Irish National Liberation Army
|Participant in the Troubles|
|Active||December 1974 – August 1998|
|Area of operations|
|Originated as||Official Irish Republican Army|
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA, Irish: Arm Saoirse Náisiúnta na hÉireann) is an Irish republican socialist paramilitary group formed in December 1974 during the Troubles. Its goal was to end the British state's control of the north of Ireland and create a socialist republic encompassing all of Ireland.
The INLA was created by former members of the Official IRA who opposed that group's ceasefire. Initially, it was known as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and was associated with the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP). The INLA waged a paramilitary campaign against the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Northern Ireland. It was also active to a lesser extent in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. High-profile attacks carried out by the INLA include the Droppin Well bombing and the assassinations of Airey Neave and Billy Wright. However, it was smaller and less active than the main republican paramilitary group, the Provisional IRA. It was also weakened by feuds and internal tensions.
After a twenty-four year armed campaign, the INLA declared a ceasefire on 22 August 1998. In August 1999, it stated that "There is no political or moral argument to justify a resumption of the campaign". In October 2009, the INLA formally vowed to pursue its aims through peaceful political means and began decommissioning its weapons.
The founder of the INLA was Seamus Costello who had left or been forced out of the Official IRA in the wake of the OIRA's 1972 ceasefire and the increasingly reformist approach of Official Sinn Féin. Costello espoused a mixture of traditional physical force Irish republicanism and Marxist-oriented politics. Shortly after it was founded, the INLA came under attack from their former comrades in the OIRA, who wanted to destroy the new grouping before it could get off the ground.
On 20 February 1975, Hugh Ferguson, an INLA member and an Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) branch chairperson, was the first person to be killed in the feud. One of the first military operations of the INLA was the shooting of OIRA leader Sean Garland in Dublin on 1 March. Although shot six times, he survived. After several more shootings a truce was arranged, but fighting started again. The most prominent victim of the restarted feud was Billy McMillen, the commander of the OIRA in Belfast, shot by INLA member Gerard Steenson. His murder was unauthorised and was condemned by Costello. This was followed by several more assassinations on both sides, the most prominent victim being Seamus Costello, who was shot dead on the North Strand Road in Dublin on 6 October 1977. Costello's death was a severe blow to the INLA, as he was their most able political and military leader.
It has also recently been claimed by some in the Republican Socialist Movement that one of their members killed in 1975, Brendan McNamee (who was involved in the killing of Billy McMillen), was actually killed by Provisional Irish Republican Army members. The Officials had denied involvement at the time of the killing and had instead blamed it on the Provisionals who also denied involvement.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the INLA developed a modest organisation in Northern Ireland, particularly based on Divis Flats in west Belfast, which as a result became colloquially known as "the planet of the Irps" (a reference to the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the film Planet of the Apes). They also had a large presence in Derry and in the surrounding area. In fact all three of the INLA prisoners who died in the 1981 Hunger Strike were from Derry and County Londonderry. During this period, the INLA competed with the Provisional Irish Republican Army for members, with both groups attacking the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The first action to bring the INLA to international notice was its assassination on 30 March 1979 of Airey Neave, one of Margaret Thatcher's closest political supporters.
The INLA lost another of its founding leadership in 1980, when Ronnie Bunting, a Protestant republican, was assassinated at his home. Noel Lyttle, who was also a Protestant member of INLA, was killed in the same incident. Another leading INLA member, Miriam Daly, was killed by loyalist assassins in the same year. Although no group claimed responsibility, the INLA claimed that the SAS was involved in the killings of Bunting and Lyttle. Offensive INLA actions at this time included the 1982 bombing of the Mount Gabriel radar station in County Cork, which the INLA alleged was providing assistance to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, allegedly in violation of Irish neutrality. Their most bloody attack came on 6 December 1982 – the Ballykelly disco bombing of the Droppin' Well Bar in Ballykelly, County Londonderry, which catered to British military personnel, in which 11 soldiers on leave and 6 civilians were killed.
Members of the INLA participated in the 1980 and 1981 hunger strikes for the recognition of the political status of paramilitary prisoners. Three INLA members died during the latter hunger strike – Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Devine, along with seven Provisional IRA members.
