Irish People's Liberation Organisation

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Irish People's Liberation Organisation
Participant in The Troubles
IPLO2.jpg
IPLO Volunteers at the funeral of Martin O'Prey
Active 1986 – May 1992
Ideology Irish nationalism
Irish republicanism
Left-wing nationalism
Socialism
Anti-imperialism
Leaders Jimmy Brown, Gerard Steenson
Area of operations Northern Ireland
Originated as Irish National Liberation Army
Opponents United Kingdom

The Irish People's Liberation Organisation was a small Irish republican paramilitary organisation which was formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) whose factions coalesced in the aftermath of the supergrass trials. It developed a reputation for intra-republican violence and criminality, before being forcibly disbanded by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1992.

Foundation: an INLA split[edit]

The IPLO emerged from a split within the INLA. After the 1981 Irish hunger strike, in which three of its members died, the INLA began to break apart. The mid-1980s saw the virtual dissolution of the movement as a coherent force.[citation needed] Factions associated with Belfast and Dublin fell into dispute with each other. When INLA man Harry Kirkpatrick turned supergrass, he implicated many of his former comrades in various activities and many of them were convicted on his testimony. After this, the death knell seemed close to sounding for the movement.[citation needed]

It could be argued that by this time the INLA, and the associated political group the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) no longer existed as coherent national organisations.[citation needed] As a result, members both inside and out of prison broke away from the INLA and set up the IPLO.[citation needed] Some key players at the outset were Tom McAllister, Gerard Steenson, Jimmy Brown and Martin 'Rook' O'Prey. Jimmy Brown formed a minor political group, known as the Republican Socialist Collective, which was to act as the political wing of the IPLO.[1]

The IPLO's initial priority was to forcibly disband the Irish Republican Socialist Movement from which it had split, and most of its early attacks reflected this, being more frequently against former comrades than on the security forces in Northern Ireland. The destructive psychological impact of the feud on the communities that the combatants came from was huge as it was viewed as a fratricidal conflict between fellow republicans.

The INLA shot and killed the IPLO's leader Gerard Steenson in March 1987, and following revenge killings by the IPLO, the organisations agreed to go their separate ways.

Internal feud[edit]

The IPLO was accused of becoming involved in the drugs trade, especially in ecstasy. Some of its Belfast members were also accused of the prolonged gang rape of a north Down woman in Divis Flats in 1990.[2] Many of its recruits had fallen out of favour with the IRA and the portents for its future were not good. Sammy Ward, a low-level IPLO member and a few supporters broke away from the main body of the organisation when the IPLO were severely depleted and weak in Belfast. His faction attacked the rest of the IPLO, culminating in the killing of Jimmy Brown. A full-scale feud followed between two factions terming themselves "Army Council" (led by Jimmy Brown) and "Belfast Brigade" (led by Ward), which led to the 3000th killing of the Troubles, Hugh McKibbon, a 21-year-old "Army Council" man. Brown had been the previous victim when he was shot dead in West Belfast on 18 August 1992.[3] This feud was portrayed by the IPLO's critics as a lethal squabble over money and drugs.

Disbandment[edit]

The Provisional IRA – by far the largest armed republican group in Ireland – decided this was an opportunity to attack and remove the IPLO given the IPLO's involvement in the drug trade. They mounted an operation to wipe out the IPLO. On Saturday 31 October 1992, in an event that was later dubbed "Night of the Long Knives" by locals in Belfast,[4] the IRA attacked the two IPLO factions in Belfast, killing the breakaway Belfast Brigade leader Sammy Ward in the Short Strand.[5] There were also raids on pubs and clubs where IPLO members were kneecapped and killed. On 2 November 1992 the second-in-command of the IPLO Belfast Brigade formally surrendered to the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade adjutant, which brought an end to the group in Belfast.[6]

Outside Belfast the IRA did not attack any IPLO units and issued statements absolving the IPLO units in Derry, Newry and Armagh from any involvement in the drugs trade that was alleged against those in Belfast. In Dublin the IRA reprieved the IPLO Chief of Staff in return for surrendering a small cache of arms held in Ballybough.[7]

Casualties[edit]

According to the Sutton database of deaths at the University of Ulster's CAIN project, the IPLO was responsible for 22 killings during the Troubles. Among its victims were twelve civilians, six INLA members, two loyalist paramilitary figures and two members of the British security forces including a Royal Navy reservist and a Royal Ulster Constabulary constable.

Sources[edit]

  • INLA – Deadly Divisions (Jack Holland and Henry McDonald)
  • CAIN project

References[edit]

  1. ^ Irish Nationalist & Irish Republican political groups
  2. ^ Ballymurphy and the Irish War by De Baroid p. 331
  3. ^ INLA – Deadly Divisions by Holland and McDonald, Torc (1994), p. 334
  4. ^ INLA Deadly Divisions Jack Holland p. 342
  5. ^ INLA Deadly Divisions Jack Holland p. 341
  6. ^ INLA Deadly Divisions Jack Holland p. 343
  7. ^ INLA Deadly Divisions Jack Holland p. 343