The group in a submission to the Scottish Executive estimated in 2005 that it represents around 1,000 people, including 300 from the James Connolly society and a number of flute bands with between 20 and 50 members each. 2,000 people had attended their recent marches in Coatbridge .
Their former national organiser Jim Slaven is also secretary of the Edinburgh-based James Connolly Society. Slavin was an active campaigner on behalf of the three IRA suspects sentenced in their absence to 17 years for aiding terrorists in Colombia - the Colombia Three. He was fined £350 and jailed for 14 days after refusing to pay after conviction for inciting people to attack police officers and resisting arrest in 1993 at an illegal march. Slavin resigned from the organisation in December 2007 to pursue other opportunities outside politics.
Cairde Na hÉireann have split from WOSBA (West Of Scotland Band Alliance) also based in Scotland as they considered WOSBA too militantly Irish Republican.
In their first official statement to An Phoblacht (Republican News, Sinn Féin's official monthly press release) Cairde Na hÉireann have said that their main aim is to concentrate on building a political base that would prove itself in the Scottish Parliament .
They are organised throughout Scotland and northern England. They have demonstrations and marches all over Scotland and use these events as a platform to spread their pro-Irish nationalist message.
In recent times police have called for an end to all marches organised by Cairde Na hÉireann on the basis that supporters of both Celtic and Rangers football clubs are using these events as a platform for violence.
Cairde Na hEireann events have led to clashes between Republicans and Loyalist counter-demonstrators .
The organisation has been involved in discussions with the Scottish Executive over proposals to restrict and regulate marches in Scotland. Slavin was quoted as saying "I think vetoes and banning marches is not the solution, I think dialogue is a solution and coming to an understanding" .
A Cairde Na hEireann march in Glasgow on 21 January 2006 attracted police criticism. The parade was delayed for 30 minutes "as, contrary to permission conditions, there were groups dressed in paramilitary-style clothing". In addition, concerning protests during the parade, Strathclyde Police stated "Many of those taking part in the procession clearly antagonised the protesters" .
In October 2006, a Cairde na hÉireann march was banned from going through Ayr by South Ayrshire Council after police complaints. It was reported the march was banned after last year’s procession when marchers produced banners declaring “justice for Peter McBride”, in reference to a man killed in Northern Ireland by Ayr soldier James Fisher. They also dished out posters informing the people of Ayr they should be ashamed to have a murderer living among them. Ayr MSP Phil Gallie, who opposed the march, said: “I feel that justice has been done here because this group basically lied to the police last year and therefore cannot be trusted. We simply can’t have people slating our own servicemen and women on their own doorstep .”