The Irish People's Liberation Organisation
was a small Irish republican
paramilitary organization which was formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the Irish National Liberation Army
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
Foundation- an INLA split
The IPLO emerged out of a split in the Irish National Liberation Army. After the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike, in which three of its members died, the INLA fell apart from within. The mid 1980s saw the virtual dissolution of the movement as a coherent paramilitary force. Factions associated with Belfast and Dublin respectively, fell into dispute with each other. When INLA man Harry Kirkpatrick turned supergrass, he implicated many of his former comrades in various terrorist activities and many of them were convicted on his testimony. After this, the death knell seemed close to sounding for the movement. 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. As a result, members both inside and out of prison broke away from the INLA and set up the IPLO. Some key players at the outset were Tom McAllister, Gerard Steenson, Jimmy Brown, Martin 'Rook' O'Prey and Harry Flynn. Ironically Steenson had attempted to have Flynn killed in 1981.
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 of the British state 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 IPLO's leader Gerard Steenson in March 1987, and following revenge killings by the IPLO, the organisations agreed to go their separate ways.
The IPLO was accused of becoming involved in the drugs
trade, especially in ecstasy
, though they denied this and no member of the IPLO was ever convicted of a drug related offence. many of its recruits had fell out of favour with the Provisional Irish Republican Army
: 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 IPLO culminating in the killing of Jimmy Brown
, reputedly the main IPLO leader with any political aspirations or ability. A full-scale feud followed between two factions terming themselves, "Army Council" - led by Jimmy Brown
and "Belfast Brigade" (Sammy 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. This feud was portrayed by the IPLO's critics as a lethal squabble over money and drugs. The organisation which had claimed it wanted to destroy the INLA
because of the INLA
's alleged criminality had become everything it claimed to have set out to oppose, and was turning inward destroying itself.
The INLA however regrouped and moved on under the leadership of Hugh Torney aka "Cueball". He was deposed as Chief of Staff (leader) in 1995 and there then followed another bloody feud between Torney's supporters and those who supported others including Gino Gallagher who was shot dead by a gunman hired by Torney's supporters. The INLA and IRSP are still in existence today without any obvious evidence of further splits to come.
The Provisional IRA
- by far the largest armed republican group in Ireland - decided this was an opportunity to attack and remove the IPLO prior to the ceasfire they were planning with the British. They mounted an operation to wipe out the IPLO. On Saturday 31 October 1992
the PIRA attacked the two IPLO factions in Belfast
killing the breakaway Belfast Brigade leader Sammy Ward
several others and only sparing their lives on condition of their unconditional surrender and disbandment, which was forthcoming from both factions within days.
did not attack any IPLO units, and in subsequent statements absolved the IPLO units in Newry
from any involvement in the drugs trade that was alleged against those in Belfast.
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
- INLA - Deadly Divisions (Jack Holland and Henry McDonald)
- CAIN project