On 20 November 1983, three members of the congregation in the Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church, Darkley near Keady, County Armagh were shot dead during a Sunday service. The attack was claimed by the Catholic Reaction Force, a cover name for a small group of people, including one member of the INLA. The weapon used came from an INLA arms dump, but Tim Pat Coogan claims in his book The IRA that the weapon had been given to the INLA member to assassinate a known loyalist and the attack on the church was not sanctioned. The INLA's then-chief of staff, Dominic McGlinchey, came out of hiding to condemn the attack. In 1987 the INLA came under attack from the Irish People's Liberation Organisation, a group made up of expelled or disaffected members of the INLA. The IPLO wanted to wipe the Irish Republican Socialist Movement altogether and replace it. This feud resulted in the death of dozens of INLA and IPLO members. The feud mainly took place in urban cities, most notably in Belfast, Derry, and Dublin, but also took place in many other areas of Ireland. The feud ended in 1992 with the INLA surviving just barely, with the Provisional IRA stepping in and wiping out the main Belfast leadership of the IPLO because they openly were involved in drug dealing, while letting the rest of the organization dissolve outside of Belfast.
On 14 April 1992, the INLA carried out its first killing in England after the death of Airey Neave, when they shot dead a recruiting Army Sergeant in Derby while he was leaving a British Army recruiting office. In June 2010, Declan Duffy was charged with the killing, although he was released on March 2013, under the terms agree on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
INLA gunmen opened fire on British soldiers in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast on 7 July 1997, when the Drumcree conflict triggered six days of fierce riots and widespread violence in several nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.
In the mid 1980s, the INLA was greatly weakened by splits and criminality within its own ranks, as well as the conviction of many of its members under the British supergrass scheme. Harry Kirkpatrick, an INLA volunteer, was arrested in February 1983 on charges of five murders and subsequently agreed to give evidence against other INLA members.
The INLA kidnapped his wife Elizabeth, and later kidnapped his sister and his stepfather too. All were released physically unharmed. INLA Chief of Staff Dominic McGlinchey is alleged to have killed Kirkpatrick's lifelong friend Gerard 'Sparky' Barkley because he may have revealed the whereabouts of the Kirkpatrick family members to the police.
In May 1983, ten men were charged with various offences on the basis of evidence from Kirkpatrick. Those charged included Irish Republican Socialist Party vice-chairman Kevin McQuillan and former councillor Sean Flynn. IRSP chairman and INLA member James Brown was charged with the murder of a police officer. Others escaped; Jim Barr, an IRSP member named by Kirkpatrick as part of the INLA, fled to the US where, having spent 17 months in jail, he won political asylum in 1993.
In December 1985, 27 people were convicted on the basis of Kirkpatrick's statements. By December 1986, 24 of them would have their convictions overturned. Gerard Steenson was given five life sentences for the deaths of the same five individuals that Kirkpatrick himself had been convicted of. These included UDR soldier Colin Quinn shot in Belfast in December 1980.
The distrust and division that they sowed were the final act in splitting former comrades into warring factions and leading to the formation of the Irish People's Liberation Organisation by Jimmy Brown and Gerard Steenson, both of whom had been convicted under the supergrass scheme. This led to that organisation's feud with the INLA in which 16 people would be killed.
Feuds and splits
In 1987, the INLA and its political wing, the IRSP came under attack from the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO), an organisation founded by people who had resigned or been expelled from the INLA. The IPLO's initial aim was to destroy the INLA and replace it with their organisation. Five members of the INLA were killed by the IPLO, including their leaders Ta Power and John O'Reilly. The INLA retaliated with several killings of their own. After the INLA killed the IPLO's leader, Gerard Steenson, a truce was reached. Although severely damaged by the IPLO's attacks, the INLA continued to exist. The IPLO, which was heavily involved in drug dealing, was put out of existence by the Provisional IRA in a large scale operation in 1992.
Directly after the feud in October 1987, the INLA received more damaging publicity when Dessie O'Hare, an erstwhile INLA volunteer set up his own group called the 'Irish Revolutionary Brigade' and kidnapped a Dublin dentist named John O'Grady. O'Hare cut off two of O'Grady's fingers and sent them to his family in order to secure a ransom. O'Grady was eventually rescued and O'Hare's group arrested after several shootouts with armed Gardaí. The INLA disassociated itself from the action, issuing a statement saying O'Hare 'is not a member of the INLA'. O'Hare later rejoined the INLA while in prison.
