It is commonly known that nowadays IRA (Irish Republican Army) doesn't pose a big threat for British Government and ceased all hostilities after Good Friday Agreement.

What is the IRA official approach to Brexit and what is their attitude? I haven't found any notable sources on this matter. Official Sinn Féin position (which claimed to be related to IRA) consists of dissatisfaction of Brexit results and a strong belief that it's a "poor deal" for Ireland. But what about IRA?

Can Brexit be a reason of a new wave of hostilities between IRA and British government or between IRA and other political forces, for example, Ulster loyalist forces, such as UVF, UDA or others?

I am speaking particularly about Provisional IRA as the most significant wing of IRA parties, however all the contributions are good, and if you have something to say about Real IRA, New IRA or Continuity IRA you are pretty welcome.

UPDATE Sept 2020: to all the optimistic folks who convinced me that

  • it's unclear to what extent the IRA can even be said to exist
  • However, the IRA has been disarmed and inactive for at least 12 years
  • The Provisional IRA, the largest republican organization by far, is dedicated to peace

Belfast Telegraph: New IRA gets weapons from Hezbollah

TIMES: New IRA forges links with Hezbollah

So yes, it exists and already has weapons. Despite this new group is called New IRA, it was originally split from Provisional IRA so it keeps all the methods and traditions of PIRA political struggle including weaponry.

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    Does the provisional IRA still exist? The most recent reports I can find are from 2008, which state that the leadership council still meets, but after that ... pretty much nothing?
    – user11249
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 23:39
  • BTW, in 2011 former IRA members claimed to resume the violence...
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 9:58
  • "Can Brexit be a reason of a new wave of hostilities between IRA and British government or between IRA and other political forces, for example, Ulster loyalist forces, such as UVF, UDA or others?" Everything is possible, so yes. And if not now it could still happen in the future. Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 14:03
  • 1
    Which IRA? There's quite a few different groups who claim that name with little to no relation/contact between them.
    – bobsburner
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 13:13
  • You should read my answer, as your update demonstrates a clear lack of understanding. There are multiple iterations of the IRA, and they are different organisations. It is incorrect to refer to the 'IRA' without first defining who they are, much less conflating NIRA with PIRA.
    – user8398
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 10:24

2 Answers 2


Existence and position of the IRA

What is the IRA official approach to Brexit and what is their attitude?

  1. The Provisional IRA was a secretive terrorist organisation, organised in cells to prevent infiltration by the authorities. It does not publish committee minutes on the Internet. Anyone who knows what the IRA leadership really thinks is not going to post it on StackExchange.

  2. The IRA began a ceasefire in 1997 and committed itself to peace under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. In 2005, it put the last of its weapons beyond use and ordered its members to cease armed operations. 12 years later, it's unclear to what extent the IRA can even be said to exist.

  3. To the extent that the IRA may still exist: Given the extremely close historic relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, statements by Sinn Fein on Brexit are likely to be close to the views of the IRA.

Possible consequences for Northern Ireland

Can Brexit be a reason of a new wave of hostilities between IRA and British government or between IRA and other political forces

An important pillar of the Good Friday Agreement was free movement across the Irish border and dismantling of British Army checkpoints. The "hard" Brexit contemplated by the UK government would imply a return of border controls, which makes it politically sensitive in Ireland.

In a worst-case scenario, this could result in violent conflict. However, the IRA has been disarmed and inactive for at least 12 years. It would take some time and effort for it to return to violence; hopefully this would form a barrier to doing so, as was intended by the Good Friday Agreement. Similar considerations apply to Loyalist groups such as the UVF and UDA/UFF.

Finally, Northern Ireland has many options besides violence. The Good Friday Agreement guarantees its right to unify with the Republic of Ireland, subject to referenda on both sides of the border. Politicians have speculated that Northern Ireland might take this route to avoid the effects of Brexit.

Addendum: Sinn Fein position on Brexit

Sinn Fein believes Brexit will be bad for Northern Ireland and campaigned against it. However, Brexit is now happening whether SF likes it or not. SF also supports unification between NI and ROI; if the consequences of Brexit make that more likely, SF will be very happy with the situation. In fact, they are now calling for a referendum on unification.

It is likely that SF foresaw this scenario before the Brexit vote, but they chose not to openly back Brexit:

  1. While the current crisis might make Irish unification more likely, it may have many other consequences, not all of them good for SF;

  2. Supporting Brexit because they believed it would be bad would have been seen as "playing politics" with the well-being of Northern Ireland's people, with detrimental effects on the popularity and credibility of SF.

