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Official IRA

From Academic Kids

The term Official IRA relates to one of the two elements of the Irish Republican Army - the other being the Provisional IRA - that emerged from the ideological split in the Irish Republican movement in 1969-70.

Reasons behind the split

The reasons behind the split were not many, but the main ones were the ending of violence for the IRA, and the ending of abstentionism for Sinn Féin. This issue - which also split the Provisionals in later years - is a highly emotive one in republican circles.

During the 1960s the republican movement, under the leadership of Cathal Goulding was heavily influnced by the idea of the popular front and was close to Communist thinking. A key intermediary body was the Communist Party of Great Britain's organisation for Irish exiles - the Connolly Society.

The sense that the IRA seemed to be drifting away from its republican roots into Marxism angered and distressed many republicans. Many in the Official IRA later called the Provisional IRA the "rosary brigade" because of their Catholic and romantic nationalist ideology.

The Officials were known as the "Stickies" because they used stick-on orange lilies at parades to commemorate the Easter Rising, the Provisionals were known as "Pinheads" because they used pinned on lilies. The term Stickies stuck, though Pinheads disappeared.

Impact of the Split

When the Provisionals (often called the "Provos") split from the Official IRA they took away a lot of experienced volunteers, which deprived the OIRA of some of the operational expertise, which all but finished the OIRA as an effective paramilitary group. They bombed Aldershot, the headquarers of the Parachute Regiment, in revenge for Bloody Sunday, killing seven. After the unpopular killing of William Best, a Derry man home on leave from the British army, the OIRA issued a ceasefire. The group is now considered defunct.

In December 1971, the Official IRA killed Ulster Unionist Party Senator John Barnhill at his home in Strabane. This was the first murder of a politician in Ireland since the 1920's.


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