The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed in 1969. The Official IRA declared a cease-fire in the summer of 1972, and subsequently the term IRA began being used for the organization that developed from the 'Provisional' IRA. Organized into small, tightly knit cells under the leadership of the Army Council the IRA has remained largely unchanged. It is difficult to know the exact number of IRA members because of the political and economic persecution that comes with publicly endorsing the IRA. It is estimated that there are several hundred members, plus several thousand sympathizers, but the IRA's strength may have been affected by operatives leaving the organization to join hard-line splinter groups. The Provisional IRA was the largest of the three republican-armed resistance groups organized under the leadership of the Army Council. The policies of Sinn Fein under the leadership of Gerry Adams from 1994 to 1998 led to a split in the Provisional Irish Republican Army during the fall of 1997. This split resulted in one faction accepting the new Good Friday Agreement and cease-fire and the New or Real IRA continuing armed resistance to British partition. It has been assumed that the IRA acts as a clandestine armed wing of Sinn Fein, a legal political movement dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland but a direct terrorist or financial connection between the two groups has yet to be publicly established. The Provisional IRA accepted the cease-fire and has endorsed its affiliates in taking seats in the new Stormont Northern Assembly. In order to maintain an upright appearance the IRA often uses the Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) organization as a cover (John Pike, http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/ira.htm). The IRA and its many splinter groups have claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist activities including bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, punishment beatings, extortion, and robberies. Their...
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