Óglaigh na hÉireann

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Óglaigh na hÉireann (Irish pronunciation: [ˈoːɡɫ̪iː n̪ˠə ˈheːɾʲən̪ˠ] (About this soundlisten)), abbreviated ÓÉ,[1] is an Irish-language idiom that can be translated variously as soldiers of Ireland,[2] warriors of Ireland,[3][4] volunteers of Ireland[5][6] or Irish volunteers.[5][7][8] In traditional Gaelic script, it is written Óglaıġ na hÉıreann.

Origins, Irish Volunteers[edit]

Óglach, the singular of óglaigh, comes from the Old Irish word óclach, meaning a young man or (by analogy) a young warrior.[9]The phrase Óglaigh na hÉireann was coined as an Irish-language title for the Irish Volunteers of 1913,[10] and it was retained despite the Volunteers becoming known in English as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the War of Independence of 1919–1922.

Irish Republican Army[edit]

The name has also been used by several other paramilitary groups calling themselves the Irish Republican Army since 1920. These groups each claim to be the sole legitimist modern successors to the original Irish Volunteers and Irish Republican Army, and they have refused to recognise the authority of (variously) the Defence Forces, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; as such, each of these groups claims the sole right to use the name Óglaigh na hÉireann. Such groups have included the Provisional IRA,[11] the Continuity IRA[12] and the Real IRA.[13]

Some IRA splinter groups have used Oglaigh na hÉireann in English-language contexts, abandoning the label Irish Republican Army. An early instance was formed in 1956 by members of the Dublin Brigade who followed Joe Christle after his expulsion from the IRA; they formed an alliance with Saor Uladh shortly before the IRA Border Campaign eclipsed them.[14] Two dissident republican groups formed in the 2000s were named Oglaigh na hÉireann: a Continuity IRA splinter group first reported on by the Independent Monitoring Commission in 2006,[15] and a Real IRA splinter group which began claiming responsibility for attacks in 2009.

A suppression order made by the Irish state in June 1939 under the Offences Against the State Act 1939 stated that "the organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army (also the I.R.A. and Oglaigh [sic] na hÉireann)" was to be considered an unlawful organisation within the context of the Act.[16]

National Army[edit]

In 1922, the Anglo-Irish Treaty created the Irish Free State, and its Provisional Government formed the National Army. To establish itself as carrying on the tradition of the pre-Free State movement, the Army adopted Óglaigh na hÉireann as its Irish language name,[17] and also adopted the cap badge and buttons of the Irish Volunteers; the badge incorporates the title in its design.[18]

Defence Forces[edit]

Since 1924, Óglaigh na hÉireann has remained the official Irish-language title for the Defence Forces,[19] which are recognised by the Irish Government as the only legitimate armed forces of the Republic of Ireland.[20]


  1. ^ "Easter Parade 2016 - Defence Forces 2016 - Info Centre - Defence Forces".
  2. ^ A Pictorial History of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Defence Forces of Ireland Archived 18 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Irish Defence Forces
  3. ^ White, Robert William. Provisional Irish republicans: an oral and interpretive history. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1993. p 33.
  4. ^ Pollard, Tony. Scorched Earth: Studies in the Archaeology of Conflict. BRILL, 2007. p 84.
  5. ^ a b O'Leary, Brendan. Terror, insurgency, and the state: ending protracted conflicts. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. p 190.
  6. ^ English, Richard. Armed struggle: the history of the IRA. Pan Macmillan, 2004. p 10.
  7. ^ Gerry White, Brendan O'Shea, Bill Younghusband. Irish Volunteer soldier 1913–23. Osprey Publishing, 2003. p 8.
  8. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat. The IRA. Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. p 45.
  9. ^ C. Marstrander, E. G. Quin et al., editors (1913–76), “óclach”, in Dictionary of the Irish Language: Based Mainly on Old and Middle Irish Materials, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy,
  10. ^ Richard English, 2003, Armed struggle: the history of the IRA, Oxford University Press: Oxford
  11. ^ Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) (aka, PIRA, "the provos," Óglaigh na hÉireann) (UK separatists) – Council on Foreign Relations. Cfr.org.
  12. ^ Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA). Globalsecurity.org.
  13. ^ [1] Archived 15 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ White, Lawrence William. "Christle, Joseph Patrick". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  15. ^ "Eighth Report of the Independent Monitoring Commission" (PDF). The Irish Times. January 2006. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  16. ^ S.I. No. 162/1939 – Unlawful Organisation (Suppression) Order, 1939. Irishstatutebook.ie (30 June 2007).
  17. ^ Meijer, Hugo; Wyss, Marco (11 July 2018). The Handbook of European Defence Policies and Armed Forces. ISBN 9780198790501.
  18. ^ Defence Forces Headquarters – History: Defence Forces Cap Badge. Military.ie.
  19. ^ Arm – Óglaigh na hÉireann — use on the official website of the Irish Defence Forces, retrieved 29 November 2006.
  20. ^ From 1922 to 1937, this state was the Irish Free State, and since 1937 was Ireland or Éire. The Irish Government passed an act in 1948 under which the name Republic of Ireland can also be used in English-language legal documents as a description of the state.