly Irish nationalist newspaper edited by the Dublin typesetter, journalist and political thinker Arthur Griffith. It was published by the Sinn Féin Printing & Publishing Company Ltd. (SFPP) between 1906 and 1914, and replaced an earlier newspaper called the United Irishman which was liquidated after a libel suit. The SFPP brought out the Sinn Féin Daily in 1909 but had to abandon it when it plunged the company into enormous debt. The Sinn Féin weekly and the SFPP both came to an end when they were suppressed by the British Government in 1914.The Dawning
The Dawning is a 1988 British film, based on Jennifer Johnston's novel, The Old Jest which depicts the Irish War of Independence through the eyes of the Anglo-Irish landlord class. It starred Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Grant, Jean Simmons, Trevor Howard, and Rebecca Pidgeon, and was produced by Sarah Lawson, through her company Lawson Productions.Unfinished Revolution (Christy Moore album)
Unfinished Revolution is a 1987 Irish folk music album by Christy Moore. The album was released the same year as the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen, an event Moore described as changing his viewpoint on Irish Republicanism. The album title refers to Moore's long-time support of Irish unification.Éire Nua
Éire Nua, or "New Ireland", was a proposal supported by the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin during the 1970s and early 1980s for a federal United Ireland. The proposal was particularly associated with the Dublin-based leadership group centred on Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill, who were the authors of the policy.Éire Nua is still supported by the Continuity IRA, Republican Sinn Féin, Na Fianna Éireann and Cumann na mBan.