The term IRA is used to refer to two different, historically linked organisations; the Provisional IRA and the Official IRA. The former were formed in 1969 and have been more active since then with a particuarly high profile from their terrorist campaign. The Provisional IRA was formed as a reaction to percieved inactivity of the Offical IRA, who were formed in 1919, but whose profile dropped since the end of the [[Irish Civil War]].
The Provisional IRA, also known as the '''The Irish Republican Army''', '''PIRA''', '''Provos''', or '''IRA''' (Óglaigh na hÉireann in Irish Gaelic) is a republican [[terrorist]]
organization that fought against the [[British]] in [[Northern Ireland]], claiming to represent the largely [[Catholic]] nationalist community in Northern Ireland.
The organisation is associated with the political party [[Sinn Féin]] (also known as Provisional Sinn Fein), although a direct association is offically denied. In 1981 an IRA prisoner serving a life sentence, Bobby Sands, was elected to the UK parliament while on Hunger Strike in the infamous [[Maze Prison]]. He died shortly after the election, but this was the beginning of a new strategy of Armalite and Ballot Box, combining politics with the "armed struggle" ([[terrorist]] campaign). The policy of violence was gradually undermined by increased faith in politics together with a number of peace initiatives and a loss of support for a violent program - the conciliatory handling of the situation first by [[John Major]] and later by [[Tony Blair]] is often held up as an example of an effective approach to counter-terrorism.