The Irish National Liberation Army - a terrorist organisation sharing broadly the same aims as the IRA: a 32 county socialist republic on the island of Ireland. The INLA and its political wing (The Irish Republican Socialist Party or IRSP) were founded in 1974 by members of the Official IRA/Official Sinn Féin - the group from which the Provisional IRA split in 1969. A much smaller grouping than the Provisional IRA, the INLA have nonetheless carried out their fair share of bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, bank robberies and other activities over the course of their existence.
The INLA and IRSP were originally formed with the aim of pursuing the armed struggle against British rule along more revolutionary lines than the Provos, presenting the struggle as a fight for the liberation of the nationalist working class. They rejected what they called the "stagist" approach of the Provos, which subordinated the cause of socialism to the cause of nationalism. However, unlike the Provos they did not attempt to allow their political wing to develop its own identity, as they rejected any "parliamentary" route to a socialist republic. IRSP candidates only ran in elections for propaganda purposes. This severely limited their political voice, and the INLA became distinguished more by their ferocity than their political commitment. During the 1980s and 1990s, they also became embroiled in bitter internal feuding which cost the lives of many members. INLA members are also known to have offered their services as hitmen for criminal gangs in Dublin and Northern Ireland.
In 1994, the INLA instituted a "no first strike" policy, promising that they would not longer initiate violent action, but would continue to retaliate against actions by loyalist paramilitaries or British security forces. In 1997, three INLA prisoners in The Maze Prison assassinated LVF leader Billy Wright as he waited in a prison van outside his cell block. Each of the three was armed with a handgun which had been smuggled into the prison, and they scaled the roof of their cell block in order to gain access to Wright, who was awaiting temporary release. Although the three were subsequently tried and convicted of murder, it is not known how they came to have handguns inside the prison, or how they knew Wright would be in the prison yard at that time.
The INLA were not represented in the talks leading up to the Good Friday Agreement, but in August 1998, they issued a release stating that
We have accepted the advice and analysis of the Irish Republican Socialist Party that the conditions for armed struggle do not exist. The Irish National Liberation Army has now shifted from the position of defence and retaliation to the position of complete cease-fire. We have instructed all our units to desist from offensive action from noon today.
At the time of writing, this ceasefire
seems to be still intact.