IMC report on paramilitary groups
IMC report on paramilitary groups
The following is an extract of the statement by the International Monitoring commision on the organisation and assessment of current activities of paramilitary groups.



CIRA is the military wing of RSF. RSF was formed in 1986 by dissident Provisionals disillusioned by the changed strategy of Sinn Féin to end its abstentionist policy towards taking seats in Dail Eireann. RSF asserts that it is the only true voice of Republicanism. CIRA subsequently evolved in the early 1990s as the military wing of RSF. CIRA had hoped to attract disaffected members from PIRA, but the membership remained small. By mid-1999 most of its members North of the border had defected to the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA), though the group has recovered some ground since then.

CIRA is a limited organisation but one ready to commit acts of extreme violence. CIRA’s leadership maintains only a tenuous authority over individual units. Those units normally consist of about six people and act in the main autonomously. The group lacks a central strategic focus other than continuing the Republican struggle by physical violence. Even though membership is small CIRA can, by operating through small units, mount effective, though sporadic, attacks.

CIRA has access to an unknown quantity of weapons and explosives and has technical expertise sufficient to construct improvised explosive devices, some of which have been crude in nature. In the last year or so the group has carried out a number of successful attacks, including an attack on a military barracks, one on a town hall, and one on a unionist politician’s constituency office. It was also responsible for a recent arson attack on the vehicle of a member of a District Policing Partnership, and has targeted other members. Furthermore, it has recently been involved in setting up new active service units. The arrest of several members of CIRA in June 2003 in the process of constructing a large explosive device indicates, in our view, the potentially dangerous capability of the group. The relationship between RIRA and CIRA at present seems to be one of co-operation.


The INLA came into being in 1975 as the paramilitary wing of IRSP. Its initial core members were disaffected members of the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA following the 1972 ceasefire. The INLA is a very volatile mix of people from many and varied terrorist backgrounds. It has a reputation for extreme violence and internal feuding centred round leadership disputes which regularly lead to fragmentation of the group.

While the INLA may not be as prominent now as in the past it is still a significant terrorist group. It declared a ceasefire in 1998 which still survives after a fashion. The INLA remains active. In January 2004 it carried out an attack on a 14 year old boy in North Belfast and the shooting of a man in Strabane. The group is heavily involved in criminality, especially drugs, and finances itself by extorting money from both legitimate and illegitimate sources. In our view it continues to constitute a high threat of re-engagement, either as individuals or as an organisation. Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)

The LVF was formed in 1996 by former members of the mid-Ulster brigade of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). These members had been expelled from the UVF following a disagreement with the leadership over the UVF’s response to the resumption at that time of PIRA violence. Its membership is quite small and it is centred around Portadown with some support in Belfast and Antrim. In the past it has played a prominent role in the annual Drumcree parade.

The LVF has no political representation. It declared a ceasefire in 1998 and has used this to get its prisoners released under the Belfast Agreement. It handed over some weapons to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning in December 1998 and has sought to link its decommissioning efforts to further movement on prisoner issues.

Despite its declared ceasefire the LVF has since been involved in murders and shootings. In September 2001 it was responsible for the first journalist to be murdered in Northern Ireland because of the troubles. More recently - on 8 May 2003 - it carried out another murder. It has continued to carry out paramilitary shootings and assaults in 2004. LVF members are deeply involved in criminality, primarily in the illegal drugs trade. The LVF has been linked to one of the largest ever seizures of illegal drugs in Northern Ireland which was made in 2003.


The PIRA is a tightly knit and secure organisation which has adapted its structure to suit changing circumstances. The General Army Convention (GAC) is PIRA’s supreme decision-making authority. The GAC in turn elects the Army Executive of twelve members, which in turn selects the Provisional Army Council. For day-today purposes authority is vested in the Provisional Army Council (PAC), which as well as directing policy and taking major tactical decisions, appoints the Chief of Staff. We believe that any decision to commit murder would be known to members of the PAC. Under the Chief of Staff is the General Headquarters (GHQ), which consists of a number of individual departments. Again, these departments can change according to circumstances and PIRA’s priorities. In alphabetical order the departments are Education and Communication, Engineering, Finance, Intelligence, Operations, Publicity, Quartermaster General, Security and Training.

