Ireland and the Ira

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For well over a century, there has been political turmoil throughout the Irish isle stemming from the British occupation of Northern Ireland. With this occupation goes a tradition of armed resistance to the British military and other political installations. This tradition generally only found effective expression when large sections of the Irish people, faced with the British government's denial of the legitimate demand for Irish independence, exercised the right to use armed struggle (Coogan 10). The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed after the Easter Rising of 1916, which was the first major uprising in Irish history. Their goal was to remove the British from the Irish isle and unite Ireland once and for all under home rule. Although many may consider the IRA to be nothing more than a terrorist faction that has had no political strength and puts its own best interests first, it is clear that their actions have influenced Irish and British politics and that, even through violence, they keep the best interests of their people at heart. To this day, however, the British maintain that their influence is needed in the north and have yet to show any signs of leaving. In order to understand the depth of this issue today, one must first understand how this problem started. In January 1919 Sinn Féin, the political party of the IRA, had established an independent Irish parliament - Dáil Eireann - and declared the sovereignty of Ireland as a Republic (Coogan 4). They formed independent institutions including a functioning central government, ministerial departments and republican courts of law. The Irish Volunteers became the Army of the Republic, under the Ministry of Defense and pledged its allegiance to Dáil Eireann (English 23). The response from the British government was to ban all these institutions and declare war on the new Irish democracy. This period saw international revulsion at the campaign waged by British crown forces in Ireland. Three mayors of Irish cities, all members of the IRA, were killed by the British; martial law was declared through nearly half of the country; streets, shops and factories in many towns were burnt to the ground; there were executions in prisons and torture in internment camps. It became obvious for the members of the IRA that the use of force was needed in order to free themselves from the British. So, in response to the British offense, the IRA waged an increasingly effective guerrilla campaign against the crack troops of the British. On the basis of agreement by the British government to negotiate with Irish leaders - and with no question of a surrender of arms - the IRA called a Truce in July 1921. Subsequent negotiations produced a Treaty which split nationalist Ireland; a treaty that has caused controversy ever since. This, however, was a small victory for the Irish because it is important to take note of is the fact that not all citizens of Ireland shared the ideological views of the IRA. This is split was manifested in the 1922 split of the IRA and the civil war that followed. The Irish Republican Army held out for the complete independence of Ireland from Britain and for a United Ireland while their former comrades who formed the army of the new Free State (26 Counties) opposed them in a savage campaign which witnessed all the tragedy common to every civil war (English 40). In May 1923 the Civil War ended when the IRA ordered its volunteers to dump arms. Throughout the 1920s the IRA reorganized and once again attracted a wide following. The organization played a key role in the election of the first government of the Fianna Fáil party - which had emerged from the IRA - under Eamon de Valera in 1932 (Coogan 60). With all the framework of the issue set, it is now imperative to recognize exactly what it means to be a full-time member of the IRA. Full-time membership in the IRA offers few obvious rewards. Most members never sleep more than two nights in a row...
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