The Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) has been a splinter faction of the Irish Republican Army since the mid-1980s, using violence and terrorist tactics to agitate for the ousting of British troops from Northern Ireland and the reunification of largely Protestant Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland, where Roman Catholics are the majority population. Although American and British intelligence organizations estimate the CIRA has fewer than 200 active members, the U.S. officially designated the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2005.
Troubles From the Start
Conflict dominates Northern Ireland's 20th century history, reaching a violent crescendo between 1969 and 1998. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, the IRA became more moderate, with members running for and winning seats in Ireland's parliament. The perception on the part of some IRA members was that participating in Ireland's official government meant the organization was giving up on a reunited Ireland. Some of these disaffected members broke off and joined the Republican Sinn Féin group, remaining committed to violent resistance to British rule. Republican Sinn Féin adopted the CIRA as its militant arm, although CIRA operated in secret until after ceasefires were negotiated with other armed groups in 1994.
Once unveiled the CIRA committed itself to sabotaging the peace process. The group's members adamantly opposed any political discussions between Great Britain and Ireland for any reason other than the establishment of a united and independent Irish republic. Infighting amid CIRA members caused further splinter groups to emerge, driven by personal rivalries or failure to agree on minor issues.
A Continuing Threat
Other resistance groups disarmed and committed to peaceful political processes in accordance with 1998's Good Friday Accords. The CIRA refused, and remains the sole group openly dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland through violence. Members consider themselves the only true successors to the original IRA's cause. However, unlike the original IRA of decades prior, the CIRA has no political platform or public support from politicians.
Strategy and Tactics
Though the group has obtained weapons through connections to the conflicts in the Balkans, since 1998, CIRA has not been linked to any large-scale attacks. Most of the group's activity is centered around Protestant targets in Belfast, where improvised explosive devices, such as car bombs, and small firearms are the primary weapons used. The group also commits robberies, kidnappings, hijackings and assaults upon British police officers. Funding comes from individual supporter donations and criminal activity including drug dealing, smuggling and extortion.
- University of Maryland National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism: Terrorist Organization Profile -- Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA)
- Council on Foreign Relations: IRA Splinter Groups (U.K., Separatists)
- MI5 Security Service: Republican Terrorist Groups
- Telegraph: Northern Ireland Shootings -- A Profile of the Continuity IRA
- Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images