Within Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, there are six geographical command areas each comprising between one and three brigades. Each area is headed by a commander directly responsible to GHQ for overseeing operations within that area. The structure in the rest of Ireland is broadly similar, although efforts there are mainly directed to supporting operations rather than undertaking them. PIRA is a well-funded organisation deriving a substantial income from smuggling and other criminal activities.

We are developing our picture of current PIRA activity. The picture is mixed. PIRA is not presently involved in attacks on security forces. One murder may be attributable to PIRA since 1 January 2003. In common with other paramilitary groups, involvement in riots is not a present issue. But PIRA nevertheless remains active and in a high state of readiness. It has been undertaking training in the early part of this year. It maintains a capability on intelligence, both on political events and on potential targets, and on weaponry. This provides ample evidence of an organisation maintaining its capacity to undertake acts of violence or to participate in a terrorist campaign if that seemed necessary to it.

PIRA is highly active in paramilitary shootings short of murder. It has been responsible for eight such attacks so far this year. This pattern is indicative of effective direction by the leadership; we are persuaded that decisions were taken at a senior level to restrict such attacks during the Assembly election period and that the PAC would have been aware in general terms of the imposition and lifting of these restrictions. An earlier example had been the suspension of terrorist activity during a visit by President Clinton when at the same time plans were being made for the Canary Wharf bomb and attacks on London power stations. In recent months PIRA was also involved in three abductions and an exiling.

PIRA remains a relatively sophisticated and well controlled organisation. It maintains itself in a state of readiness, and possesses the range of necessary skills, whereby it could revert to much more widespread violence were the decision taken that it should do so. In addition to its involvement in other criminal activities, PIRA is engaged in the use of serious violence which we believe is under the control of its most senior leadership, whose members must therefore bear responsibility for it.


The 32 County Committee, later to become the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM), came into being in December 1997. It is committed to a politically united 32 County Ireland which, in its view, the Belfast Agreement cannot deliver and which can be achieved only by British withdrawal from Ireland. Although the M has always denied any links with RIRA, its leadership is dominated by a small number of individuals who appear to hold dual membership and play a part in policymaking within both organisations. The 32CSM seems at present to be concentrating on securing publicity for its cause and raising the profile of the organisation. It is also involved in raising funds for prisoners’ welfare.

RIRA emerged in tandem with the 32CSM and was formed by defecting members of PIRA who were opposed to the 1997 ceasefire and later to the Belfast Agreement. It became active very shortly after its formation.

RIRA lacks an organised structure so that individual units have a considerable degree of autonomy. There is little central strategy although there is input from leadership figures in terms of authorising or overseeing attacks. It has been involved in bombings, and in planting incendiary devices in Northern Ireland, using a wide range of different kinds of devices.

RIRA’s most serious attack was the Omagh bomb in August 1998, which killed 29 people and two unborn children and inflicted numerous injuries. Following this atrocity the RIRA announced a complete cessation of all military activity with effect from 7 September 1998, although it refused to disband or disarm. This lasted until early 2000 although it is clear that RIRA continued during that period to plan and train for terrorist activity and to develop its arms capability. Its first attack after Omagh was the bombing of Shackleton Barracks in February 2000. It also carried out a sporadic but high profile campaign in Great Britain including a rocket propelled grenade attack on the Security Intelligence Service Headquarters. There have been some recent attacks on the military. It has also recently undertaken attacks against people involved in the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships.

RIRA has access to a significant quantity of arms and equipment. While the membership is not a totally cohesive group we believe RIRA is potentially a very dangerous terrorist group. The primary focus of RIRA attacks remains on security force bases and personnel in Northern Ireland, and on those involved in the new policing arrangements, but a wider range of targets cannot be ruled out. Attacks on targets in Britain would continue to be an objective of RIRA.