  • 7
    @Suncatcher: Edited the answer to try and clarify. Also: (1) The IRA is not ISIS and does not care about your opinion; (2) We are talking about the violent death of real human beings here; please do not use language like "wonderful time to go on the fight" to describe it. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 10:30
  • 1
    Sorry for my lexis, I'm not a native Eng speaker, and while discussing methods and approaches of political struggle it's hard to gloss over some sensitive things.
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 10:41
  • 5
    Yes, my opinion is subjective. But it is a matter of documented fact that the history and beliefs of the IRA are very different from ISIS; and we can be very confident that the IRA leadership does not care what random individuals on StackExchange think about their strategy. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 10:47
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    @Suncatcher The assertion that "Northern Ireland is against Brexit" glosses over the fact that 44% of those voting in NI voted for Brexit. Without meaning to go down into the debate of whether (in most cases) majority opinion can be said to be "public opinion", I'd say that when talking about Northern Ireland – which has a history of political division, and a legally mandated power-sharing government – one can't really say "NI is for" or "NI is against" on many topics.
    – owjburnham
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 14:15
  • 5
    @owjburnham: Well, by that logic, Theresa May has quite plainly glossed over the fact that 48% of the UK voted to remain.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 20:11

The British government published an October 2015 report on the state of Northern Ireland paramilitaries, drafted by MI5 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The short of it is that all terrorist groups which were active during the Troubles still exist. Except for a few dissident republicans, all other terrorists are dedicated to peace and achieving their ideological objectives via politics and community activism.

Though each group's organisation and leadership is still active, their leadership has significantly reduced command and control capability. Even if they wanted to, these organisations would not be able to return to peak strength observed during the Troubles.

Loyalist terrorism has largely degenerated into organised crime, with some elements, like the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), dedicated to little else. Consequently, loyalist terrorists continue to recruit and sometimes acquire new weapons. As stated these assets are then deployed mostly for criminal enterprise.

A minority of dissident republicans have clustered around old and new iterations of the IRA, such as Continuity IRA, Real IRA / New IRA, and disaffected Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) members. NIRA have claimed recently (April 2019) that Brexit has helped them recruit new volunteers. Though this is problematic, it is important to remember that they are a minority force which operates without widespread community support.

The Provisional IRA, the largest republican organisation by far, is dedicated to peace. Officially, they are not the same as their political wing: Sinn Fein. But the reality is that both the PIRA and Sinn Fein are commanded by the Provisional Army Council (PAC). Gerry Adams, one of Sinn Fein's most important leaders, famously claims he was never in the IRA. It is a claim few believe, and more recently PIRA veterans have said on the record that the claim is a blatant lie.

While Sinn Fein and the PIRA may be slowly drifting apart with time, during the Troubles, and still for the most part, there is little if any distinction between the two. Sinn Fein's leadership was populated with men who gained authority through PIRA activity and thus sat on the Provisional Army Council.

For these reasons, there is minimal possibility of a return to violence on the scale we have seen in the past. There is also no difference between the opinion of the PIRA and Sinn Fein, as they are both guided by the same command structure via the PAC. They are two sides of the same coin.

Regarding 'IRA' naming conventions...

It is also worth noting that "official sinn fein" is ambiguous. In 1969 there was a split in the IRA between the Official IRA and Provisional IRA. Official IRA was represented by Official Sinn Fein. However, the officials eventually decided to focus on politics, and their members who disagreed created the INLA. Official Sinn Fein therefore became the Workers' Party of Ireland.

Over the last century there have been multiple iterations of the IRA. These are not just different names for the same entity. Some are historical organisations which are now defunct, while others are contemporary. The 'Provisional' IRA split from the 'Official' IRA in 1969, and then the 'Continuity' IRA split from the PIRA in 1986, followed by the 'Real' IRA who split from the PIRA in 1997. The 'New' IRA is the latest variant, and is a cluster of various physical force republicans who began working together only a few years ago.

Support for these organisations varies, but since their inception the PIRA has dominated Republican politics and terrorism. Those groups who split from the PIRA, and what became of the OIRA, have never been as popular as the PIRA. The NIRA is an especially small group, even if it has been recruiting recently.

Critically: each IRA iteration is for a united Ireland, and consequently is against anything which threatens to divide the island of Ireland. And Brexit certainly carries that risk.

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