Volunteer (Irish republican)

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Volunteer, often abbreviated Vol., is a term used by a number of Irish republican paramilitary organisations to describe their members. Among these have been the various forms of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and the Irish People's Liberation Organization (IPLO). Óglach is the equivalent title in the Irish language.[1]


The Irish Volunteers were formed in 1913, in reaction to the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force earlier that year, to protect the interests of Irish nationalists during the Home Rule Crisis.[2] The Volunteers took part in the 1916 Easter Rising and—as the Irish Republican Army (IRA)—in the Irish War of Independence.[3] The title "Volunteer" or "Vol." was used for members of the Volunteers, such as Michael Malone and Charles Monaghan, who were involved in the 1916 Rising,[4][5] and in the War of Independence. A number of witness statements given to the Bureau of Military History make frequent use of "Volunteer" as a title for members of the Volunteers and IRA during that period.[6][7][8][9] The County Antrim Memorial in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast lists IRA members who died at various times between 1916 and the period of the Troubles in the late 20th century. "Volunteer" is used for those members who were not officers.[5][10]


The term volunteer can refer to any member of an Irish republican paramilitary,[11] to a "rank and file" member, similar to a private, or to a member that is not a senior officer such as Chief of Staff or Quartermaster General.[12] Joe McCann, an Official IRA member killed in 1972, was referred to in commemorations as a "Staff Captain" but also as a "Volunteer".[13] On the other hand, Joe Cahill, the commander of the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade in 1971, said in a press conference after the introduction of internment that year, that British forces had only succeeded in arresting two officers of the Provisional IRA. "The rest are volunteers, or as they say in the British Army, privates".[14] The 'v' in "volunteer" may or may not be capitalized.

Most modern IRA memorials refer to the dead only as "Volunteer", "Vol." or "Óglach" rather than giving a specific rank.[15][16]

The grave of Martin McGuinness, who was adjutant (second in command) of the Derry Brigade of the IRA in the early 1970s and who subsequently became deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, a post he held until just before his death in 2017, calls him "Óglach Martin McGuinness".[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See for example Belfast brigade 25th Anniversary of H-Block Hunger Strike 1981 - 2006 Archived 30 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine from a Republican Sinn Féin website
  2. ^ Foy, Michael; Barton, Brian (2004). The Easter Rising. Sutton Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 0750934336.
  3. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat (2004). Ireland in the 20th Century. Arrow Books. pp. 52–3, 73. ISBN 1407097210. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  4. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (11 December 2015). "Stories of the Revolution: Dan Breen's battle with bureaucracy". Irish Times. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b Melaugh, Martin. "The County Antrim Memorial (Milltown Cemetery): Photograph M584P20/28". CAIN: Conflict Archive on the Internet. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Witness Statement 1007 (Daniel Ryan)" (PDF). Bureau of Military History. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  7. ^ "WS 1064 (Michael Healy)" (PDF). BMH. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  8. ^ "WS 1131 (Patrick Mahony)" (PDF). BMH. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  9. ^ "WS 1381 (William King)" (PDF). BMH. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  10. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "The County Antrim Memorial: Photograph M584P8/28". CAIN. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  11. ^ Bell, J. Bowyer. The Gun in Politics: An Analysis of Irish Political Conflict, 1916-1986. ISBN 0-88738-126-X.
  12. ^ Moloney, Ed (2002). A Secret History of the IRA. p. 571. ISBN 0-7139-9665-X.
  13. ^ "South Belfast - Plaques". CAIN. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  14. ^ YouTube - The Ulster Troubles (Part 17 of 24)
  15. ^ "West Belfast - Memorials". CAIN. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  16. ^ "West Belfast - Murals". CAIN. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  17. ^ O'Neill, Leona (17 April 2017). "Martin McGuinness IRA volunteer headstone inscription angers unionists". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 18 April 2017.