Evolution, viewed as the gradual transformation of things, also influences activities like terrorism. The structural, tactical, among other changes highlighted in the field of terrorism are no more than products of evolution. However, the issue of terrorism is deep-rooted dating back to time immemorial. Its account is well-known comprising of historically prominent figures, whose activities qualify them for terrorists. There has been an underway debate concerning the subject of terrorism.
Scholars have set out to pronounce the term as being misconceived. This follows from the evident violent scenarios where opponents resolve to declare the other lot a terrorist. Worth noting is that “Though many have been proposed, there is no consensus definition of the term terrorism” (Walter, 1999, p.6).
This follows from its varied applications ranging from politics to religion. However, there is an argument on when the first terrorist activity occurred with scholars dating it back to the dawn of the first century when the first assassinations were registered. Under certain definitions of terrorism, this does not qualify as a terrorist activity. The Reign of Terror as referred to by the French people is believed to be origin of the term ‘Terrorist.’
This was a one-year period when France underwent a revolution after the dominating Jacobins applied brutality and mass killings to their opponents. The then leader Maximilien Robespierre, who ended the violence, met his death through a slash of his head. It was in France where the term was first used to denote non-governmental organizations.
The Irish Republican Brotherhood of 1867 is an illustration of these groups following its attacks to England, otherwise referred to as its first terrorist acts. “The group is considered a precursor to the Irish Republican Army” (Chaliand, 2007, p.274). This is the famous IRA. As a fact, IRA has undergone a tremendous change. This paper discusses the evident evolution that IRA has undergone right from its inception to its current state.
What is IRA?
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a non-governmental organization that saw its dawn in 1921. The term IRA has been in operation since then though it underwent a period of splitting between 1969 and 1997 bringing forth four branches, all of which bear the name IRA attached therein.
These branches include the Official IRA (OIRA), the Provisional IRA (PIRA), the Real IRA (RIRA), and the Continuity IRA (CIRA). Following the varied activities of the separate branches, those of the PIRA proved the group as a terrorist organization. However, currently the PIRA is not operational.
Following a series of violent activities, the IRA army came forth immediately after the creation of the Official IRA in 1969. Northern Ireland is the chief base of the organization though its activities permeate the entire republic, through Great Britain to Europe. This organization is highly welcome by some countries like Libya and America as well as some organization like the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
These supporters have gone an extra mile to train the IRA members as well as providing them with weapons. There are rumors of IRA connections with other groups of its caliber like the Marxist-Leaning Terrorist groups that comprise of The Italian Red Brigade, the Kurdish Workers Party among others.
The establishment of a uniform state of Ireland governed by Irish rather than British rules remains the chief objective of IRA. It is also its goal to settle the mistreatment of its Catholic people in the Northern Ireland region. Worth noting is that IRA has a quite undersized membership of approximately few hundred people who meet in small hidden cells. It surprises to realize that a council of less than seven officials plans its daily activities.
The bloody Friday of 1972, the assassination of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, and the 1998 car bombing that saw the death of at least 29 people, forms part of IRA’s major terrorist activities. Concerning politics, IRA stands out as a pure paramilitary organization, with ‘Sinn Fein’ as its political party that stands in for the rights of the Catholics since the dawn of the 20th century.
Ireland’s pursuit of national liberty from the rule of Great Britain in the 20th century forms the IRA’s roots of origin. The English Protestants usually referred to as The Anglican United Kingdom of the Great Britain amalgamated with Ireland’s Roman Catholic. This took place in 1801. However, the take brought forth many oppositions, all of which are founded on religious grounds. “Catholic Irish Nationalists opposed Protestant Irish Unionists, so named because they supported the union with Great Britain” (De Baroid, 1989, p.5)
However, majority of the Irish people did not support the take of Britain explaining the reason behind the IRA first war with Britain, a war that took place between 1919 and 1921. As a way of calming the situation, the Anglo-Irish Treaty resolved to split the Republic of Ireland into two, one of which became the Protestant Northern Ireland while the other became the Irish Free State. The former was then called Ulster, a British province.
Some members of IRA rejected this accord, calling for another terrorist group, PIRA. IRA’s terrorist activities began after the British police and army were severely attacked because of a tragic conflict between the Northern Ireland’s Protestants and Catholics. Other activities as bombings, assassinations, as well as other mass killings ensued, all of which sought to oppose the British and the Irish Unionists’ intentions.
However, following the experienced loss, the British authorities and the Sinn Fein party went into dialogue in an attempt to broker peace accord. Taking place in 1994, the peace talks seemed to bear fruits following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that called for IRA’s pledge to neutralize its operations.
Although PIRA registered a positive response towards the issue, it was not so for other groups like RIRA. In fact, Willey (2001) asserts “…terrorist activity by the Real IRA and other paramilitary groups continues and, as of the summer of 2006, is on the rise” (p.6). IRA continues to evolve day-by-day. For instance, there is a significant change in the tactics that IRA has been employing in its activities.
IRA employed a number of tactics in order to succeed in every war against the British people occupying the northern region of Ireland. A notable one was the use of bombs. The Bloody Friday describes an attack that took place in 1972 in Northern Ireland capital, Belfast.
According to Kurlansky (2001), “At least 22 bombs set off within less than an hour killing at least 9 people and leaving more than 100 others severely injured” (p.67). In addition, another bombing incidence occurred in 1998 in which 29 people from the same region lost their lives. Assassination is another criterion used by IRA during its war against the British government.
This tactic stood well in 1998 when Lord Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle and his friends had their boat blown up. According to Brian and Scott (1994) “… in November 1920, publicly killed a dozen police officers and burned down the Liverpool docks and warehouses, an action that came to be known as Bloody Sunday” (p.241). This brings in another tactic applied: burning.
