|Disbanded||February 8, 2010|
|Updated||August 25, 2012|
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.
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. 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. 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.
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. OIRA is thought to have killed fewer than 50 people between 1969 and 1979. 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.
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.
Northern Ireland, Belfast.
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.
Workers' Party? Official Sinn Fein?
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 left tk people dead.
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.
Click on the maps below to visualize this group's interactions with other militant organizations