The UDA has its origins in the vigilante groups formed in Protestant working class areas in Northern Ireland during the 1970’s. It has evolved over the years in a way that has seen it operate through other paramilitary organisations - the UFF in particular. It has been closely associated with the now defunct Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and is now associated with the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG).

The UDA is organised into six brigades, each under the command of a ‘brigadier’. Each brigade undertakes paramilitary activities. The Inner Council consists of the six ‘brigadiers’ plus, on occasions, some paramilitary or political advisers. The ‘brigadiers’ have a large degree of autonomy, which they exercise independently of the Inner Council. UDA activities are in the main confined to Northern Ireland.

The number of violent activists is quite a small proportion of overall UDA membership. Many of those not involved in violence against the nationalist community are involved in other anti-social behaviour, often involving at least the threat of violence. This behaviour includes operating protection rackets, as well as the intimidation of individuals, particularly business people.

The UDA has the capacity to launch serious, if crude, attacks. Some of these attacks are of a sectarian nature directed at the Catholic community. These are generally aimed at what are sometimes described as “soft” targets, often occur at the interface between the Protestant and Catholic communities, especially in Belfast, and involve the use of pipe bombs. The organisation continues to be involved in targeting individual Catholics and has undertaken recent attacks against retired and serving prison officers. It is responsible for recent murders and arson attacks. It has declared a ceasefire but not decommissioned any arms. The UPRG recently announced the indefinite extension of the UDA’s self-imposed “cessation of military activity” but even since then the UDA have been involved in further violence.

In recent years the UDA has been heavily engaged in crime, including drugs, particularly in urban areas. This has led to feuds within the organisation, which in turn have contributed significantly to violence in Northern Ireland. These feuds frequently culminate in murders, punishment beatings and in the exiling of individuals from Northern Ireland. There is also continuing anti-social behaviour in support of this criminal activity, notably intimidation for the purpose of funding the organisation.

We are clear that the UDA is involved in murders and other forms of criminal activity. Since 1 January 2003 the UDA committed some half of all paramilitary murders. We have no doubt that the UDA remains involved in paramilitary assaults and shootings, and in exiling people from Northern Ireland. We are satisfied that many of these activities are known to the UDA at ‘brigadier’ level and so to the Inner Council.


The UVF and RHC are linked organisations. Both are relatively small, the latter particularly so. The number of their active members is a few hundred. They are based mainly in the Belfast and immediately adjacent areas. Both have on occasions undertaken extremely vicious sectarian attacks. The command structure of the UVF is centralised, and its decision making normally coherent. Its control over its wider membership is relatively strong. The RHC also operates under a single commanding officer. Both the UVF and RHC are represented politically by the Progressive Unionist Party, which is close to both groups.

The UVF has maintained a policy of no first strikes against the Catholic community but it is prepared to consider a response to republican attacks. It engages in punishment attacks against people accused of anti-social behaviour and in violent clashes with members of other loyalist organisations, sometimes in connection with disputes over criminal activities. The UVF has not decommissioned any weapons and maintains the view that it is under no obligation to do so. Since autumn 2003 the UVF has been responsible for two murders; for a pipe bomb attack; and for assaults and shootings, including against the UDA. It was also responsible for a bomb found outside a bar in Belfast on St Patrick’s Day, which was defused by the security forces. In addition its members have been linked to recent racial attacks in Belfast but we believe these particular attacks were not sanctioned by the leadership. It continues to recruit and train new members and to procure weapons and is involved in smuggling, robbery and extortion.

The RHC also continues to carry out punishment attacks on other members of the loyalist community, and is involved in drug dealing.

The UVF and RHC are ruthless and reasonably well controlled organisations, heavily engaged in major crime and in punishment attacks. They retain a capacity for more widespread violence in which they would not hesitate to engage if they judged the circumstances made it appropriate.

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