Dominic McGlinchey was killed in 1994 by an unknown group, weakening the operational capabilities of the organization.
In 1995, four members of the INLA, including chief of staff Hugh Torney, were arrested by Gardaí in Balbriggan while trying to smuggle weapons from Dublin to Belfast. Torney, with the support of two of his co-accused, called a ceasefire in exchange for favourable treatment by the Irish Government. Since Torney, who was chief of staff, under the INLA's rules lacked the authority to call a ceasefire (because he was incarcerated), he and the two men who supported him were expelled from the INLA.
Torney and one of those men, Dessie McCleery, and founder member John Fennell were not going to surrender the leadership of the organisation. Their faction, known as the INLA/GHQ, assassinated the new INLA chief of staff, Gino Gallagher. After the INLA killed both McCleery and Torney in 1996, the rest of Torney's faction quietly disbanded.
Killing of Billy Wright
Billy Wright was the founder and leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). Since July 1996, the group had launched a string of attacks on civilians (whom they identified as Catholics), killing at least five. In April 1997, Wright was sentenced to eight years in Maze Prison. On the morning of 27 December 1997, he was assassinated by three INLA prisoners – Christopher "Crip" McWilliams, John "Sonny" Glennon and John Kennaway – who were armed with two pistols. He was shot as he travelled in a prison van (alongside another LVF prisoner, Norman Green and one prison officer) from one part of the prison to another. Kennaway held the driver hostage and Glennon gave cover with a .22 Derringer pistol while McWilliams opened the side door and fired seven shots at Wright with his PA63 semi-automatic. After killing Wright, the three volunteers handed themselves over to prison guards. They also handed over a statement, which read:
|“||"Billy Wright was executed for one reason and one reason only, and that was for directing and waging his campaign of terror against the nationalist people from his prison cell in Long Kesh.||”|
The nature of Wright's killing led to speculation that prison authorities colluded with the INLA to have him killed, as he was a danger to the peace process. The INLA strongly denied these rumours, and published a detailed account of the assassination in the March/April 1999 issue of The Starry Plough newspaper.
The INLA declared a ceasefire on 22 August 1998. When calling its ceasefire, the INLA acknowledged the 'faults and grievous errors in our prosecution of the war'. The INLA admitted that innocent people had been killed and injured 'and at times our actions as a liberation army fell far short of what they should have been'. The INLA went on to accept the massive vote in favour of the Good Friday Agreement – an arrangement it had opposed during the 1998 referendum – by the people of Ireland.
'The will of the Irish people is clear. It is now time to silence the guns and allow the working classes the time and the opportunity to advance their demands and their needs.'
Although the INLA does not support the Good Friday Agreement, it does not call for a return to armed struggle on behalf of republicans either. An INLA statement released in 1999 declared, "we do not see a return to armed struggle as a viable option at the present time".
The INLA maintains a presence in parts of Northern Ireland and has carried out punishment beatings on local alleged petty criminals.
The Independent Monitoring Commission, which monitors paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, claimed in a November 2004 report that the INLA was heavily involved in criminality. In 1997, an INLA man named John Morris was shot dead by Gardaí (Irish Police) in Dublin during the attempted robbery of a newspaper distributor's depot in Inchicore. Three other INLA members were arrested in the incident. In 1999, the INLA in Dublin became involved in a feud with a criminal gang in the city. After a young INLA man named Patrick Campbell was killed by drug dealers, the INLA carried out several shootings in reprisal, including at least one killing. Irish journalist Paul Williams has also claimed the INLA, especially in Dublin, is now primarily a front for organised crime. The IRSP and INLA deny these allegations, arguing that no one has been simultaneously convicted of membership in the INLA and of drug offences. The IRSP and the INLA have both strongly denied any involvement with drug dealing, stating that the INLA has threatened criminals which it claims have falsely used its name.
In 2006, the INLA claimed to have put at least two drugs gangs out of business in Northern Ireland. After their raid on a criminal organisation based in the north-west, they released a statement saying that "the Irish National Liberation Army will not allow the working class people of this city to be used as cannon fodder by these criminals whose only concern is profit by whatever means available to them."
