Irish National Liberation Army
The Irish National Liberation Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organization. Originally part of the Irish Republican Army, it was comprised of those who supported the IRA's socialist leadership, and was originally called the Official IRA. During the Troubles, the INLA was responsible for at least 127 deaths, 44 of which were civilians and 2 of which were Irish security forces. While smaller than its non-socialist counterpart the Provisional IRA, the INLA nonetheless was a significant contributor to the violence in Northern Ireland.
In the late 1960s, many IRA leaders adopted socialist ideology and came to view the struggle for Irish independence as anti-imperialist and proletarian as opposed to a national liberation movement. A majority of Irish republicans rejected this, and founded the Provisional IRA. Those who supported the shift towards socialism became known as the Official IRA. Because of its internationalist focus(the OIRA hoped to recruit the Protestant working class into their ranks once discrimination against Catholics was ended), it did not actively participate in any paramilitary campaigns until internment began in 1971. After the "Bloody Sunday" anti-internment protest on January 30, 1972, the OIRA began an offensive campaign against the UK.
Collapse of the OIRA
The campaign would not last long, as just one month later, the OIRA bombed the officers' mess at the Aldershot Garrison, home of the Parachute Regiment(one of the main British Army units occupying Northern Ireland). It resulted in the death of 6 civilians and one military noncombatant. This was such an embarrassment for the OIRA that they decided to go on ceasefire. While retaliatory attacks on British soldiers continued into 1975, many OIRA members were impatient with the ceasefire. Led by Seamus Costello, they founded a new organization, the Irish National Liberation Army.
Most of the INLA's first year was spent in a feud against the Official IRA. Despite this, by 1976 the INLA had become a serious threat, assassinating British Conservative Party spokesperson Airey Neave as it officially announced its existence. Its effectiveness would be weakened by internal feuds for much of its existence starting in the 1980s, particularly with the Irish People's Liberation Organization. The campaign intensified in the 1980s, with an increase in bombings and shootings, some of which were claimed under pseudonyms such as "Catholic Reaction Force" even though the INLA had already been declared an illegal organization in 1979. As a result, INLA members convicted of involvement in attacks were considered criminals and not "Special Category Status" (i.e. prisoners of war), leading many INLA prisoners to go on hunger strike to get these privileges restored along with their Provisional IRA counterparts.
Because of its socialist ideology, the INLA did not have as much support from Irish-Americans as the Provisional IRA, and in some cases this alienated support when members of the two organizations worked together on fundraising. Along with ideological disagreements and arrests of leaders, this led to internal feuds in the 1980s.
Although the INLA did not support the Good Friday Agreement, it made a ceasefire on August 22, 1998 following the fallout from the Real IRA's bombing in Omagh.
Like most paramiitary groups in Northern Ireland, the INLA remains active, but is largely concerned with vigilante attacks against suspected criminals. Ironically, many members are engaged in criminal enterprises themselves in order to fund their operations.
Similar to IRA organizations, the INLA is commanded by an eight-person Army Council. With the assistance of General Headquarters Staff, the Army Council coordinated the activity of the brigades and active service units. It is linked to the Irish Republican Socialist Party, from which its members derive the nickname "Irps".
Timeline of actions
This list is not exhaustive, and includes attacks that had significant targets or resulted in fatalities.
- April 28, 1975: The INLA assassinates Official IRA Belfast Brigade commander Billy McMillen.
- December 2, 1975: The INLA shoots and kills two alleged Ulster Defence Association members at a cafe in Derry.
- December 31, 1975: An INLA member plants a time bomb at the Central Bar pub in Gilford, County Down. 3 Protestant civilians are killed and 30 are injured.
- January 5, 1976: INLA and Provisional IRA members, acting together under the codename "South Armagh Republican Action Force" kill 10 Protestant workers in Kingsmill, County Armagh. Some time after this, IRSP newspaper The Starry Plough publishes a press release announcing the INLA's existence.
- May 5, 1976: 9 INLA members escape from Long Kesh prison.
- September 14, 1976: INLA and Provisional IRA prisoners begin a protest against the revocation of their Special Category Status, refusing to change into prison uniforms as this would require.
- September 25, 1976: INLA gunmen kill a bank inspector and his daughter, mistaking him for an RUC inspector.
- May 26, 1977: The INLA fires on a British Army liaison officer at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
- November 12, 1978: The INLA attempts to assassinate the British ambassador to Ireland by detonating a bomb under his seat at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, but fails.
- December 29-30, 1978: The INLA commits several arson attacks targeting banks in Derry.
- March 30, 1979: British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Airey Neave is killed when a booby-trap bomb placed by the INLA detonates in his car.
- June 30, 1980: The INLA claims responsibility for a firebombing attack targeting the Greystones RFC(Rugby Football Club) offices, in retaliation for Greystone player John Robbie's participation in the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa(which was under Apartheid at the time)
- July 3, 1981: An INLA gunman fires a shot at a car carrying DUP leader Ian Paisley, and misses.