THE PROVISIONAL IRA
IN 1969, angry Irish Nationalists decided the IRA was too soft.
As far as they were concerned, the IRA had failed to protect the Catholic community – one of its main duties – when riots broke out with police and Protestants all over the province.
In response, they formed the ultra-aggressive paramilitary unit the Provisional IRA or ‘Provos’.
Thirty years – and a pretty serious bombing campaign – later, 1,800 people had been killed.
Although the Provos shared the same goal as the IRA – to remove Northern Ireland from the UK and bring about a united Ireland – their methods were far more forceful.
Their early weaponry was outdated, consisting of Second World War M1 Garands and Thompson submachine guns.
It was only in the early 70s, forging links with supporters in the US as well as Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi, that they became really dangerous.
After a brief ceasefire in 1975, the Provos’ strategy changed as they prepared to wage a “Long War”, splitting into small cells and with more emphasis on their political arm, Sinn Fein.
A 1977 edition of the Provos’ induction and training manual talks of a “war of attrition”, causing as many British deaths as possible and bombing economic targets in a bid to make long-term investment in Northern Ireland impossible for the UK government.
The Provos called a ceasefire in 1994 on the understanding that Sinn Fein would be included in talks for settlement.
But when the UK demanded disarmament before that could happen, they called off the truce and carried out bombing and shooting attacks in 1996 and 1997.
Bombings in Manchester and London’s Docklands caused damage estimated at £500million.
Eventually, the ceasefire was reinstated in 1997 and Sinn Fein was readmitted into the peace process, which led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
It’s estimated that the Provos were responsible for 1,800 deaths, including 1,100 British security forces members and 630 civilians.
Over a 30-year period, the Provos are thought to have lost between 275 and 300 out of a membership of 10,000.
When the IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign in 2005, the Provos’ decommissioned their weapons. But the organisation remains classified as a proscribed terrorist group in the UK and an illegal body in the Republic Of Ireland.
Two breakaway groups, the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, reject the Good Friday Agreement and still continue to engage in paramilitary activity.