In December 2007, disturbances broke out at an INLA parade in the Bogside in Derry between watchers and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers attempting to arrest four of the marchers.
In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Independent Monitoring Commission reports the INLA was said to remain a threat, with a desire to mount more attacks, and could well be more dangerous in the future, but was characterized as being largely a criminal enterprise at that time. The INLA committed the murder of Brian McGlynn on 3 June 2007 during the span of the first of these reports. This murder was said to have occurred because the victim used the INLA name in the drug trade. On 24 June 2008, the INLA was said to have committed the murder of Emmett Shiels, although the IMC report did indicate the investigation was continuing. It was also said to be partaking in "serious crimes" such as drug dealing, extortion, robbery, fuel laundering and smuggling. Furthermore, the INLA and CIRA are noted to have co-operated.
On 15 February 2009 the INLA claimed responsibility for the shooting death of Derry drug-dealer Jim McConnell.
In March 2009 it was reported that the INLA had stood down its Dublin Brigade in order to allow its army council to carry out an internal investigation into allegations of drug-dealing and criminality. The INLA denied it as an organisation was involved in drug dealing and went on to say that "As a result of evidence presented to us, we are investigating the activities of people associated with us in [Dublin]. Pending that outcome, we have stood down several people." A short time later the INLA's Dublin Commander; Declan "Whacker" Duffy publicly disassociated himself from the organisation. Duffy criticized the INLA leadership stating that "You would imagine if there was a thorough investigation being carried out by the INLA they would have at least came and spoke to me." He went on to state that: "I can’t deny that I’m disappointed with the way the INLA has handled things but at the same time I’m not going to get into a sniping match with them." 
On 19 August 2009 the INLA shot and wounded a man in Derry. The INLA claimed that the man was involved in drug dealing although the injured man and his family denied the allegation. However, in a newspaper article on 28 August the victim retracted his previous statement and admitted that he had been involved in small scale drug-dealing but has since ceased these activities.
End of armed campaign
On 11 October 2009, speaking at the graveside of its founding member, Seamus Costello, in Bray, the INLA formally announced an end to its armed campaign, stating the current political framework allowed for the pursuit of its goals through peaceful, democratic means. Martin McMonagle from Derry said: "The Republican Socialist Movement has been informed by the INLA that following a process of serious debate ... it has concluded that the armed struggle is over. The objective of a 32-county socialist republic will be best achieved through exclusively peaceful political struggle". They laid a wreath beforehand.
The governments of Britain and Ireland were informed. Hillary Rodham Clinton of the United States was due to visit Belfast the following day. Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams was doubtful but added: "However, if it is followed by the actions that are necessary, this is a welcome development". On 6 February 2010, days before the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) was due to disband, the INLA revealed that it had decommissioned its weapons over the preceding few weeks. Had the INLA retained its weapons beyond 9 February, the date on which the legislation under which the IICD operated ended, then they would have been treated as belonging to common criminals rather than remnants from the Troubles.
The decommissioning was confirmed by General John de Chastelain of the IICD on 8 February 2010. On the same day INLA spokesman Martin McMonagle said that the INLA made "no apology for [its] part in the conflict" but they believed in the "primacy of politics" to "advance the working class struggle in Ireland".
Deaths as a result of activity
According to Malcolm Sutton's Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland (part of the CAIN database), the INLA was responsible for at least 120 killings during the Troubles, between 1969 and 2001. This includes those claimed by the "People's Liberation Army" and "People's Republican Army".
Of those killed:
- 46 (~38%) were members or former members of the British security forces, including:
- 44 (~36%) were civilians – including politicians, alleged informers and alleged criminals
- 20 (~16%) were members or former members of Republican paramilitaries
- 8 (~6%) were members or former members of Loyalist paramilitaries
- 2 were members of the Irish security forces
There were 39 INLA members killed during the conflict.
- The formal end to the armed campaign was declared in October 2009 (see End of armed campaign within article).
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- Jack Holland, Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions'
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- CAIN project
- Coogan, Tim Pat, The IRA, Fontana Books, ISBN 0-00-636943-X
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