Continuity Irish Republican Army

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The Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) is an Irish Republican paramilitary organisation which split from the Provisional IRA in 1986 in a dispute over the attendance of the elected representatives of Sinn Féin (the political party affiliated to the Provisional IRA) at Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament of the Republic of Ireland). The CIRA also styles itself simply as the 'Irish Republican Army' or Óglaigh na hÉireann, but both of these names are also claimed by other groups, including the Provisional IRA. CIRA members remained part of the Provisional IRA until the Good Friday Agreement.

At the 1986 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis (annual party conference) it was decided to discontinue the party's long held policy of abstention from the Dáil but this decision was rejected by a minority of members who walked out of the conference to form a new political party, Republican Sinn Féin. The dispute within Sinn Féin was also seen as one between the Northern Ireland leadership of the party under Gerry Adams, who remained within 'Provisional Sinn Féin', and the party's southern leadership under Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who was among the defectors. Many IRA members opposed the new direction taken by Sinn Féin but remained part of the Provisional IRA until the Good Friday Agreement.

With the signing of the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, the CIRA announced its intention to continue the struggle against British rule, well before the formation of the 'Real' IRA. The CIRA continues to oppose the Agreement and, as of 2004, unlike the Provisional IRA, the CIRA has not announced a ceasefire or agreed to participate in weapons decommissioning. On 13th July, 2004, the US government designated the CIRA as a "terrorist" organisation [1] (, thereby making it illegal for Americans to provide material support to it, requiring US financial institutions to block the group's assets, and denying CIRA members visas into the US.

The CIRA claim to be the true inheritors of an Irish republican tradition that includes the 'Old' Irish Republican Army that fought the 1919-1921 War of Independence, and claims to have attained legitimacy as such in being recognised by Tom Maguire, the last surviving member of the Second Dáil, as the modern incarnation of the old IRA, in what CIRA supporters perceive to be a kind of 'apostolic' succession. These claims are not widely accepted among republicans however.

  • Activities: CIRA activities have included numerous bombings, assassinations and kidnappings, as well as extortion and robbery. Targets of the CIRA have included British military and Northern Ireland security targets, as well as unionist paramilitaries. It has also set off bombs in towns in Northern Ireland. The group is said to be the only terrorist group in Northern Ireland never to have killed or targeted a civilian. As of 2004, the CIRA is not believed to have an established presence or capability of launching attacks on the island of Great Britain.
  • Strength: In 2004 the United States (US) government believed the CIRA to consist of fewer than fifty fully active members.
  • External aid: The US government suspected the CIRA of receiving funds and arms from supporters in the United States. It is also believed that, in cooperation with the 'Real' IRA, the CIRA may have acquired arms and materiel from the Balkans.

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