Nevertheless, IRA has undergone evolution to adapt more sophisticated tactics to beat security enhancement over the years. There is a significant shift in the tactics as reported of late. Reporting to the New York Times, Lohr (1988) asserts that “The recent I.R.A. attacks represent a shift in tactics and a display of effectiveness for the organization that just a year ago was widely regarded as a war-weary band whose members were considering putting more of their movement’s energies into political activity instead of violence” (p.5).
IRA has been evolving gradually from a terrorist to a political organization. The Irish-British forces’ call for cooperation has been highly welcome following the achieved remarkable drop in IRA activities. More so, the current IRA has assumed a structure that significantly differs from that of its inception.
IRA has been undergoing a change of structure right from its beginning. IRA began with a terrorist structure under Michael Collins as the founder, engaging in several terrorist activities, all of which were against the powers of the British government.
Although it began by applying non-violent means in its pursuit of peace between it and the British government, its use of arms or otherwise its evolution to terrorism came following the means that the British authorities applied. “Initially choosing non-violent means to achieve their goals, they took up arms after being met time and time again with repressive measures from the British government” (Lohr, 1988, p.16).
As a result, the years 1798, 1803, as well as 1867 were marked with tragic terrorist attacks. Although IRA began as a single terrorist organization, there arose an unavoidable need to split the mother IRA into smaller divisions but retain the original structure. These structural units had specific duties and objectives. For instance, the Official IRA, which was the first to split from IRA, sought “…to create a “32-county workers’ republic” in Ireland” (Willey, 2001, p.14).
The further off springing of PIRA from OIRA was no more than an indicator of something amiss somewhere. It began to interfere with the set terrorist s of the organization. This followed from the politically based argument given by PIRA as it contemplated moving into politics more than into terrorist acts.
This was not the end of the division. RIRA and CIRA also came forth. The splitting affected the structure so much that people resolved into finding some ways out, if at all, IRA was to remain operational. However, by the time it experienced its fourth branch, CIRA, the structure had evolved. In fact, it “…has abandoned all terrorist structures, its recruitment and PIRA’s so-called ‘military’ departments have ceased to function and have been disbanded to secure political progress” (Willey, 2001, p.34).
Currently, “a 32 County Sovereignty Movement is widely believed to be the political wing of glaigh Na hireann…” (Brian & Scott, 1994, p.154). Therefore, it suffices to declare the current IRA structure a political, rather than a terrorist one of the past. Evolution seems to have played a major role in changing IRA from its original to the current state.
IRA and Evolution
Different people hold different views concerning the effect of IRA evolution. While some believe that the evolution has positively influenced IRA’s long-term goals, others view it as a retrogressive move that negates the very reason of its inception.
Proponents carry the day following their claim that if it were not for the splitting of IRA into the various division, then Ireland could still be in chaos with the British authorities. Moreover, majority believe that the evolution barred the emergence of more and more brutal tactics of fighting between the two countries.
This implies that if IRA remained a terrorist group, more deadly attacking methods, leave alone nuclear tactics, could be in place today. The partitioning of IRA was its first evolutionary process. It saw the dawn of the peace talks and the surrendering of ammunitions as witnessed in 2009. Kurlansky (2001) observes that, “After a long period of inactivity, the Official IRA began talks with a view to decommissioning its stockpile of weapons” (p.34).
The giving up of fire arms was immediately succeeded by the establishment of the Irish National Liberation Army a step that “…was described by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a central part of moving Northern Ireland from violence to peace” (De Baroid, 1989, p.8). Evolution transformed the objectives of IRA from ill based to fruit bearing.
Evolution brought forth the current strong cooperation between Ireland and Britain. Following the conflicts experienced by the catholic minorities of Northern Ireland, evolution has led to the signing of treaties that guarantee them, not only religious, but also financial security. The evolution has paved way for the realization of economic growth in the two countries. During the reign of IRA as a terrorist agency, the two countries recorded their economy’s largest drop.
Therefore, because of structural as well the tactical changes experienced by IRA, the two managed to recover. Evolution therefore passes for the power behind modeling of IRA from an anti-developmental non-governmental organization to a political body campaigning for peace and justice, not only for the Irish people, but also for the world at large.
Evolution comes out as the force behind the registered changes in terrorism. For instance, IRA, a terrorist non-governmental organization, based in Northern Ireland and founded in 1969 has gone through a tremendous change since its inception. The structural change underlines this evolution.
It began as an un-branched terrorist unit; however, in 1969, OIRA became the first division of IRA, followed by PIRA, RIRA, and CIRA respectively. This splitting interfered with the organization’s structural goals and objectives. Having begun with a terrorist structure, IRA assumed a political structure given the fact that each of the division had political interests. Currently, IRA is a political rather than a terrorist body.
Secondly, IRA has depicted many changes concerning its tactics. The use of bombs, assassinations, and burning, to mention but a few, were among the major techniques used during its youthful period. However, it gradually portrayed a change when some of its division, PIRA for instance, surrendered their arms.
The rest, but a few elements, followed suit as the interests of the organization shifted to politics. The present-state IRA is free of terrorist weapons or tactics. It functions as a converted body preaching the gospel of peace, love, and harmony. Evolution has done this much to IRA; however, whether it will evolve further to something else, nobody knows.
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Chaliand, G. (2007). The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to al Qaeda. Berkeley: University of California Press.
De Baroid, C. (1989). Ballymurphy and the Irish War. Retrieved from
Kurlansky, M. (2001). The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation. New York: Penguin.
Lohr, H. (1988, March 14). IRA has disbanded terrorist structure. The New York Times. Retrieved from
Walter, L. (1999). The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction, New York: Oxford University Press.
Willey, P. (2001). The Castles of the Assassins. New York: Linden Press. Print.