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Irish People's Liberation Organisation: Wikis


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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 (INLA) 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 (PIRA) in 1992.


Foundation - an INLA split

The IPLO emerged from a split within the INLA. After the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike, in which three of its members died, the INLA began to break apart. The mid 1980s saw the virtual dissolution of the movement as a coherent 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.

Internal feud

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. Some of its Belfast members were also accused of the prolonged gang rape of a north Down woman in Divis Flats in 1990.[1] Many of its recruits had fallen out of favour with the PIRA: 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. 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 when he was shot dead in West Belfast on 18 August 1992[2]. This feud was portrayed by the IPLO's critics as a lethal squabble over money and drugs. 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. 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, kneecapping several others and only sparing their lives on condition of their unconditional surrender and disbandment, which was forthcoming from both factions within days.

Outside Belfast the PIRA did not attack any IPLO units, and in subsequent statements absolved the IPLO units in Newry and Armagh 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[1], 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 including a Royal Navy reservist.


  • INLA - Deadly Divisions (Jack Holland and Henry McDonald)
  • CAIN project


  1. ^ Ballymurphy and the Irish War by De Baroid P.331
  2. ^ INLA - Deadly Divisions by Holland and McDonald, Torc (1994), P.334

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